Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I was in Springfield. I had to go to the latest of my seemingly endless dentist appointments. I'm bored and in pain at these appointments, but my teeth are going to look fabulous! Unfortunately, while my teeth are getting younger looking the rest of me is looking older. Will MassHealth ever cover facelifts?
When I arrived at the bus station in Springfield I had some time to kill, so I decided to take a little stroll through the city's North End. I hadn't been to that end of town in a while, so I decided to check out the scene.
My journey started at the Springfield Newspapers, where I noticed that you can still where they removed the lettering that used to say their former name Union-News.
The name was created, when the two former editions - The Springfield Union, which came out in the morning, and the Springfield Daily News, which came out in the afternoon - were combined in 1987 into one paper that came out once a day called The Union-News. This merger was the foreshadowing of the still not widely recognised decline of the newspaper industry. The city's newspaper readership simply couldn't support two papers per day anymore.
The new name was a flop, with most people not understanding the merging of the names and calling it instead "The Union Newspaper." The name change also corresponded with the Springfield Newspaper's darkest period, when it abused its public trust and monopoly power by foisting on the public charlatans like Michael Albano, whom they supported only because he was their puppet. Fortunately ever since they returned to the original name they had in the 1800's - The Republican - they have not only broken clean from their sad legacy of the Union-News years but are also slowly rebuilding the public's trust. However, liberal critics of the paper now accuse them of being shills for the Republican party, a false charge because the paper originally adopted the name well before Abraham Lincoln founded the Republican party. I guess namewise they just can't win.
Across the street is Gateway Plaza, where the Albano Gang once planned to pull off their baseball stadium scam. Fortunately the courts intervened and put a stop to the corrupt and illegal scheme. Today the plaza is a thriving medical center.
The North End was severely damaged by the construction of 291. Not only was a historic section of the neighborhood wiped out, but the highway supports create a barren dead zone cutting the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. One of many examples in Springfield of urban planning at its worst.
This monument at the entrance to the North End celebrates America's victory over the Spanish in the war of 1898. Today that statue has ironic overtones I don't want to touch with a ten foot pole.
From the Wikipedia.org:
The Spanish-American War was a military conflict between Spain and the United States that began in April 1898. Hostilities halted in August of that year, and the Treaty of Paris was signed in December.
The war began after the American demand for Spain's peaceful resolution of the Cuban fight for independence was rejected, though strong expansionist sentiment in the United States motivated the government to target Spain's remaining overseas territories: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam and the Caroline Islands....
Only 109 days after the outbreak of war, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the conflict, gave the United States control, among other territories, of the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.
Passing through the North End today one might ask, who conquered who?
This is the Peter Pan bus repair terminal. One of the many ways Springfield owes a debt of gratitude to the late Peter Picknelly is that he saved the city's former trolly barn by renovating it for his buses. Otherwise it would have almost surely been torn down.
I saw an open door and peeked inside, capturing this image of buses undergoing repair.
Today this historic house is called La Casa Hispana, which I guess translates to House of Spanish. However years ago it used to be a drug rehab facility called Phoenix House.
We stoners used to fear the place because of the stories that came out of it of their harsh rehabilitation techniques. One we used to hear about was their practice of putting people in a chair in a middle of a circle of tormentors who would verbally attack them until their personality was destroyed. Then they would rebuild a new personality in its place that was drug free. Defenders of Phoenix House said the personalities destroyed were seldom worth preserving and that the treatment had a high success rate. I don't know who was right, but I'm glad I never went there.
The only remnant of the house's druggy past is the way the residents painted the old joint in an almost psychedelically colorful way. Some of that paint job remains on the house's intricate designs.
Soon I arrived at the heart of the North End and stood before the historic Jefferson Theater, today a barricaded ruin.
Despite the sad state of the Jefferson, the rest of the area is a thriving center of small businesses. The streets were crowded with pedestrians, and although I was the only person in sight that looked of Irish desent I felt perfectly safe among the friendly crowd. Heading down Jefferson Avenue I came to the historic former Jefferson School, built in 1888, and now a housing project for the elderly.
Despite the feeling of security I personally felt while walking around, these are not streets with a reputation for safety. Calhoun Park is widely considered a place you don't go to unless you are in search of drugs or violence or both.
Yet this old mansion directly facing the park is a joyous riot of color and a role model of good maintenance for the entire neighborhood. It is bright spots such as this that are the sparks from which renewal will come.
In the midst of this ghetto is an island of prosperity created by Baystate Medical Center, which has bought up a lot of the surrounding old houses and restored and converted them to their own uses. Among them is a house my Uncle Wally and Aunt Rita and their eight kids used to live in at 56 Chapin Terrace. It is now a medical office.
This is the hospital itself, or at least the oldest remaining part of it. I used to work here as an assistant brain surgeon.
Just kidding! Actually I was a janitor on what was informally called "the cancer ward." Many but not all who were on that floor were cancer patients, it was where they sent you when you were beyond medical help. Someday I'll write about my many interesting experiences among the dead and dying when I worked on that ward. The windows on the far left of the photo appear now to be offices. But when I worked there they were called "sunrooms." Patients were wheeled out there to sit in the sun for a while, which was believed to be good for them. However many did not wish for what was good for them, but wanted to hurry up and die, and in some cases I couldn't blame them. But these are stories for another day.
Here is a building around the corner from the hospital where my Grandmother Devine used to live on Dwight Street. Some of my earliest memories involve that building, and to this day I sometimes have dreams that take place there.
When I was about ten she moved to the Twin Towers (now Tri Towers) elderly housing complex nearby. I remember my family saying that they were glad she was leaving Dwight Street because "the neighborhood is changing." That was a polite way of saying what my Uncle Norman said more bluntly: "The Ricans are takin' over!" Sorry, but my Uncle was hardly the only one who said things like that at the time. People wondered why Hispanic people from a tropical climate were coming to an English speaking state where it was cold most of the year. Some people suggested reasons, but again I will not touch this subject with a ten foot pole.
Across the street from my Grandmother's old apartment block is the back of Lincoln School. That was the first public school in Springfield I was aware of outside of Pine Point's World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School.
From there I caught the bus back downtown so as not to be late for my dental appointment. As a member of MassHealth, the government run medical program for the poor, I get free dental care - if I can find it. Most dentists refuse to take welfare patients. However, this place on State Street opened recently to help with this shortage of dentists. It is called Dental Dreams.
My experiences involving dentistry have been dental nightmares. But this place is really good. The treatments are about as painless as you can hope for and the workmanship is good. If you're one of the many people complaining that they can't find dental care with MassHealth, I suggest you give them a call.
While waiting to be seen by the dentist, the TV set in the waiting room was set to play Obama for President commercials. I guess when you refuse public funding like Obama did and can raise unlimited sums of cash from unlimited sources, you can spend money on things like controlling the TV programming in medical waiting rooms. However, despite being the only thing to watch, I was amused to see that only one customer was paying any attention to the TV.
Our usually invisible Senator John Kerry made a rare visit to Northampton last week. Mary Serreze managed to get close enough to snap a picture of the Senator outside the Sierra Grille.
Sheesh, that article I wrote for the Valley Advocate about panhandling back in August is still generating letters to the editor. Tomorrow in front of Northampton's City Hall at 6:20 there is going to be a musical protest rally against the panhandling ordinance and the new street musician permit fee. Posters about it are plastered all over downtown.
Of course I will be attending, camera in hand, and I hope to see you there.