Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Close call.

Here's Paolo lookin' studly.

Paolo made this great shirt:

The exact right sentiment for the times. It took great courage for the House of Representatives to reject that total rip-off, doomed to fail so-called "economic recovery" package yesterday. Although the revolt was led largely by Republicans, forty percent of the Democrats also rebelled by voting against it, and they too deserve high praise.

Unfortunately, the revolt only bought time until Thursday, when the Congress will reconvene and probably have some other legislative abortion to offer. It will probably be better than the bill that failed, but probably not good enough. We are better off letting the markets cleanse themselves of the bad companies, regardless of what short term economic harm that causes to innocent parties, than to rescue the companies that deserve to go broke as a consequence of their own greed and stupidity. We must not go down the path of the government rescuing failing businesses, or there will be no end to it. Plus it cripples the free market that makes America so dynamic.

The soul of America was at risk during the past few days, and history will record that it was saved by the brave actions of those who voted no. The battle isn't over and the outcome uncertain, but for the moment, the good guys are winning.

No thanks to the presidential candidates, one who did too little and the other who did too much. Barack Obama's vague and non-committal statements suggest he didn't have a clue what do, the same discouraging non-performance he gave when Russia invaded Georgia this summer. By contrast John McCain was very involved - working for the wrong side by twisting arms to try to pass the rip-off. Shame on them both.

At UMass today, the supporters of the McCain/Palin ticket were campaigning in the Campus Center.

A poll released last week suggests that McCain is going to have a hard time winning in Massachusetts, showing him losing by a 55% to 39% margin. A poll last month showed the race favoring Obama by 51% to 36%. Although both candidates have since raised their popularity, Obama attracted more new supporters than McCain did. Here's what the pollster, SurveyUSA had to say about their results.

Massachusetts Backs Obama, Though Not By as Much as It Backed Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000:
In an election for President of the United States in Massachusetts today, 09/24/08, Democrat Barack Obama defeats Republican John McCain 55% to 39%, according to this latest exclusive WBZ-TV News poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Obama leads among both men and women, young and old, rich and poor. He's up 20 points in greater Boston, 15 points in Western and Central Massachusetts. McCain leads among Independents, those who own a gun, those who are pro-life, and among those who do not consider themselves an intellectual. The two candidates tie among those who have not graduated from college, and in SE Massachusetts.

Amherst College is recognising Banned Book Week by chalking on the pavement the names of books that have been banned.

How long have the buses had names? I just noticed this morning that the Holyoke bus is called the Volleyball Voyager.

I also saw that the the Williamsburg bus was called The Burger Bullet. Cute but weird.

The Academy of Music in Northampton will open its doors Saturday for a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I'm not a big fan, but I give the film credit for being one of the first major films to openly ridicule heterosexuality.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Literary Journey

To Springfield.

My friend is writing a fictional science fiction novel set in the future of Springfield. He asked me if I would show him some historic sights in my old hometown pertaining to the Springfield Armory. On our way there we stopped on Boston Road so that he could stop at a legal drug dealer for some nicotine. It used to be a donut shop in my day, but I can't remember whether it was Dunkin Donuts or Bess Eaton.

While my friend scored his smokes I walked around the immediate vicinity shooting pics. Across the street from the nicotine dealer is this abandoned Bickford's.

For decades that building used to be an Abdows Big Boy.

My sister Bev worked there, as did Muriel Couture, the mother of one of my friends. On the other side of the smoke shop is this tuxedo rental place, which has been there for as long as I can remember.

On the other side is this gas station/car wash where I was once employed for most of one summer.

I worked the graveyard shift from eleven to seven. It used to get pretty lonesome there sometimes, especially around three in the morning when there was no business. It wasn't uncommon at that hour for perverts to call the gas station phone and want to talk dirty. I'm not into phone sex, but at first I would listen just out of boredom. Eventually I stopped though, because the glimpse I was getting into the sad, sick life of people who call gas stations in the middle of the night was too depressing.

It wasn't always that bad though, sometimes after last call my friends would come by and we would drink and smoke weed. I think that's how I ended up getting fired, just in time to enjoy the last weeks of summer!

People who zoom up and down Boston Road for no other reason than to go shopping don't always realize that behind the commercial strip there are large residential areas, like here on Lucerne Street.

Heading downtown we reached the site of the old Armory. We stopped across from the noble High School of Commerce to see this monument to General Knox.

Later we went by The Fort Restaurant, which is the site where the early settlers of Springfield hid-out while Indians burned Springfield to the ground. I assumed a karate pose just in case any of them tried to come back.

I'll tell you more about my friend's book as it progresses.

Speaking of books, I just finished reading Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery by Lars Lindberg Christensen, Robert A. Fosbury, and M. Kornmesser. It is mostly a picture book - and what pictures!

Our atmosphere makes it impossible to see clearly into outerspace, since it distorts and filters the light from distant objects trying to reach Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope floats above the atmosphere while orbiting the Earth, giving it a crystal clear view of the heavens such as no earthly eye could experience.

The Hubble Space Telescope is considered the world's most successful scientific project. It is named after Edwin Powell Hubble, the father of modern cosmology. The first person to think of putting a telescope in outer space was rocket scientist Hermann Oberth in 1923. In 1946 American astronomer Lyman Spitzer devised a telescope that would work in space, but there was no way at the time to launch one into orbit. In the 1970's NASA and the European Space Agency began working together to make a space telescope a reality. On April 24th 1990 their dream was realized when Hubble was launched from the space shuttle.

Outer space has been described as an immense cosmic dance, choreographed by gravity. Hubble has been used to try to map that dance, but the universe is still bigger than we understand, maybe even bigger than we can understand. For each answer Hubble comes up with about the nature of our universe, hundreds of new questions are posed.

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of those rare government projects that actually delivered more than the taxpayers paid for. It was supposed to last only until 2005, but is still in space exploring the universe.

Where is Hubble in its orbit around Earth right this second? To see for yourself click here.

In front of Downtown Motors in Northampton there is this old Dodge truck on display. Does anybody know what year it was made?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Right to Think

Does UMass discriminate against conservatives?

We all love UMass, but sometimes its politics can be, shall we say, a bit disappointing. In an article on the Students for Academic Freedom website by UMass Professor Daphne Patai, the chances of you being hired to be a faculty member at UMass are made less likely if you fail to answer correctly certain trick questions designed to force you to reveal your political orientation. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

Daphne Patai is a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the author and editor of eleven books, among them The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology (1984), Brazilian Women Speak: Contemporary Life Stories (1998), Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (1991, co-edited with Sherna Berger Gluck), Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers 1889-1939 (1993, co-edited with Angela Ingram), and Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (1998). Her 1994 critique of women’s studies programs, written with Noretta Koertge, was reissued in a new and expanded edition in 2003 as Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies.

This is what Professor Patai has to say about the hiring practices of her place of employment:

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I teach, a document both sublime and ridiculous advises us how to go about determining if applicants have what it takes to work here. Along with the usual lists of questions that may or may not be asked, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity provides some crucial guidelines in a document titled Supplemental Search Instructions. I reproduce the final section of this document below:


Search committees often have difficulty determining if a candidate is aware of and responsive to minority and women's issues and to issues involving the disabled and other groups requiring sensitive treatment. When prospective employees are asked, "Are you concerned about and supportive of these issues?", they will invariably give an affirmative reply. Unfortunately, that gives little indication of their level of concern or commitment. Asking some of the questions listed below may help you gain a better understanding of a candidate's position on these issues. Many of the questions suggested below do not have a "right" or a "wrong" answer. These questions should be asked by both men and women on the search committee because having only women or minority persons ask questions about these issues may give a candidate the impression that equity issues are not important to the institution as a whole. Many candidates will not have prepared answers to these questions in advance. These questions will, therefore, be useful in drawing out the candidate's opinions rather than the "correct answer".
Parentheses are used to indicate that one or more of the following words are missing: Minorities, Blacks, Hispanics, Native-American; Women; economically disadvantaged persons; disabled persons; veterans or disabled veterans; homosexuals, gays, lesbians; protected groups; affirmative action groups, etc.

How have you demonstrated your commitment to (____) issues in your current position?

Which of your achievements in the area of equity for (____) gives you the most satisfaction?

How would you demonstrate your concern for equity for (____) if you were hired?

In your opinion, what are the three major problems for (____) on your campus?

How are general issues in higher education related to (____) issues? What is the link?

Describe activities--include articles, interviews, and speeches--in which you have taken part that demonstrate a public commitment to equity.

In your current position, have you ever seen a (____ ) treated unfairly? How would/did you handle it?

In your current position, what is your relationship to the affirmative action officer? Have you ever sought his or her help in recruiting?

How many of the top people at your current or previous institution are (____ )? What did you do to encourage hiring more (____ )?

Which committee at your current institution would you consider the most powerful? How many (____) are on it? How many (____ ) have you appointed to it?

How did/would you deal with faculty members or employees who say disparaging things about (____)?

What scholarship about (____) have you read lately?

Have any students ever complained to you about sexual harassment or discrimination in any work with professors or staff? If so, how did you respond?

Obviously it is impossible to answer those questions without revealing your political attitudes. As Professor Patai explains:

Not only are the "suggested questions" an embarrassment to public education (private too, but that's a somewhat different story), they also endorse subterfuge on the part of the interviewers: no direct questions but rather attempts to trap the candidates into revealing something about themselves (all the while pretending there are no right or wrong answers, as the paragraph introducing the questions explicitly states). Potential faculty are thus being pressured to adopt and embrace -- or merely pretend to do so -- the requisite "attitude" toward minorities, political activism, and social issues, and to provide evidence that they have acted on these supposed commitments. And, scarier still, these questions by implication are presented as legitimate requirements for employment, though they have nothing to do with either education or intellectual and scholarly accomplishments. And, even worse, the questions are designed to weed out the merely formal assenters from authentic true believers.

What can it possibly mean to ask candidates what they've done lately to demonstrate their "public commitment to equity?" Any chance that an acceptable answer would be the following: "In view of what happened in the USSR, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and many other parts of the world under communist rule, I believe that the best thing I can do to promote equity in our society is to help strengthen capitalism and democracy in every way I can and, toward that end, I actively promote Republican candidates"? Another piece of micromanagement revealed by these questions is that they're obviously meant to induce the candidate to name names of identity groups, and to express specific allegiances and particular political positions, precisely because the questions are so carefully framed. Here's another sure-winner answer: "I'm increasingly concerned about what's happening to gifted children in our society and thus I'm working in my spare time to promote charter schools and advanced placement courses."

How long will it be before tenure and promotion decisions, which so far involve political considerations mostly unofficially and surreptitiously, will also openly embrace such procedures?

A good question, Professor Patai, and a brave one to ask about the place where you work.

I see that they have put up a stone in order to identify Amherst's Kendrick Park and its donors.

Oh wow, it's an Edgar Allan Poe action doll in the window of this Northampton shop!

I like this downtown Westfield safety billiard. Smiling as you go through the windshield?

Finally, here's a video of the band Haunt playing at The Elevens in Northampton last weekend.

A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was delayed, so the priest himself decided to say a few words of his own while they waited: "I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his best friend's wife, and taken illegal drugs. I was appalled.

But as the days went on I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people."

Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived," said the politician. "In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Golden Books Encyclopedias

A blast from my past.

This morning I had to go see my psychiatrist in downtown Northampton. This is the poster in his waiting room.

When I got out I headed towards the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting affectionately known as The Looney Nooner. On my way I spotted something in the window of Essentials (next to CVS) that really surprised me - Golden Book Encyclopedias of Natural History!

I remember that when I was a boy they used to give them out at supermarkets, but I don't remember specifically what market my parents got them at. Here's what has to say about this classic children's education series:

The Golden Book Encyclopedia is a set of children's encyclopedias published by Western Printing and Lithographing Company under the name Golden Press. Advertised as circulars in newspapers, the encyclopedias were sent out in weekly or bi-weekly installments. Supermarket chains, such as Acme Markets, used these encyclopedias as a promotional hook to lure shoppers.

The front page of every volume describes the books as, "Fact-filled Volumes Dramatically Illustrated with More Than 6,000 Pictures. The Only Encyclopedia for Young Grade-school children. Accurate and Authoritative. Entertainingly written and illustrated to make learning an adventure." Subjects included in the Golden Book Encyclopedia series were related to nature and science, history, geography, literature, and the arts.

The first edition of the encyclopedia was published in a joint venture between Simon and Schuster and Western Printing and Lithographing Company in 1946. The author of the edition was Dorothy A. Bennett and the illustrator was Cornelius De Witt. A 16-volume hardcover encyclopedia set was published in 1959 and in 1969, and was written by Bertha Morris Parker, formerly of the Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago and research associate at the Chicago Natural History Museum.

The books in the window were obvious originals, not copies, so I went inside Essentials and asked the clerk about them. She said the owner (who was not present) had got them in an auction and thought they would be good to display for back to school sales as well as a treat for baby boomers.

My favorite edition was the one below with a lizard on the cover called a Gila Monster. The Wikipedia has this to say about the Gila Monster.

The Gila monster (pronounced /ˈhiːlə/, HEE-la), Heloderma suspectum, is a species of venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. A heavy, slow moving lizard, up to 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) long, the Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States, and one of only two known species of venomous lizard in North America, the other being its close relative the Beaded Lizard (H. horridum). Though the Gila monster is venomous, its sluggish nature means that it represents little threat to humans. However, it has earned a fearsome reputation, and is often killed by hikers and homeowners, despite the fact that it is protected by state law in Arizona and Nevada.

I don't know why I was so into the Gila Monster. I guess as a kid I was just plain into monsters in general. Some people will tell you that in some ways I grew up to become one.

Scrawled outside the Looney Nooner were these words of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fair Play

UMass taught a lesson.

At UMass people always have plenty to say. I mean everybody's got a point of view, especially about politics.

But should they get college credits for political campaigning? And for only one side? From this morning's UMass Collegian:

Chaplain Kent Higgins went to the University of Massachusetts' History Department and proposed an independent study that would feature students working with political groups to learn the ropes of the political process.

But the proposal did not include the fact that students would be working with Barack Obama's campaign.

In fact, state ethics laws prohibit the use of University resources to participate in partisan political campaigning. In this case, students would receive two University credits paid for by an anonymous donor in exchange for work done.

According to University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, Higgins once ran an independent study in which students took an alternative spring break and worked with flood victims and Native Americans in the South. The course required physical and academic work in exchange for credits. But, Higgins next proposal drew the History Department's suspicion when an e-mail sent to students sounded particularly partisan.

"If you're scared about the prospects for this election, you're not alone. The most important way to make a difference in the outcome is to activate yourself," he wrote. "It would be just fine with McCain if Obama supporters just think about helping, then sleep in and stay home between now and Election Day."

Sheesh, your tax dollars at work! When news of this travesty hit the blogosphere, the people involved began to backtrack fast, sending a second email urging students who support John McCain to also participate. But the damage had been done, and the whole project had to be killed as it was a clear violation of campaign finance laws to use college students from a publicly funded institution working for credit in a partisan political campaign.

Though the matter is now settled, it is worth noting that the whole fuss originated with the blogosphere, who first alerted the mainstream media as to what was going on. Both the Springfield Republican and the Hampshire Gazette were caught flat-footed and unaware as the story broke nationally. The UMass Republicans under President Brad DeFlumeri were also instrumental in preventing the state university from being transformed into a taxpayer funded subsidiary of the Obama for President campaign. In all it was a great victory for fair play.

Meanwhile this morning at UMass was held the Alumni Association Pancake Breakfast.

Pancakes swimming in maple syrup and sausages and hot coffee were served in Memorial Hall at my favorite price - absolutely free.

UMass #1 fingers were used as table decorations.

Are you attending any pagan celebrations this weekend? Well the writing on this sidewalk at UMass invites you to an event this Sunday next to the library.

I am not a pagan, but my ex-boyfriend was. For the solstice one year we had a ceremony that he claimed was religious but which to me was just an orgy with religious pretensions.

Not that I'm complaining.

Here's a video of me en route to that sexy solstice celebration.

Why Gay Marriage is Meaningless:

"Here's the hard truth - if you are looking for a life partner the numbers are not in your favor. If you take the total number of gay men in your city, subtract the number you are not sexually compatible with, minus the ones who have deal-breaking habits, minus the guys you have nothing in common with, minus the pathological closet cases who play straight while playing around online, minus the ones who just plain annoy you - the universe of potential mates is remarkably limited."

Wayne Besen in The Rainbow Times.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ancient Step

From colonial times.

Hamp's First Church at dusk by Katherine.

That ugly looking fence that restricted access to the front of Northampton's First Church has finally been removed as the roof replacement project of this summer has been completed at last.

On the steps of the church is this brass plaque turned green with age:

It reads:

The Semi-Circular Stone below was the step of
Here Rev. Jonathan Edwards preached

Who was Jonathan Edwards? He was a famous preacher of colonial times. According to this website:

In 1726, Edwards succeeded his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, as the pastor of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, the largest and most influential church outside of Boston. Turning his attention from the theoretical pursuits of his Yale years to more practical matters, he married Sarah Pierpont in 1727. Jonathan and Sarah had met in New Haven eight years earlier, when she was just thirteen years old, but they were not married until eight years later. The two of them would go on to raise ten children in Northampton.

Involved with a thirteen year old? Sheesh, why are these religious dudes always so pervy?

In 1734-1735, Edwards oversaw some of the initial stirrings of the First Great Awakening. He gained international fame as a revivalist and "theologian of the heart" after publishing A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1738), which described the awakening in his church and served as an empirical model for American and British revivalists alike.

According to this website, Edwards was a little nutty when it came to sin:

Jonathan Edwards was extremely conscious of every action or thought that might be sinful. He seemed to pay particular attention to his eating/drinking habits and would ration his intake of food to the minimum possible amount, even at the expense of his personal health. People that knew him often begged him to eat more because he typically looked very weak as if he were about to faint.

Here are some of the resolutions that I found particularly interesting:

Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

Sounds like the guy was on a crippling guilt trip! In any case his fame endures, as he can be seen competing with Cal Coolidge himself on the banner of the Northampton History Museum.

As so often happens to religious leaders, Edwards eventually got into trouble and was thrown out by his congregation.

In 1750, Edwards’ church dismissed him from Northampton after he attempted to impose stricter qualifications for admission to the sacraments upon his congregation. Concerned that the "open admission" policies instituted by Stoddard allowed too many hypocrites and unbelievers into church membership, he became embroiled in a bitter controversy with his congregation, area ministers, and political leaders. His dismissal is often seen as a turning point in colonial American history because it marked the clear and final rejection of the old "New England Way" constructed by the Puritan settlers of New England. In her study of Northampton during Edwards' pastorate, Patricia Tracy described the social and political forces at work in the town as a reflection of larger economic, social and ideological forces then reshaping American culture. Ironically, then, the colonial theologian who best anticipated the intellectual shape of modern America also was its first victim.

Oh well, I guess his uptight religious era was over anyway. Here is the ancient stone the plaque refers to where the buckled shoes of the colonists once stepped on their way to hear Edwards preach.

I got a funny feeling when I stood on that spot and contemplated the generations upon generations of Pioneer Valley residents who have stepped on that stone.

The digital clock on the side of Silverscapes in Northampton has been broken the past several days. First the time was all screwed up, then it turned off completely.

I never appreciated how much I rely on that clock when I'm downtown until now that it's gone!

Meanwhile Zak at the Amherst Survival Center likes to do rude things with his dreads.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lover #3

Third in the trilogy.

This is the last in a series of three essays I've released at random about the three times I had full heterosexual intercourse.

The first time my friend Mike Stedman played the Grateful Dead for me I didn't like them. I was a rock n'roll kid with a preference for heavy metal, and the record Mike played for me was Workingman's Dead.

I was not impressed. I told Mike that The Grateful Dead were too mellow, and worse some of the songs had a country feel to them. It was unlike any country music I'd ever heard, but it reminded me of country and I hated anything connected with country music.

So, like a lot of people I acquired a taste for the Grateful Dead only gradually. When I heard the live Dead stuff, in particular Europe '72, I started to appreciate the fact that the Dead had a very wide musical range and the members of the band were first rate musicians. But my attitude was still sorta so what? Certainly there didn't seem to be anything to justify the nearly fanatical devotion that some people seemed to have for their music.

Then I tried LSD. One day Mike and I went to a free concert in Forest Park in Springfield on Hippie Hill, which was located near the water gardens by the back gate. The city put the concerts on, with bands like Fat and Clean Living and the whole hill was covered with people partying. This was the first time I saw parents getting their children high by blowing marijuana smoke in their faces. I was shocked, but the kids seemed to love it. They couldn't stop laughing.

At one point this girl came running towards us shouting and laughing and waving her hands which had a long strip of paper in one of them. She was ripping off bits of the paper and stuffing them in people's hands. What was odd was that she was running in the direction away from the concert. She gave some of her strip to Mike and me, and we saw that they were divided into little squares. There were pictures on each square of the R.Crumb character Mr. Natural.

Mike knew exactly what it was - acid! Apparently the girl had come to sell it to the crowd, but seemed to have gotten too high on her product and felt it necessary to flee the concert while giving away what she had once meant to sell. We each took one of the Mr. Natural squares. When after a half hour nothing seemed to be happening, we took two more apiece. Then it kicked in. REALLY kicked in.

At some point that afternoon, while I was sitting in cosmic contemplation of the concert, receiving my doctorate education in the subjectivity of reality, one of the bands covered a Grateful Dead song from Workingman's Dead called "Uncle John's Band." Suddenly I went:

"Oh. Now I get it!"

In the coming years I would go see the Grateful Dead in concert about thirty times. That is not very much by Deadhead standards, it was not unheard of for someone to see thirty shows in a single year. Those people used to follow the tours, while I always waited for the Dead to come reasonably near-by. Sometimes they came to my hometown of Springfield. Often they came to Hartford or Boston. The furthest I ever went to see them was Highgate, Vermont in 1995 on their last tour.

We usually went to see the Dead as a group. A whole bunch of us from Pine Point would all get tickets and take over a few rows of the scene for us Pointers to party and whatever. The people who went used to vary from show to show. One time part of our group that was going to a concert in Hartford was this girl from the Pine Point Cafe who was named Crystal. She had never been to a Grateful Dead show before but had heard about them and wanted to join us. She was pretty and funny and we were glad to have her along.

On our way down to Hartford Crystal ended up in the same van as me, which was being driven by Fuji Cardinal. She asked me how she could get the most out of what she was about to see. I told her my experience, that I had never really grasped the Grateful Dead until I had heard them on acid. By that time I had pretty much given up on LSD as a mind expanding drug, although I occasionally used it for sex. The thing about psychedelics is that while the first few times you take them they are profoundly powerful to the point of life-transforming, that effect fades with continued use. It's as if you pretty much get all you can get out of them in just a few trips, then afterwards you're just going over and over the same psychic terrain without experiencing anything new. It's best to stop taking them when you reach that point, those who don't tend to get a little strange.

So I had no intention of taking acid at the Hartford show. Frankly, at that phase of my life Budweiser and marijuana were my drugs of choice. However Crystal was totally determined to take acid, and begged me to find some for her. At first I said no, but when we arrived in Hartford several beers and several joints later, my mind was more open to the possibility.

The fates dictated it. En route to the Hartford Civic Center someone came up from behind and stood too close to me. He whispered something under his breath that I couldn't make out. Crystal however heard him more clearly. "Yes!" she cried. "We'll take two!" Then I realized that the stranger was an acid dealer. "None for me!" I said, but Crystal pleaded, "I can't do it for the first time by myself!" Before I knew what was happening she had popped it in my mouth and I swallowed it. I saw her do the same with what appeared to be a little piece of clear plastic.

"Dammit Crystal, what did that guy sell you?"

"I don't know," she said, "something about windowpane, four-way."

Windowpane was an unusually pure and powerful form of LSD that was made by suspending the drug in a clear gelatin which then hardened and was cut into squares. The term "four-way" meant that one quarter of each square represented one dose, so you got four doses per square. In other words, due to Crystal's ignorance we had taken the equivalent of four doses of LSD apiece!

The details of the rest of the evening are a little vague. The drug came on like a fog at first, gently and soothingly I found myself in a place of perfect peace. All I wanted to do was to sit and grok with amazement at everything I saw and everything I heard and everything I thought. Somehow my friends got us to the concert and into our seats. I remember thinking that God was love, and God was in everything, especially Jerry Garcia.

At some point the concert ended. I looked around, and no one was sitting near us. It was just Crystal and I. Everyone else had left. Janitors were cleaning up. Where had everyone gone? Crystal started to panic - how could we find our friends? We had no way to get home without them. We went outside and roamed up and down the street trying to spot someone we had come to the show with. We couldn't see, or couldn't focus well enough to see, anyone we knew. We were stranded in Hartford.

Somehow we had the presence of mind to add up our money, and realized that we had enough for bus tickets back to Springfield, so we headed in what we thought was the direction of the Hartford bus station. By some miracle we arrived. One of us was coherent enough to buy tickets. We went to the waiting area and sat in a trance waiting for it to be time to board the bus to Springfield. That was okay.

God was in the bus station too.

The next thing I realized we were being pushed out the door by a security guard. Wait, we need to catch the bus to Springfield! The last one left an hour ago? Oh no, how did we miss it? Apparently we had sat grokking beneath the neon lights of the terminal while our bus to Springfield came and went. Now the bus station was closing for the night and we were being put on the street!

Oh God, what a disaster this was turning out to be, or so I would have thought if I was clear headed enough to properly appraise the situation. Thankfully Crystal, even being the novice tripper that she was, concluded that we had to get a room for the night. There was a flophouse hotel near the station and we walked over to it and spent the last of our money on a single room with a double bed.

And the LSD, which had not yet even peaked, worked its magical mischief on us all night long. We talked, I don't know about what, but I recall that we were both crying at one point. Eventually we were both nude. We explored each other's bodies like they were marvels of beauty and miracles of creation. In other words, we saw one another as we really were. The fact that I was queer had become meaningless. We were two humans exploding with sensuality. I remember at one point I was licking between her legs, the first and last time I had ever done that to a woman. She licked me all over. I fucked her freely and she wept with joy. Eventually the drug began to wear off. The sun was coming up and shining like shimmering shafts of gold through the window. We got dressed and walked back to the bus station in the dawn's early light. The station had reopened and we got some coffee and caught the first bus back to Springfield.

That was in 1986 and that was the last time I had full sexual intercourse with a woman. I never again took such a large dose of psychedelics. Soon after our adventure Crystal moved to Boston with a boyfriend she met at the Ranch House Bar and Grill on Boston Road. I never saw her again or heard what became of her.

I hope she's okay wherever she is.

To read #1 of the trilogy click here.
To read #2 of the trilogy click here.

Here's a bumper sticker you don't see everyday in downtown Amherst.

A campus police car was parked outside a bar near the University of Massachusetts around Last Call. The officer noticed a young man leaving the bar so apparently intoxicated that he could barely walk.

The man stumbled around the parking lot for a few minutes, with the officer quietly observing. After what seemed an eternity in which he tried his keys on five different vehicles, the man managed to find his car and fall into it.

He sat there for a few minutes as a number of other patrons left the bar and drove off.

Finally he started the car, switched the wipers on and off - it was a fine, dry summer night - flicked the blinkers on and off a couple of times, honked the horn and then switched on the lights.

He moved the vehicle forward a few inches, reversed a little and then remained still for a few more minutes as some more of the other patrons' vehicles left.

At last, when his was the only car left in the parking lot, he pulled out and drove slowly down the road.

The police officer, having waited patiently all this time, now started up his patrol car, put on the flashing lights, promptly pulled the man over and administered a breathalyzer test.

To his amazement, the breathalyzer indicated that the man had consumed NO alcohol at all!

Dumbfounded, the officer said, "I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the campus police station. This breathalyzer equipment must be broken."

"I doubt it," said the student with a smile, "Tonight I'm the designated decoy."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bad Comic

Fucked up Funky.

Did you read Funky Winkerbean this morning? As usual lately, it was not funny.

I used to like Funky Winkerbean, but now it sucks. This is the history of the comic according to the King Features Syndicate:

Tom Batiuk's popular Funky Winkerbean made its debut on the comics pages in 1972, and today appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide. The cartoonist not only entertains teenagers and adults alike with his portrayal of the students and faculty at Westview High, but has earned high marks for his sensitive treatment of important social and educational issues. His groundbreaking series on teen pregnancy, reading impairment dyslexia, teen suicide, teen dating abuse and breast cancer earned Batiuk high marks from fans, educators and community leaders.

Oh bullshit. The serious stuff was always the worst. After reading a newspaper often full of depressing news, I don't want to turn the comic's page and see my favorite comic characters dying and shit. Remember when that chick died of cancer?

That was not funny! The purpose of comics is to make you laugh, and that was not humorous, except maybe to a particular reader.

Now the strip has hit a new low, with all the characters suddenly being drawn as if they were aging badly. It's a disgrace what's become of Funky himself:

The wise readers of The Comics Curmudgeon had just the right take on this travesty, and here's a sampling:

Brown-eyed Girl says:

I’ve been ignoring Funky Winkerbean and hoping it will go away. All the comments about this week’s strip made me look, and I am sorry I did. It’s only been a week, but I hate what Batshit is doing with his characters. I think I need to stop reading FW snark too. Bah.

Mooncattie says:

To Brown-eyed Girl - There is wise advice from Marvin, the Paranoid Android from Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…”Why stop now, just when I’m hating it?” The FW cast is actually HAPPY this week as they remember the cancer victims and watch Funky work himself into an early grave. Just think, the depressing stuff is still to come! I can’t wait!

Buck Ripsnort says:

So, anybody taking bets that the Funk’s real problem turns out to be diabetes from the years of booze and bad diet?

Baron Von Foobenstein says:

I foolishly stumbled onto the Stinky Funkerbean website and looked at the character profiles. Maybe it’s just my perception, but the 46 year old characters all look a helluva lot older than 46.

Jogo says:

The horrible thing about Funky is that he now looks like an out-of-shape George W. Bush

In short, I have added Funky Winkerbean to my growing list of comics I no longer read in this humorless age.

Much has been made of Hanna Montana, the symbol of TV teenage innocence played by Miley Cyrus (below with dad Billy Ray).

But have you seen her boyfriend Justin Gaston? I know I would have a hard time maintaining my innocence with this lad around. (click to enlarge)

On the commons in Amherst this morning they had a voter registration drive.

Yesterday my sister Donna and I had to go down to the courthouse. This was the view of beautiful downtown Springfield through the windshield of my sister's car.

I was tempted to buy one of these two dollar hotdogs, yet I resisted. I'm more of a common sewer than a connoisseur, but I'm trying to upgrade my diet.

While crossing Court Square I spotted the award winning blogger Bill Dusty schlepping around looking for bloggable material. Here he is with my sister Donna.

Me on the courthouse steps.