Monday, August 31, 2009

The Smoking Spot

At the High School of Commerce

Recently I was in Springfield, waiting for the bus in front of the noble High School of Commerce, which is where I graduated from. People who attended that school, at least from my era, are very insistent that the school always be referred to as "The High School of" and not "Commerce High" although the distinction may not be clear to non-Commerce graduates or younger people. It dates to the time when the Springfield High Schools were divided up into schools with specific goals. There was Classical, which focused on the liberal arts, Technical High, which featured technology and science, Catherdral which offered a religious education and Trade High, for those seeking jobs in the trades. It was a model praised and copied nationwide for its effectiveness.

The High School of Commerce was the school for those who were going into fields related to business. Therefore it was important that the name reveal what the school was all about - Commerce was not just what the school was called, but also its educational goal. Therefore only the phrase "High School of Commerce" clearly identifies its primary purpose. Sadly, the very successful division of schools by academic purpose was abolished in the 1980's. Today, there is no distinctive business related purpose behind the Commerce curriculum. But enough people still remember the original goals of the school so that a reporter for the Springfield Newspapers told me that to this day, whenver a reporter (usually a rookie) mistakenly refers to "Commerce High," they still get angry phone calls from High School of Commerce graduates correcting them.

When I went to Commerce in the 1970's the student body was traditionally predominantly African-American. Black people were attracted to Commerce because business is a field where you can overcome discrimination. As longs as you have a good product and good service at a good price you can make money no matter what your racial background, since no one discriminates against a good buy. The principal at that time, a gruff white guy named Phillip Sweeney, used to talk to the black students of my day in a way no one would dare to do today. He would bluntly tell them that the deck of life was stacked against them, something they no doubt already knew, but which the students and their parents were glad to hear a white man in authority admit. He would tell the black students in the frankest terms that they would have to work harder, study more and fool around less than the white kids because that's what was required to overcome the hurdles of discrimination. Sweeney refused to allow anyone to use racism as an excuse for failure, and the students and their parents loved him for it. Year after year the High School of Commerce was the number one school choice of the black community.

But eventually Sweeney retired and the school department got taken over by liberal Democrats who sneered at the concept of a "business school." Even Sweeney's legacy came under attack, with self-proclaimed black leaders complaining that a school with a large black population should not be run by a white man. Besides, what good was a business education when every good leftist knew that socialism was the wave of the future? The business curriculum was dismantled and Commerce soon became a testing ground for every crackpot educational theory that came down the pike. By the 1990's the High School of Commerce was considered the worst in the city, with a faculty member once sending me this tragic account of a typical day in the new Commerce.

Friday, Feb. 13th, the day before Valentine's, bouquets, balloons, chocolates, teddy bears and skippers were all over the hallways. Outside my classroom, a group of students hung out, kissed and fooled around. Some of them even threw themselves onto the window of my classroom door, making faces, sticking up their middle fingers and shouting obscenities. Most of the morning was like this. I called the office to report the chaos, but no one showed up to help. I opened the door and attempted to send the disruptive students away several times. This seemed to amuse them and provoked even more outrageous behavior, which excited them even more.

Finally it was my lunch break. I was walking upstairs when a boy, with a hood and a dark robe covering his entire body and face approached. He looked like a character from the movie, "The Lord of the Rings." Another student passed me and reported that my room had been blasted by raw eggs. I felt terrible. I rushed down to my classroom only to find the custodian, Bob Mulcahey, kneeling down and wiping off the eggs dripping down the glass from the door to the floor. He told me that not only had my room been targeted. There were egg whites and yolks everywhere in the hallway; on the student's lockers, on the walls and floor and on the door of the attendance officer's office. It was a disgusting mess, Bob told me, shaking his head, but he also assured me that it was not aimed at me personally.

A moment later, in the same hallway, there was a loud bang. A fist cracked the window of the classroom next to mine into fine lines like a spider web. One teenager fled the scene followed by a small group of others. A Quebec officer and an assistant principal chased after them.

This was not an extraordinary day in the High School of Commerce. Nothing was very different than previous days, except on this day there were fresh eggs. The day before, pepper spray in the boy's bathrooms prevented student access. Last month, students in the halls repeatedly discharged fire extinguishers. A bulletin board was set on fire forcing school evacuation. The school was evacuated again when a girl's room in the A building was set on fire. Small fires spring up all the time, so often that the school merely doused the fires and did not bother to report them to the fire marshall. Additionally, water fountains, bathroom fixtures and handrails have been ripped from the walls. One teacher on the first floor recently had his door kicked so hard that it cracked across the middle.

These events don't occur in isolation. Disorder is routine. A female student recently hit me as I was attempting to protect one girl from being viciously attacked by another. I have gone into the Principals office to protest an administrator's disciplinary decisions. I sent a student who was striking a cigarette lighter in front of a bulletin board to the office. For two days, the administrator had taken no action because I had not provided an eyewitness. Ulitmately, another eyewitness came forward, yet the punishment was minimal, in spite of a recent spate of fires. Of course, all my referrals for truants were left unattended due to "overwhelming problems in the hallway," as responded one administrator to my inquiry.

I've heard the school has improved considerably in recent years, but frankly it had no where to go but up. On the sidewalk in front of Commerce someone has sprayed this message.

As I stood waiting for the bus I noticed that across the street they have torn up the steps that used to be there and removed the historic monument to General Knox.

I guess they were removed as part of the renovations underway on State Street. This is what the historic monument looked like.

I hope the monument is returned to that spot, but of course the old steps will not be. That's a shame. Those steps were the central pre-school socializing spot for Commerce students getting off the bus. Generations of future husbands met future wives on those steps, with all the gossip and discussions of the teenage world carried on from the early years of the last century until the steps were removed earlier this year. I guess the planners behind the renovations didn't realize the powerful historic and nostalgic meaning of those steps.

One of the big controversies of my time at Commerce was over smoking. Students were always smoking cigarettes in the bathrooms, with all the mess and smell that creates, until the student council, of which I was a member, suggested that there ought to be a place outside for the students to smoke. This was in the years before the health nazis had made smoking a total social disgrace.

Even students like myself, who didn't smoke, favored this policy, if only because it seemed like we were winning some sort of victory over the dispproving adults. Many of these adults pointed out the obvious truth that having an official smoking spot might encourage students to smoke and therefore damage their health. We bristled with contempt at such a common sense observation. Our teenage spirits wanted to be free, and somehow drawing toxic chemicals into our lungs like dumb adults do had become a symbol of freedom.

Amazingly, the adults eventually caved in. Reluctantly Sweeney designated a small area of the front lawn as an official smoking area. I still remember the first day of our new freedom, and how I bummed a cigarette off my friend Rick Martinez even though I didn't smoke. Not inhaling the cigarette, lest I cough to death, I waved the cigarette around in my hand, looking with rebellious contempt at the assistant principal who had once haunted the Men's Room looking for illicit smoking but who now had to watch helplessly as we stood defiantly on our official smoking spot. Here is that smoking spot as it appears today.

Hey, where did all those trees come from? After we graduated the smoking spot didn't last long. As if to make it impossible for it to be revived, trees were planted. Those trees are pretty big now after more than three decades. Only the ghosts of my departed classmates hang out there now. I hope they didn't die of lung cancer.

Tiger's Den

Can you believe these photos released of Tiger Woods' primary residence? I knew I should've followed Rick Martinez's advice when he urged me to join the Commerce Golf Club.

The view:

The living room:

The bedroom:

Last Word on Woodstock

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Libertarian Ted

Kennedy's Forgotten Legacy

It's seems like it's been all Ted all the time on TV these past days, but is anybody watching? Nielson ratings are in and according to the New York Times ABC's special Remembering Ted Kennedy drew four million viewers. The CBS special The Last Brother earned 4.6 million viewers. However NBC crushed them both with the nearly 11 million viewers it drew to the America's Got Talent reality show, which is more viewers than both Kennedy specials got combined.

Am I being rude or just realistic when I say that many Democrats secretly hoped that Ted would die next month, when Congress is in session, instead of now, when congress is on vacation and any emotional outpouring is of little use in ramming through the Obamacare plan?

Oh well, at least we're seeing some good Pioneer Valley memorabilia surfacing regarding Kennedy. Amherst writer Mary Carey shares this picture of herself and Kennedy in 2004.

And this picture of her sister-in-law's sister in 1987 at the Holyoke Saint Patrick's Day parade. Waving beside Ted is former Springfield Congressman and local Democrat machine boss Eddie "House Mouse" Boland.

My sister Beverly once waited on Ted Kennedy in 1992 when she was working as a waitress at the Friendly's that used to be located in downtown Springfield across from the courthouse.

One day Ted stopped in with then Springfield Mayor Robert Markel. Both men ordered a coffee, a bill which in those days came to only a dollar and a half for both cups. Ted paid with a ten dollar bill, telling my sister to keep the change, resulting in an $8.50 tip on a buck and a half purchase. Hey, say what you will about Teddy - he was a good tipper!

We've heard a lot in the last several days about how Ted Kennedy was the "Liberal Lion" who fought relentlessly for the leftist cause. However, little has been noted about Kennedy's occasional libertarian tendencies. According to Reason Editor Nick Gillespie:

There is, buried deep within Kennedy's legislative legacy, a different set of policies worth exhuming and examining, precisely because they were truly a break with the normal way of doing business in Washington. During the 1970s, Kennedy was instrumental in deregulating the interstate trucking industry and airline ticket prices, two innovations that have vastly improved the quality of life in America even as—or more precisely, because—they pushed power out of D.C. and into the pocketbooks of everyday Americans.

We are incalculably richer and better off because something like actual prices replaced regulatory fiat in trucking and flying. Because they do not fit the Ted Kennedy narrative preferred by his admirers and detractors alike, these accomplishments rarely get mentioned in stories about the late senator. But they are exactly the sort of legislation that we should be celebrating in his honor, and using as a model in today's debates about health care, education, and virtually every aspect of government action."

That Ol' River

You just can't beat the gorgeous view of the mighty Connecticut that you get as the river passes through Hadley.

Of course you have to stick to the public paths.

I'm jealous of the people who have homes right on the river.

Today's Video

Electric Kool-Aid Obama.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Matty's Legacy

A Mixed One

The last time I saw Matty Ryan (above right with Eddie Boland) was at Charlie Ryan's mayoral victory celebration in 2003. That night was a far cry from eight years earlier when Charlie lost to Mike Albano. At Charlie's Forest Park headquarters that year the champagne had been served despite Charlie's defeat, but everyone was so dispirited hardly anyone even felt like getting drunk. I may have been one of the exceptions.

As we were leaving that night, suddenly a car festooned with Albano stickers came roaring past Ryan headquarters with tires squealling, the car filled with what looked and sounded like young men. Suddenly two naked rear ends emerged from the front and back windows as people inside taunted "Ha, ha you losers!" As the car sped off a cop who had been inside came out and asked if anyone recognised who was in the car, but no one did.

However, in the days which followed I thought I did recognise in the newspaper some of the people in that car, as Albano announced his appointees, but I couldn't be sure because the photos were frontal ones, and I would've needed to see them from the rear.

But the victory celebration eight years later was much different. The roof was practically blown off the place by the partying crowd, and considering that this was at the John Boyle O'Reilly Club, which has seen some rowdy scenes, that's saying something. However, suddenly someone entered the room, someone of such stature that everyone who saw him had to nudge the person next to them to make sure they saw him too. It was someone no one had seen at political events for a long time, but who had once moved through Valley politics as a giant. It was former Hampden County District Attorney Matthew Ryan.

It impressed me that Matty Ryan had the power, by his mere presense, to momentarily calm that rowdy crowd. But as he and Charlie exchanged greetings, I realized it was more than the fact that no one had seen Matty much in recent years that caused everyone to pause and look. It occurred to me that many people present had never made the connection before that Charlie and Matty were related, and that failure perhaps was not surprising. After all, Charlie was Mr. Reform and Matty was considered Mr. Anti-reform. That Matty had come out to celebrate the fall of the corrupt Albano regime was something that few would have predicted.

But then Matty Ryan was a man of numerous contradictions. In his more than three decades as D.A. he had developed a devoted following as well as fierce critics. There were those who described him as a living legend, while to others he was the embodiment of all that was wrong with Springfield. In the end he was never as good as his supporters claimed, but also not as bad as his critics accused him of being.

Perhaps nothing is more criticized about Ryan's career than his refusal to prosecute the suspected murderer of Danny Croteau, the Reverend Richard Lavigne. But those critics have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and the passage of time. People forget how untouchable the Catholic Church was in those years, and how many would have condemned Ryan for attacking the church - to which Ryan himself belonged. In fact to this day there are those who say that the Croteau case was overblown in the media in order to embarrass the church. Lavigne was also a political figure, especially prominent in the anti-war movement. Had he been prosecuted, it would have splashed mud on an entire young generation of aspiring Democrat Party leaders, many of whom went on to become city councilors, mayors and beyond.

The Croteau murder also took place in an era of high homophobia. Trying the case would have brought out information about the victim's sexuality that would have been devastating to the family if revealed in public. Do any of these things mean Ryan should not have gone ahead with the prosecution anyway, and disgraced the church, subjected the victim to homophobic hate and destroyed a whole generation of the political party of which Ryan himself was a member?

Yes, despite these risks Ryan was still wrong. Danny Croteau was a victim of an evil web of hypocricy and denial in a crime that still cries out for justice. But it would have taken an extraordinary person to face the firestorm that such a prosecution would have caused, with no guarantee that in the end Lavigne would have been convicted. That Ryan was not the superman who could face all that may show that he was weak, and that he was human but not necessarily that he was evil.

Matty Ryan was also criticized for his alleged "mob connections" and in a sane world he should never have kept the company he sometimes did. But there was a weird libertarian sense in which his mob friendships made sense. In a world where the drug trade is forced underground by its illegality, it is difficult to have any control over it. It was said that Ryan had a deal with the mob that as long as they kept to the shadier side of business, like gambling and drugs and loan sharking, he would look the other way on some things, provided they stayed out of City Hall and didn't sell heroin. Of course heroin came in anyway through non-mob sources, but it was much less prevalent and the mob was unable to get their hands on public funds.

Once Matty retired, the streets were flooded with heroin, and it was through mob wiretaps that the corruption probes of the last ten years reached into City Hall, where the mob had quickly began infiltrating after Ryan was gone.

Ironically it was not any of these alleged sins that caused Matty Ryan to retire. In the end, Ryan's brand of blunt, in your face advocacy had become considered old fashioned. With the arrival of the era of District Attorneys with blow-dry haircuts and focus group tested campaigns, someone like Matty had become slightly embarrassing. It wasn't the scandals that led to the conclusion that Matty should go. It was the sense that his crusty style had become "unprofessional."

So the passing of Matty Ryan is rightly called the end of an era. We are unlikely to see his like again. In some ways we are better off for that, but we have lost something too.

In Hamp Windows

For enlightened bumpers.

A mistake.

Elvis in Faces.

It's a new dawn.

Today's Video

As promised, something from Northampton's Lookstock - a killer version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. (photo of the sky over Lookstock by Greg Saulmon)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stalking Teddy

My Convention Capers

It is almost impossible to live your whole life in Western Massachusetts and never have been in the presence of Ted Kennedy (above with Charles V. Ryan in 1965). I saw him marching in parades and from a distance at political events where he spoke, but the closest I ever got to Kennedy personally was the time during the 2004 Democrat Convention in Boston when I met him coming out of a back door behind Fanuel Hall. Here is an excerpt from my coverage of that convention which includes my encounter with Kennedy.

No matter what your political persuasion, the 2004 Democrat Party convention in Boston was a major event. In fact it was probably the most important political event ever held in Massachusetts during the lifetime of most people now living. There have been bigger and better national conventions, but they were not held in Boston, so to us Massachusetts political junkies this was like the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards rolled into one. So despite the fact that I wouldn't vote for John Kerry or John Edwards for dogcatcher, let alone president, I decided I must go.

In this quest I faced many obvious disadvantages. For one thing there was the post-9/11 security. Just four years ago, when people talked about "convention security" they were referring to keeping bums and pickpockets out and making sure the drunken delegates didn't get too rowdy. Anybody with the right combination of schmooze and chutzpa could probably manage to get inside and stay there as long as they behaved themselves. But those days are long-gone, perhaps forever. Security at both party conventions reached near police-state levels.

Another problem was that I knew few people in Democrat Party circles of influence likely to help me. I could approach the challenge to get in from the media angle, perhaps using my radio gig with Tony Gill at WAIC, but how much would the Democrat poohbahs be impressed by a request from a small college radio station? Even if I could get inside that way, Tony Gill told me that with the students gone for the summer, there was no staff to set up a remote broadcast.

But just when my prospects looked darkest, who should come to the rescue but former City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz! Mitch and Democrat nominee John Kerry have been friends since the beginning of Kerry's career, with Mitch having served as Western Mass co-coordinator for both Kerry's Lieutenant Governor race and first Senate campaign. Ogulewicz had really gone out on a limb in that Senate race by backing Kerry, since everyone else in the Valley was backing favorite son David Bartley. Mitch's loyalty under difficult circumstances was something Kerry never forgot.

Therefore Mitch received a special guest pass for Kerry's nomination speech, enabling Mitch to listen to the address from a special VIP section reserved for Kerry's friends from throughout his career. Would Mitch's status as a Friend of John be sufficient to get me in as well? Probably not, but it would be worth a try. Besides in any case I would be able to phone in a report on the convention scene to WAIC and gather stuff for this website no matter what went down, so it was really a can't lose proposition for me to accompany Mitch to our state capital. Besides, maybe Mitch's pass could also get me into some of the official convention shindigs taking place throughout Boston.

Mitch is usually a great person to go anywhere with if there is a big crowd and attendance may be difficult. Somehow Mitch always manages not just to get in, but to also get the best seats. I remember going with him once to see John McCain, and we got so close the press photographers were trying to aim around us while the CSPAN broadcast of the rally showed Mitch and I in virtually every shot. At Charlie Ryan's inauguration, Mitch and I had front and center seats in the row directly behind the family. The only way we could have gotten any closer was to have gone next door to City Hall and change our name to Ryan. Mitch likes to get right into the belly of the beast, and of course that is exactly where I want to be as well.

Upon arriving in Boston around 8 a.m. the first test of Mitch's pass was the Massachusetts Delegation breakfast at the posh Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, where the cream de la cream of Massachusetts Democrats were gathering to eat gourmet eggs and bagels beneath crystal chandeliers. As we approached the elegant entrance to the hotel, we were immediately confronted by security. Wisely, I had let Mitch walk a little ahead of me, so that security would address him first. They asked him for his pass, and appeared immediately impressed. At this point I positioned myself beside Mitch like a shadow, and the security person simply said to me, "Are you with him?" I answered yes and Mitch nodded in agreement. Zip - it was that easy as I was waved through security to venture safely deep inside to have breakfast in the very beating heart of the Democrat Party of Massachusetts!

Famous faces were everywhere, and the first person to approach us was former State Representative Ray Jordan. Although Mitch and Jordan have had many disagreements over the years, they greeted one another more like old friends rather than old rivals. The members of the Pioneer Valley delegation to the convention were all there. Some of them looked startled to see me, but no one was rude. Only one member was conspicuous in his absence, Congressman Richard Neal. That was too bad, I had hoped to try and trap him into posing for a picture with Mitch.

While most of the speeches at the breakfast were predictable and dull, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank's brief remarks stood out as both interesting and passionate. He denounced the heavy security at the convention, accusing the authorities of being too afraid of dissent. Frank declared that protestors "should be allowed to be as rude and rowdy as they want, as long as it doesn't turn violent." He even took a verbal swipe at the Boy Scouts who had earlier led a flag procession into the breakfast, saying that he was "so moved by the flag presentation that I wished that the Boy Scouts would let me be a member," a thinly veiled zinger delivered at the organization's refusal to admit homosexuals.

After the breakfast we were all shooed out the door to make room for the next event. Mitch and I were walking down the street, discussing what to do next, when we ran into former Springfield Newspapers reporter Jonathan Tilove, whom Mitch has known since his city council days but hadn't seen in many years. That is one of the nice things about attending affairs like this, you run into people you haven't seen in ages. Tilove now works for the Newhouse Corporation's Washington bureau.

Eventually we decided to go over to historic Fanuel Hall, near Quincy Market, where a big Democrat Party shindig was supposed to be held. By the time we got there the event was already underway and filled to capacity. However a loudspeaker had been set up outside to accommodate the overflow crowd and there was no mistaking the booming baritone of the current speaker, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. We stopped to listen, and after a few minutes Mitch noticed a black Chevy SUV with its engine running parked by an unmarked door. There were security guys hovering all around it. Mitch told me that it was probably waiting for Senator Kennedy.

The sad truth is that because Ted is the last surviving Kennedy brother he was a target of special interest to sickos who wanted the distinction of taking down the last Kennedy brother. Therefore Kennedy usually arrived late to public events and left early, the better to confuse a would-be assailant. As Kennedy ended his speech Mitch and I decided to wander over closer to that SUV and see what would happen. At first no one bothered us, but when I reached into my knapsack for my camera, all of a sudden this big guy in sunglasses with a wire in his ear was right on top of me with an intimidating expression on his face. I slowly took out my camera and once he saw what it was he backed off. However the eagerness with which he seemed prepared to pounce on me was unnerving.

Then suddenly the unmarked door swings open and there he is, being hustled toward the car by a swarm of security, our U. S. Senator and the brother of the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

He's so close to me that I'm caught totally by surprise, but not so much that I fail to swing into action with my camera. The Senator spots Mitch, whom he recognizes from having done radio interviews with Ogulewicz in years past. He greets Mitch warmly, but when I try to get a shot of them shaking hands this security goon gets in the way and I have to twist in an awkward manner that cuts all but Mitch's hand out of the picture. Great shot of Big Ted though.

All this takes about thirty seconds until Ted is in the car and they're moving, but not before I get off one last shot of Senator Kennedy looking through the window, perhaps wondering who this pesky photographer is that has been shadowing him all the way. Then again, he's probably very used to it.

Finally Mitch and I decide it is time to head over to the convention hall itself. We arrive at the Fleet Center, which is the hall where the convention is being held, only we can't see it. There is such a wall of security barriers that the building itself is invisible. Is this our post-911 future, a world of steel and razorwire as armed soldiers look down upon us? It was all very creepy. A few minutes of this Orwellian environment and all hope of my being smuggled into the convention evaporates. They would never let an old outlaw like me into this uptight joint, even if I am accompanied by a Friend of John.

So Mitch went into the convention hall, and I caught a bus back to Amherst.

Today's Video

Yesterday was the big Woodstock show at Northampton's Look Park - prompting the event to be billed as "Lookstock." Unfortunately no videos have surfaced yet, but a few photographs have.

Here's WHMP's Bill Dwight as Wavy Gravy. Pretty good, and extra points for including the Merry Prankster overalls that Ken Kesey used to have them wear during a certain phase.

Brian T. Marchese performed as Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. Here's a picture of him as Kreutzmann.

The real Bill Kreutzmann as he was in the Woodstock era.

Bill Dwight took this photo of Northampton's Mayor Clare Higgins in high hippie fashion.

Until I get some video from the show, here's more from the official Woodstock 40 anniversary concert to tide you over.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

North and South

And All Around

I took the bus to downtown Springfield yesterday and saw this really cool car in the Peter Pan bus station parking lot.

It belonged to none other than Peter Picknelly Jr. himself.

Marilyn Monroe wine in the window of the abandoned L'uva restaurant on Main Street.

Heading up to ol' Pine Point I stopped by the McDonald's on Boston Road. I was surprised to discover that it has been completely remodeled inside and out.

That is one of the oldest McDonald's in the Valley, and no attempt was made to preserve any of the historic decor when they redid it. A shame.

My Grandfather Clarence White used to live in a house that was located where this gas station is on the corner of Boston Road and Harvey Street. He also attended the Boston Road Elementary School, which was located where the Pine Point Library is now.

I came upon these kinds of signs all over the Point, just as you find them all over the country.

Another sign that the ol' Point ain't what it used to be.

When I was about 12 years old I was so ambitious that I had the largest paper route in all Pine Point. One day I came to collect at the house shown below, at the downstairs apartment. When the door opened there were people laughing hysterically and a sweet smokey odor came wafting out. They seemed to think that it was the funniest thing in the world that I had knocked on the door.

The incident puzzled me at the time, but when I was a couple of years older I realized that I had interrupted a pot party.

I'm saddened to hear of the death of Gene Korrell, the owner of HOME TV.

He was a longtime teacher at Trade High School (now Putnam) but I knew him as my father's best friend from the military. They served together in Iceland.

The house next to what used to be my mother's is for sale, giving me the chance to go into the backyard and take a picture across the fence of my mother's yard. It really hasn't changed.

I see that Yolly Nahorniak's car is still in her driveway.

She won't be driving it since she passed away last month.

Time to return to the northlands. This is the downtown train.

Back in Northampton people were demonstrating for Obamacare.

They may as well hang it up, that plan is toast. All that's left is for the Democrats to quietly try to drop the plan while minimizing the political damage.

The Academy of Music is currently undergoing restorations to preserve it's historic beauty.

There was some pretty intellectual graffiti chalked on Main Street.

Of course we actually have to live in the real world, but some sentiments are too beautiful to just dismiss. Perhaps Thoreau has the best reply in saying, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them."

Here's a much longer quote a few gum wrappers and cigarette butts away.

All the ills of mankind,
all the tragic misfortunes
that fill the history books,
all the political blunders,
all the failures of the great leaders
have arisen merely from a lack of
skill at dancing.
-- Moliere

At first read it sounds like something a too clever dancing instructor might say. But when you think about it in the largest sense, all life is motion, and a dance of sorts, with everything depending upon how you move - every imaginable setting being a dance floor for the energy of life.

At the Amherst Survival Center today we had a hootnanny of sorts, with Damon on guitar.

And John on drums.

Later I went to Mount Pollux in the southern part of Amherst. The sign said the road was closed, but the true citizen journalist laughs at such restrictions.

It is a beautiful spot that makes you feel like you're dancing on top of the world - or at least the Valley.

No photo can capture the transcendent beauty of the vista.

Today's Video

Magic-Magic at the Sierra Grille in Northampton last week. (painting by J. Sendelbach)