I was away camping earlier this week when I got mad texts from my boy Jimmy D. “Rumor is they found a freakin’ BODY behind McDonalds, dude” he didn’t actually say because usually he speaks like a real adult, but that was kind of how it went. And it ended up being true. I’m sure we all heaved a sigh of relief when there was no foul play apparent, but it’s still a sad day for the city. All lives have value, and Charles Ilges obviously had problems he couldn’t or didn’t get help for.
I was relatively unsurprised at this turn of events, though. I know this area well. Let’s hearken back to ye olden days of 2012 when my daily employment was centered at 50 Maplewood, known colloquially as “the sketchiest parking lot in all of Gloucester.” It honestly wasn’t that bad 99% of the time, despite its reputation. The guy running the Maplewood Carwash is legit one of the nicest, most hardworking folks I’ve ever met. Seriously, go there. His workers are great, and he has worked miracles with my filthy cars for cheap, and he spends a lot of time making sure his carwash is clean. The 7/11 is bright and immaculate inside and also staffed with locals who care. The new McDonalds is pretty decent looking as well, for a fast food joint that sells double cheeseburgers for a dollar.
But while the front parking lot of 5-0 Maplewoodz had its occasional quaint daytime drug deals (so bad that they actually aim a Homeland Security camera at the parking lot), indiscriminate screaming, white people with racist tattoos, and teenagers and adults alike leaving trash everywhere, it’s really what lurks behind that area that’s the most sketch. As of today, the city has contacted the owner to clean it up. But until that actually takes place, this is what we’re dealing with.
The above Infographic (by which I mean a google maps screenshot that I then put numbers on in MS Paint) serves to show what a shithole area the Maplewood/MBTA area is.
1. Abandoned Boats For Whatever Reason: Whose boats are these? Apparently there have been people squatting in them, as we all found out. Had no one really noticed or put up a fuss before the events of this week? It’s been like this for freakin’ years. The satellite image shows nine boats and some other large thing. It’s like the sea receded and left a bunch of crap there. We live in a city of fisherman where everyone is up in each othe’s business, you mean to tell me no one knows whose boats those are? No one recognizes any of them? What is this, the boat mob?
2. Tons of cars from the guy running the welding/body work thing back there. Look, he’s a nice enough guy, except that a few of his hangers-on love to speed through the parking lot like this was Dukes of Juggalo Hazzard, barely missing pedestrians. The multiple cars with missing wheels don’t exactly make the place look better. Last I checked, there was a broken-down RV with smashed windows back there someone was legit using as an office.
3. Squatting Homeless Folks. The upstairs at 50 Maplewood is kind of a mess, and that adds to the problem. Some of the people living there are freeloading on the backs of freinds/family who have legit vouchers to live there though the Gloucester Housing Authority – 4-5 in a tiny studio/one bedroom. Heroin dealers lived upstairs – legit, like “in the police notes” dealers. The tenants had been so sketch that homeless folks had busted open a lock on a boiler room and had been sleeping up there. When we were moving in, we found a syringe above the drop ceiling. Someone overdosed and died up there – thankfully on a day we were closed. I once heard a tenant yelling out the window, “bring the money or you’re gonna get dopesick!” What fun.
4. Marshy Swampland. People dumped bikes and trash there a lot, and there were also random trails leading away from the area by MAC where folks of indeterminate housing status would hang out. The police had gone through a few times looking for folks purported to be living there, but I never actually heard that they caught somebody out that way. It’s not a stretch that people would be living out there, probably on pallets or something away from the damp swamp, since you know, they were living in boats and in the attics nearby.
5. The Gauntlet. There’s a path that cuts through the DMZ back there and into the MBTA lot, which was the fastest way for me to walk home. Unfortunately, it was also an area strewn with abandoned mattresses, chairs, and other detritus. Once in awhile someone would be having their morning public urination session or be fishing half-smoked butts off the ground (hey, free cigarette!) while I walked by. A fun time was had by all. There were also paths through the high weeds there, going to what I can only imagine were beaver-style dens of people awaiting revival by NARCAN.
I won’t beat around the overgrown bushes, it’s a freakin’ disaster back there. But no amount of ignoring it is gonna do a damn thing until the owners are forced to clean it up. I wouldn’t count on that happening soon – sure, the city is telling the owner to do it ASAP, but they have to actually find someone that owns the thing – some guy says it was a trust that he stepped down from years ago.
Until then, if you need a free urine-soaked mattress or boat to live in, well, you know where to go.