Saturday, June 18, 2011

All Over

The Place.

I'm not sure what to make of this statement I pass every day in downtown Northampton.

Forget the future? That seems like bad advice, because that is where we have to live the whole rest of our lives. Quarantine the past? The past is where we have learned everything we know. What I think the person who wrote that graffiti wants to say is that we should be more appreciative of the present, which after all is the only place we can be at any given moment, but that appreciation of the NOW does not require rejecting the future or the past.

Past, present or future it is wise to appreciate all aspects of our lives, since we never really know how long our life will be, as UMass band leader George Parks learned when he died suddenly last year. However he is not forgotten, his image still hangs in the doorway of where the band used to practice.

Of course to live one must eat, and many this weekend are eating at the Taste of Amherst, one of the few such food festivals still around. Northampton and Springfield used to have big taste-of festivals, but abandoned them years ago. All year round it is a good idea to dine at the legendary Amherst Chinese.

However to eat food you must first grow it, which has been made difficult by all the rain we've been getting, as evidenced by this flooded tomato field in Hadley.

No matter what you do, your life may end because of bad weather, as happened tragically in our Valley recently. However not only has Springfield had to endure a devastating tornado, but it's been followed by a plague of pestering, preening, posing and posturing politicians, all wearing their caring compassion on their shirtsleeves while promising to fix the taxpayer's problems by using the taxpayer's own money. Here's a pack of pols in Springfield last week as captured by S.P. Sullivan.

Everywhere people are just people, but my neighbor questions our definition of people.

Some people make music, like Jerry Garcia's friend David Grisman.

Some people make music and appear on magazine covers, like Northampton resident Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth on the cover of this week's Valley Advocate.

Some people in Northampton have poor math skills.

Other people in Northampton have a golden glow.

Some people who follow sports are very happy this week, as evidenced in the window of Dick's at the Hampshire Mall.

Spotted on the bus this week.

This guy on the street in downtown Northampton showed me his snake. He said he caught it in Granby.

Someone set a trap for a Hamp Hipster!

I should do less reading and more doing.

I freaked to see a deer in my neighbor's yard the other morning. I got my camera out just in time to capture it before it bounded back into the woods.

Better a deer than what Hamp music scenester Cher Lovestrong found visiting her backyard!

A cliche comes to life in Hadley as a chicken prepares to cross the road, for reasons known only to itself.

The Tuesday Cooks Band performs at the Amherst Survival Center.

Good morning Hadley.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blowing Smoke

Toker Volunteers Unwelcome?

Yesterday Kai Price made me aware of this complaint filed with the Monson Police over the way a volunteer, helping with recovery from the deadly tornado that roared through our Valley earlier this month, was treated by local police officers:

On Jun 10, 2011, at 4:24 PM, "subversive01057" wrote:

I do not want to discourage anyone from helping with the tornado volunteer cleanup effort. The town has been devastated, and we can still use all the help we can get. And overall the police have done a tremendous job. However I wanted to report that I am about to file a compliant with my town of Monson, MA, as follows:

Sometime around 10pm on the evening of Tuesday, June 7th, Will of Amesbury, MA, was outside the Unitarian Universalist Parish of Monson, which had been affected by the tornado, dropping off some extra slate tile donated from elsewhere, with the fore-knowledge of UUPM minister.

Will had heard about the tornado in the news, saw the devastation on TV, and being a tradesman/electrician, he thought he could help and he packed up and moved to the Monson campground and worked as a registered volunteer around town for a week, including at the UUPM, where he made a real difference. At the time, three of his chainsaws had been well used by the First Church of Monson and were in the process of being repaired by him.

Given the rubble outside the church, the time of day and the looting that has occurred in town, this constituted suspicious behavior, and Will was stopped by the Monson Police Department, questioned, and his vehicle was searched. In my mind, this was all very reasonable (with the exception that Will's glove compartment may have been damaged during the frenzy of the search). The Monson PD does an excellent job of helping residents feel safe and secure in their homes and businesses.

Will explained his presence, presented the Rev. Jackson on his cell phone to the officer involved to corroborate his presence, and as no evidence of looting was found, Will was not arrested.

In the search of Will's vehicle, the officer found a small amount of marijuana. It seems that as a result, Will was ordered to leave the town limits of Monson immediately under police escort and threatened that should he ever return he would be subject to immediate arrest. When he explained that he was staying at the Monson campground and that the medication he was under made it seriously unsafe for him to drive, he was told that he would not be allowed to stay there and must leave Monson immediately.

The Monson PD should be very well aware that following overwhelming voter approval that in Massachusetts, simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable only by a maximum $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana. The penalty for possession of marijuana does NOT include being run out of town. Will has had a challenging life and was deeply emotionally hurt by being (unofficially?!) trespassed from the Town of Monson and denied the opportunity to help further, especially after he had just donated a week of volunteer labor and had done nothing that would warrant this banishment.

The Monson PD has responded incredibly well to a challenge that few police could have ever imagined that they would be called upon to face. The widespread tragedy of this tornado, combined with the heat and the long hours, make the generally magnificent response of the Monson PD in the past week all the more heroic.

However sometimes mistakes are made--I've certainly made mistakes in my life, and I'm sure that nearly everyone else has too at some time or another. The way Will was treated is deeply appalling to me as a Monson resident and home-owner (and please note that I am not nor I have ever been a member of the UUPM), and I would like to think that it was just a misunderstanding. Surely this was not the instance of prejudice that it appears to be. And when mature adults make mistakes, what they are called upon to do is man-up (or woman-up), admit to the mistake, apologize for the mistake, and reasonably try to rectify the situation.

Today Kai Price released the following update:

Lesson learned: file the written complaint.

A half hour after I dropped off the form the police sergeant stopped by and explained that it was all a big misunderstanding, Will was not trespassed at all and is welcome to come back to volunteer without fear of police harassment, and the problem was that his associate/passenger did not have ID, gave sketchy answers to questioning, and they were both in an area where looting had been reported and it was late at night.

You may now return to your regular programming.

Despite the way Kai Price bends over backwards to praise the police, is this really a happy ending? Unanswered questions remain. Would the police have backed off if no complaint was filed? When they realized that there had been, in their words, "a big misunderstanding" why didn't they contact the person involved on their own and apologize instead of waiting for a formal complaint to be filed? Does the glove compartment damaged in the search need to be repaired, and if so, who will pay for it? The police justify what they did by claiming to have been searching for looters, but was everyone stopped in that search given a police escort out of town?

This incident is hardly the most earth shattering local controversy, but it does clearly illustrate the tendency that law enforcement still has to overreact in instances where marijuana is involved, despite the fact that the drug has been nearly legalized. To prevent further such overreactions in the future, the best and most effective way would be legalize marijuana entirely.

Meanwhile, fascinating videos from the June 2nd tornado continue to surface. Here's an amazing one showing the dangerous scene as severe winds strike a downtown Springfield parking lot. Notice how a car moves just in time to escape deadly debris that soon strikes that spot.

There was some dark clouds and thunder and lightning this past week, but thankfully nothing like the violent storms of the week before. Here's some of the electrical show the other day over Holyoke as captured by Greg Saulmon.

Mary Serreze caught these dark clouds hovering over Northampton City Hall.

My neighbor assembled these stones on his front steps in accordance with a feng shui pattern of good fortune.

Happy UMass summer school students.

Kurtis and Rob are traveling in style to the Amherst Survival Center.

The following feelgood video was filmed entirely in Amherst.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


All was calm reflection when I crossed the mighty Conneticut today at dawn.

Springfield's South End really suffered a lot of damage, as captured in this S.P. Sullivan photo.

At least the damage was natural, rather than political. Nothing in nature ever devastated the South End like the idiotic decision to build the highway on the Springfield side of the river - where it wiped out a huge section of the neighborhood, destroyed the Barney Estate and isolated the city from the riverfront - instead of building it on the other side, where there was mostly just woods. But then the politicians and their friends would not have been able to make a lot of money on the dirty real estate deals surrounding the land takings for the road.

I was in Amherst during the storm, where the sky got really dark and it poured rain like crazy, but we never saw the heavy winds up here like they did in the South Valley. In fact before the storm it was an unusually warm spring day, as evidenced by this thermometer on the Greenfield Savings Bank.

I was in Greenfield with my friend Damon who was doing his patriotic duty by paying his parking fine at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Only it turns out you don't pay parking fines at the courthouse, instead you have to go to City Hall. Inside is this wall painting of the pilgrims discovering Greenfield.

Meanwhile at Amherst College they were having a reunion, and it looks like the class of 1999 has been busy in the bedroom!

This week while riding down the woodland way into downtown Northampton I swerved to avoid what looked at first to be a large stone in the road!

Getting off my bike to check it out I went, "Whoa, that's no rock!"

Messages in the window of Broadside Books in downtown Northampton.

This guy must be a joy to know.

Don't forget, tornadoes are not the only ones to cause trouble.