Friday, April 9, 2021


Congrats to these Massachusetts state legislators for having the wisdom to vote against the terrible new "climate change" bill.


With all the pot shops opening lately, this t-shirt is no lie. 

Truckin' through downtown early one morning....

I passed the old Faces novelty shop. It has been closed for a long time now, but its closing had nothing to do with the foolish lockdown policies that have devastated so much of the downtown economy. 

Faces left town months before the pandemic to relocate to more upscale digs in the Hadley Mall. 

Anyway, while walking past the shuttered shop, I noticed a little blue something sitting on the store's window sill.

Oh wow, it's a rock painted like a bug! 

Even more intriguing, there was a message stuck on the bottom of the bug. 

I hate Facebook, which is always trying to censor me these days.

But I did check out the Facebook page referred to, and discovered that these Connecticut based Rainbow Grove Rockers have been planting rocks of various styles all over western New England for a while now. 

Annoyingly, there was one painted in support of the haters Black Lives Matter. Shouldn't they have painted "Black Rocks Matter" instead?

Never mind, it's a cool project with the good intention of spreading a little surprise and whimsy in the world. Now I am faced with the decision of where I should place my little blue bug so that it can continue its adventures by being found by somebody else. I will keep you updated.  

Here's a blast from the past from the old South End. This joint was run by relatives of the former Mayor of Springfield.

Too bad I was too young to see this.

Dann Vazquez chooses life. 

Big close-up photo of Congressman Richard E. Neal in the Boston Globe last week.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tucker's Valley

 View up the street from my backyard after the snowstorm last week.

Snow ducks.

Canadian geese returning north stop to rest on the ice of the UMass campus pond. 

Meanwhile, Smith College can't stay out of the news, in a bad way, ever since an investigation into an alleged racist incident at the college showed the charges to have been bogus. Jumping into the fray is Tucker Carlson, arguably the most influential right of center commentator in America now that the legendary Rush Limbaugh has died.


Carlson approached the issue from a class perspective, comparing the upscale Northampton with its decidedly more working class neighbor Springfield. Tucker's tale of two cities portrayal of Springfield is not a flattering one:

"Springfield, Massachusetts is one of the toughest cities in the United States, but it was not always that way. Basketball was invented in a gym in Springfield in 1891. The first gasoline-powered engine was built there, as were Indian Motorcycles.

As manufacturing died, so did Springfield, which devolved into a sadly familiar kind of American landscape -- drugs, violence, waves of impoverished immigrants. On Wednesday, a man was shot to death on Main Street.

Springfield is a tragic place, but it's also a living metaphor. Fewer than 20 miles away is another metaphor, the town of Northampton. Northampton is as well-kept as Springfield is fraying. Northampton doesn't have manufacturing, it has something better: Smith College, an all-female liberal arts school that used to be impressive years ago. Whatever its academic merits, Smith is rich. That's why Northampton is pretty and Springfield is not. Smith has an endowment of almost $2 billion. A year's tuition there costs more than $75,000.

Who do you suppose has more privilege? The people of Springfield or the women of Smith College? One place is famous for burned-out buildings and murders. The other has wrought-iron gates and a nationally known art museum on campus. So Smith has more privilege, correct? No, not correct. The ladies of Smith are oppressed. They are victims. You know who's oppressing them? The kind of people who live in Springfield."

Of course, Springfield isn't the only Valley city to get a bad media rap, like this videographer who describes Holyoke as "The Most Dangerous City in Massachusetts." Really? The city with the ugliest public housing architecture maybe, but not the most dangerous.

Me reflected in the pedal people orb.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Boycott Hate

 Footsteps and tire tracks upon the woodland way into downtown Northampton. 

I'm cool with this sign. 

I like this one even better.

But if you put up one of these, I will make a purposeful effort to avoid giving you any business.

 And I'm far from the only one boycotting places that show support for the racist, cop-attacking, Marxist hate-group Black Lives Matter.  Me and many like me don't want to give money to haters.

And in the latest manifestation of leftist inspired racism in our Valley, check out this chilling video by a former employee of Smith College.  

Springfield Armory Museum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Brian Turner

 According to these Dann Vazquez photos, fluffy white hats are in style this season in Northampton, at least among the statuary. 

I'm sorry to hear about the passing of Brian Turner, a Smith College professor, historian and cartoonist originally from the 16 Acres section of Springfield. 

To view a cartoon about the time he ran for class president at Duggan Jr. High School click here

Brian was also a fan of The Diary of J. Wesley Miller and we sometimes exchanged correspondence over it. At one point he told me about a Springfield historical project he was starting with Marsha Montori about an eccentric local writer who was also a teacher at Duggan Jr High in the 1960's:

 The genesis of our research/writing project was the Classical High School Class of 1967 reunion in October 2011.  I met Marsha, my writing partner, for the first time since 1971 and immediately fell to talking with her about our favorite teacher at Duggan, circa 1961 -- Harriette Michaels.  

Marsha had stayed in touch with Harriette and worked with her on her memoirs of her life and marriage  and her teaching and social work, based on interviews and also  "I Remember Herbie" columns that ran for years in the Springfield Journal.  Marsha sent me the files, and I read them with great interest, finding myself especially drawn to the descriptions of growing up Jewish in Norfolk, Virginia, her life-long love for her husband Herb, also a teacher, their ecstatic arrival in Springfield circa 1952, and her hair-raising work with the Chapter One/Title One program to recruit poor children into a federally funded school program.  She had to go into the homes of some of Springfield's most dysfunctional families, and her tales are pretty amazing.  

Well, Harriette's gone now.  And Marsha wasn't sure what to do with the material she had.  But she was in touch with their daughter, and I suggested that we write Herb's story as well, because he was quite a character.  We received access to his World War II letters and letters he sent home from his years in Illinois where he worked toward his Masters Degree while living separately from Harriette and his children thanks to the Post-World-War II housing shortage.  A true love story, with corny Jewish jokes.

Then I convinced Marsha that we need to understand the city into which Herb and Harriette arrived with so much hope in 1952, because the city has certainly changed very drastically since then, as we both know.  This led me in particular to pursue my interest in the "outsiders" of Springfield.   Harriette and Herb were regarded as pretty kooky, even by their friends.  They were pretty left wing, Jews of a nonobservant sort, children of poverty and hard times.  Yet they felt at home in Springfield, so what accounted for Springfield's reputation for tolerance of deviation, I wondered, because they arrived here with that reputation in mind.  

According to Stephen Innes, author of Labor in a New Land, Springfield was always a community of distinct individualists, even at its founding, albeit individualists who started out under the thumb of the dominant Pynchon clan.  But then William Pynchon himself managed to write America's first heretical book!  Now, as you well know, and as you have documented for years now, Springfield has long been ruled by a fairly small coterie of insiders, certain families, certain institutions.  

In this it may not be all that different from many American cities.  But the people who run the city seem to have made some really terrible decisions over the years, and the management of the city has only grown more incompetent, short-sighted and corrupt.  (Casinos, anyone?)  

OK, much of that is J. Wesley Miller's great subject, and yours as well.   But as I do my research, I find myself wondering how the triumphs and challenges and bad decisions of the past contributed to the city's current sad state and whether things might have been different.  I doubt I'll be able to answer that, yet the question haunts me.  

Marsha grew up on Talbot Street; after 1961, I lived around the corner on Birchland Avenue.  But from 1949 to 1961, I lived in what is now Mason Square, so I am drawn to the history of Hill-McKnight, the mixing of the races, such as it was back in the day.  I feel as if I am "going home" when I do this research or write about it. Anyway, I have enough work to do on this project and others to keep me occupied for several lifetimes.  And you have your blog and Miller's Diary.

Let's keep in touch,  


It's a shame that Brian didn't get those "several lifetimes" he needed to complete his many important historical, literary and artistic projects. 

Flag at half-mast at Smith College in honor of Brian Turner. 

This is the UMass Minuteman during this week's snow storm. 

Here I am at the Hadley Mall the day after.

Finally, I leave you stuck in a recent traffic jam in Springfield. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Bucket Man Kicks the Bucket

 I am sorry to hear that one of downtown Northampton's most colorful street musicians, "Motown Bennie the Bucket Man" has died after a long illness. In 2011, Bucket Man, whose real name was Bennie Johnson, was featured on the cover of the Valley Advocate

 In his prime, Bennie was the best known busker (musical panhandler) in the upper Valley. Unlike some in his profession, Bennie actually had talent, and his soulful singing and sunny demeanor made him one of the few Hamp panhandlers the business community actually approved of. 

Although he played for coins from passerby, Bennie was really more about giving than taking. He was a real angel of the street scene, always keeping an eye on people and seeing if he could help them. Bennie was a very astute observer of people, and could tell things about them from a quick observation. The first time I spoke to Bennie was when I was straight off the bus from the institution and just wandering down Main Street. "Whatta you outta," he yelled to me as I passed him, "the jail or the nuthouse?" He laughed when I answered, "Both!"

You could also find Bennie at political events, if the cause was in some way related to the needs of the street folk. Here he is addressing the Northampton City Council decked out in his gold spangled Elvis in Vegas cape. 

If Northampton ever recovers from it's overly restrictive Covid policies, and downtown is no longer a ghost town, no doubt the buskers with their guitars, drums and gazoos will return to play on the streets of Hamp. But none of them will ever be quite what Bennie Johnson the Bucket Man was, and I'm not talking about music.

Finally, here is hands down the winner of The Most Awkward Political Picture of 2020.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021


Due to the senseless lockdown rules, businesses have been closing in downtown Northampton at an alarming pace.

Yet, there are still many places in the Northampton/Amherst area that remain open and well worth checking out. Dig this antique record player on display in the Miss Florence Diner.


The view out the window of the Subway in Amherst. 

I had a cup of chicken soup at The Blue Wall at UMass.

While there, I read the latest issue of Prime Magazine.

The lady on the cover looked awfully familiar. Oh yeah, it's Kathy Pellegrino! The article focuses on her career as a writer of murder mysteries, for which she has won awards. 

However, one thing the article somehow failed to mention was that Pellegrino also comes from a deeply connected Springfield political family and was herself a scandalous figure back during the Albano years. In 2001, Pellegrino, who held an appointed position in city government, was accused of collecting two salaries at once in a financial scandal that inspired this biting Bob Rich cartoon in the Springfield Republican

 I wish Pellegrino well in her literary endeavors, and it brings me no pleasure to revisit her scandalous past, but as a detective in a murder mystery might say, "Facts are stubborn things." If you've forgotten the sordid details, refresh your memory with this article Springfield and the Culture of Greed.

Smoke with me baby.

106 Breckwood Boulevard - October 2003