Wednesday, June 19, 2019


This morning I walked up this psychedelic alleyway in downtown Northampton to catch the dawn express to Amherst.

While in beautiful downtown Amherst, at one point I walked past the former Porta restaurant and bar. It was open earlier this spring for a number of weeks, but because so much weird and illegal stuff was going down it got its license to operate yanked. This account by Katherine Esten in the UMass Collegian chronicles some of the goings on:

Regarding the reports on April 19, Officer Matthew Frydryck noted in his testimony that APD received “multiple anonymous calls” concerning the restaurant, including allegations of underage drinking and that female patrons were being asked to show body parts to get in.

At 1:30 a.m., a time when Porta was supposed to be closed, Frydryck saw over 100 patrons still in the establishment. After multiple police officers arrived to the parking lot, the crowd quickly cleared out, Frydryck said.

On April 20, Officers Justin Satkowski and Matthew Ziomek worked on a special assignment in plain clothes. In an APD supplemental narrative, Satkowski stated he observed a female bartender “randomly get up from her seat, serve patrons alcoholic beverages, then return to her seat to drink her beverages.”

In the narrative, Satkowski said an underage male party seated nearby the officers went behind the bar himself to serve alcohol. Satkowski ordered a “cheap draft beer,” but the male party was unable to operate the tap system and returned “half a glass of foamy beer and a Corona.”

“I told him I didn’t want the Corona, so he drank it himself,” Satkowski testified at the hearing.

Before leaving Porta, Satkowski and Ziomek asked the male party how much money they owed for their drinks. The male party stated the debit card machine was not working and that the men “could leave him whatever [they] thought was appropriate.” Ziomek left a five dollar bill, which was pocketed by the male party as a “tip,” according to the narrative.

Later, the male party stated to other officers he was not an employee of Porta.

Today the building stands deserted. While walking behind the pitiful Porta, I saw that a lot of trash was strewn about, left behind no doubt by the former owner.

Who will clean it up? This is exactly the sort of Amherst story that Larry Kelley would have covered with relish.

The other day I stopped by the King Street KFC/Taco Bell in Northampton.

It has been remodeled, and looks pretty good, unlike the changes to the McDonald's next door, which recently went from classic to charmless. As for the KFC/Taco remodeling, it actually improved the appearance of the joint. Dig the KFC bucket-lamp overhead.

To see how the Northampton Taco Bell/KFC used to look, check out the last 30 seconds or so of this Hamp skate video by a former employee.

Yesterday was Taco Tuesday, and the Taco Bell half of these joints were giving away a free taco to anyone who asked before 6pm. This Western Mass video-blogger decides to see how many Taco Bells he can hit in 75 minutes before the deadline. I think I recognize the one in Shrewsbury. West Springfield? How many of these Taco Bells can you identify?

My kurrent kicks are kinda kool.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Casino Spring

I was down in Springfield the other day.

The skeleton is up for the new office building where the Peter Pan bus station used to be. It will mostly house a housing agency, which is okay I guess, but one would prefer to see something not so dependent on taxpayer funds, What downtown needs above all else is private development.

Happily, there are some new small businesses opening at the end of Main Street by the terminal, development which had previously been conspicuous in its absence. A few small businesses ranging from pizza to jewelry shops have opened, which is a hopeful sign.

What really needs to happen is for the Hippodrome/Paramount/Sanderson/Whatever theater to finally reopen. There are rumblings of renewal, but no sign of actual activity yet.

The further you walk down Main, the more evidence of new life is apparent. For the first time in recent memory, all the storefronts along Main are being rented in the block right next to the casino.

But there are still problems. For example, it looks terrible to have a big, ugly, metal-sealed pawn shop just a few doors down from MGM.

This fast-food chicken joint Crown is another misplaced tenant, although it is somewhat improving.

Crown's ugliest features were the posters of food they had in the windows. Exposure to the sun had long since spoiled the colors, turning everything shown into a very unappetizing pinkish mess that just screamed greasy spoon.

Yet, now those sun-faded posters are gone and have been replaced by much more appealing images. It makes the place look more presentable.

Baby steps matter. Meanwhile, the casino itself seems to be doing fine. I returned to the Lobster Shack, this time trying their lobster bisque. It was tasty, but a little thin. I still hold that their clam chowder is the best in the city.

The one year anniversary of the Grand Opening is coming up in August, and of course I'll have to give it a full appraisal at that time. Until then, I'll continue to update you on my occasional forays into the casino scene.

Back in Hamp, I was dismayed to see this bit of bullshit on a mailbox on Conz Street near the pot shop.

It looks like there were earlier versions that were scraped off, but then later replaced. Whoever is spreading this hate is apparently not easily discouraged. Did I try to remove the sticker? No, only leftists try to censor speech that they find offensive.

Finally, while in Springfield waiting for a bus in ol' Pine Point, I made a video of my surroundings.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Scenes of May

What's the matter with me? I ain't got much to say lately, at least not here, as I've been busy with other projects. However, I will soon be focusing much more on this old battleship, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are some odds and ends:

In Amherst recently I stumbled upon this unusual bumpersticker promoting the notion that the Democrats should nominate a ticket consisting of Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Stacey Abrams, the failed Georgia candidate for governor.

That ain't goin' nowhere. Meanwhile, a mob of Mayors were seen at the Delaney House last month doing a selfie with TV dude Dave Madsen.

How many Mayors can you name?

Here's a hint, one of them is in the picture below taken at the Northampton Bike Day celebration.

Because it had to move across the street because of renovations at the courthouse, Bike Day was a bit of a dud this year.

Meanwhile, early one morning at the UMass pond I came upon a mother duck sleeping by her ducklings.

A little further on I came upon a crane, but it burst into flight just as I touched the shutter.

Yesterday morning I listened to the the John F. Kennedy Middle School Jazz Band performing in Pulaski Park in Northampton. According to the their website, the JFK Jazz Band is "for 7th and 8th grade band students who play saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, piano and drum set that are looking for a new challenge and are interested in playing jazz and some pop music." As you can hear below, there is considerable talent in that band.

Hey everbody, have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

UMass is for the Birds

The first rays of the rising sun appear around the bend on the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

With all the rain lately, the UMass ducks have puddles big enough to play in.

The big bird news on campus is the birth of the first falcons born to the pair that live on the roof of the UMass Library.

However, a different bird story is unfolding at the opposite end of the building, down in the courtyard in front of the library, where campus bands sometimes perform for people eating lunch.

At one such concert recently that I watched from indoors, I was intrigued to see caution-tape on one of the doors leading to the courtyard.

Imagine my surprise when I realized the tape was intended to keep people from using those doors and disturbing a bird's nest that had been built resting on the bar to open the door!

Sure enough, checking back after the concert, I saw there was a red-breasted Robin sitting in the nest.

The Robin must have been a first time mother, who in her inexperience did not realize what an unsafe place she had chosen to construct her nest. I decided to check the courtyard each day to see whether the attempt to nest on a door entrance bar would be successful. Two days later, I saw the first pale blue egg had been laid.

The next day there were three!

What on Earth! The next day there was four!

The weather was not co-operative, with rain and wind almost daily, but without fail each day I would find the Robin dutifully protecting her eggs.

Finally, a few days ago the eggs were gone, replaced by a pink, pulsating blob of baby birds.

They have changed markedly in just a few days, acquiring feathers and moving around. This morning I saw this seemingly smiling beak looking up at me. Looks like the Robin family is gonna make it. Congratulations Momma Robin, despite the weather you did it against all odds!

Elsewhere on campus, a giant puppet marched past the Old Chapel on Founder's Day.

In downtown Northampton, Jimi rocks the window.

Also seen in a Hamp window - who is buying these obnoxious votive candles?

Finally, keeping with our avian theme:

Bird on a wire over King Street by Dann Vazquez

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Hot Heads

All was not mellow at this year's 28th Annual Extravaganja, and not just because the event was marred at times by a steady downpour of rain. Organizers of the combination drug law protest rally and cannabis culture vendor fest were annoyed by changes made to the event this year by the host city of Northampton.

For the first time attendees were required to pay a $5 entrance fee, through a ticket which had to be bought online prior to the event, and there was increased security around determining the age of participants. The city also put a limit on how big the event could be, limiting ticket sales to 12,000. The 2018 event attracted an estimated 15,000 people.

The rain made certain that attendance limit was never reached, but the new restrictions did raise eyebrows in civil liberties circles. The question is whether the event is primarily a political protest rally against unjust drug laws, or just a big party needing strict supervision so it doesn't get out of hand. As radio dude and ACLU attorney Bill Newman noted, if the event is primarily political, then restricting the size of the protest and demanding ID's and an entrance fee raises First Amendment questions.

Many are suggesting that since the event originates at UMass, the Extravaganja should be held somewhere on their campus. However, the University has always balked at that suggestion because they fear they could lose federal education funds if they appear to formally endorse a drug that is still technically illegal on the federal level.

In any case, the primary organizers of the event, the UMass based Cannabis Reform Coalition, have vowed that they will not hold the event in Northampton next year, and a site in Holyoke is reportedly already under consideration. Speaking for the angry stoners, Extravaganja founding father Terry Franklin urged the crowd to punish Northampton for harshing their mellow by refusing to support Northampton Mayor David Narkiewicz if he seeks re-election.

On a lighter note, an allegedly clueless non-stoner decided to attend the event and make a video, with humorous results.

Hey, look who I ran into at the Haymarket yesterday. McGovern was in town to make a speech at UMass.

I also ran into my neighbor Ruthie the Pedal Person, who was out gathering the trash downtown (without burning one drop of oil) with a spring orchid in her basket.

It saddened me to see a dumpster in front of Sam's Pizza, where workers were cleaning the joint out. I hope a type of establishment similar to Sam's moves in.

Finally, a misbehaving umbrella gave me a challenge recently.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hobbled Hampshire

My wanderings over the past week have brought me to the campus of Hampshire College. Here's Johnson Library, a really cool place.

In fact "a really cool place" is a phrase you often heard about Hampshire College in general over the past half-century. But lately, not so much, at least when it comes to finances. Hampshire appears to be hobbled by a life or death fiscal crisis as the college president and several board members have abruptly resigned.

However, as I traversed the gorgeous Hampshire campus, hands-down the prettiest of the Five College system, I could detect no sense of impending doom. This sign announcing a pro-abortion conference, however, may be one small symptom of what has gone wrong.

Like a lot of Liberal Arts schools, Hampshire's once famously free style has been choked by political correctness. Good grief, even their gym has a pro-abortion sign overhead!

For some reason, people appear to be reluctant to spend over $50,000 per year to be turned into an unemployable social justice warrior so buried in debt you have decades of monthly bills as big as a mortgage payment - except you don't have a house. Hampshire's problems are just the symptoms of a wider crisis in higher education, which is that colleges today have become absurdly expensive, indoctrinate more than educate and do a poor job of preparing students for productive lives.

Only when this changes will students once again be willing to go to college in sufficient numbers to sustain small colleges like Hampshire. Right now, the smartest kids are avoiding college altogether and just plunging into whatever interests them, learning their field from the bottom up. Such people do not remain on the bottom for very long, and they by-pass all the leftist hooey and ruinous expense of what passes for a college education today.

Hampshire may be fading, but already gone is the Northampton Faces, a Valley commercial fixture since its origins decades ago in Amherst. The day after they closed, a mysterious wreath appeared in their doorway.

Lo and behold, it was a sympathy wreath from Packards, the bar around the corner.

Northampton's downtown business environment is the most cut-throat in the Valley, as merchants compete for dominance in our area's most successful downtown market. But bonds of friendship still form across the business district, and whenever a member goes down, the whole commercial community is saddened.

On a happier note, UMass had their literary bake sale, where students make funny and punny spoofs of famous books. This is so corny I had to laugh.

Never has a chocolate cake looked less appetizing.

Meanwhile, I was in arty mode this weekend as I attended an opening at the Oxbow Gallery on Pleasant Street in Hamp.

There was a good crowd.

I was never previously aware of the joint, but I'll be back.

The gallery undoubtedly gets its name from the nearby Oxbow section of the Connecticut River, which was painted by Thomas Cole in 1836 and entitled, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm. Learn all about this Pioneer Valley masterpiece in the video below.