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.