Archive by Author | Nicole Apostola

The Ice Sleigh of Indian Lake

On November 24,1990, a nine-foot-long wooden sleigh was pulled from Worcester’s Indian Lake. It had been there for nearly 70 years. The result of a suicide pact by star-crossed lovers? A WPI fraternity prank? Neither—it was a vestige of a time when, each winter, men used horses and sleighs to haul 18,000 tons of ice from the lake, first to be stored in icehouses along the shore, and then, in the summer, to be used in residents’ iceboxes. If a horse fell through the ice, the men would choke it with a rope until it passed out and then pull it out. Otherwise, it would thrash and drown. (Nicole Apostola)

The Cold, Increased by the Tremendous Speed, Deprived Them of the Power of Speech

There Mr. Fogg examined a curious vehicle, a kind of frame on two long beams, a little raised in front like the runners of a sledge, and upon which there was room for five or six persons. A high mast was fixed on the frame, held firmly by metallic lashings, to which was attached a large brigantine sail. This mast held an iron stay upon which to hoist a jib-sail. Behind, a sort of rudder served to guide the vehicle. It was, in short, a sledge rigged like a sloop. During the winter, when the trains are blocked up by the snow, these sledges make extremely rapid journeys across the frozen plains from one station to another. Provided with more sails than a cutter, and with the wind behind them, they slip over the surface of the prairies with a speed equal if not superior to that of the express trains. (Written by Jules Verne. Translated by Geo. M. Towle. Illustration by Léon Benett.)

From the January 2012 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

How Worcester’s Mayor Is Like the Queen

Worcester has a modified Plan E form of government–our chief executive is the (unelected) City Manager; the Mayor is nothing more than the head of our legislature, the City Council. Worcesterites affectionately call this the “Weak Mayor” form of government. We’ve had this form of government for over 60 years, though every ten years or so Worcesterites get restless with the status quo and toy with the idea of “charter change,” imagining that a “Strong Mayor” would be an improvement. Here are some typical reasons offered for such change:

Accountability. Electing a leader would mean that the chief executive would be accountable to voters on a regular basis.

Effectiveness. There are a significant number of people who look at the career of Providence’s Buddy Cianci not as a cautionary tale of corruption but as an example of a person who gets things done.

Leadership. What the Buddy Cianci fans are really pointing to is a sense of leadership. A City Manager just manages city operations with some input/direction from the City Council. A strong Mayor would have much more freedom to direct the city according to his own vision.

Those content to leave Plan E in place feel:

A strong mayor form of government might politicize city government. One of the reasons Worcester moved to a City Manager was to avoid political appointments and to have a professional administrator running the city.

An apathetic electorate, few of whom vote regularly, effectively negate the benefit of electing the administrator. We could end up with a ten-term Mayor who is just as unaccountable as an unelected City Manager.

Our two-year election cycle is too short for the administrator of a city. A strong Mayor who spends half his time scheming for the next election with feel-good projects isn’t an effective administrator.

These are just a few points raised by both sides of the “charter change” divide. That we revisit this topic so often could indicate a lack of institutional memory, or perhaps just a stubborn Yankee sense that things might possibly work better if we get under the hood & tinker a bit.

The Weak Mayors of
Worcester’s Current Charter

Jordan Levy

Raymond Mariano

Timothy Murray

Konstantina Lukes

Joseph C. O’Brien

Joe Petty

Our “current charter” includes both District Councilors and direct election of the Mayor.

From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Movie Review: Zardoz

First you have to ask yourself if you can watch an hour & a half of Sean Connery in red hot pants. If the answer is yes, you’re in for a rare experience: a movie that attempts to address serious questions about youth & immortality with an extremely limited budget & even more limited plot. Connery plays a man who is stuck in a world run by folks who’ve found the secret to immortal youth & make everyone else live as slaves. When he’s not wearing the aforementioned hot pants (& worshiping a disembodied head), he’s wearing a wedding dress & avoiding becoming romantically involved with Charlotte Rampling. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be on LSD but don’t want to break the law, “Zardoz” is the movie for you. It’s definitely odd but strangely moving & sticks in your head. Like a really bad dream.


From the April 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]