Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Last November, the marijuana store opened in Northampton.

The volume of customers was so great that they had to set up porta-potties outdoors for those waiting in line, which of course had to be cleaned periodically.

In any case, one of the great advantages of marijuana legalization is that you no longer have to smoke it, you can eat it instead, which sidesteps all the dangers that come with huffing the stuff into your lungs. I've tried a number of the edible products available, and these Lumens (essentially gum drops with a kick) are my hands down favorites.

I don't take them very often, and I am certainly not the druggie I used to be - thank goodness - but I do take marijuana candy. Hey, what can I say? Marijuana is the only drug that never bit me! If still getting mildly stoned sometimes makes me a loser and a weakling, then I can only state the wise words of that immortal philosopher Popeye the Sailor:

I yam what I yam.

Based on my own research, here is a guide to Lumen dose levels:

Take 1 gum drop: You'll smile.

Take 2 gum drops: You'll giggle.

Take 3 gum drops: You'll laugh hysterically.

Take 4 gum drops: You'll trip balls.

Take 5 gum drops: You'll never do that again.

One of the risks that come with smoking pot or tobacco is the chance of getting lung cancer. Passing by the old courthouse this morning, I came across the charity campout for the Cancer Connection, an organization I whole heartedly support, as both my parents died of lung cancer.

The event is put on each year by radio dude Monte Belmonte, who always dresses up for the occasion, this time as Elvis. The burning barrel is because it is so freakin' cold out today!

The King did not arrive in a pink Cadillac, but this will do.

This is not the first time that Elvis has appeared at that location, as seen in these 2009 pics. That is not Monty, but Elvis is sorta like mall Santas, they're everywhere!

Here is an appearance by an Elvis in Northampton in 2016.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Dave V.

I regret hearing that longtime Springfield politico Dave Vigneault has died at the age of 82. Here's a picture I took of him years ago that the media has stolen and spread all over the place uncredited. Oh well, at least they steal from the best.

Dave was easy to get a picture of because it seemed he was everywhere, as if no local political event of any importance ever occurred that he was not in attendance. His activism was of a passionate but humble sort, I remember him setting up chairs in the Pine Point Library for a debate between Brian Lees and Frankie Keough, despite the fact that he had once been the State Representative for the Pine Point neighborhood. Dave was supporting Keough, who would later go to prison on an array of corruption charges. I was not a fan of Vigneault's political career, nor were most Pine Pointers at the end of it. Vigneault was a strong supporter of the disastrous school busing program imposed on the city in the early 70's and most of the residents of Pine Point were furious with him for it. Media accounts said he left office because he felt "burnt out" but the truth is he had by that time become unelectable.

Next to the closing of the Springfield Armory, the busing program was the single greatest contributor to Springfield's tragic decline. The resulting white flight sent people who had lived in Pine Point (and throughout the city) fleeing for the suburbs, permanently changing those neighborhoods as the city lost a big chunk of its upper and middle class taxpayers. With 20/20 hindsight we can now see that none of the Utopian fantasies of racial harmony through busing actually came to pass, while all the negatives that were predicted, like white flight, neighborhood destabilization and erosion of the tax base became all too true. Dave Vigneault's political legacy will forever be tarnished by his role in supporting that ruinous policy.

The truth is you could generally count on Dave to be wrong on nearly every issue, which apparently was true to the very end, as it has been reported that he was out campaigning for Bernie Sanders at the age of 80. Yet, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, here is Dave in front of the former Pine Point Library holding a sign for Charlie Ryan in 2005.

Some of the media coverage described Vigneault as a "reformer" but I always considered him an inside player. It takes no courage whatsoever to be a liberal Democrat in Western Massachusetts. (Yesterday I saw a student walking across the UMass campus wearing a red MAGA hat - THAT takes courage!) Vignealt was indeed fully embedded in the local political machine, and those of us activists who were working to clean up the incompetent and corrupt Democrat machine in Springfield never counted him as an ally. His posthumous statements of praise read like a Who's Who of the political elite, including none other than William Bulger (brother of Whitey) who was probably the least reform-minded Senate President you could imagine. Indeed, Vigneault actually worked for Bulger at one point. I wonder if Vigneault ever overheard Bulger taking phone calls from his fugitive brother in his Senate office, as suggested by the FBI? If so, Vigneault carried that info to his grave.

I don't think Dave fully approved of me, although he was always very nice when I would go to the polls and see him standing outside, usually holding a sign in each hand for entrenched establishment figures we true reformers were trying to throw out of office. But in the long run Dave Vigneault will not be remembered for his misguided views, or the legislative record that enraged his constituents, or the insider games he played with the power players. Dave Vigneault will be remembered instead for being that guy that was always around the scene, helping in small but meaningful ways to make the political process work. Vignealt's death comes less than six months after the loss of a similarly once ubiquitous figure in Springfield politics, Mildred Dunbar. Like her, Dave was often the first to arrive and the last to leave an event, always willing to do the unglamorous grunt work of democracy without which it cannot function. I fear we have too few activist role models like Dave and Millie today, and we still need them.

Meanwhile, I took a video out the bus window the other day, just as a protest was forming in front of City Hall over the national emergency declaration to build a wall on our southern border.

Monday, February 11, 2019

On Kasich

Last Thursday former Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke at Amherst College. I was there.

The crowd completely filled the 600 seat Johnson Chapel. It was great to see so many young people interested in hearing a political speech. They say kids today are turned off by politics, but I don't think that's true, as evidenced by the turnout for Kasich's speech.

Kasich was in some ways on friendly turf, as Amherst (and neighboring Pelham) supported Kasich in the 2016 primary, which otherwise went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.

The speech went on a bit too long, but was redeemed by its uplifting message of can-do optimism. I was surprised by how many religious references he made, I hadn't thought of Kasich as particularly religious before. Of course, hanging over the event is the constant speculation in some quarters that Kasich might challenge President Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020. Massachusetts homeboy William Weld appears poised to run against Trump, but few believe Weld would be more than just a gadfly running a vanity campaign.

Kasich, on the other hand, would be a serious contender, although he would still be regarded as highly unlikely to win the nomination from Trump. In any case, Kasich gave no indication in his speech that he is entertaining such plans, and no one asked him about it in the audience questioning session. Kasich declined to take questions from the local media.

Over all, I was impressed by Kasich's speech and now think better of him than I did before hearing him in person. I would not, however, support him over Trump if the President runs, as expected, for another term. But should Trump not run due to health reasons or whatever, who knows what the GOP ticket would be?

Upon the woodland way.

What is this sports car race image doing in the window of the Hampshire County Law Library?

Icy moon on Main.

Owen uses music to unleash his rage all over our Valley.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Kitty Flashback

I recently came across this essay from January 2014 about the passing of local broadcast pioneer Kitty Broman. It's been out of print, so I decided to give it a permanent home here:

Former local media mogul and TV talk show host Kitty Broman has died at the age of 97.

In many respects Broman was a pioneer in television broadcasting, at least in the sense that she was often the first woman to hold certain positions in the broadcasting business, which in its early days was overwhelmingly dominated by men. My sainted grandmother was a fan of her program “At Home With Kitty.”

But even granting her that status, the substance of her work was often very light. As I explained once in the context of the first time I saw The Dan Yorke Show:

I had never seen local programming like that. The only thing remotely comparable was a local interview show that ran for a hundred years on Channel 22 called “At Home with Kitty”. It was hosted by Kitty Broman, a likeable enough gal but frankly her only known qualification for hosting the show was the fact that she was part owner of the station.

The soundstage was set up to look like a living room, with a couch and cups and saucers set up on a coffee table. She even wore an apron. The illusion they strove for was as if the guests had stopped in for a cup of tea with Kitty. It was an unintentionally hilarious program, which showed the lamest puff pieces about local politicians. It almost seemed to be a rule that no controversial topics were allowed. I think many people used to watch the show just to make fun of it.

What impressed me about Yorke was that he didn’t seem to be interested in a topic unless it was controversial. He didn’t try to avoid confrontation or debate, instead he embraced and encouraged it. He wasn’t afraid to put a guest on the spot and he did not try to make them feel that they were attending a tea party. I recognized that in a journalistic sense Yorke’s show was breaking new ground….

Kitty Broman and her husband Bill Putnam presided over the Valley TV scene at a time when disastrous decisions were made in public policy and corruption in public offices was rampant. Instead of working to expose those follies and villains, they played an insider’s game that ranged from cynically self-serving to mindlessly cheerleading on behalf of the region’s power players. In this Kitty was very much like her male counterparts in the local journalism of her era. Their legacy and hers is forever tarnished by the stories they didn’t tell.

Included with the prior essay was these pics taken of Stan's Drive In, a former fruit and vegetable, stand as seen from the bus in 2014. The building, and the beautiful tree beside it, were destroyed last Fall after having been abandoned for about a decade.

This 1995 video shows Stan's at around 2:50:

View from the steps of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College