Sunday, May 27, 2007
Last night I decided I would walk the Norwottock rail trail into Northampton. I didn't feel like truckin' the whole eight mile route, so I took the bus as far as the Hampshire Mall, which shaves off about three miles. When I got off the bus I was surprised to note how few cars were in the mall parking lot. Normally this lot outside the cinema is completely packed on a Saturday night.
However, the students are mostly gone now, and without them the whole economy of this region goes in the tank. In June, July and August Amherst is just a sleepy cow town. People gripe about the aggravation the students cause, but without them only the local farmers would survive unscathed. As the Amherst farm folk like to remind the academics, "We were here first" and if anything ever happens to the University, they alone can endure.
Walking along the rail trail is always so sweet, especially now that the leaves are out and form a green canopy overhead, like passing through a holy cathedral of nature.
Between breaks in the foliage I catch beautiful glimpses of Hadley farms with cows in the field.
When they were building the rail trail, there was a public appeal for people to donate their used glass bottles and other glass objects to use on the trail to mix with the pavement. The goal was to save money and make the trail last longer.
Children were the most enthusiastic contributors, sacrificing the nickle refunds on their soda pops for the trail and inspiring some to suggest it be called The Children's Rail Trail. The Boston & Main Railroad Company, without which there would have been no rail to make a trail out of, was not considered in the naming process because they were unapologetic capitalists and therefore naming it after them might harsh the mellow of certain leftist sensibilities. Instead the name Norwottock was chosen (the Indian name for the Amherst/Northampton area) falsely implying that Indians, rather than railroad barons, were somehow responsible for the trail. Anyway, if you look at the trail with the sun shining on it you can see the bits of glass reflected in the blacktop.
It was so nice walking along that I soon hit the five mile mark, meaning I was only three miles from downtown Northampton.
As I crossed the mighty Connecticut River near the end of the trail, I could barely see this big white truck barrelling across the Calvin Coolidge bridge for all the barriers designed to keep people from using the old railroad trestle as a suicide leap.
Of course it's so beautiful there, that alone might inspire someone to put aside thoughts of suicide! When I arrived in Hamp I went to the infamous Joe's Pizza for supper. Notice the bizarre Mexican image above the sign.
The strange decor of Joe's Pizza is a Northampton legend. Apparently Joe, when he bought the joint decades ago, had just enough money to buy it but not enough to remodel it although previously the place had been a Mexican restaurant. Because Joe served strictly Italian cuisine, it became a local joke to go to this Italian restaurant absurdly decorated with a completely Mexican motif. Today the owners would be committing commercial suicide by removing any of the Mexican decorations, since its totally inappropriate decor has become the restaurant's most famous feature. The food is good too, and very reasonably priced.
Afterwards, walking down Main Street a painting in the window of Baczek Gallery caught my eye.
It was this picture of giant balloons.
Years ago when I used to do WHYN's The Reporter's Roundtable Starring Kateri Walsh Kateri used to invite her friend Mike Wallace on. We knew he would always be an easy guest because all we'd have to say is "What's new in the world of ballooning?" and he would proceed to hold our audience spellbound for the whole hour with his tales of his times aloft all over the world in giant balloons.
Despite the lack of students, Northampton was its typical funky self, with people hanging out all over the streets.
There were musicians and junkies and prostitutes of both sexes, but mostly its just a jivey hook-up scene. I didn't want to play the games needed to swim in that soup, and so I headed over to the Haymarket.
I hung out there for a bit, but no one I knew stopped by, so I went to Pulaski Park and caught the bus back to Amherst. And that was the end of my Saturday night on the rail trail and in downtown Hamp.
This morning I heard music wafting across the Amherst Common and followed it onto the Amherst College campus, where their graduation ceremony was about to begin. I made this video of the band playing.
Finally, I wanted to demonstrate my juggling skills, but forgot that you ought to be sober to do that, resulting in the following pathetic demonstration.