Sunday, June 26, 2011

Downtown Northampton Sunday Afternoon

 Buskers in transit.
He is one of the sweetest and kindest guys out there but his version of Yellow Submarine, often heard in front of Thorne's Market, is exactly the same song as his take on Bob Seger's "Turn The Page"....or anything else he plays. Only the lyrics change. It's remarkable that he has absolutely no sense of time signatures or song structure  and makes chord changes on a whim if at all. It is beautiful in an outsider art way, and yet he breaks my stride and   triggers my heart murmur and my fillings hurt and sometimes I feel a vein twitch on my forehead.
Stevie Ga Ga in his Sunday best. "Can you get bagpipes on Freecycle?"
Josh and Roger making the donuts at Turn It Up!
King Crimson fans pay attention. The 2011 Two Of A Perfect Trio tour comes to the Iron Horse on Saturday, October 1st. The tour marks Adrian Belew’s and Tony Levin’s 30-year anniversary with King Crimson. Here’s how it will play out: Stick Men; Tony Levin, Markus Rueter, and Pat Mastelotto will play a set of their music. Then the Adrian Belew Power Trio; Adrian, Julie Slick, Tobias Ralph will play a set. Then Tony, Pat, and Adrian will play a few King Crimson songs as a trio. Then both trios will take the stage for a glorious set of King Crimson music including pieces from the double trio era, two drummers, two stick players, a bassist, and a guitarist. Here's the link to the Iron Horse schedule. You can scroll down to the date.


For some, letting it be is just not enough. Perhaps she's into composting?

Trashy novels weren't the only books marketed in the campy exploitation style of the pulp fiction paperback.  Raven Books on Old South Street offers t-shirts sporting the pulp paperback covers of some classic novels.
But if you can't help being trashy, there's a sexuality section filled with intriguing titles including this spread from "The Art of Eric Stanton: For The Man Who Knows His Place." 

Corner of King and Main. Cross at the sound of the cuckoo.
"People tend to stick to their own size group because it's easier on the neck. Unless they are romantically involved, in which case the size difference is sexy. It means: I am willing to go the distance for you." --Miranda July
The Silver Lady  
(by Suzanne Vega 1974- when she was 14)

When I was a little girl
Younger than nine or ten
I once spoke to the Silver Lady
But I never saw her again.

To me she flew out of the sky
She was born riding on the water
Her hair blew all around her
She was the crazy man's only daughter.

 (Lyrics continued here) 


Spoleto's Independence Day window welcomes you to the restaurant with an explosion of patriotic lumber.

No Explanation 
(Copyright 1999 by James Tate. Published originally by Rain Taxi.)
Down the street they are pulverizing the old police station. They started by crushing it, then they beat it, and then they proceeded to grind it up. I walked by it just a few minutes ago. All that's left is a mountain of wood chips...."Where are the policemen?" I asked one of the workers. He pointed to the mountain of wood chips and said, "We never saw them." I walked on thinking about Officer Plotkin, how he'd arrested me when I was guilty, and he he'd come to my aid when I'd needed him. I stopped and looked back over my shoulder. I longed to be arrested, to be saved. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Downtown Northampton Saturday Morning

When the "Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa" show comes to town, Al is always prepared to create some improvised electric tape "Z's" on one side of the marquee. See if you can spot them when you walk by.

Good promotion never sleeps. Michael Kusek is making things happen on a Saturday morning in front of Silverscape Design. 

The one man Tea Party bravely stands his ground in the belly of the progressive beast in his mirror shades. The big question, of course, is what is on his iPod? Ted Nugent? Eckhart Tollee? Regardless, under these circumstances his message is loud and clear and limited to:  I don't want you to look into my eyes. I don't want to hear what you have to say. I don't want to talk to you.

 Preaching to the converted. They should strap their iPods on and head to Springfield.

Adin and Llama are tying the knot this summer. It looks like Llama just tied one for practice. Is that a noose?

 Carolyn vending grins and greenery at the Farmer's Market.

Candace, renowned photographer of this blog's masthead panorama, with the zukes.  

The new police station will include an Olympic sized swimming pool so the officers can stay in optimum crime-fighting condition.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Laughing Dog Bicycles. John Dwork's Skateboard. Ni Carborundum Illegitimati.

Parker Ramspott has owned and run Laughing Dog Bicycles in Amherst since the days when Henry Rollins was in Black Flag doing shouted word, not spoken, and downtown Amherst still had more of its own spark. In fact, I think it started as a skateboard shop; the punk rock answer to Doug Dale's shop Peloton.  Yesterday, as I bought a bike from him, we bitched like the old men we used to make fun of about "kids today" while his 20-something employee Jessie affixed a basket to my new cruiser. Jessie quipped from the back, "if you two are so smart why are you so old?" He had a point.

Parker, who does his best to compete with bigger stores on Rt. 9 and elsewhere reported that Nat across the street at Amherst Books was getting online textbook orders from UMass Amherst students that wanted him to ship the books to their dorm, one mile away.  Come on kids. Take a walk will ya? I hate to be overly sentimental but I'm a little bitter about the struggles of some of my favorite local "mom and pop" shops in the wake of the closing of Pleasant Street Video.  Not that they deserve to prevail just because they're locally owned. In fact, with so much at stake you'd think some of the local stores would be a little nicer to their customers. I would have bought my bike in Northampton if the shop I visited recently even feigned some interest in helping me when I stated outright, "I am here to buy a bike today" and hung around for a while to wait my turn.  And don't EVEN think that I am one of those cloying Valley types that wants a clerk to get up on their hind legs and bark for me to win my patronage. At Laughing Dog in Amherst, you don't have to beg.

Note the Latin above the logo: Ni Carborundum  Illegitimati (roughly: Don't let the bastards grind you down.) Parker know his bikes and you can tell because he uses phrases like "your tires are a little roached, man." I bought a sweet Gary Fisher bike from him and rode back to Northampton on the ever more lethal and notorious bike path made of broken glass which, while certainly a sad and embarrassing state of affairs, generates a considerable amount of tire repair business for the local bike repair industry. Parker says a shard he pulled out of one tire bounced off his retina which, even more horrifically, made a clicking noise as it did so.

Okay, please gather around, be silently reverent, and behold:

No. Don't touch it. NO. Don't even look at it.

Hanging over the Laughing Dog door is an impossibly awesome golden age of skateboarding (Tony ALVA, not Hawk era) Sims Taperkick longboard with Tracker wides and OJs. It's like Action Comics #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15. And it belonged to the legendary John Dwork who most people know as "the dude who majored in Frisbee at Hampshire College" though of course there are no "majors" at Hampshire and the 1984 degree was technically called "Flying Disc Entertainment and Education."  John was also the editor of the Deadhead bible Dupree's Diamond News (his more credible answer to Relix) and the author of the three-volume Deadheads Taping Compendium.

Parker always has some sonically joyous music blaring in the workshop and said I should check out some bands for my radio show:  the Dirt Bombs who used to be The Gories and Soft Pack who used to be The Muslims. At our age, the bands we loved are already onto their second or third incarnations.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Westerly Hauntings

A couple of years ago the word "westerly" began chanting itself in my head. Like a random song, it got stuck there. (Though when those "random" songs get stuck, pay attention to the lyrics and you'll often find a reason why it stayed with you. Of course it might just be the insidious hooks of ABBA.) When I would write anything it would jump to the front of the line. "Westerly," it said.  "Westerly westerly westerly! Westerly." I didn't think too much of it. My mind is of the monkey variety and is on an endless Wonka boat ride; in a perpetual state of shuffling cards and whirling compasses. It's a windstorm of words and images and ideas in a sort of maniacal spin-art that occasionally comes together at just the right moment and allows me to utter something practical like "hold the mayo" or "Happy Birthday!" I am also able to do my own taxes and laundry. Beyond that sometimes I think it's a miracle I've made it this far. Maybe I haven't.
I curated a poetry reading at Forbes Library a few years ago and created a limited edition chap book with a selection of the five poets' poems and, indulgently, some of my collages. I made 26 of them out of road maps I'd picked up at a tag sale,"numbering" each with a letter of the alphabet on a field of red Holden Trading Stamps (not as popular as the S & H Green Stamps many of us may recall our moms collecting in that endless lick-and-affix-a-thon with visions of toasters and food processors dancing in their eyes). As I folded the very last map into the pocket shape and affixed the letter Z and the tape to the edges,  the town's name staring up at me from my work table on the map was Westerly, Rhode Island. I am trying to figure out who actually owns that particular copy but here is edition # J from the series, just to give you an idea of what the design was:

My friend Dave and I joked about taking a trip to Westerly to see what would befall me, but we didn't, laughing it off as folly; me secretly terrified.

Last night at the William Baczek Gallery in Northampton while waiting for Godot (aka an order from Local Burger where they might want to rethink their slogan: "It's not fast food... It's good food fast!" or maybe just change the name to "Rip Van Winkleburger") I was drawn to a piece by Connecticut painter Joshua Smith in the corner. As I stared at it, something emerged that I hadn't seen for a while. Have a look.

 No, look more closely.

When I got home I GOOGLED: "Jim Neill Westerly" on my partner's computer and it returned this ominous top result:  James Neill (Deceased).

Now on my OWN computer as I attempt to recreate the result for this post, it comes up with something about Intrauterine Insemination. I know that Google searches will yield different results on different accounts based on search histories etc., all the better for Google to market to you for their advertisers. Hers comes up with me dead. Mine with making babies, if in an indirect fashion.

Well, then.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"I lied about being the outdoors type." - Evan Dando

Click logo above for A.P.E. Site
"Steve Snell's Alaska Wild! & Other Adventures in Contemporary Art"

At APE on Main Street in Northampton it's hard not to do a double-take when passing by. This huge painting in the entrance reminded me of the moon two nights ago and this inspirational shirt I saw on Amazon:

This shirt has inspired thousands judging by the customer reviews here.

Here's the deal on the actual APE exhibit after that bit of ....inspired frivolity:

First, he floated down the Connecticut River on a couch boat.  Then he met Alec Baldwin while journeying across the State on a ‘Thesis Quest’ for his Master of Fine Arts degree.  Now, he is back from an adventure to the Alaskan wilderness, and prepared to share with the Pioneer Valley all that he has learned and experienced on these adventures, which he identifies as ‘art’.

Beginning June 17th and running until June 30th, 2011, local adventure-artist, Steve Snell, will exhibit an installation of video, sculpture, drawing, and painting at the A.P.E. Ltd. Gallery at 126 Main St. in Northampton.  This exhibition will feature three separate adventures that seek to explore the mediated and physical reality of American popular culture and the artist’s relationship to it.  Snell has searched for meaning in the mountains of Western Massachusetts all the way to the wilds of Yakutat, Alaska.  He has floated rivers, walked backcountry roads, flown over remote glaciers, and kayaked into distant, pristine waters.  He has found eagles, otters, beavers, CNN, abandoned cabins, lost dogs, kind strangers, Alec Baldwin, and art.  Now visitors can have these experiences for themselves via this mediated installation at the A.P.E. Ltd. Gallery.
A closing reception will be held on Thursday, June 30th from 5 PM – 8 PM.  Then, Steve Snell will vanish from the Northampton arts scene on a new, yearlong adventure into the deep south of the United States. He says he will return one day and claims “you haven’t seen the last of Steve Snell” (his voice slowly trails off).

Gallery Hours for this Exhibition:  Daily: 12-5,  Fridays: 12-8

Visit A.P.E.

A.P.E. at Window
126 Main St.
Northampton, MA 01060
Phone: 413.586.5553
Fax: 413.586-6819

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday - Thursday, 12-5 pm,
Friday & Saturday, 12-8 pm,
Sunday, 12-5 pm,
Closed Monday 

To view a preview of this installation go to:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Daily Hampshire Gazette Feature

It's always a surprise when my casts out into the sea hook a little "mainstream" attention, dating back to the letter that Marvel Comics printed in Marvel Team-Up #54 back in 1976 when I first moved from Maryland to Amherst and discovered that the outside world included me if I chose to participate in it. Thanks to Phoebe Mitchell for noticing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Two Northampton Institutions Ride Into The Sunset

It seems that after nearly 30 years (I think) our beloved Pleasant Street Theater Video store will become Northampton Wools in a matter of weeks. Rumor has it that the Forbes Library is interested in buying the amazing collection of films that has provided so many households with well curated evenings of cinematic joy, horror, thrills, laughs, groans, panic, and even utter disgust. (Did anyone rent Centipede? Yuck!!! The middle segment would definitely be the worst even though #3 got the least nutrition.) Let's hope so. the collection should remain in the town's bloodstream and if it helps increase traffic at Forbes, then all the better. There are no more video stores in Northampton. Thanks, technology! ! I will miss the conversations with Dana, Bill, Philip, Gene, Jennifer, Patty, Chris and the rest as well as the communal rapport that regular customers developed. It's the kind of store where people would feel free to offer unsolicited tips (or warnings) to total (or partial) strangers. Even the staff would discourage me from renting a movie sometimes. Not because it necessarily sucked but because they knew I probably wouldn't like it. Because they knew me.   So thank you, Pleasant Street Video staff, for your years of service and movie lists and good advice and wit and friendliness. (Painting by Robert Sweeney)

Back in the mid-80s, after a late night out dancing at the Northstar Seafood Bar to DJ's Jim McDee or Scotty Dread, or thrashing to the Pajama Slave Dancers and Watch The Teeth Kate at Sheehan's, everyone who was anyone showed up for breakfast at Jake's, which used to stay open until 3AM on weekends.  Aside from ditching the late night hours, Jake's stayed the course and remained largely the same for all these years. Frills? Never had 'em. Never will. This Wednesday is the last day of business as usual at Jake's so come in, get a turkey club, maybe with carrots instead of chips, and say goodbye. After all these years, the black and white photo of the most regular customer, Bruce, must come down. 

And what ever became of the Father's Day poster?

After I took this photo, someone bought one of these last two shirts right off the wall.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beneath the Planet of the Return of the Night of The Living Dead's Chainsaw Massacre on Ice starring Lady GaGa and Sarah Palin as Search Engine Magnets

Life in the Nohodome has been in suspended animation for many months and with this post I intend to revive the blog and henceforth post several times a week. The goal is to record impressions of daily life in Northampton, Massachusetts in text, pictures (click for high resolution), and video. A travelogue without the travel. A man on  the street who peers down the alleys. A concierge at large.

The Gang's All Here

  One of a Kind

 Mother's Day 2011

Parting Shots

Fellow Local Blogger Tommy Devine. 
Check out his Cosmos Report.