Saturday, December 15, 2012

Coca Cola and Cupcakes

After hours at Eileen Fisher.

The best Coke is from Mexico. This is Dara at Sam's Pizzeria holding a bottle of Mexican Coca Cola. (Thanks for agreeing to the photo, Dara.) I'm not a big soda drinker, but when I do indulge in the classic pizza and coke combo, I now prefer Sam's Coke of choice bottled in Mexico using cane sugar instead of corn syrup for sweetness. My mom used to buy six packs of the green glass 6.5 oz. bottles in the '70s and the promise of one gave me all the motivation I needed to mow the lawn. When I tasted the Mexican Coke for the first time recently, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. It was the real thing.

The Thorne's Market Photo Booth is back in order. The only other one I know of in the area is in Faces right across the street. That thin black and white strip of 4 photos will always be an iconic (refrigerator) art form. They've been usurped by digital cameras which provide immediate (overrated)  gratification but I remember when they used to an important part of the dating ritual. How many of us posed with someone on a first or second date and look at the photos now years later and see some combination of hope, fear, and remarkably smooth and tanned skin? If you both agreed to get in the photo booth,  it was an early yes vote for the relationship. Or at least assurance that you were at least willing to sit on each others' laps. Usually a good sign.  The forced proximity was an alibi for intimacy.  I  still smell pheromones and photo chemicals when I think about Sandy L. and me in a photo booth after seeing E.T. at the mall. Waiting together for the photo was a sneak preview and a dress rehearsal for our togetherness. It taught us patience  and required that we stand there together and ponder what we had just committed to film and to each other, while behind the peely walnut grain papered photo booth wall, the developer, stop bath, and fixer combined, reflecting our own chemistry. Waiting too long. Was it broken?  Was it a sign? But then PLUNK.  Immortalized x 4 regardless of what was to come.


The Queen Bee Cupcakery on the 2nd Floor of Thorne's Market is now a reality. But they aren't the only game in town. There's Woodstar of course and The Haymarket to name just two others who openly deal cupcakes. This morning I also kept passing people on the sidewalk eating cupcakes and soon thereafter spotted the SugarBaker's Cupcake Truck parked out in front of Jake's.  Cupcakes are a manageable, portable size for enjoying while also engaged in bipedal locomotion and there's something about eating a cupcake in the open air that just feels right. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


In Northampton, and probably elsewhere, people will go out in public wearing clothes that were really meant to stay in the environs of the home and one's own family. Perhaps because downtown really can be a very comforting place and people often do feel like they're at home. Main Street is really just the hallway outside their bedroom on the way to the kitchen to get coffee...or a bag of wine.

Sadly, Ultra Gal is folding up their sparkly gown and calling it a day. Who will be FOE's new downstairs neighbor? Maybe they'll move downstairs themselves? The rent must be much more reasonable where they are but that one flight of stairs will deter a huge percentage of the retail "Walking Dead" just as being on a side street does. I wonder which factor is the bigger deterrent to casual customers, the 2nd floor or the side street?

The Chris Gentes view of Henry's Book Store.

The actual Henry's Book Store, opposite view.

Keith, Mick, Pete, Neil, Leonard. 

Judy, Carole, Shawn, (Robert &) Patti, Patti. 

Musicians write autobiographies but do authors and poets make albums?
Whose album would you like to hear?
Sylvia Plath? John Updike?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flyer Frenzy! Things to do of interest and intrigue discovered on selected posters in Northampton.

Meat for Tea in collaboration with RANT traveling gallery and Sonelab present an evening of music, art, spoken word and more featuring the music of Thick Voltage and Tovarish, art from Kristilyn, Rick Beaupre, Christina Gusek, Adam Mulcahy and and Eric N. Peterson, spoken word, and more to celebrate the new issue of Meat For Tea: The Valley Review. $5 Suggested Donation.  SONELAB 142 Pleasant Street Easthampton this Saturday, December 15th from 7:30 to Midnight   Facebook Event

The 8th Annual Stars & Skulls Crafty Craft Fair Saturday, December 15th from 1pm to 7pm at the World War II Club at 50 Conz Street in Northampton. Organized by PVRD's co-founders, Pink Panzer and Bazooka Joe, Stars & Skulls is the Valley's original DIY alternative craft fair. The fair will feature dozens of vendors selling locally made jewelery, clothing, toys, tasty treats, housewares, comics, and much more! If you're looking for unique and affordable holiday gifts, look no further.  PVRD will also have a table where we'll be hawking merch and other goodies, and to answer any questions you might have. Curious about PVRD? Want to become a member or just profess your undying love? Talk to them at the Crafty Craft Fair! As always, admission and parking are free.

Smith College MFAS Dance Event: Everything's all already alright is this Thursay December 13th at 7PM at Scott Dance Studio in the Gym. This annual fall performance will feature new works by first year MFA candidates: Shaina Cantino, Sara Coffin, Safi Harriott and Mat Elder. It’s always a crowd-pleasing event with limited seating so plan to arrive early. Tickets: $1.00. Reservations are highly recommended due to limited seating, to reserve please contact:

Amherst Winter Farmers Market every Saturday through March (except 1/19) 10AM-2PM at Amherst Regional Middle School 170 Chestnut Street  

Mike is a reputable, friendly guy and a great drummer. But you need reading glasses to see the phone number on his tear tags so I will save you aspiring skins-men and women the eye strain: 413-348-1841 or

This landscaping service exhibits a lot of personality and lists a San Francisco area code. Given that it's time to shovel snow, not mow, I'm not really sure what to say here but thought it was worth sharing if only for its graphic impact.

And another event and gallery worth knowing about: (Click FOE logo for more)

A night of Q&A with Bwana Spoons

FOE hosts their first ever crazy fun experimental Q & A w Bwana Spoons

Bwana Spoons: High Party

December 14-January 6. Opening reception Friday, December 14, 6-9pm.
Portland, OR artist and wizard Bwana Spoons leaves his Grass Hut and heads East to visit FOE’s tree house in the happy valley.

We Are Having A Heavenly Time: Columbia Bicycles of Westfield

Here are two vintage Columbia bikes parked in front of The Antique Center of Northampton. Did you know that Columbia Bicycles has local roots In Westfield?  Colonel Albert Pope, a captain in the Civil War, founded Pope Manufacturing in Boston in 1877 and sold bicycles imported from England. In 1878 he joined forces with the Weed Sewing Machine Co. and started manufacturing bicycles in Hartford.  Pope died in 1909 at the age of 66  and in 1914 the main offices were moved to Westfield as The Pope Manufacturing Company.  In 1916  the company reorganized and renamed The Westfield Manufacturing Company. The catalogs stated that they were “successors to The Pope Manufacturing Company”.  In 1961 the company was renamed Columbia Manufacturing Company. It remains to this day making the tubular school furniture that they began making in 1953. Since 1988 bicycle production in Westfield has been limited. The reproduction 1941 and the blue 125th Anniversary bike were made in the Westfield plant. They continue to sell a Columbia line of imported bicycles. In 2008  several of the original factory buildings in Westfield were torn down including the main building on Cycle St. and the building that housed the museum.
 Salesmen in front of the Hartford offices with Chainless bikes.

The Westfield factory in 1948, above

The Famous Westfield Pope Smokestack

In 2008 several of the original factory buildings were torn down including the main building on Cycle St. and the building that housed the museum.

Judging by his resemblance to my friend Mike Huntoon, I'm guessing Richard B. Huntoon, Comptroller, pictured above, is Mike's dad! Mike was in early '80s W. Mass punk band The Vandalz among other assorted combos.

From 1876 to 1906 American engraver Frank Leslie published “Popular Monthly” magazine. In the November 1881 issue he ran an article titled “Bicycle-Making Where and how bicycles are made. This involved an extensive tour of the Hartford Connecticut factories of The Pope Mfg Co. and their offices in Boston Massachusetts. Presented here (click the Popular Monthly mast-head.) is that article including the illustrations.

A whimsical ad for Columbia, above. Caption reads: "WE ARE HAVING A HEAVENLY TIME !" Note the Pope Manufacturing name on the sign. This image was used for an R.E.M T-shirt in the 80s, below.

Mr. Columbia: A Website run by a Columbia Bicycles buff.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Copper Blue 20 Years On

Twenty years ago, this album changed my life, literally. In 1991 Bob Mould visited the Rykodisc offices on Pickering Wharf in Salem, Mass. with a DAT in his pocket. The twelve of us that comprised the label's East Coast headquarters gathered around John Hammond's office with Bob and sat in stunned silence for 45 minutes as we listened to Sugar's "Copper Blue" from start to finish. I had spontaneous tears in my eyes as the wrenchingly beautiful opening track "The Act We Act" dramatically changed octaves halfway through, like someone making a passionate argument grabbing your shoulders and pulling you even closer. When it was done, we knew we'd heard a masterpiece of rock. We felt a sense of purpose as young music lovers who were amazingly in a job where we would get to take this work of musical art to the world. It sounds overstated, right? But this was real. I was 28. "Jaded" wasn't in my vocabulary. For most of 1992 I quarterbacked a radio promo team that took the album to #1 on the alternative charts. I accompanied Sugar on the initial dates of their first tour. Bob, Dave Barbe and Malcolm Travis played loud, hard, and precisely, and no one who was at those shows doesn't rank them among their top lifetime concerts. I drove Bob around Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle visiting the trades and radio stations. HITS, Album Network, Gavin, KROQ, Live 105. In LA I was overwhelmed and turned the wheel of the rental car over to Bob who knew the sprawling city I had never even visited inside out. Ironically, thanks to Bob, I would become an LA resident a year later. In February of 1993 in San Francisco I won the Gavin Award for "Independent Label Promotion Director of the Year" largely based on Copper Blue's epic run. A job offer from Rhino Records in Santa Monica followed. At 30 I moved to West Hollywood and kicked off an eight year stretch of life that would be hard to match for fun, satisfaction, and growth. Now back in Northampton, as I listen to Copper Blue, it sounds as fresh and new as ever and my eyes still tear up during The Act We Act. My path with Bob crossed again earlier this year when he played a solo show at the Iron Horse and we both shook our (grayer and balder) heads that it was 20 years ago. I still love finding music lovers that haven't heard Copper Blue and turning them on.