Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

And good riddance!

The snow that fell last night really brought out the beauty in the Northampton Christmas tree.

Nearby an anti-war group was giving away free fruits and vegetables.

The icy winds did not prevent this bronze woman in Amherst from sitting nude on the lawn.

At UMass the storm transformed the campus into a white wonderland. Who are these people that ride bikes during snowstorms?

This morning Connie sent the following report about my brother John:

Today started out like a bluebird morning -- so peaceful, having our tea and watching the sun come up. Then John decided a hot shower sounded good. The next thing I heard was a melon thumping the floor. In his weakened state, the heat made him pass out and he hit his head on something as he went down. He ended up with a little goose egg and a small laceration above his eye.

At the 9:30 a.m. checkup, we found his white counts at 100, mouth sores just taking off, low on fluids, and low on potassium, so he received two bags of good stuff and a bottle of mouth medicine to numb the pain. We were home by noon and he has been watching TV most of the afternoon. He doesn't want to sleep all the time. He won't take the medicine that makes him kind of out of here, so I told him, "GIVE IT TO ME! I'LL TAKE IT!"

I promised you a picture of the hepa mask, so it is attached. Notice I found football motif covers for the filters? He just wasn't too keen on the hot pink that is standard gear. Nothing but the best for my man!

In reality, all of the things that are happening are expected (well, maybe not the melon thumping). Today is day +3, and on day +9 things will start to turn around. We must go through this valley to stand upon the mountain of God. The Lord has a plan for us and we will someday know how this trial supported it. Thanks again for all of your prayers -- and all of the prayers of your churches, friends, and blogs.

Love you all,
C & J

So 2007 is coming to an end and 2008 is only hours away. This is the first New Year since 1931 that my father has not been alive. Here is a picture of my Dad and I taken last January.

Because it ended in the traditionally lucky number of seven, I thought this would be a fortunate year. Boy was I wrong! At the dawn of 2007 I was unaware that before another new year began my father would get lung cancer and die. Little did I guess that my drug crazed stupidity would cause me to end the year as a poverty stricken welfare recipient. While every year is filled with surprises, some surprises are more welcome than others!

But despite the tense moments and close calls of 2007 I'm still standing, and that is what really matters. Every year is a good year that ends leaving you still alive. Just the same, I hope 2008 is a whole lot better than its predecessor!

Happy New Year Everybody!

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I love you.

Today the temperature was so uncharacteristically mild that I was running around with no coat on.

On my way out of the post office today who should I see but United States Congressman John Olver! I began to introduce myself but then discovered that the Congressman already knew about me and my blog. Wow, so they read me in the Halls of Congress! He happily agreed to pose for a picture, joking that his bald head might reflect the light too brightly and ruin the picture! Therefore he posed with his hand covering the top of his head.

Where else but Amherst could you find yourself casually joking with a United States Congressman? I used to live in Amherst, but now I live in Northampton. Yet my soul still yearns for its Amherst homeland, and in better days I shall return there. In the meantime, I am not unhappy in Hamp. I mean, let me state the obvious:


The city also has a great blog called The Northamptonist. It is written by the talented writer/photographer/videographer and journalist Paolo Mastrangelo. Under the name of his alter-ego "Malatron" he used to produce the ultra-cool Blog Soup. Now he devotes his skills instead to the pursuit of first rate citizen journalism through The Northamptonist.

I ran into Paolo the other day in the Haymarket Cafe. I wanted to take his picture, but he asked me not to so as not to become too well known. I understand where he's coming from. When I first started The Baystate Objectivist I used to go around public meetings mostly unrecognized, discreetly planting myself near where public figures were talking and eavesdropping on their discussions. I got great inside information that way!

Then I started appearing regularly on Channel 40 as a member of the stable of fill-in hosts for The Dan Yorke Show and everybody got to know my face. Suddenly I was recognized everywhere I went, and whenever I tried to tune in to any political discussions among power players, the topic would always change to sports or the weather. So I don't blame Paolo for wanting to preserve his physical anonymity as long as possible, but I still wish I could show you a picture of him because he is really hot!

You can also catch Paolo in the newest issue of Local Buzz, where he writes a great article about Northampton graffiti. That issue also has great photos in it, such as the one below of Northampton's many-hued haired Mayor M. Claire Higgins.

There is also an excerpt in the new Local Buzz from my article about the Dominic Sarno mayoral victory in Springfield:

"He cannot be allowed to fail. Springfield simply cannot afford a failed mayoralty at this point. So let's hope that any embittered Ryanites can put that bitterness aside and unite behind the Sarno Administration, at least to the degree necessary to give Sarno an honest chance to succeed. A successfully functioning Springfield government is good not just for the city but for the entire region, since nothing has held back the prosperity of our Valley quite like the persistent economic dysfunctioning of Springfield. If Sarno succeeds then that means Springfield succeeds, and if Springfield succeeds then everyone who lives in our beautiful Valley will share the benefits."

Here is a picture of Sarno at the Financial Control Board meeting at City Hall in Springfield last week. I ripped the photo off from Bill Dusty.

Sarno came up to me at that meeting and shook my hand. In turn I congratulated him on his victory. Hey, why not start off on friendly terms? There will be plenty of time to fight in the future if circumstances call for it.

But getting back to the wonders of Northampton, if you meet someone hot in Hamp, especially of the gay persuasion, you might want to take them to Northampton's Pride and Joy.

They sell all kinds of neat stuff there, from books to DVDs and even sex toys. Regarding the latter, I've always found the equipment God gave me to be more than adequate. I've never even taken Viagra, except as a party drug. There are also things of a political nature, but unlikely to appeal to you much unless you are of the leftist persuasion. (Click photo to enlarge)

This morning as I was headed downtown there was a light fog over Northampton.

I ducked down this alleyway as shortcut.

Then I made like a hobo and cut across the railroad tracks.

Nearby there was a real hobo sleeping in a doorway. There but for the grace of God....

I used to frown on the poor, but God has humbled me as I deserved.

I'm sorry to read in the paper that Danny Athas, a former owner of the Pine Point Cafe, has died. In my misspent youth I spent far too many hours in that bar. Here's me in front of the Pine Point Cafe in 1993. Photo by Jay Libardi.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holyoke Musings

A little stroll.

I had to go down to Holyoke this morning and I walked around a little bit. One of the cool things about Holyoke is that it has all these back alleys. There is something romantic about them. Can't you imagine a drunken Irishman singing and stumbling down one a hundred years ago?

These alleys are essentially narrow streets where there are no buildings with their fronts facing them. In other words, they pass behind the back of every structure. The alleys date back to the days of ice deliveries and food merchants selling out of horse drawn wagons, plus coalmen and garbagemen who all needed access to everyone's backyard. Technology has made the alleys pretty obsolete, although here's one I passed with an oil truck on it.

I also passed Holyoke's John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial. The flags were really being whipped by the wind today.

The youthful visage of the slain Massachusetts born president keeps a watchful vigil over the homes of Holyoke.

Around the statue are stones with memorable sayings on them. Kennedy made some great quotes, but I've never cared for what was probably his most famous one.

Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

That sentiment is incompatible with a free society. We do not serve the government, the government serves us.

One of the oldest churches still standing in Holyoke is the First Congregationalist, built in 1799.

Here is the cornerstone, but note how on a cable TV box nearby someone has stenciled some aliens and the date 2012. How strange!

What curious omen does this portend? Is this the date of the long awaited return of The Mothership?

If you've only lived
On Earth
Then you've only known
One Sun
Not the promise
of the thousands
of other suns
that glow beyond here.
If you want
to see the future
then look into the eyes
of your wild, laughing children
Don't be afraid
of their ways.

"When the Earth Moves Again"
by Paul Kantner

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

XMas Aftermath

I'm still sober!

Christmas morning.

Well, the Christmas holiday done come and gone, and I did not relapse. Of course I had no intention of doing so, but Christmas is considered a major relapse trigger, second only to New Years Eve, and coming right on top of another major stressful event, my Dad's death, makes my continuing sobriety an even greater success. Of course it isn't really me doing it - God is giving me the strength to do what I would otherwise be unable to do by myself.

Interestingly, I spent a couple of hours Christmas Eve in a bar! I stayed over Christmas Eve in Westfield with my sister Bev, who works at the popular Tavern Restaurant near the rotary. So popular in fact, that it was hard to get the partying patrons to go home, therefore when I arrived to pick my sister up after work the place was still rocking!

In spite of my past I have to live in this world, and so cannot hide from partying scenes. So I sat at the bar while the party dwindled down and just drank Coca-cola, laughing and talking with the employees and customers, most of whom I know through either my sister or this webpage. In fact, being possibly the Valley's most famous recovering drug addict, had I reached for a drink in a moment of weakness I'm quite certain a half-dozen people would have leapt forward to snatch the drink from my hands! I'm really humbled by the fantastic support I've gotten from everybody since I got out of rehab. It makes me ashamed of what a self-obsessed, drug addled fool I used to be.

As usual Tavern Restaurant owner John Bonavita and his staff did a wonderful job decorating the joint.

While the new place is great, I still miss the old one in Springfield's SouthEnd. In fact, I also miss the original Tavern at the site of what is now the Basketball Hall of Fame. Now that was a bar!

On Christmas morning I went for a walk around downtown Westfield. It was all but deserted.

Because of the holidays I was able to leave the sober place where I live for two nights, and the second one I spent with my sister Donna in Belchertown. She rescued one of the plants from my father's funeral and as you can see below it made a beautiful Christmas decoration.

This morning my sister dropped me off in Amherst. I saw that the Boy Scouts were dismantling their controversial Christmas tree sale site. Given the big fuss it caused, I doubt there will be another such sale next year.

I regret that besides the controversial tax issues surrounding the sales, one of the things causing a hassle is that some of the town liberals object to the Boy Scouts on the grounds that they are a "hate group" because they ban homosexuals. I'm queer as a three dollar bill, but I served as a member of Troop 53 in ol' Pine Point.

However, despite what I'm certain is the futility of their homosexual ban, I support the Boy Scouts' right to impose it. I think anyone should be free to form private organizations and to set their own membership requirements. It doesn't matter whether you are excluding women, or redheads or cocksuckers or whatever - it's your organization and you should be able to determine who belongs to it. It is a misinterpretation of the concept of civil rights to try to force private groups to accept anybody who wants to join. Whatever happened to freedom of association?

Elsewhere in Amherst I came upon this weird sight of a chair mysteriously wedged between two trees.

It's hard to imagine a reason why anyone would do such a thing. But why ask why? In Amherst you soon learn to shrug over some of the sights you see and just keep on walking.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Schedule

Reduced service.

This morning before dawn I took this picture of the full moon over Amherst. In all immodesty, it's one of the nicest pictures I've taken recently.

What was I doing in Amherst so early today? Hey, it's the day before Christmas, what do you think? I was running around doing all kinds of stuff getting ready for the holiday. Alas, that leaves little time for blogging.

I went to UMass for breakfast, and cutting through the Southwest section and going past the John F. Kennedy Tower I saw that the departing dormitory dwellers left behind this statement of affection for their academic home.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solstice Musings

Assorted stuff.

Community activist Victor Davilla sent me a couple of pictures from the Springfield Control Board meeting on Thursday. This one shows me with Heather Brandon of Urban Compass.

At one point somebody realized that nearly all of the region's major independent political bloggers were gathered in the same room. The result was this historic photo.

From left to right - Mike Dobbs from Out of the Inkwell, Heather Brandon of Urban Compass, Bill Dusty of The Springfield Intruder, yours truly and kneeling in front is Matt Szafranski of Western Mass Politics and Insight.

I am pleased that The Valley Advocate gave me one of their haloes in their end of the year awards issue. They had this to say about me:

We've been fans of blogger Tom Devine ( since back in the days when he stapled together copies of his self-published Baystate Objectivist and dropped them at hot spots around Springfield. This year, though, has been an especially rewarding year for Devine's readers; in addition to his always fun political coverage, he's offered up such engaging pieces as "I'm Queer, But I'm Not a Fag," in which he compares the self-parodying images of gays in the mainstream media (think "Queer Eye") to 20th-century black performers who embraced racist stereotypes to endear themselves to white audiences. ("Instead of blackface, it's pinkface," he wrote.) And don't miss Devine's riveting series from last summer about discovering his long-lost brother, or his frank explanation of why he dropped from view for a good chunk of this fall, titled " My brief but disastrous career as a crackhead."

The other awards, both good and bad, are worth reading as well. I especially like their comment on Springfield's former shadow-mayor Frankie Keough: "There's low, and then there's Keough-low."

Recently I posted a picture of the holiday display in front of The Teapot coffee shop in Northampton, with it's white trees and fierce samurai guards.

Today I went by and one of the guards is without his head while the other is missing entirely. Vandals?

I also recently pointed out the name of Dr. Seuss was misspelled in the window of Northampton's Michelson Gallery:

Since then, the misspelling has been fixed.

However, someone sent me an email pointing out that I was misspelling the name of the gallery as Michaelson, like it sounds, intead of the Jewish spelling which is Michelson. In other words, while I was pointing out the fact that the gallery was misspelling the artist, I was myself guilty of misspelling the gallery!

My life is dripping with irony.

The snow crew in Northampton buried this merchant's sign in a snowbank.

Outside the UMass Student Union this week was parked this car that runs on flower power.

There certainly are no flowers to provide power in this arctic weather! Today is the Winter Solstice, technically the first official day of winter, but it's been acting like winter for some weeks now.

It's hard to believe it's been six months since the Summer Solstice. They were celebrating the Summer Solstice back in June at Hampshire College by looking for their spirit orbs, or whatever. Here's a nice trippy video filmed entirely in the wild woodlands of Amherst.

In June I spent the Summer Solstice running around the backyard naked.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Getting Around

In the Valley.

After my Dad's funeral on Wednesday, my sister Donna and I took my Uncle John, who is my father's eldest brother and who came up from Houston, Texas for the funeral, to see the grave of poet Emily Dickinson in Amherst. My Uncle John once wrote a poem in honor of my mother entitled "The Lodge at Porter Lake" which was published in the Springfield Republican as part of an article about my mother. The first poems of Emily Dickinson to be published also appeared in the Springfield Republican, so I thought that made Miss Emily and Uncle John literary soulmates in some abstract way. My Uncle thought I was nuts, but humored me.

Later we went down to Northampton and tried to get the tasty New England specialty Indian Pudding at Wiggins Tavern, in the section of the Hotel Northampton that dates back to 1787. Alas, we came too early and it was closed, but we were still served our holiday pudding in the stately dining room upstairs in the "modern section" built in the 1920's and overlooking historic Coolidge Park.

The next day, I took the PVTA bus to Springfield for Charlie Ryan's last hurrah, so to speak, at the Springfield Control Board meeting. Technically, Ryan will retain the mayoralty until Dominic Sarno is sworn in on January 7th. However, the Board meeting really represented the last major policy making event Ryan will oversee as mayor. On the bus for the first leg of my journey I spotted this woman (how could I miss her?) riding with this rather unique painting.

The artist was Gineen Cooper and the title of the piece is "Nose Knows No's."

I transferred buses in Holyoke to continue on to Springfield, but paused long enough to take this picture showing how pretty Veterans Park looks buried in snow.

When I arrived in Springfield I immediately went to have lunch at Jakes, whose lunch is still the best buy downtown. I couldn't help but notice the fancy new crosswalks the city has installed. They look nice.

After lunch I headed towards City Hall and passing by Tower Square/Baystate West I saw that a New York style deli has moved in where Gus and Paul's used to be. Pausing inside, I noticed that the greeter was none other than local business baron and ultimate insider Stu Horowitz, who cordially agreed to pose with me by the deli's mascot Lady Liberty.

When I arrived at City Hall, who should be videoblogging but the ever intrepid Bill Dusty of The Springfield Intruder. He was filming the city workers trying to fix a sewer pipe broken by the frigid weather.

At the Control Board meeting there were a number of people on hand in the audience who I knew. Here is Ward 8 activist John Lysak and Heather Brandon of Urban Compass fame.

Also present was the sainted Forest Park activist Sheila McElwaine and veteran local reporter Mike Dobbs.

Unfortunately I only had time to hear the public speakout. School Committee member Antonette Pepe was among the speakers, and frankly stole the show with her fiery comments.

To hear what Pepe and others said check out this Bill Dusty video.

Fortunately I was able to stay long enough to see Charlie Ryan receive a plaque of appreciation for his selfless service to the city. At the meeting it was announced that Ryan is leaving office with a 30 million dollar surplus and a record of achievement his successor will be very challenged to match. Below is Chris Gabrielli, Hizzoner and City Council President Kateri Walsh.

Back in Amherst at UMass, I saw this sign on the door to the office of the Cannibus Reform Coalition, more informally known as The Pot Club. It says, "At least we're not crackheads!"

They have a point. If I had stuck to marijuana and steered clear of crack I might not have had to spend two months in rehab and lost everything I owned.

Hey, now that I'm on welfare, does that mean I have to vote for Dennis Kucinich or Hillary?

Finally, everyone in the North Valley knows "Motown Bernie" who sings soul songs on the streets of Amherst and Northampton for change. Here's a little video I made of him.