Sunday, September 30, 2012


Last week I had the chance to tour the Merriam-Webster building. The history of the firm is fascinating but too complex to retell here. Basically the Merriam family latched onto the legacy of dominant dictionary dude Noah Webster in the 1840's, and then succeeded over decades of tough competition to establish themselves as the foremost authorities on the English Language as it is spoken in America. Most of that history was spent at various locations in downtown Springfield, and currently they are located in this building on Rifle Street right by STCC.

It's a cool place. Here is the President of the company John M. Morse.

Here Editor at Large Pete Sokolowski shows us the work area where scholars slave over every little nuance of the usage of words. It's a gig that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. It also looks like it could be a lot of fun to work there if your head is in the right place. Love of Language is the primary job requirement.

Here is Merriam-Webster's innermost inner-sanctum: The only complete collection in the world of every single version of the dictionary they have published over nearly two centuries.

Speaking of words, my old Local Buzz buddy Bill Peters was at Amherst Books Friday reading from his new novel. He lives in Florida now and when he left to move south he told me he intended to write a book. Now indeed he has, and I always get a kick out of seeing people's dreams come true.

Among those present for the reading was Greg Saulmon, Peter's former Local Buzz sidekick and currently with the Masslive/Republican.

Here are the Buzzboyz at the Haymarket in 2008:

My friend Luke Averill's new band made the cover of this week's Valley Advocate!

Here's a sample from a Northampton performance of why they won the Best New Band category:

Luke as a Haymarket urchin in 2009

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Weirdness

Never Ends.

A lot going on in the Valley today.

I won't be going to those events, I'm too busy robbing banks.

Amazingly, the Amherst Survival Center is using me in their promotional material.

On my way to the Woodstar Cafe on Sunday morning I ran into Northampton avant-garde performer Kelsey Flynn (right) out for a stroll with her wife and baby and doggie.

She will be performing next at Greenfield's Fringe Festival in November. Greenfield really knows how to go out on the fringe and we love them for it. Meanwhile the Haymarket Cafe remains the definition of Northampton cafe-cool, but the Woodstar is emerging as the new Sunday morning hotspot for the Hamp hipsters to meet to discuss what went down with who the night before.

Bikes parked in front of the UMass Library.

A big change in the cafe scene at the library is the closing of the popular and appropriately named hang-out Procrastination Station.

Instead it has reopened in much bigger digs in the old circulation office across the way by the elevators. I used to work in that circulation office more years ago than I care to either count or admit to.

The selection of items for sale is greatly expanded.

It also has a big relaxation area for the students to sit, study and flirt.

Last week was the big Freedom Rally in Boston for the legalization of marijuana. This video pretty much captures the highlights, beginning with an address by Amherst libertarian leader Terry Franklin.

A wall in Amherst.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Digs

Last week I had an opportunity to visit the construction site of the new Amherst Survival Center.

It is located across the street from Cowls Lumber. Before the University arrived in the 1860's, Cowls Lumber ruled Amherst.

I was very impressed. Here I am in the entrance to what will be the kitchen. Maybe I can cook some Irish meals there. It wouldn't be too difficult, since if you can boil water then you can cook Irish.

On the woodland way into downtown Northampton last week I spotted a fox and managed to whip out my camera just in the nick of time before it slinked off into the forest.

Last night I stopped by the auction to raise money to restore the old courthouse in downtown Hamp. Among the things you could bid on were pristine copies of old courthouse documents and maps.

Former Hampshire Gazette reporter Mary Cary was among the attendees. Now she works for the District Attorney.

The event drew a number of eccentric political types.

It also drew some real politicians, such as Ed Fleury, Hampshire Council of Governments Councilor and Hatfield Selectman Ed Lesko.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 Primary Results

I'm awful busy these days, but I still got to the polls last week to cast my vote for all the losing candidates. Here are the vote totals and what they mean:


Richard NEAL - 65%
Andrea NUCIFORO - 25%
Bill SHEIN - 10%

In 2010 when a broke tea party Republican scored 43% against Neal, the word went out that Neal was vulnerable. Yet this year the threat to Neal didn't come from the Right but from the Left, since both of Neal's 2010 GOP challengers were oh so conveniently removed from the district by a redistricting that saw Neal absorb the former district of the retiring John Olver. Nucifero and Shein were gambling that Olver's fans wanted someone more liberal than Neal, who is probably the most conservative member of the state's delegation, but since the state is Massachusetts that's not saying much. Nucifero tried to link Neal to fat cat bankers, only to have it revealed that Nucifero accepted money from the same sources when he was a state legislator. Shameless socialist Shein said his opponents were closet conservatives. To attract liberals Neal moved leftward on some issues, but now that his eternal incumbency is again safe expect Richie to go back to being Richie.


James MCGOVERN - 91%
William FEEGBEH - 9%

Amherst and Northampton got screwed in the redistricting by being tacked onto the tail end of McGovern's district, which is known statewide as "the Worcester district." Obviously both towns are more politically, financially, culturally and historically linked to Springfield. It was an especially degrading blow for Amherst, who once had its own hometown boy John Olver as their personal congressman. McGovern faced no real challenge from Feegbeh, who was arrested on assault charges during the campaign, and since he has no GOP opponent McGovern is now the guy in Worcester that Amherst and Hamp will have to beg to pay attention to them once in a while.


Michael ALBANO - 43%
Kevin SULLIVAN - 41%
Gerry ROY - 17%

Apparently Mike Albano got bored spending his pension money in local bars and pretending to run his false-front "consulting" firm, so he wants to relieve his boredom by going to Governor's Council meetings in Boston. He got his biggest vote totals in the city he trashed, proving once again that Springfield still has the stupidest electorate in the Valley.


Michael FRANCO - 52%
Michael CASE - 48%

Mike Franco is the only chance the electorate has left to correct their error in nominating Albano. Franco's victory was something of a surprise, as challenger Case had the backing of the Scott Brown machine; but Franco has toiled in the thankless trenches of the local GOP for years and was rewarded for it. Mike Franco also comes with some baggage stemming from a certain extremism on social issues, but if the alternative is Albano then every good citizen must now consider voting for Franco to be their moral duty.


James WELCH - 61%
Melvin EDWARDS - 39%

Welch is a do-nothing hack, but Melvin Edwards wouldn't have been much better.


Marie ANGELIDES - 88%

Stuffing the ballot box with fake absentee ballots? Hey, I thought they only did that in Springfield! The fall of Jack Villamaino is playing out like a farce, but it is really a tragedy. At one point Villamaino was considered the local GOP's most promising young star, but now he will be lucky to escape a prison term.


Sean CURRAN - 74%
Joseph FOUNTAIN - 26%

People keep saying that Curran is vulnerable, so how come he always wins by a landslide?


Laura GENTILE - 35%
Thomas ASHE - 32%
Linda DISANTI - 18%
John DACRUZ - 15%

I was amazed by how much work Linda DiSanti (above) put into her campaign, only to come in a distant third! Laura Gentile, whom I originally dismissed as a "minor candidate" pulled a major surprise by winning it all. Best of all, her victory frustrated the rise of former Keough Krew prince Tom Ashe.

All around our Valley:

By the old courthouse.