Manchester, New Hampshire
- You didn't mean Manchester, England, did you?
Manchester is the largest city in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. It is a placid city on the Merrimack River, or would be, except for the people living in it. It is among the top 248 cities in the United States, the tenth largest city in New England, and the largest U.S. city that starts with the letter M and is located in the Northern half of New England, bar none.
Its population in the 2010 census was 109,565. This rose to 110,448 in the 2014 estimate, which counts refugees from Muslim Africa that the Obama administration resettled in Manchester as a come-uppance to both the city and the refugees. Manchester would be home to one-third of New Hampshirites, if you threw in Nashua. If you added in a bunch of other cities and towns, everyone in New Hampshire would live in Manchester, and could spend all evening griping about the horns honking.
In 2009, CNN rated Manchester the 13th best city to live in. (A decade earlier, when it was 8th, there were billboards everywhere touting it, but times change.) Kiplinger voted Manchester the most tax-friendly city in America, except for Anchorage, Alaska, which one would spend the entire amount saved just getting to. Forbes Magazine has called Manchester "America's cheapest place to live, if you don't mind spending a little dough."
Colonial inventor and visionary Samuel Blodget, looking down on the waterfall that the Indians called Namoskeag, had a vision of creating a great industrial center as grimy as Manchester, England. This was problematic, as the grimy brick mill buildings were not there yet, nor in fact anything else, and that was not going to change anytime soon; there were many rowdy youths willing to go over the falls in a barrel, but few willing to take a barge across.
However, in short order, Blodget dug a canal around the waterfall. Now, although there was still nothing of interest upriver, there was a way to get there. In shorter order, Benjamin Prichard built the first cotton mill, a company town was built next door, and the call went out for short-order cooks. Much of the population of nearby Québec arrived to volunteer, bringing their own floppy hats. They became the first of the city's chronic immigration problems. So did poutine.
Blodget and Prichard are evidence of the city's first malady, a severe shortage of the letter T in signage. The city solved that problem by commandeering the letter N from Namoskeag. The falls are now known as Amoskeag, as the bridge across them is too, and more often. So is the bank, unless you mean the other one.
During World War II, Manchester was an important repository for the French language while Parisians were hurriedly learning German. After the war in 1949, the French thanked Manchester by gifting it something that they thought it did not have enough of: a spiffy new boxcar. The Gran Voiture Quarante-et-Huit was loaded with things that New Hampshirites would never think of eating even if they knew where to begin digging. The boxcar was designed to carry "Quarante-et-Huit": forty Frenchmen on eight horses, a veiled hint that, if the U.S. had sent the cavalry, the French could have held out against the Germans for a few days longer. The city sent a polite thank-you note that did not mention the lack of working train tracks to Boston.
Manchester operates under the strongman/mayor form of government. The city council is called the Aldermanic Committee. As there are no alder trees left in Manchester, the committee consists of 12 elected Manics, one from each district in the city, and 2 additional at-large Manics thrown in to make a Fakir's Dozen. The two extras can break ties or at least knee-caps. The Manics previously wrote angry blogs underneath the editorials on the newspaper website, but now conduct shouting matches at City Hall whenever their pride is wounded. Joe Kelly Levasseur is a Manic notorious for using his maiden name, while Howie Howe defends the interests of stutterers. Manic elections are formally "non-partisan," but no one is fooled.
The mayor's role is to dissuade Manics from baiting one another into duels-to-the-death. A notorious past mayor, Frank Guinta, went to Congress (every other term), where he spent most of his time trying to explain how $300,000 of his parents' money wound up in his own war chest without a filing. The next mayor, Ted Gatsas, likewise followed the call to run for office somewhere higher than Manchester, but found that machine politics did not play well upstate where the most common machines are the harvester and the chain saw.
The current mayor is Jenny Craig, who gets exercised about just about everything. Her campaign canvassers are stationed at every exit off Interstate 293, though their signs are no longer political, but tout their status as homeless veterans. The commuter is expected to give them a payment every evening, as Craig believes in sustainable jobs and not this fleeting "gig economy."
The city's public schools are managed, with an eye to writing good English, by an elected committee called the Board of School Committee. It is a division of the city's Department of Redundancy Department, which also picked the name of the Bridge Street Bridge. The Board of School Committee operates Memorial High School. Manchester also has a Memorial Library, well-named considering the alternative. By way of comparison, Manchester residents west of the Merrimack River attend the Forgetfulness High School.
Manchester is in the County of Hillsborough County, and it and Nashua wrestle for recognition as the county seat. Manchester is the butt of this, as its role is to have the county jail. It is on Valley Street, between the Islamic Center and the Halal market, so that Manchester's newest residents can take care of all their needs with a single bus fare, while gazing over to Gill Stadium, which would be ideal for mass stonings.
Manchester Airport is controlled by the Airport Authority. City fathers embrace the city's airport code, MHT, as a cooler alternative to sounding out the city's name. However, the airport's name is not Manchester Airport. In 2006, they changed it to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to goose traffic. If that doesn't work, the next step is to change it to Boston-Manchester Airport, and then drop "Manchester" entirely, to lure tourists who don't realize that Boston is 70 miles south, there are no trains going there or anywhere else, and the buses only run twice a day.
MHT is just off the Everett Turnpike using the Ray Wieczorek Connector. The name of this road was not run past the Board of School Committee, which would surely have replied that one should wait for the honoree to die before naming stuff after him, and even then, a better name would have been the Connector of Wieczorek Connector Highway of Pavement Road. In his honor, however, the motorist can break a rule of his own, because if he jumps onto the Wieczorek, exits, re-enters, and returns to the Turnpike, he finds himself neatly past the tolls.
Manchester is serviced by the Union-Leader, whose name belies the fact that it is against unions and against most leaders, other than Chris Christie. It has a different name on weekends, and it is not even from Manchester, but printed somewhere else and trucked in. Every November, its editorials disclose to anxious Republican voters which candidates did the best groveling before the Editorial Board, and what inconsiderate things all the other candidates did before attaining the age of majority.
However, the newspaper is a shadow of its former self, in those heady days when Governor Thomson (pictured) ambled through the Graveyard of Captive Nations and tried to get nuclear weapons for the National Guard, publisher William Loeb badgered pussies like Ed Muskie until he burst into tears, and they referred to government schools as, well, government schools and would have no patience for anything like a State Anti-Bullying Campaign or sending a text. Publisher Joe McQuaid pens a folksy article once a week, sharing his surprise on discovering Chinese food but not wanting to use those stick things. Like his idol, John McCain, McQuaid is a veteran, on the front lines of the guerrilla war against the Nashua Telegraph, whose war wounds keep him from using a computer keyboard. He dictates his columns directly to the Linotype operator, who promptly renders his prose even more leaden.
Radio stations include 610 (Dead Air Network), which broadcasts infomercials from Boston using a tape delay that ensures that the stock market is closed before listeners can gain any unfair advantage; and 1370 (CBS), which gives listeners a second alternative for conservative talk radio and exploits the rift between Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Sports station 1250 simulcasts Boston sports. Boston stations come in just fine, but Manchester listeners would not be caught dead tuning them in. The FM band also works fine, but there is nothing doing up there except country music. WMUR-TV, Channel 9 (ABC), presents a fine imitation of Boston television, with a half-hour local news program parochial enough to please the local audience.
Unlike Nashua, there is more to do in Manchester than park at the end of the runway and watch the planes land. In fact, the only way to do so at MHT without having Transportation Security order you out of your car and make you lie on the pavement, is to use Short-Term Parking. However, going to see a movie is a better bargain, and they throw in a movie.
Manchester has a ski area, a downtown arena with a hockey team, and a baseball stadium. Both of the latter are renamed every few years by whomever can pay the property tax after paying the naming rights. The baseball stadium is currently the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. It is one of America's finest dental stadiums, though it is rivaled as a ball park by the John Ball Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The dental stadium is not in the Northeast but right downtown, and an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays plays there. The dental stadium gives its fans aching jaws, whenever the Fisher Cats get drilled. The Verizon Wireless Arena is also downtown, and is just as big a misnomer; it is not a wireless arena at all, as there is a network of cables to keep the Jumbotron from falling onto the ice during hockey games.
The city also has two women's roller derby teams, but they are in different roller derby leagues and never confront one another (on the rink). There is also a plethora of youth baseball leagues, where teams can take the field between consolidations, reorganizations, and blood-feuds.
Southern New Hampshire University (pronounced "snoo") and Saint Anselm College (usually pronounced "ann-slum") have Manchester mailing addresses despite technically being somewhere else, and both have varsity sports teams. They do play against one another, making for the most gripping cross-town rivalry outside the Aldermanic Chamber.