Random, Mostly Non-Political Observations about The Valley

By: Jamison Tomasek – June, 2011

I noticed from Facebook the number of people that grew up in Lawrence and settled in the Merrimack Valley is very high. While this might not just be a Lawrence thing, it seems particularly pronounced here. The Lawrence Diaspora (migration) doesn’t seem like a random scattering. Almost everyone who left Lawrence has settled in Methuen (most), Andover (some), North Andover (more than Andover), Haverhill, Salem, NH (a lot it seems) and of course Salisbury and Seabrook NH. As far as one can tell, hardly anyone moves south of Andover or west of Methuen.

Speaking of Methuen even if you don’t live or shop (the Loop, Home Depot, and Target have lured by from NH) in Methuen it still seems like you are always driving through, because the city itself is everywhere, stretching from Pelham to Haverhill. If you want to go to Dracut you have drive through Methuen. If you want to shop on Broadway in Salem NH you go through Methuen.

Andover is a really nice town but if you live there and are not rich or at least very well off there is a major problem in that you feel poor compared to many people that you meet in everyday life. It’s also wicked expensive to buy there. Other than that it’s a great place to live and raise kids. North Andover is a nice town as well. For some reason the people in this town are more conservative (and the town is run more conservatively) than other places and they are the largest group in the Merrimack Valley Tea Party. Maybe it’s because they have less lefty loonies than Andover, or maybe it’s the farming roots of the town.

Downtown Haverhill is on an upswing, with a lot of people moving into apartments in renovated mills, and fueling a restaurant and watering hole boom. Even more than Methuen, Haverhill seems to be everywhere (it is the largest city in MA by area) and there are names for parts of it that sound like towns (Rocks Village or Ayers Village). Side note to people from Bradford: we know you live in Haverhill. Most people do not know that Haverhill made a fateful decision in the 1980’s to assume the debt of the city hospital (which was going belly up at the time). That debt is still hanging around the city’s neck and impacting the budget.

Dracut is not on the way to anywhere and a lot of people I know have never set foot in the town. It is probably the most underrated town in the area, full of nice people. Despite having no obvious town center it has a real town feel amongst its citizenry. Merrimac and Amesbury seem like nice enough places. I don’t seem to run into many folks from there. Unlikely that anyone in Newburyport reads the VP (gentle sarcastic remark) so I’ll leave them be, though I do want to say that although I enjoy visiting, and have been there hundreds of times, I still feel like a tourist (another gentle dig). Maybe if I was crunchier I would feel more at home.

All in all the Merrimack Valley is a good place to live. It’s centrally located, close to the beach, has big fat highway right down the middle of it but still has some nature. It is also filled with lots of like minded people who read this paper.