The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, September 16, 2017


I was walking through downtown Hamp on my way to the bus stop when I saw some plastic flying saucers in the window of Retro-Genie, the antique shop under what used to be called Augie's.

I call them flying saucers because the word "Frisbee" is actually a copyrighted term referring to a particular brand of aerodynamically engineered plastic discs. Retro-Genie being an antique place, that's what their flyers were, such as this gem from the long lost and lamented Steiger's Department Store.

Here's the Steiger's that used to be at Springfield's Eastfield Mall, shown here as it was around 1970.

There was also this saucer from Friendly's. A copyright notice on it reveals it to have been a promotional item from 1983.

Friendly's in prior decades.

Walking around campus I came upon this clever poster by the UMass History Club.

The other John Quincy Adams.

Finally, this visitor to the Hotel Northampton appears unclear on the concept.

Oh wait, one more thing - this local history meme floating around the internet suffers from a typo.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Common Account

Here's a picture taken by someone of Northampton Mayor David Narkiewicz at this year's County Fair posing with J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr:

The Mayor himself took this picture from a window in City Hall this week as a double rainbow appeared over the Valley in the wake of a violent cloudburst.

I saw the same rainbows while crossing the Calvin Coolidge Bridge on a bus, but the speed of the bus prevented me from getting my camera out in time. A shame, because the view from the bridge of the Connecticut River is one of the most spectacular vistas in the Valley and to get a shot that included two rainbows hovering over it would have been an exquisite, perhaps once in a lifetime photographic achievement. Oh well, sometimes you score, sometimes you don't.

The rainbows had a very short lifespan, shimmering over the Valley for only a couple of minutes at most, but creating an almost transcendentally beautiful visual ending to the last weekend of summer. And don't tell me that technically summer isn't over. Around here, when the students come back in the fall, that is considered by everyone in the northern Valley to be the true end of summer.

I ran into Mayor Narkiewicz myself in the Haymarket the other day.

Speaking of the Haymarket, it's doing an interesting experiment these days called The Common Account. It is explained as follows on the Haymarket website.

Early in the spring of 2017 we created what we call the Common Account. We wanted to try to address some of the issues in our town around homelessness, hunger and panhandling. There are many points of view on this subject, and even individually one’s own vantage point changes. We wanted to address this in our own way, as members of our community, and as a small business that is partly sustained from selling food. The Common Account funds our sliding scale menu for those who cannot afford the full price. People donate to the fund increasing its balance while others who are in need draw down from the account.

In other words, it is a way to allow the homeless and poverty stricken to come in off the streets for an occasional cheap meal in a first class restaurant, courtesy of the generous donations of the customers who come into the Haymarket every day. Alas, the month of July was a financial bust, with only enough donated to cover a little more than half the cost of the semi-free meals.

However, the figures for August are out, and believe it or not all the food costs were covered and then some!

Wow, doing good while still making a profit. Who'd a thunk?

I will leave you with this charming portrait of the Attorney General of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


This weekend I went with some friends to the big horse races in Saratoga, New York. It's a very high-class scene for three poor boys from Springfield, but that's part of the fun, mingling with all the beautiful people.

On our way to the tracks, we paused in Albany to check out the state capital grounds.

Of course a sign such as this serves only as a dare to me.

There is this weird theater in Albany that is simply called "The Egg." I wish I could have gone inside and checked it out. I mean, how safe can it be with no windows?

Lots of betting going on, as seen in this picture by Cray Soda heir Jeff Ziff, but no betting for me, as I know all too well from hard experience about fools and their money.

The paparazzi were everywhere, but I was successfully able to avoid them.

After the races, we went to downtown Saratoga where the people were literally dancing in the streets.

Closer to home, these signs have appeared all over the UMass campus. Thank goodness there is no place at UMass for expressions of hatred towards President Trump and his policies!

That is what those signs mean, don't they?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Beyond the Blue Room

I finally had a chance recently to go down to Springfield and check out the newly restored Union Station (above in 1926) which opened to the public earlier this year for the first time since 1974. I remember going to the old station with my maternal grandmother as a small child, with my main memories being the iconic clock and the large wooden benches. Here's a picture of what they looked like:

I'm referring to them in the past tense, because they are not part of the newly renovated station as a result of BEING STOLEN. The thieves were never caught, even though it is impossible to believe that the theft was anything other than an inside job. Although authorities insisted the theft was discovered in 2012, and was reported to the police, no police report could be found and the public was not informed of the theft until 2016. Even more intriguing, this picture from the Springfield Republican dated July 2014, two years after the theft was alleged to have occurred, shows there were numerous benches very much still in the station.

You mean to tell me that the security personnel on site saw nothing, even though moving 40 huge benches must have involved several trucks? That it was impossible for local law enforcement to identify suspects by determining who had authorized access? That there was no ability to trace the sale of that quantity of unusual antiques suddenly flooding the market? Whoever stole those benches had to be someone with the political pull to make the site security look the other way and then get the police to back-off on the investigation. In other words, someone at the highest levels of government.

That isn't the only sordid tale of evil predating the grand opening. The Diary of J. Wesley Miller has passages about "how years ago certain cops used to grab minorities off the street as if to arrest them and then take them to a dimly lighted room in Union Station called "The Blue Room" where they would be beaten and robbed by the police." Could it be true that the abandoned station had at one point become a police torture chamber? If so, it must have been terrifying to be taken through the abandoned structure to that room where no matter how loudly you cried out, no one could hear your screams. Looking at this picture taken inside before the renovation, one can't help but wonder which portal led to the Blue Room.

But that was then, and this is now.

I've gotta admit, the joint looks pretty good, even with cheap seats standing in for the majestic stolen benches.

In an attempt to partially compensate for the benches, an honest attempt was made to recover and display the surviving memorabilia from the station's glory days.

Indeed the old girl is looking good....

....and hopefully beginning a new chapter, one that won't be held back by thieving politicians and one that can go beyond the legacy of the Blue Room.

Monday, August 21, 2017


I'm old enough to have seen a number of eclipses of the sun and moon, so I wasn't really all that excited about the one this afternoon. However, as a sometimes citizen journalist who sometimes attends things of public interest, and this being sorta the kind of thing I sometimes cover, I decided to attend the public eclipse watching party at the mystical sunwheel at UMass. I began my journey by passing through the Southwest tunnel.

I took the path past the ancient willow, one of the few trees still standing from the days when the Southwest dorm complex was just a farmer's field.

The lighting was similar to dusk or a rainy day, although the sky was mostly clear and it was only 2:15pm.

Passing the UMass stadium, I was surprised to realize this was the first time I had set foot on those stadium grounds since I saw the Grateful Dead there in -gulp!- 1979.

What would that years ago me have thought, if through some transcendent tear in the time/space continuum during Jerry's guitar solo, I had looked decades into the future to see me walking by today? Would I be pleased or disappointed to observe that I never quite escaped the UMass orbit? Probably I would just be glad to see I was still alive at all in the distant 2017, as even back then I was already exhibiting behavior that was inspiring doubt about my longevity.

Young Tom: "Good to see you!"

Old Tom: "Good to be seen."

Soon I found myself approaching the observation site of the cosmic event. There was quite a big crowd.

The local media was there as well.

The crowd mingled among the ancient stones. I've been told that local pagans perform moonlight rituals at this site.

Lots of people had homemade viewing devices, like this one my friend made that forms an E for eclipse!

The event was put on by the UMass Astronomy Department and their student association, which provided telescopes with special filters for magnified viewing.

Elsewhere, Congressman Jim McGovern watching the eclipse.

Congressman Richard Neal and Beth Ward.

Bobby Weir grooving to the eclipse.

The First Family.


photo courtesy of mark davis and mitch ogulewicz

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Truckin' down the avenue in downtown Hamp, window shopping at Faces....

....I came upon this sign:

It was in front of the building beside First Church.

I walk past that building every day and have sometimes wondered what the upper floors were like. Hey, here was a chance to find out, so I headed up the carpeted staircase.

It led to a huge apartment that actually covers two floors, large spacious rooms with nothing in them that was not very photogenic so I didn't take a picture of any of them. However, there is a staircase leading to the roof, where I found myself on a patio and virtually face to face with the historic First Church clock!

A dizzying look down at the seething metropolis below:

A look across the street and at the Holyoke mountain range beyond, what the Valley Indians originally called "The Seven Sisters."

I didn't bother asking what they were asking for the joint, because I knew it was a rent I could never afford. I guess I'll just sit in the Dr. Seuss chair out in Pedal People Land with the chickens and the ducks and the woodland way and all the wild things. We don't have roof parties, but we do have fun.