Wednesday, January 6, 2021


Due to the senseless lockdown rules, businesses have been closing in downtown Northampton at an alarming pace.

Yet, there are still many places in the Northampton/Amherst area that remain open and well worth checking out. Dig this antique record player on display in the Miss Florence Diner.


The view out the window of the Subway in Amherst. 

I had a cup of chicken soup at The Blue Wall at UMass.

While there, I read the latest issue of Prime Magazine.

The lady on the cover looked awfully familiar. Oh yeah, it's Kathy Pellegrino! The article focuses on her career as a writer of murder mysteries, for which she has won awards. 

However, one thing the article somehow failed to mention was that Pellegrino also comes from a deeply connected Springfield political family and was herself a scandalous figure back during the Albano years. In 2001, Pellegrino, who held an appointed position in city government, was accused of collecting two salaries at once in a financial scandal that inspired this biting Bob Rich cartoon in the Springfield Republican

 I wish Pellegrino well in her literary endeavors, and it brings me no pleasure to revisit her scandalous past, but as a detective in a murder mystery might say, "Facts are stubborn things." If you've forgotten the sordid details, refresh your memory with this article Springfield and the Culture of Greed.

Smoke with me baby.

106 Breckwood Boulevard - October 2003

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Yikes! More Sikes!


The leaves have pretty much all fallen from the trees along the woodland way into downtown Northampton.


What was the inspiration behind this pro-carrot statement someone painted upon the path?

That carrots are good for you? Eat some and you'll see better all day? Who knows.

Searching around the other day I came across a handful more photos by the late Keith Sikes that I should have included in the previous post. 

Here's a shot he took of Springfield pols former Mayor Mary Hurley and former State Senator Linda Melconian in 2016.

This is Springfield native and Classical High School graduate Dr. Timothy Leary as captured by Sikes in 1985. Keith was also a Classical alumnus.

"When we spoke, we reminisced about one of the Classical mantras: "Don't do anything that if everybody did it, it would destroy society" We laughed realizing we had done the exact opposite." - Keith Sikes on meeting Dr. Leary.

I love this haunting 1974 picture Keith took of the sphynx outside the Barney Mausoleum in Forest Park in Springfield. 

 Sadly, there will never be any new Keith Sikes photos. 

"Once, there was aplenty, but from that well, no more." - Robert Hunter

Multi-media artist Dann Vazquez took a walk in the Northampton woods.

Make up your own punchline.

Friday, November 27, 2020


I'm saddened to hear of the recent death of photographer, journalist and downtown Springfield fixture Keith Sikes. I first got to know Keith more decades ago than I care to count, when we were both on the staff of The Ram, which was the student newspaper at Springfield Technical Community College. Keith was the editor of the paper, but he actually spent most of his time in Professor Jack Holowitz's photo darkroom facilities located in Building 19.

Sikes would have a lifelong journalistic career working for Turley Publications, but his first love was always photography. He really did have an uncanny knack for spotting just the right moment when a photograph would not just capture a moment or a person, but would define them. This picture taken outside the Fort Restaurant is the best image of da Guvnah I've ever seen. 

He also chronicled the local entertainment scene, such as this shot of Ray Mason at the Bing Theater. 

Keith liked to capture images of Pioneer Valley characters such as the eccentric attorney and diarist J. Wesley Miller, who was a sexual masochist who would sometimes walk the streets of downtown Springfield dressed in bondage attire. 

The most colorful part of Keith's photo career was the several years he spent in California as a paparazzi, that infamous tribe of predatory photographers who make their living capturing images of famous people out in public that can then be sold for surprisingly high prices to the always ravenous media outlets that cover celebrities. 

Sikes was good at it, although most of his celebrity shots were later destroyed in a fire at his home. Keith told me that he eventually became disillusioned with the profession after seeing a mob of paparazzi in Beverly Hills knock an old lady to the ground because she was in their way as they stampeded off to check out a rumor that Robin Williams had just departed from a nearby ice cream parlor. Keith said he was the only one of his fellow paparazzi to stop and help the woman get back on her feet. She was unharmed, but Keith said he didn't want any more to do with a profession where it was okay to trample on old ladies just to get a picture of a celebrity licking an ice cream cone.  

I also recall Keith telling me about an interesting encounter he had with the beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg. Sikes had attended a poetry reading by Ginsberg and of course took pictures. In his typical fashion, Keith managed to get a particularly flattering image of Ginsberg, which was not easy because much of the poet's features were typically shrouded in an untamed maze of hair. 

Years later, Keith was invited to a charity event that he knew Ginsberg would be attending. Therefore, he decided to bring a copy of that photo to the affair in case he had the chance to get Ginsberg to autograph it. Such an interaction did occur, and Keith said he was surprised by how it went. 

Sikes thought Ginsberg would be pleased with the photo, but instead he sternly questioned Keith about when and where the picture was taken, seeming skeptical that Keith had even taken it. Ginsberg finally signed it, but added beneath his signature a drawing of a copyright notice and the date. In other words, Ginsberg was claiming the rights to control any future use of the photo. Sikes had never suspected that someone like Ginsberg, a notorious anarchist who had spent his youth in the the wild company of  madmen like Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs, was capable of being so concerned about protecting the copyrights to his image. 

Eventually I moved to the northern Valley and Keith became more immersed in the downtown Springfield scene, which revolved around a great gallery he ran in Tower Square (ironically, once dubbed by The Ram as "Baystate Waste") in the prime Main Street location that had once held Valley BankWeeds grow up to choke the unused path, and the last time I spoke to Keith in the flesh was about fifteen years ago in that gallery at the opening of a new photography display that heavily featured Keith's work.  At that event he paid me a compliment that has stuck in my mind, as compliments (and insults) often do. 

The event had the usual bohemians in attendance, but it also had more than a smattering of Chamber of Commerce types. I saw several city councilors and a school committee member. As Keith and I were chatting, we noticed the Mayor of Springfield himself coming through the door. 

Keith gave me that sly, toothy grin of his and said, "We're a long way from when we used to smoke joints in the stairway behind The Ram." I replied by saying something about people from our generation becoming gentrified. "Not you, Tommy," he said. "You stayed real." I don't recall how I responded to that compliment, but I know what I wish I had said, and now never will. 

I should have said, "You too Keith. You too."

Not a lot happening at UMass, but more than you'd think, such as this series of outdoor performances held last month out doors. 

Breckwood Boulevard by m. vennell

Friday, October 30, 2020


First snow this morning as seen across from my house. Barely a covering and quickly melted, but no doubt there is more to come. 

One of my neighbors has gone crazy with the pumpkins. 

Other displays are more subdued.

Some seagulls far from home were caught visiting fast food joints on King Street in Hamp by Dann Vazquez.



Saturday, October 17, 2020

No Surrender to Hate

The ever intrepid Pete Sygnatore took this picture yesterday of bicyclists doing wheelies in the middle of Main Street in Springfield. I don't know which is worse, that people are endangering themselves and others by doing stunts in the street, or that Main Street is so dead of traffic in the middle of the day that such stunts are possible. 

But as usual, the really bad stunts in Springfield are being done by the politicians. The latest out of their endless grab bag of bad ideas is a mural recently painted in front of City Hall in support of the racist, cop-bashing, Marxist hate-group Black Lives Matter. 

Yes, that's Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno completely disgracing himself at the unveiling of the offensive mural.

Whatever happened to this Dom Sarno, who appeared at the 2016 pro-flag rally at Hampshire College?

Sarno's appearance at that rally caused a spate of political speculation because it was held in the northern realm of our Valley, where Sarno is not particularly well known. Some suggested that Sarno was trying to introduce himself to north Valley voters in anticipation of running for congress should Richie Neal decide to retire someday. 

The thought was that Sarno was hoping to position himself as a moderate who might fare well in a field of more liberal contenders which would surely sprout like weeds should Neal depart the scene. While the liberals slashed each other's throats trying to prove their leftist devotion, Sarno could just cruise down the middle of the road to victory. He further burnished his right wing creds by resisting efforts to turn Springfield into a Sanctuary City that protects those who sneak into our country illegally. 

Of course, a Neal retirement never materialized and it now seems probable, following Neal's successful beat down of insurgent Alex Morse last month, that Neal may stay in Congress for many years to come. Whatever happens, Sarno's hopes to be seen as Mister Moderate have been dashed by his open alliance with a divisive hate group. 

But even if Springfield officials have surrendered to the BLM haters, there are still those good citizens who are willing to strike a blow for true racial harmony and against the hate filled leftists. Our local historians of the future will surely praise them as the heroes they are. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020


Checking on the chickens and ducks.

These concrete barriers were set up in downtown Northampton in June in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a mob supporting the racist hate-group Black Lives Matter from vandalizing the police station.

However, the concrete blocks have since been used more successfully for more benign purposes, such as these Amherst barriers to define outdoor dining areas downtown. 

Since concrete barriers are not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing decor for your dining experience, they have been colorfully painted. However, it turns out the barrier near where a few friends and I were sitting proved somewhat problematic. 

The block reads "If you can't change the people around you - change the people around you."

What the message painted on the barrier is saying is that if the people you hang around with disagree with your views, then you need to reject those people and only associate with people who do share your beliefs. That is a stupid, intolerant sentiment that, if widely practiced, would make democratic governance impossible. 

It is crucial that people in a democracy, even when they disagree, be able to interact and accept each other's differences. This statement (which also acquires a  racist tint with the use of the Pan-African colors) could only undermine the mutual goodwill that lies at the base of both racial harmony and the democratic process. But of course this is Amherst, where political foolishness has a long history. 

Meanwhile, I recently stopped by the now open for indoor dining Miss Florence Diner.

Like everywhere else these days, their menu is meant to be thrown away after each use. 

I had their famous eggs and hash special, beloved by Irish folks all over the Valley. 

In downtown Hamp, someone from Holyoke wants to make America groove again. 

Chesterfield by Paul Shoul 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Quiet Campus

Not much happening at UMass these days. 

This bulletin board is usually a riot of messages and this hallway in the building called the Integrative Learning Center (whatever that means) is normally mobbed with students. 

 The Blue Wall is open. 

But customers are few.

Same with the campus store. 

Yet,  down by the campus pond, a band was playing classical music at the foot of the UMass Minuteman statue, happily reminding us that the spirit of UMass is not dead, but only slumbering.  

Meanwhile, there was no slumbering among the lively Trump supporters stretching out as far as the eye could see by the rotary in Chicopee last weekend. 

Attendee Pete Sygnatore wrote this account of his experience on Facebook:

Some observations from standing there waving at cars for hours:
The response was OVERWHELMINGLY positive. MUCH more positive than I expected. Granted we were in very patriotic locations, Chicopee and Agawam are homes to patriots but even given that, the response was truly overwhelmingly positive. I would say that approximately 75% to 80% of the motorists honked, yelled, gave us thumbs-up etc.
The response was positive across ages, races and genders. In Chicopee, black and Hispanic people, men, women, older and younger were 80% positive.
I noticed that the owners of American cars were much more apt to respond positively followed by owners of Asian cars. Least positive response came from owners of German cars, i.e. Volkswagens and Audi’s.
I did see one Tesla and two idiots crammed into one of those Smart cars. Their responses were, not surprisingly, thumbs down.
Owners of pickup trucks gave an almost 100% positive response. Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge trucks more than Toyota trucks. Commercial truck drivers were nearly 100% because they are working folk. Out earning their living.
Mail carriers in their mail trucks and police officers were 100% positive. Of course, the military men and women coming out of Westover in uniform were 100% positive.
Jeep owners gave a 95% positive response. I could tell when I saw a Jeep coming, that we would get a horn honk.
If the drivers and passengers of the car were all wearing masks, the response was, not surprisingly, negative. If you’re stupid enough to wear a mask inside your car, especially if you’re all alone in your car, then you are most likely to be a Biden supporter.

There were also Trump rallies in Agawam, Monson, Belchertown and even Holyoke! Of course they can rally all they want, but there is still no chance that President Trump will win in cobalt blue Massachusetts. However, the unusually high energy among Trump supporters this year suggests that the President will surpass the one million votes he received from the Massachusetts electorate in 2016. 

In the midst of all the political uproar, take time to visit places of peace, such as Amherst's Puffer's Pond. .