Growing up in Lunenburg, MA, population around 5000 with no streetlights in my youth (now there are at least a half-dozen), I couldn’t wait to get to the big city. And when I got there I became a journalist, first a rock critic, than an arts reviewer. I’m writing about these experiences on the Phoenix alumni page on Facebook (email me at if you want the installments. It’s pretty funny — a coming of age story provisionally titled “Teenage Typesetter on the Night Shift.”

Of course now I’m a mom in a mini-van, making my living as Symboline Dai, STILL writing for the surviving Phoenixes (Portland, ME and Providence, RI). And I’m doing what I said I’d never do, which is living in my homeland.

My husband and I live in Fitchburg — yes, we’re a stop on the Commuter Rail. We have gorgeous Gilded Age housing stock for tiny, tiny sums (houses go from $40k to $200 and up), a great mayor, our friend Lisa Wong, and superb and constantly improving public schools. Recently, Fitchburg State College upgraded to a University, and I spend my Tuesdays overseeing Riverfront Children’s Theatre, which I co-founded with my mom. We have an 85 year old Community theatre, Stratton Players, tons of hiking trails, we’re 5 minutes from Mount Wachusett, you can finally get a decent cup of coffee, and I’m very active in ACE, a group I started. ACE Central MA is a volunteer group that assists the Shelter animals of north central Mass and presents school programs to ALL the kids in school (last year, more than 5000 kids heard our message). More at

So Here and Sphere’s editor asked for info on what’s going on here. Answer : Lots!
The Historical Piano Concerts up in Ashburnham is the big winner. They’ve been written up in the NYTimes, and years ago, when Patricia and Michael, the owners only had, say 30 historical pianos, I wrote a piece about them for the Globe. Their concert series is broadcast on public radio and takes place in an acoustically resonant Congregational Church in the center of Ashburnham. There’s more at, but here’s a sampling of what you’ll find this month….
Come visit!

Sally Cragin

FITCHBURG ART MUSEUM sponsors’ Nora Valdez’s public art celebration, 1 to 3 pm, Prichard and Main Street, Fitchburg, FREE. Public Art Installation, and discussion. Refreshments, dancing, fun, and food! FREE

Historical Piano Concerts from The Frederick Collection of Grand Pianos at 4 pm at Ashburnham Community Church, Ashburnham. 978/827-6232. MIHAI TETEL, violoncello & IRA BRAUS, piano by Caspar Katholnig, Vienna, ca. 1805-1810 play Ludwig van Beethoven Twelve variations in G on See, the conqu’ring hero, WoO 45 (1796), from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, HWV 63 (1746); Andante con variazioni in D for mandoline & harpsichord, WoO 44/2b (1796), arr. Steven Isserlis; Twelve variations in F, Op. 66, on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, and Seven variations in Eb, WoO 46 (1801), on Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen, both from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, K.620 (1798); Franz Joseph Haydn Divertimento in D (misc. movements transcr. by Gregor Piatigorsky); Luigi Boccherini Sonata No. 4 in A for violoncello & Bc, G4 (ca.1770).

>^^< STORIES AND SHELTER CATS, Fitchburg Library 4:30 pm (immediately after LEGO club). MEET a shelter cat, HEAR a cat story, MAKE a cat-related craft. Sponsored by ACE and Fitchburg Friends of Felines.

Annual Tori/Finnish Marketplace, 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. Finnish and Scandinavian wares and pastries, arts and crafts. Local vendors and folks from out of town. This is a great occasion to get holiday gifts, as well as unique crafts from overseas at really reasonable prices. The BEST bread in the world, “pulla” will be on sale. For those who grew up here, you may remember the Finnish Co-Op where the Post Office now is in downtown Fitchburg. That’s where I had pulla during my childhood and became Finnish-by-proxy. At the Tori, you’ll find beef stew, vegetable soup, hot dogs, coffee & Finnish coffee bread, Arctic sundaes. Finnish Center at Saima Park, 61 Scott Rd., Fitchburg, MA 01420. Call or email Maija at 978 582-7717 or

—- Sally Cragin — Blog 810


Wilbert Harrison’s great song really does say it all.

“Together we’ll stand; divided, we’ll fall. Come on now, people, let’s get on the ball ! Let’s work together, every boy, girl, woman and Man !

“When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, the road to travel is all of you !”

On this Labor Day, when so many loud voices are abroad in the hand decrying those who suffer, those who want, those who work for wages so cheap that they must have public assistance to make do; when politicians think it good and proper to demean people for the lifestyles they live; when talk show charlatans insult everyone and get cheered for doing so; when governments in so,me states resolve to deny people they don’t like the right to vote and to make women’s health care their choice rather than the choice of those women actually being cared for — when all of these events seem impossible to excise from American civic life right now, it is good to recall that the saga of work and workers in our nation reaches its highest achievements when all have worked together. Businesses too. Shoulder to shoulder and one for each other, knowing that, indeed, divided, we will fall; and that together, we will stand. And prosper — every boy, girl, woman and man.

Note that Harrison says “every.’ He doesn’t distinguish between citizen and immigrant :

“Make someone happy, make someone smile; all work together and make life worthwhile.”

Let’s do this. we CAN do this.

All of you. all of us. So yes : let’s work together.

— The editors / Here and Sphere