A visit to the Southwest dorm complex.
This morning I was trying to kill some time waiting for the coffee shops to open in the UMass Campus Center, so I took a little stroll around the Southwest dorm area. Of course there really is no such thing as "killing time" when you have a camera with you and a blog hungry for material.
There are a lot of dorm neighborhoods at UMass, but everyone knows Southwest, if only because it is so visible with its towering skyscrapers set amidst the gently rolling farmland. Each of the towers is named in honor of a person from Massachusetts. The one honoring someone from our region is this monstrosity known as the Calvin Coolidge Tower.
Calvin Coolidge was the former Mayor of Northampton and the only person from Western Massachusetts ever elected to the Presidency of the United States.
Students who live in the towers are always sticking stuff on their windows. In this case, on the right, someone pays homage to our beloved baseball team. On the left, someone mixes holiday mirth with whoredom.
Perhaps this is the window of a foreign exchange student, or maybe just a rabid fan of British rock.
This is the famous Southwest Courtyard.
What makes it famous is this is where all the rioting occurs over such gravely important matters as the performance of local sports teams. The Southwest residents have rioted when their teams have lost, but also rioted when they have won. Here's a sampling of the madness.
This is the Hampden Convenience Store located right on the courtyard. My sister Donna used to be the manager there, but now works elsewhere on campus.
Southwest was built in the 1960's, and not just on farmland. A large residential neighborhood had to be taken by eminent domain and bulldozed out of existence. A few buildings from the neighborhood were saved, including the oldest house in Amherst, which is now used as an elegant setting for elite gatherings of UMass poohbahs. Also saved as UMass expanded were some of the oldest trees, many which have little signs identifying them as being more than 300 years old. These elderly sentinels are Amherst's oldest living residents, and the last living witnesses to Amherst as it was before UMass. This gigantic and ancient willow stands along University Drive.
This is the Southwest basketball court, but it is usually too cold and snowy during the school year for it to get much use except in the summer, when the town kids take it over.
On the fence of the basketball court is this makeshift memorial to a UMass student who died.
With nearly 25,000 students, UMass is like a small city, and if so, then Southwest is its urban core. Like all cities, it is a place not just of life but of death. Mortality is a hard fact to face however, in a community where the average age is around twenty.
Speaking of the hereafter, have you seen this disturbing video where presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appears to claim that God is directing his campaign?
One could laugh off Huckabee's remarks were he only just another nut with no money and single digit poll numbers. But his campaign really is surging, and some are predicting an upset win by Huckabee in the Iowa caucus over current front-runner Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Romney is a gaybasher and do-nothing former governor, but at least he's not saying (publicly at least) that he thinks he's on a mission from God. What has become of the old Republican Party of Reagan and Goldwater, which championed capitalism, individualism and a strong defense? Now the party is becoming overrun with religious nuts, while at the same time the Democrats have nothing better to offer.
I consider myself a spiritual person who recognizes the existence of a force greater than myself that is somehow behind what is going on in this cosmic play we're all appearing in. I do not, however, have much of an understanding about the exact nature of that force, and I certainly do not believe that any man made religious organization has a clue. I am especially not impressed by politicians who claim to have Godly connections whether they be religious leftists who tell me Jesus was a liberal or right-wingers who say God hates me because I suck dick.
Enough already. Can we stop all this silly political God talk and get back to discussing the pressing issues of this world?
Our buddy Jay Brannan, whose career is taking off like a rocket, has written a song about religion and politics. I think it represents a big leap forward for him in the sophistication of his lyrics.