Monday, August 27, 2018


I arrived at Union Station in downtown Springfield Friday, just in time to see the procession for the Grand Opening of the MGM Casino. While at the bus station, I paused to admire the new benches Richie Neal got for the joint recently. They are from Grand Central Station in NYC, and are in fact grander than the ones that originally were in Union Station, but which mysteriously disappeared during the renovation of the station.

Springfield being, well, Springfield, there was much speculation that the antique benches were stolen in some kind of insider dirty deal. However, I've come around to the view that the benches were probably unintentionally thrown away and ended up in a landfill. They were in a state of advanced decay after decades of the building being vacant, and I suspect some of the workers who cleared out the rubbish that had accumulated in the station mistakenly included the dusty, dirty and broken benches among the debris they threw away. That would explain why no one onsite was alarmed as the benches were removed and why the benches never showed up on e-Bay or some other antique website. Oh well, maybe one day the full truth will be known.

I like this little passageway alongside the Union Station garage that runs beside the majestic stone wall of The Arch.

As I strolled down Main Street, I passed a sparsely attended Farmer's Market at the site of the old Steiger's.

Soon I arrived at the not at all sparsely attended casino parade from the Civic Center to the Casino. In fact, I think that was the biggest crowd I ever saw in Springfield's South End, and I'm old enough to remember the mobs that used to attend the Mt. Carmel Festivals in their heyday.

My old Pointer friend Jordan Williams, who was visiting from Florida, took some videos, such as this one where you can hear that not everyone in attendance was cooperative with the authorities.

Here is a video of the UMass Band performing as part of the parade.

I was among the first wave of the public to enter the casino after it opened to the general public for the first time.

Of course the bread and butter of a casino are the slot machines, a game that strikes me as boring. But then again, I'm not a gambler so maybe there is some subtle aspect to it I don't get. Perhaps it's just the siren call of all casinos - the hope that you can come to the casino on a bus and go back in a limousine.

I ran into a number of people I knew, including G. Michael Dobbs from The Reminder.

My favorite aspect of the casino is the way MGM has faithfully incorporated aspects of the city's history, especially the old South End, into the casino's design. Here is the former South End Community Center, which was partially destroyed in the 2011 tornado, but which has now been revitalized.

A rundown relic even before the tornado, today it sports elegant, very expensive chandeliers.

Here is a 1930's model of the iconic Indian Motocycle, once manufactured in today's Mason Square neighborhood, restored to pristine condition.

They wonderfully preserved the facade from the old hotel where President James Polk once stayed, as well as future President James Buchanan when he was Secretary of State. They even put a plaque on the wall noting that fact. I'm a local history inclined person, yet I never knew the significance of that building before MGM came along. How embarrassing that it took a company from Chicago to give the historic building the respect it always deserved but never received. Alas, that's all too typical for a city that has too often allowed priceless historic structures to be torn down on the whims of corrupt urban planners and their politically connected investors.

But overall, I must say I'm impressed with the casino, and although I was not an initial supporter, I hope it will be a success. However, on a cautionary note, I must again point out the absence of much in the way of development of properties around the casino, including the ones directly across from the casino itself, which are almost completely vacant.

One of the main selling points of casino supporters was that it would revitalize downtown properties. If it has failed to revitalize even the buildings located directly across from their entrance, where exactly are those properties that the casino will supposedly revitalize?

But nevermind. It's way too early to cast a verdict on the ultimate effect of the casino, so let's just wait and see. Indeed, at least one restaurant has announced it is making a nearby investment - Wahlburger's, a hamburger and fries chain popular around Boston and owned by actor Mark Wahlberg, once known as the lead singer for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Hopefully, he will bring some good vibrations to downtown Springfield.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Window washing at the UMass Library is not a job for those with a fear of heights.

Recently I visited the Springfield Armory Museum by downtown Springfield.

It's a pretty cool place. If the biggest (hopefully) positive event in Springfield in modern times is the opening of the MGM Casino, then the most undeniably negative event in modern Springfield history was the closing of the Springfield Armory in 1968. It devastated the city's middle class, who lost thousands of good paying government jobs, and the event is often pointed to by local historians as the beginning of Springfield's long decline.

However, something was salvaged from the disaster in the form of Springfield Technical Community College and an actual National Park dedicated to the Armory's history. There are many old guns on display which would no doubt bring a big price if you could put them on e-bay.

Here is the bell that used to call the workers to begin their labor.

This arrangement of guns was once observed by the poet Longfellow, who thought it looked like a big musical organ. He wrote a poem about it.

I'm afraid I don't make a very convincing Park Ranger.

This mansion just outside the Armory Museum was once falling into disrepair, as seen in this 2014 photo.

Now it appears to have been restored somewhat, at least outside.

While in Springfield, I noticed a lot of signs for Congressman Richard Neal. I normally am not much of a Neal supporter, but I would choose him this year over the dangerous leftist radical running against him.

What to do while waiting for the bus at the King Street Stop&Shop in Northampton? Make a video.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Today is 8-8-18. This commemorative meme seems upbeat, but what does it even mean?

Lord have mercy, I recall when the date was 8-8-88 thirty years ago!

Hey Time, slow the fuck down!

Wow, look at this fractal quilt on display in the UMass Grad Research Library. That's some fancy stitching!

Have you checked out Amherst's Share Coffee in its new location? It used to be located in the old Raos Coffee space behind the church. It has moved into the former location of that snobby restaurant Chez Albert.

It is a smaller space, but still very cool.

Hey, guess who is back in town! Local musician extraordinaire Luke Averill has returned from various adventures and is now reunited with his old band And the Kids.

Here he is in 2012, second from left, on the cover of the Valley Advocate.

Here is a video of Luke playing on the streets of Northampton I took ten years ago.