Sunday, April 27, 2008

The high school kids are back from New Orleans

Back from New Orleans, where about 45 high school students and chaperones helped build houses over the school break. A good time was had by all, they said.

Just a couple more vintage slides...

Kathy's First Communion. I wonder what the presents are the kids are carrying and who they're for.

Kathy, Billy and me with a great hat.

Something old and new

Flowering trees on Amity Street. Might as well admit that while Nicky was in Louisiana helping rebuild houses with a group from the high school, this week, Brian and I, wastrels that we are, did a tour of some of our favorite area restaurants, beginning with Apollo Grill about which I've already reported, followed by the Windowed Hearth at the Lord Jeff -- We were the only people in the room, where we sat by the fire -- and last night, Food 101 in South Hadley, which always has a bustling atmosphere that makes you feel like you're somewhere trendy. We also saw two movies -- "Baby Mama," which was thin and perfunctory and "Smart People," which was moving and had some great performances from my favorite Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Hayden Church, Ellen Page and Dennis Quaid, although the plot was a little contrived.
Downtown Amherst was bustling with Earth Day and Arbor Day activities on Saturday.
I tried to make a short movie featuring this bee on Main Street, but it was a very lively bee.
We found hundreds of slides when we were cleaning our family's old house in Pittsfield, last weekend. I'm going to try to scan them, but in the meantime, I took some pictures of them in front of a light bulb. Here's me, my mom, Billy, Kathy and little Eddie at the beach in 1968. No doubt it was Eastham, Cape Cod, where we rented a small cottage for a week every summer. I've loved the beach ever since.
Billy and Kathy. I wonder if kids still use these little walkers.
Me and Billy on First Communion Day.
Kathy and Mike and the great beyond.
Kathy, me and Billy on top of the world.
Flowering trees on Amity Street.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

We venture from the People's Republic to Easthampton

And so we find ourselves in the pleasant city of Easthampton, to check out Apollo Grill, where the decor is vintage space program.

Eastworks, the old Stanley Home Products factory on Pleasant Street, where the restaurant is located, is a very trendy place, with artist studios, a grocery store and the Registry of Motor Vehicles among other tenants.

This rag-tag spaceman points to the restaurant.

The food was great and quite a bit more inventive than most places. I love the plates made by Evelyn Snyder, of Kaleidoscope Pottery in Easthampton, my coworker Kevin Gutting's wife. My sister Kathy and I both love her traditional leaf patterns. These have the leaves pressed into them along with stars and rockets in keeping with Apollo's space exploration theme.

There's a great collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers displayed throughout the restaurant and on the tables.

Meanwhile, back in the Republic, trees are in blossom everywhere (as they are, notably, in Easthampton). This is a form of magnolia, according to Brian, along my running route on Amity Street.

I picked up my incomparable coworker Phyllis Lehrer at the airport today and she regaled me with stories of all the art and gardens she saw in Italy and Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I was late picking her up, because it never occurred to me that the terminal she would arrive in would be other than the first one I drove up to. Phyllis did not complain one bit. As I was too late to get a shot of her arriving back, here is one of her leaving, Amherst Bulletin in hand. She planned to have a photo taken of her holding it somewhere in Europe.

My brother Billy drinking a strawberry mojito in the backyard before last night's brief but impressive thunderstorm.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I was struck when I walked out of the office around 5 p.m. by the fact that the willow trees around the building had all turned bright green and were swaying in the breeze.

I'd had an epiphany earlier in the day while I was on the Nordic Track, thinking about Tom Devine's blogpost about all the archival stuff Ken Kesey had saved that no one has ever gone through to "sift the wheat from the chaff," as Tom puts it. It occurred to me that the recurring dream I have of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning rooms could be compared to my work as a reporter, which consists a lot of sifting through pages and pages of notes and boiling them for better or worse into a "story."

This weekend, my siblings and I sifted through stacks and boxes of stuff at my family's old house in Pittsfield that we are getting ready to sell.

I found this Lebanon Valley Speedway jacket that used to belong to my uncle Eddie, who died when he was 33 years old in a car accident. He was very charismatic and my dad, who was his brother, was in awe of him, but he was, my dad always said, a "sociopath." He was a nurse and I believe he taught nursing, but the story, as I remember it, was that he never actually got his nursing degree. On the front of the jacket, it says "Doc," because he was a medic at the raceway in West Lebanon, New York, which is right "over the mountain" from Pittsfield.

This is a keeper. My sister Kathy about 40 years ago (the smallest girl in the picture) after winning a trophy in the Harris Cup race at Bousquet's ski area in Pittsfield. The Harrises, seen in the photo, were a legendary pair of skiers who began their long careers on the slopes telemarking, I believe, an old-fashioned way of skiing that I think is trendy now in some places. But, as Brian's mother always used to say ... Don't quote me.

My father was always excellent about dating and saving things like this Berkshire Eagle story about a pumpkin my sister Maureen helped grow when she was four years old. I was surprised to see the writer didn't include any direct quotes which would be my inclination. Now Maureen has an unusually clever little daughter Meghan, who I quote often. Just Saturday she said to me, "I'm five and I can't even read."

Some of the many pieces of vintage glass and dinnerware I've compulsively bought at Goodwills and tag sales over the years.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Scenes from Pittsfield

Spent the weekend in Pittsfield, where I was kind of haunted by the Gregory Crewdson photographs of my hometown that Brian and I saw last weekend in New York City. Here's my niece Cora at Dunkin' Donuts on Tyler Street. I'm not a Dunkin' Donuts aficionada but my brother Billy who lives in Washington D.C. loves their coffee.

Billy and nieces Cora and Meghan at Luau Hale, a Chinese-Polynesian at 569 Pittsfield Rd., Lenox, where both my sister Kathy and I used to work. I wish I had tried to capture its exotic atmosphere with blue lighting, a painted full moon and Hawaiian scenes. Actually the decor seemed toned down since the days when I used to work there and I don't think they were playing the characteristic Hawaiian lounge music that was always on -- almost 30 years ago now! It's still one of my sister Maureen's favorite places ever.

Kathy and Zena at Richmond's Bakery, now a Salvadoran bakery/cafe near Wahconah Park.

Holy Family Church, where Kathy got married.

Hot Dog Ranch on 20 Linden Street as well as Teo's on 1410 East St. serve mini-hot dogs with chopped onion and chili on them. Very popular with some people.
A lot of empty storefronts downtown.

On the right, is the Lantern restaurant. I don't think I ever ate there, although I talked about going there often enough.

Kathy, Billy, Cora and Zena.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Laissez les bon temps roule

Saw Nicky off to New Orleans at 8 a.m. He's going on a student-organized trip to build houses with Southeast Louisiana Disaster Recovery and staying at the Kenner First United Methodist Church, in Kenner, La.
Love this Dag Hammerskjold quote the Methodists included in the literature explaining the relief effort:
"For all that has been -- "thank you."/ For all that will -- "yes." --Dag Hammerskjold
Co-organizer Mike Parham (center), is making his fourth trip; his father and he drove down with three other kids last year.

Forty-five kids eventually squeezed into four vans.

Turns out Bob Hepner, an art teacher at the Smith College Campus School, is one of the drivers. I met Bob, whose daughter is on the trip, during the recent elections in Amherst. He was the one driving an "animatronic puppet" vehicle as Larry Kelley called it, in support of Chrystel Romero's unsuccessful bid for School Committee.

Hepner's truck.

Nicky should be able to find his van, since Hepner painted this rose on the side. None of the other vans seemed to have one.

Bob helps pack every last backpack and sleeping bag in. Nino Figliola, who has been Nicky's friend since thy met on the school bus in Kindergarten, in the foreground. Happily, they are in the same van.

Packed like sardines in the van. Mike's father threw in a guitar at the last minute.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Warm spring day

Trees in bud along my jogging route on North East Street.

Won't be long now.

Corner of Gray and Main streets. Someone described it somewhere online as a parking lot for houses on the move.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Things that move in Amherst

I would never say if you've seen one house-moving you've seen them all. But I was not tempted to stay downtown for a long time to watch the third house to move in a year make the trip to the corner of Gray and Main streets. This one, which had journeyed from as far as South East Street, in two halves, was the first one covered in plastic.

Instead of watching the house move, I saw a Cambodian monkey dance at Fort River Elementary School in celebration of the Cambodian New Year which was April 13th. There are about 150 Cambodians in the Amherst area, Seiha Krouch, who leads the Cambodian after school club told me, their numbers having grown from a relative few who relocated here in 1983. Seiha said the fields and cows remind him of Cambodia.

Seiha Krouch, who moved here from Cambodia about 20 years ago when he was 11, and son.

Photo by the Gazette's legendary photographer Gordon Daniels of the amazing Catherine Sanderson teaching double step class at Gold's Gym. I attended a class, so I could write a story about it for the Bulletin. I'm researching another story about fitness on "Body Tailor" Josh Lebow, whose beautiful studio is in the same building as my office. He's given me some tips already, suggesting I take fish oil, stop eating wheat and -- this is the really hard one -- stop drinking beer. I'll let you know how it goes...