The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sweet Life

On our way back from our still to be unveiled Big Adventure, Jeff Ziff and I stopped in Hadley so I could take this snap of Eddie's Cruisers on Route Nine.

Now closed, in its day it was a mecca for the Valley hotrod scene. Where we parked cross the street is this produce stand for Wanczyk Farm.

Just when we were about to leave I noticed something on the side of an old truck container located on the farm. Could it be? Yes, a fading ad for the long lost Sweet Life Foods!

I guess you have to be of a certain age to recall how ubiquitous Sweet Life was. Their ads were everywhere! They sponsored every local TV show, had billboards in every community and their products were prominent on the shelves of every food store. However, eventually they were forced to sell out to a big conglomerate. Sad how that happens to so many of our local companies. Here is a picture of the back half of the container, showing the Sweet Life motto.

Suddenly who should pull up but old Walter Wanczyk himself, the owner of the farm! He was suspicious of us at first, perhaps afraid that we were city slickers come to scope out his farm for a future condo or casino development or something; but once he realized it was the internet pioneer Tom Devine and videographer Jeff Ziff, all was cool. We chatted and he told us about some of the things on the farm, like this old Ford truck.

Wanczyk told us he had learned to drive on that vehicle and said, "If you could handle the ball gears of that truck, you could drive anything on the road!" He went on to say that he was among the last of only about three "real farmers" in Hadley, lamenting that the rest of the farms were run by "gentlemen who work at UMass" and do a little farming on the side. "The Hadley I knew growing up," he said, "the Northampton I knew, it's all gone!"

He did not make this observation in a positive tone.

Are you familiar with Amherst singer/songwriter Will Adams? If not you need to check out his new album.

Great acoustic guitar with sophisticated lyrics, including one called Dirge for Sylvia Plath for you literary types. To listen and buy click here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peaceful Resters

A visit to an old cemetery.

Well, I had many fun adventures yesterday, exploring our beloved Valley with the talented lensman Jeff Ziff. Actually, it won't be possible to present all of the material at once, in part because Jeff left for a vaycay in Maine this morning. Yesterday he took most of the photographs, thereby freeing me to do what I do best, which is run around and act crazy, but that also means we must wait for him to process the photos and video. However it shall all be released for your pleasure and enlightenment, dear readers, in the by and by. Today, I'll tell you about our visit to the Smith's Ferry Cemetery which is located in Holyoke on Route 5 near the Northampton line.

This is a small cemetery which you've probably driven past a million times but never stopped to visit. However, as a history nut I'm fond of cemeteries, as they are often the repositories of historical information that cannot be discovered otherwise. For many of the people of the past, their tombstone is the only permanent record of their lives. Here is a picture of me taking a picture of the statue (shown above) on the tomb of someone named Richard F. Underwood.

I thought this was a pretty creative grave marker. The last name is apparently represented by a single block etched Strain, with accompanying blocks giving the first initials of the deceased. I guess this is the technique for those who wish to be discreetly dead.

One of the largest monuments in the boneyard belongs to this dude, William Caldwell Bowlen.

Never heard of him. However a Holyoke history book about cemeteries, Stories in Stone has this to say about him:

William Caldwell Bowlen was born in Newburyport MA in 1868, where his Nova-Scotian-born father, William Bowlen, was a grocer.... W. C. Bowlen not only designed timeless silver patterns, he was a talented artist who created evocative images of the landscapes and people around him. He was also an etcher, one who engraves metal printing plates, and produced limited editions of his artworks. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of sixty-six, while attending an auction sale in Greenfield.

So he was a famous local artist who probably shouldn't have gotten so excited about an auction in Greenfield. Here is what we found odd about his tomb however - there are air grates on the top, as you can see in the picture below.

Why does a tomb need air grates? Was Mr. Bowlen intending to return to life, and wanted to be sure he had fresh air? When Mr. Bowlen was freshly dearly departed, wasn't there a danger that those air grates would spew forth a stinky smell? If anyone has an explanation for those grates, I'd love to hear it.

Anyway, next time you're zooming down Route Five, stop for a few minutes of peaceful historical contemplation among the old stones of Smith's Ferry Cemetery.

How do you like this neat shirt Andy bought me based on Springfield's Dr. Seuss?

Hey wait a minute! Isn't that the book Dr. Seuss wrote about getting old?

Did you have good times in the 1980's? I sure did, and this classic 80's tune reminds me of them.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Local Talent

Promoting the homeboys.

I'm off on some adventures today which I will tell you about tomorrow, but in the meantime here's some Massachusetts lads you should be aware of. First up is Boston based artist Mike Bergen, who is using his considerable artistic skills on behalf of the war effort by designing this recruitment poster. Think the Pentagon will be interested in using it?

Next up is the Bay State's own Bo Burnham, who would like to show us his home and lifestyle.

The room was full of pregnant women, with their partners. The Lamaze Class was in full swing. The instructor was teaching the women how to breathe properly, and was telling the men how to give the necessary assurances to their partners at this stage of the pregnancy.

She said: "Ladies, remember that exercise is GOOD for you. Walking is especially beneficial. It strengthens the pelvic muscles and will make delivery that much easier!" She looked at the men in the room. "And gentlemen, remember. You're in this together. It wouldn't hurt you to go walking with your partner."

The room suddenly got very quiet as the men absorbed this information. Then a man at the back of the room slowly raised his hand.

"Yes?" answered the teacher.

"I was just wondering," the man said. "Is it all right if she carries a golf bag while we walk?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Loose Pics

Pictures and a controversial video.

Anybody who has spent any time with me in person knows what a shutterbug I am. Wherever I go I'm always taking pictures! Sometimes I tie them together under a common theme, like in yesterday's entry which used a variety of pictures taken at various times and united them by their relation to the Norwottock Rail Trail. Some photos however, are worth putting up but pretty much stand alone. As I continue to clear out my camera to create some memory storage room, here are a sampling of those kinds of photos.

I like how my neighbor got all psychedelic with his trash can in Amherst.

Another neighbor's mailbox might have been meant to be pretty in pink, except in its current condition it would more accurately be dubbed pathetic in pink.

This weird message appeared recently on the crosswalk at North Prospect Street. What could it possibly mean?

Amherst's French restaurant had this to say on its blackboard last weekend.

This Amherst gallery is selling a gorgeous painting of the Pioneer Valley as it appeared in olden times.

My neighbor's house was built in 1750.

Today UMass is considered the center of the Amherst universe, but we forget that there are many things in town that predate the University.

Speaking of UMass, for some mysterious reason the grounds crew tore out all the bushes in front of the Goodell building, thereby exposing this previously hidden engraving revealing the building's age.

Some video has surfaced of the Andrew Card honorary degree ceremony last June at UMass that is quite disturbing in a number of ways. For one, the rudeness of the reception he received is unforgivable. No matter what you think of the man's politics, no one deserves to be treated that way while a guest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. On the other hand, it's sort of creepy how the cops were filming the audience. Where will that footage end up and what will be done with it?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rail Trail Scenes

Assorted Photos.

Now that I no longer have Andy's laziness to blame for my not walking the rail trail, you might think I am now keeping faithfully to my exercise regime. If so, you should guess again. How annoying to discover that your excuse was just an excuse not to do what you didn't want to do anyway. It's called reality without excuses.

I hate when that happens.

However, I have occasionally gone rail trailing, and I've sometimes taken pictures as well. These snaps have been accumulating in my camera, so it's time to clear them out.

Recently there were vandals afoot on the trail. Apparently they were spraycan wielding Anarchists calling for chaos!

The Anarchists seem to have been accompanied by their close friends and allies the Dadaists and Absurdists, who used the spray paint to write - what else?

Lest anyone object, someone (an Arts Major?) wrote this warning:

This graffiti is a call for courage.

While this one reminds us of what we too often forget.

All the farms in Hadley have switched from growth to harvest mode, as evidenced by this truck parked along the rail trail overflowing with fresh potatoes.

The only place to buy any refreshments on the rail trail is at Sophia's Polish Restaurant which has this giant Coke bottle ad outside. It is quite effective, whenever I see it I feel compelled to go in and purchase some of the world famous caramel colored sugar water.

If you like your rail trail refreshments free and lo-calorie than go on a bit and you will come upon the public fountain and air-tire oasis created by Country Nissan of Route Nine.

No one minds this graffiti, scrawled as an expression of gratitude.

The Springfield City Council recently took away the licence of a trouble-making store. Yet the store owners apparently have been operating anyway. Good citizen Bill Dusty however used his trusty camera to record the violation for all to see. It may not be an earth shattering issue, but this again is a perfect example of the new citizen media - we are armed (with cameras) we have access to mass audiences and we are determined to expose wrong doing in every field. Evil politicians, crooked businessmen and bad actors everywhere beware! Your day is done.

Finally, if you are up late tonight don't forget to check out the really cool lunar eclipse.

Friday, August 24, 2007


A look at a neighboring community.

Despite its close proximity, I almost never go to the town of Easthampton. However I was there recently and took a few pictures, mostly in the downtown section. There are a lot of old houses, such as this one made of brick.

Here'a another colonial style home, only this one is made of wood.

I like how this store has a skirt and blouse on a pole.

There is an old cemetery within walking distance of downtown.

Some of the markers are so old you can't even read them, yet each anonymous stone still represents a human life.

In the town square there is this impressive tribute to veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I don't think there is a town in the Valley more inclined to fly flags than Easthampton, making it pretty much the opposite of Amherst in that regard. In Amherst flag waving can actually be controversial.

On the wall of Townhall is this stone slab to the veterans of the Civil War. What's interesting is how many more died of disease than in battle. (click to enlarge)

The ages are also listed, most died around twenty years old. War is sometimes necessary, but the price is always terrible - with money being the least of it.

Speaking of Amherst, one of the best known poems by the town's world famous poet Emily Dickinson is Some Keep the Sabbath by Going to Church. In this unique rendition it has been turned into a rap song. Surprisingly it works, but I wonder what Miss Emily would have thought?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sex Tips and Ghosts

It went down like this:

I was in the Haymarket looking for a little action, but everyone was staring at their laptop computers, the screens of which reflected an eerie glow on their faces like a scene from a science fiction movie.

A dull, sexless science fiction movie.

Then from out of nowhere she approached me, this biker girl in black leather. She had a helmet on made in the style of a Nazi, with a sticker across the front rim that read:

Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go EVERYWHERE.

"Hey," she said, "ain't you that queer guy from the internet?"

The tone in which she asked did not make clear whether she was a fan or a critic.

"Um, well, maybe."

"Sure it's you!" she cried. "I love your blog, I read it all the time!"

"Oh, well then thank-you."

Having successfully established my identity, things immediately turned personal. Leaning toward me in a conspiratorial manner she whispered, "Hey, you've gone down on a lot of guys ain't you?"

"Um, well, I guess."

"Hey, so is it true what my girlfriend told me about Sprite?"

"Sprite? You mean the soda?"

"Yeah, my girlfriend said it's a gag inhibitor."

I laughed and told her I had never heard of that.

"Hey," she said as she walked away, "Why don't you give it a try? I will too and the next time I see ya we can compare notes!"

After that ridiculous conversation I had to leave. Outside I saw that a block away there was a long line outside the Iron Horse Music Hall. I walked over and asked someone who it was that was playing. It was Wynton Marsalas, the jazz legend, and I wished I was going too but I had to return to Amherst. Walking towards the Academy of Music, I noticed that someone had left one of the front doors open.

Standing inside the doorway was a mysterious man.

A man in a white suit with a bow tie.

A man from another time and place.

A man whose expression was as blank and inscrutable as plastic.

I figured the smart thing to do was to get away from there fast!

Later when I got home I thought there might be something in my face that would cause Andy to ask me whether I'd seen a ghost. Instead all he said was, "Tommy, what are you doing with all those cases of Sprite?"

In this local video two Amherst College students get down and dirty as they practice for the college talent show.

Happy Birthday Jay Libardi, wherever you are.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Holyoke Happening

Festival pics, a video and a Franco update.

While floating through Holyoke on Saturday afternoon I came upon the Celebrate Holyoke festival, or whatever it's called.

This guy was selling a lot of balloons!

This Holyoke cop was zooming around the festival on this Segway. Of course I'd seen them before on television, but this was the first time I ever saw one being used in real life.

Of course nothing happens in Holyoke without the politicians onhand, and in this case they are being represented by a whole string of signs.

Mr. McGee had a campaign tent set up to support his candidacy.

I came across one gentleman who was dealing baseball cards, some of which he was selling for as much as two hundred dollars! Observe the Mighty Yaz in the right hand corner. (click to enlarge)

On a Holyoke No Parking sign I saw this old Fishing Buddies sticker. They were quite the sensation in the 1990's when they fought to open the reservoir for fishing.

The Environmental Protection Agency eventually gave them a merit award, and had this to say about them on their website.

Darby O'Brien founded Fishing Buddies and began a grassroots campaign to open the City of Holyoke's drinking water reservoirs to recreational fishing. In 1998, two nationally known environmental leaders and activists – John Cronin, the Hudson Riverkeeper, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-director of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic – joined the campaign. In September 1998, the city sponsored a one-day fishing derby for residents at the Whiting Street reservoir. Working with EPA, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and others organizations, the "buddies" and their colleagues continue to advance a community policy to allow limited recreational use of the reservoirs. Fishing Buddies sponsors a local chapter of the national Fishing Tackle Loaner Program at the Holyoke Public Library for boys and girls who don't own fishing poles. They also solicit mentors for the Buddy System, which hooks kids up with volunteers to take them fishing.

Our Valley could use more of their kind of activism.

Here is a video I made Saturday on the bus coming into Holyoke. It ends at City Hall.

Mike Franco, who is in a legal tussle with supporters of State Rep. Angelo Puppolo over an alleged assault over political differences, sends this further detail of the alleged political harassment he has received, this time supposedly from the Springfield Newspapers. Here is what Franco said in an email I received this morning;

Another disturbing occurrence immediately after the violent attack upon me that morning was when a guy by the name of Stashi Hierapolis (sp?), claiming to be a reporter with the Republican Newspaper (but wouldn't show me his credentials), verbally accosted me, shoving a recording device in my face, and accusing me of posting another banner in the area that called the Republican a "Homosexual Activist Newspaper."

Mike Franco

In May I saw that protester on Route Nine in Northampton and took this picture.

With the hat and the shades, I can't tell if it's Franco or not. Can you?