I was in Portland, Maine today (1/31/16), for the little community radio show, and minutes after arriving into the Forest City, not far from Portland’s famed Old Port, I noticed more luxury condos going up. Several years back, a longtime favorite restaurant of yours truly (remember The Village Cafe?) was traded in for luxury condos. At the time, there was nothing in front or behind the new condos, but now, you’ve got condos being built inbetween condos. It’s absurd. There’s no quality views either, because in front of all the condos, there is a relatively new hotel blocking the potential views.
I lived in Portland for 14 years between 1994 and 2008, and have been away now for 8 years. I love Portland, but I don’t recognize it anymore. Between all of the hotels and expensive condos and other rental monstrosities being built all over Portland’s popular (and populated) peninsula over the past several years, it doesn’t look like the city I fell in love all those years ago.
New Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling wants to keep middle-class folks in the city, but with a rental vacancy rate below 2% and no affordable housing being built (that I know of), he’s got his work cut out for him. If Portland’s not careful, it’s going to implode. And that would be a Goddamn Greek tragedy…or something like it.
Seeing more ugly, pricey condos going up in Portland got me thinking about those in need – those who are unemployed, homeless or both. Not enough is being done for them. Portland’s more concerned about kicking out people who can’t afford to live there in lieu of tourists paying top dollar to visit. Breaks my heart, and made me think about today’s “song of the day” – “Man On The Corner” by Genesis, from their excellent 1981 album, ABACAB (one of the first albums I ever bought). “Man On The Corner” spent 2 weeks at No. 40 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in May 1982.
“Man On The Corner” was the first of 2 songs Phil Collins wrote about the problem of homelessness; his 1989 No. 1 hit, “Another Day In Paradise” also tackled homelessness in song.
There have been several songs about homelessness in the years since, including “Mr. Wendel” by Arrested Development and “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was “Man On The Corner,” a simple song with a deeper message, that first brought the subject of homelessness to my attention.
When I lived in Portland 20 years ago, rents were reasonable, apartments were available and you never saw folks standing on busy street corners asking for whatever help they can get. Now they’re everywhere. I would help them all out if I could. For now, I hope, somehow, that Portland, Maine’s new mayor or the powers that be read this post, and realize that more needs to be done, whether it’s more affordable housing, more shelters, more places for people to get a free meal – just something more than what is being done or not being done right now.
I still love Portland. I always will. And I will continue to pray for that man (or woman) on the corner, and hope that one day people will know them, and that people will care, and there will be a place for them – safe, sound, and something to show…