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.