This carpetbagger knows his place: The West Side

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Living in Manchester for nearly 20 years now, never would I insult a true townie by thinking I was actually from Manchester, being a carpetbagger and all.  God no!  I know my place, and there I shall stand, shoulder-to-shoulder once a week  with a dozen good men from the West Side of town that seem to know every bone of the Queen City.

It’s one of the million reasons why I love Manchester.  Men like that, talking history, talking jive, talking about the loons they’ve met, the work they’ve found, the love they’ve won and lost.  From an outsider’s point of view, it might sound like babble, merely a spitting competition, but inside the framework of those conversations is pure gold.

If you listen hard enough, it all comes out sounding like pride to me.

Still, all that nostalgia doesn’t keep me from piping in about how the West Side of Manchester is completely underutilized. I’ll jump on the ear of one of these cats as they choke down a Spirit outside some wet hole downtown and get to asking why we can’t cross the bridge tonight and see what kind of fun can be had.  They usually look at me with a cocked smile, half saying they want to eat my face, the other half wondering if I ever shut up.

One text sent out to a handful of Westsiders about whether they think it’s time for the West Side to burn some heat, and I come away with a belly full of stitches.

First response:  Couple Chinese joints.  Crawling with cops.

Second response.  Canada is trash.

Third response:  I’d rather slam my face in a furnace door.

Alright then.  And these robust characters grew up on the west side.  It tickles my mind, stretches its boundaries and leaves me baffled that they don’t see the vast potential in Kelley Street.  It might be the dreamer in me, but when I think of the West Side, I see East Nashville, the younger brother of Broadway Street in Tennessee, where the seeds settled on a new frontier as the bowels broke loose uptown.

East Nashville, from what I know of it, having been all torn up on “Bushwackers” a few times around the Five Points, is a place I loved from the git-go. Loved the neighborly bond, the diversity, and the faces of the new pioneers banding together to create their own community.  Some settled into East Nashville thumbing their noses at the glam scene downtown, but most, I gather, moved to the east side purely for economical reasons.

Then again, what the hell do I know?

Today is a whole different story in East Nashville, from what I hear.  East Nashville became too “East Nashville” and the whores came calling in their neckties and boat shoes, pricing everyone out, styling up the scene to their liking.

So be it.  That only gives everyone another reason to chase more seeds.

Elm Street is no Broadway, I concur, but it is fabulous, and if you deny it, discard it, dismiss it, then I ask only you give it one more shot.  You’re really missing out.  It’s a big street and just getting bigger, growing at a steady and phenomenal rate, like a diabetic baby, and that’s reason enough to extend its great success across the bridge to the West Side.

As I work to sell my friends from the West Side on the lofty potential of their homeland, I can’t help but wonder if I’m being too gullible.  I know nothing about business.  Maybe the neighborhood and banks and city officials have no interest in developing the area with more bars and restaurants on the West Side.  Maybe they think of crime and see only more brewing with the addition of more businesses.  But I don’t.  I see oak and orange lights, frothy pints of beer, live music and fat burgers.  I hear Van Morrison howling below a good conversation, a glass of wine, a crystal smile, and I think to myself, yes, it was a good night on the West Side.

West Side as seen from Rock Rimmon – in the daylight.

I stood on Rock Rimmon for the first time this summer.  Two Westies took me with a 12-pack in tow to study the terrain from high above the city.  It was perfect at dusk, looking down on the rows of houses, studying the backyards, pristine in nature, orderly and pragmatic.  My eyes went to the highway and over a million trees, scanning, scanning, scanning.  My mates told tales, not so much to me or each other, but simply shouted out names of people from the West Wide, where they lived, where they died.  Tales of sorrow, tales of hilarity spilled from them, like that humming pride I spoke of earlier.  In silence, one friend cast a look over the city, stretching far and wide, considering, I hope, the force of this plot of land.

A dreamer’s delight, I know.  This damn basement gets me every time.  Yet, I just know, that if given the chance, the West Side could be exploited, to a degree, for its original potency, celebrated for its virtues and infused with new life eager to mix with the old life.

OK, I’ll get back in line.  I know my place.  And the West Side, it shall be.

Rob Azevedo/Music

Rob Azevedo is a columnist who covers the NH music scene and is host of Granite State of Mind on Friday nights at 7 p.m. on WMNH 95.3 FM, among other things. He can be reached at