The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Loop-de-Loop

The woodland way into downtown Northampton.


It's that time of year for large orange orbs.


I took the bus to downtown Springfield's Union Station. Across the street, the old Peter Pan bus station is fenced in and ready to be torn down.


Here is a nostalgic look back of the old bus station.



I decided to try the new "Loop" bus, so called because it makes a loop through the downtown area.


It took us to the Hall of Fame.


Then to the Quadrangle.


We got off at the MGM casino.


The local media have their own headquarters right on the casino plaza.


I've got to admit that even as a non-gambler I'm starting to like the joint. It's not glitzy like Vegas or anything. They really did a good job at blending in with the historic district in which it is located, making it almost seem downright cozy.


It's too early to make any assessments about the casino's long term prospects, but so far I don't think anyone can deny that it is off to a strong start.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Millie


I am sorry to hear of the death of longtime Springfield activist Mildred Dubar (above with former Senator Gale Candaras and former Governor Deval Patrick in 2008). Dunbar passed away earlier this month at the age of 97.

"Millie" as she was known to everyone, was born in Pine Point in a house on Boston Road that once stood where Sampson's Music World now stands. She was a Pine Point resident her entire life until fading health caused her to be unable to remain in her own home. Sometimes called "The Queen of the Activists" she was widely praised for her unusually intense devotion to the concept of citizen participation in the political process. A lifelong devout Democrat, she none the less was willing, indeed anxious, to help anyone, regardless of political persuasion, who was interested in learning the ropes of participating in the byzantine snake pit known as Springfield politics.

During a time when I was institutionalized, and had no access to computers nor even newspapers, Millie used to send me once or twice a week an envelope full of clippings and other newsworthy items to help keep me abreast of what was going down on the political scene. I came to refer to these telegrams from the outside world as "Millie-grams" and after a while even the staff that brought me my mail would say things like, "You got a Millie-gram today." One time she sent me the following letter:

Dear Tom

A way to greatly reduce crime and violence: Make drugs available to all over 18, just as Congress did when they ratified the 21st Amendment in 1933 which permitted the sale of liquor.

Let's talk about the real world. Born in 1920, my adopted parents both drank although it was illegal; as a child I recall four locations, North End, South End, Eastern Avenue and Pine Point, where they purchased whiskey.

My father worked for the City of Springfield and lost very little time from work, this was a period when even those who were well educated were unemployed. It was a time when I'd see a man eating a sandwich on my back steps, many would walk to the next city looking for work. My mother had no fear of the man, the screen door had no hook. The wooden door had a ten cent skeleton key one could purchase in any five and dime store. Compare that with the thousands many spend today on security systems for their homes, cars and business property.

Unfortunately my mother was an alcoholic, both parents lost their driver's license, but that was no problem. She called a taxicab and many times took me with her while she drank and conversed at a speak-easy. At home there was always plenty of food in the icebox and fresh fruit. When she was drinking meals were not prepared so as a child I just took whatever I could reach to eat.

One way police knew a car was carrying a load of whiskey was the trunk would be way down on the springs. Many in law enforcement in decades past (as currently) were on the take. Those who were in the business made plenty of money, as it is now with drugs! Therefore there will be thousands throughout the world who would lose millions of dollars and be unequivocally opposed to legalizing the sale of drugs.

Is there a conspiracy tied into all this?

Unfortunately drugs have been in this world for many centuries. This old woman (85) has not lost her mind, no I live in the real world. This problem isn't going away.

Mildred B. Dunbar


In this apathetic and cynical age, our Valley will not likely see another activist quite like Millie Dunbar, and we are poorer for it.


The UMass Farmer's Market has started up for the harvest season.


Are you planning to pick apples this fall?


There was a guy performing Grateful Dead songs.


WAY FAST!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Mighty Quinn

Here I am Saturday at Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke under a wide open sky.


There were some busy beavers around there.


From the reservoir I headed down to the MGM Casino for the Springfield Jam Fest. It featured ten jam bands from around New England and was absolutely free to the public.


John O'Brien was MC.


The show was also a showcase performance for the legendary local band FAT, celebrating their (gulp!) 50th anniversary year. I first saw them around 1975 at Springfield Technical Community College's Spring Fling! Here's a picture of the band taken around that time, but no one can agree whether that was a show in Goshen, Chesterfield or Amherst. Early FAT shows were the type of affairs where memories might easily blur.


Here they are at the MGM Casino Saturday night.



Almost as good as the music was lead singer Peter Newland's reminiscences between songs, telling tales of the Pioneer Valley music scene from across the decades. Hopefully, Newland will write an autobiography so that all that precious local history can be permanently preserved.

The performance of the night, however, was by Quinn Sullivan, a kid from New Bedford and former child prodigy who now has his own band. He whipped the crowd into a frenzy!


Click and enlarge this picture to see me standing in the audience by Quinn's elbow.


No video could capture the energy that was onstage, but this gives you an idea.



Meanwhile, in the political world, here's a spoof of those dumb Colin Kaepernick ads featuring Charlie Baker. Of course I am going to vote for Baker for Governor, he is clearly superior to the irresponsible leftist running against him, but it is also a fact that this spoof cuts a little too close to the bone.

King Street, Northampton.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Laborly

There was a Monarch butterfly in my backyard this morning. It had just emerged from its cocoon.



On Labor Day weekend I went to the Amherst Farmer's Market.


It featured items from local farms.


A band was playing.


A rock star was also present, but only I recognized him.


I've seen him at the market in the past, and when I've asked him to pose for a shot, he has always been cool with it, as you can see below. But this time I chose to let him be.


At UMass, they had their Labor Day picnic, featuring this antique tractor.


In the the 1800's, UMass taught primarily courses in agriculture. Now it is a world class university, but it still celebrates its farming roots. The UMass band, just off its MGM appearance in Springfield, played its home turf.





Monday, August 27, 2018

Gaming



I arrived at Union Station in downtown Springfield Friday, just in time to see the procession for the Grand Opening of the MGM Casino. While at the bus station, I paused to admire the new benches Richie Neal got for the joint recently. They are from Grand Central Station in NYC, and are in fact grander than the ones that originally were in Union Station, but which mysteriously disappeared during the renovation of the station.


Springfield being, well, Springfield, there was much speculation that the antique benches were stolen in some kind of insider dirty deal. However, I've come around to the view that the benches were probably unintentionally thrown away and ended up in a landfill. They were in a state of advanced decay after decades of the building being vacant, and I suspect some of the workers who cleared out the rubbish that had accumulated in the station mistakenly included the dusty, dirty and broken benches among the debris they threw away. That would explain why no one onsite was alarmed as the benches were removed and why the benches never showed up on e-Bay or some other antique website. Oh well, maybe one day the full truth will be known.

I like this little passageway alongside the Union Station garage that runs beside the majestic stone wall of The Arch.


As I strolled down Main Street, I passed a sparsely attended Farmer's Market at the site of the old Steiger's.


Soon I arrived at the not at all sparsely attended casino parade from the Civic Center to the Casino. In fact, I think that was the biggest crowd I ever saw in Springfield's South End, and I'm old enough to remember the mobs that used to attend the Mt. Carmel Festivals in their heyday.


My old Pointer friend Jordan Williams, who was visiting from Florida, took some videos, such as this one where you can hear that not everyone in attendance was cooperative with the authorities.



Here is a video of the UMass Band performing as part of the parade.



I was among the first wave of the public to enter the casino after it opened to the general public for the first time.


Of course the bread and butter of a casino are the slot machines, a game that strikes me as boring. But then again, I'm not a gambler so maybe there is some subtle aspect to it I don't get. Perhaps it's just the siren call of all casinos - the hope that you can come to the casino on a bus and go back in a limousine.


I ran into a number of people I knew, including G. Michael Dobbs from The Reminder.


My favorite aspect of the casino is the way MGM has faithfully incorporated aspects of the city's history, especially the old South End, into the casino's design. Here is the former South End Community Center, which was partially destroyed in the 2011 tornado, but which has now been revitalized.


A rundown relic even before the tornado, today it sports elegant, very expensive chandeliers.


Here is a 1930's model of the iconic Indian Motocycle, once manufactured in today's Mason Square neighborhood, restored to pristine condition.


They wonderfully preserved the facade from the old hotel where President James Polk once stayed, as well as future President James Buchanan when he was Secretary of State. They even put a plaque on the wall noting that fact. I'm a local history inclined person, yet I never knew the significance of that building before MGM came along. How embarrassing that it took a company from Chicago to give the historic building the respect it always deserved but never received. Alas, that's all too typical for a city that has too often allowed priceless historic structures to be torn down on the whims of corrupt urban planners and their politically connected investors.


But overall, I must say I'm impressed with the casino, and although I was not an initial supporter, I hope it will be a success. However, on a cautionary note, I must again point out the absence of much in the way of development of properties around the casino, including the ones directly across from the casino itself, which are almost completely vacant.


One of the main selling points of casino supporters was that it would revitalize downtown properties. If it has failed to revitalize even the buildings located directly across from their entrance, where exactly are those properties that the casino will supposedly revitalize?

But nevermind. It's way too early to cast a verdict on the ultimate effect of the casino, so let's just wait and see. Indeed, at least one restaurant has announced it is making a nearby investment - Wahlburger's, a hamburger and fries chain popular around Boston and owned by actor Mark Wahlberg, once known as the lead singer for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Hopefully, he will bring some good vibrations to downtown Springfield.