Sunday, November 30, 2008

Easthampton, I believe in you.

Easthampton Downtown, circa mid-1800's

Easthampton, oh how I loved you when we were young. You were the intense, quirky, dirty-kneed factory-working wallflower that I noticed and instantly fell for; I did—and still do—far prefer you to the more flamboyant cheerleader types.

This is the start of an interesting, articulate, and heartfelt essay on the current state of affairs in our little hamlet of Easthampton, Massachsetts. You can read the rest HERE at my good friend Trace Meek's blog. He shares his thoughts and feelings on the current sign controversy, his fears on unchecked expansion, even the flag that hangs over the pond all summer. The survival of the small town, indeed, is a slippery slope. How to maintain the charm and relaxed 'know the name of your mailman' look and feel without scaring away the ever-important business element (translation: the element that keeps taxes down, brings people to town to walk around, spend money, and want to live here).

While I'm tempted to defend my open flag (sure, it's tacky but people get used to seeing it flying, and when it's not there, they often become conditioned to assume you are not open.), Trace makes some great points. I'm proud to have been at least a tiny part of Easthampton's current reinvention. It's not easy to make it in a small town. Sure, the rent is nothing compared to Northampton, but as the nearly a dozen business-owners I've seen come and go on Cottage Street alone since I got here five years ago will attest, cheap rent doesn't guarantee success. On the contrary, you have to work even harder to drive in your own customer base. People aren't going to pop in for a coffee after their walk to Faces or Urban Outfitters, after all.

Easthampton is a great and beautiful place to live. The people are genuine, hard-working, caring folk. Sure, there are signs of growing pains and false starts. But I think that's just part of the process of reinvention. You've got to try a few things before you get it just right.

Or as Trace pleads...

Please, my beauty, consider what’s ephemeral, what’s permanent, and what is potentially damaging on many levels. Realize the weight of your every decision. If you’re feeling sentimental, go into Big E’s and look up at the enlarged images of the way you were more than 100 years ago. Recognize some of that beauty in your current self, and strive to retain as much of it as you can!

I believe in you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Goodbye to the Flag, hello to the Ice.

As you can see, the view of Mt. Tom from the 'west bank' of the Nashwannuck Pond is unobstructed once again. Seeing the American flag flying majestically over the pond is cool for a while, definitely around Memorial Day and even through July 4th, but I do miss being able to take shots of Mt. Tom that don't have to be Photoshop'ed to restore the natural view. How do you feel about that flag? Just curious.

I'll try to hold my commentary on that topic, especially since tension is already high with the city's crackdown on all the evil and hazardous sandwich boards in town.

On a lighter note, here are a few shots from today's little stroll around the pond. And another one of my nature videos.

Last I read in the Gazette, dredging of the pond is set to commence within a couple weeks. Perhaps we can consider these 'before shots'... You can be sure I'll be out there capturing all the dredging action. It's hard to imagine the pond all emptied out. I will miss the ice fishing action this winter. And the occasional skate around on the rare spell when the ice is smooth and snowfree.

And a short video, as promised...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Dessert Push.

Some people have stress dreams about work. When I get stressed, like when Thanksgiving rolls around and I have to make 85 pies in two days, this is what I dream about...

Poor me, right?

In any event, I realize it's gotten wicked cold on us all of a sudden, and the ten degree windchill doesn't exactly put everyone in the mood for a tasty frozen dessert, but that doesn't mean you don't still need a fine dessert to finish off that giant Thanksgiving dinner you've got coming up in a few days.

In case grandma's apple pie isn't enough variety for your table (don't forget the handpacked homemade vanilla ice cream ;), might I suggest a few ideas...

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Pies.

This morning, I 'installed' this year's version of the Wing Travel sign. Man, was that a cold project. My landlord demoted me to the 'heading toward Northampton' side of the sign this year, which I hope doesn't cut into this year's pie orders. Alas, but beggars can't be choosers. That sign sells, and hopefully the other side will too.

If pumpkin pie ice cream isn't your thing, how about a cashew turtle pie (see mouthwatering photo above)? Deer trax? Strawberry cheesecake? Skybar?

Did I mention the cool new flavors we've got right now? How about Gingerbread ice cream? Gingerbread base with gingersnap cookies and a caramel swirl, mmm.

As always, you can see the specials we've got going at any time HERE

Mocha chip makes a return this week after a long absence on account of a key ingredient that was on backorder since June.

I'm even planning to try my hand at a batch of basil ice cream tomorrow (Sunday)... Stop by to see how that one turns out. Curious?

I just picked up some other interesting flavor samples too. How does Boysenberry ice cream sound? Buttermint? Not even sure what that one is yet. How about a cup of cosmopolitan sorbet? So many flavors, so little time... Actually, I do have time now, or at least I will after the Turkey day prep week.

Come help me finish off some of the current specials to make room for a few new creations!

Ok, I'll end my holiday sales pitch now. Thanks for indulging me on my indulgences.

If you don't see me here until after the turkey and cranberry is passed around, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mountain Park.

I was doing my usual surfing around today, and I came across, via, a local blog called Mt. Tom Billygoat. Once you get beyond the giant picture of a billygoat, there are a couple interesting posts on subjects related to our watchdog neighbor, Mt. Tom. The entry I read today was about the old Mountain Park. Unfortunately, as we all know, that little amusement park ran into financial hardships long before the invention of the bailout and is now just a colorful chapter in a Jay Dusharme novel . You've probably heard about and perhaps even taken a spin on the Mountain Park merry-go-round that was relocated to downtown Holyoke after a million dollar grass routes fundraising effort a few years back.
But this is the first I've read about some of the other rides and where they might have ended up... Here are some more. Has the feel of a person donating their organs after they pass, with their various parts ending up as someone else's essential parts. A bit of a morbid analogy I suppose, one that I blame on my current read, Stiff, by Mary Roach, but if you can picture a teacup ride and not a kidney, I think it works.

It must have been a cool little amusement park. According the Jay's site, Mountain Park had six fun houses and what looks like a pretty sweet wooden coaster. It even had a casino. Check it it out here too - Lots of Jay's Photos

A couple more shots I lifted from undisclosed sources..

They even had greeters on stilts.

And one other interesting local blog on the topic - Mountain Park blog entry. Some great photos and links here too.

Well, I guess that's enough surfing and jumping for one entry. My apologies to your boss.

Guess we'd both better get back to work...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

RIP Tom.

Tom, 2 1/2, Fish, First Official Mascot of Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream

Easthampton - Tom the beta fish, 2 1/2, of Cottage Street, Easthampton, passed away and was flushed away on November 18th, at Mt. Tom's ice cream shop.

Tom was the finned mascot of Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream, beloved by scoopers and customers alike. He got his name from one lucky and creative customer who won a 'name the fish' contest and took home a swanky Mt. Tom's giftcard as the prize. Tom was a laid back character with a keen wit and a penchant for flaky, dry beta food flakes. He didn't say much but was always there with a vacant look and a good fin flap when your spirits were down. He never did get to fight any other beta's, but occasionally Jim would play the Rocky theme, and Tom would swim around his bowl really fast to create a whirlpool, then switch directions and try to swim as fast as he could the other way, fins flailing. He was an inspiration to everyone who met him, and he will be sorely missed.

A brief service was held in the bathroom of Mt. Tom's before Tom began the watery journey to his final resting place. Donations in his memory may be made to the Beta Fighting Fish for Peace Fund.

2 1/2 years, that's pretty good for a fish to live in a bowl, don't you think? I'm not sure what 2 1/2 is in human years, but I think it's safe to say Tom lived a full life.

Things didn't look so promising for his successor yesterday. Tom II, Tom Junior, Tom the 2nd spent his first afternoon enroute to his new home in what might be considered a fairly hostile environment for a fish. As you can see by the photos below, Tom II quickly discovered he wasn't in Petco anymore....

Fear not, Tom II was never left unattended and fared his introduction to Bre's cat Styx just fine. Here he is enjoying his first swim in the new digs. A mansion compared to that little bowl he's been living in for 'only a guy named Bill wearing a Petco badge' knows how long...

In the interest of full disclosure, I was planning to just get another blue-colored beta, toss him into a fresh bowl, and pretend nothing ever happened. Then I found myself standing in front of a couple dozen betas in little bowls, and I just liked this one. I was fairly certain someone would have noticed Tom's transformation which no doubt would have led to a host of conspiracy theories, whispers, and hurtful rumors. And I just thought Tom I deserved more than that.

On a lighter note, the crew and I welcome Tom II to the fold, and I hope you'll stop by to say hello soon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


What would a diary about ice cream be without an occasional cow sighting. To the awkward animal that makes this all possible for me...

This happy family was spotted in that big pasture on the hill over on East Street. Mom cow was keeping a close eye on me while I snapped shots of her new offspring.

Hope you're enjoying the wacky tropical weather. Tornado warnings tonight, what the?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Did I read that sign right?

Saw this gem of a sign on Florence Road today, just past the turn off of route 10. Hardly the sign you’d expect to see in a ‘city’. Granted, ours is a city of just 16,082, with just a few remaining ruralties (I think I just invented a new word), but even if I passed this sign 38 miles north of the Vermont border on some desolate, cow-field traversing dirt road, I’d still have done a double-take, pointed, then laughed about it for the next 57 miles. A sign well worth completing a u-turn for a photograph, a noteworthy event in itself given the difficulty we males have at both asking for directions or turning back for stuff. I must admit, Bre was driving, which made the actual act of going back for this photo three powers of ten more likely.

Shot in hand, or camera as it were, the next step for its eventual ascension to blogdom was to brainstorm a story to go along with. I only slightly regret not going into the barn to witness and perhaps photograph the sign-worthy donkey. It’s not that I doubted it was a ‘very nice’ donkey. It’s just that I couldn’t shake the wonder of what makes a donkey very nice or not so very nice. Perhaps Santa knows, but to me a donkey is a donkey, although I feel pretty confident I could identify a crappy looking donkey if one darkened my door. But a very good donkey, I guess I should have paid more attention in that 4H Big E farm animal tent last month. Do a shiny coat and a pretty smile make it very good? Is she soft like a baby’s bottom? Or is she truly just a very nice donkey -courteous, polite, caring, and quick with a compliment and a kind whinny after a tough day? Couldn’t we all use a few more very nice donkeys in our lives.

From there, the thought process went downhill. If you thought that was even possible. The marketing side of my brain kicked in and thought, “How much faster could they sell this animal if they’d only chosen to advertise it as ‘Very Nice Ass for Sale’”. You can bet I would have made time to wander into the barn to check that one out.

This begged the question I’m sure we’ve all pondered at one point in our lives, ‘What is the difference between a donkey and an ass anyway’? To which Bre upped the ante, ‘don’t forget about mules and burros.’ Unlike me, she already knew a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey. The rest would have to wait for a private consult with our friend Professor Google a little later in the day.

So with the help of Dr. G and Ask Yahoo, here’s what I’ve learned on the fascinating topic of mules, burros, asses, and donkeys…

A mule is what happens when you leave a mare and a jack alone in a candlelit stable with a little smooth jazz playing from the barn.

A jack is just a male donkey.

A donkey is a domesticated ass. So what is an ass anyway? Lest you think me one, let me tell you. An ass is related to the horse, just smaller, with longer ears, a shorter mane, shorter hair on the tail, and a dark stripe along the back. Just like the person we call an ass is related to the human, just more annoying. A jackass is a male ass. Or that guy from MTV who makes movies of himself jumping off a building and into a kiddie pool of whipped cream and bacon grease. The difference between a jackass and a donkey is simple – the ass is wild; the donkey is domesticated. And to finish our wannabe horse lesson for today, the burro is a small donkey often used to carry overweight tourists into the Grand Canyon.

To sum it up, a donkey is a domesticated, small horse with longer ears, a shorter mane, shorter hair on the tail, and a dark stripe on its back.

And since a mule is part donkey, one can assume donkeys came before mules. But you know what happens when you assume. And you really do know what happens because now you know an ass when you see one.

Even if you still have no idea what makes a donkey very good.

You’re welcome.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lunch for Geese

As I hone my nature videographer skills, here's another short video from down on the pond. Seems bobbing for food is a bit of a humbling experience if you're a goose.

Friday, November 07, 2008

JimArt On the ArtWalk

Whoever said art and ice cream don't mix?

The image above is an original work in mixed dairy media. To be more specific, it's an unstirred batch of coffee ice cream mix, with a caramel 2X thrown in to enhance the coffee coloring. Unfortunately, the stirring image was gone a couple stirs later. So it's back to plan A.

For this month, I've claimed the walls as my own and put together a little show I'm calling...

Down on the Farm(share) - images from Mountain View Farm.

With a few Fall shots from Williston School and around town thrown in for good measure. Here's one of my favorites, just hung today-

Lots of great art, music, and snacks to be had tomorrow night (Saturday) 5-8pm. Be there. Here's the lineup And the MAP.

But wait, there's more. From the ArtWalk Easthampton gang...

Come enjoy art, live music, fun performances and even a turkey hunt at this month's Art Walk! We've hidden turkeys at secret Art Walk locations. Find them, pluck a feather, and use it to enter a raffle at Old Town Hall. Winners announced at 7:30PM. It's fun; it's free; it's family friendly. Open the attached map for a list of this month's participating venues or visit the website at

Hope to see you there (here).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sigh of Relief: A Brief Essay.

With that title, you probably thought this was a political essay to follow the breathtaking, history-making events of last night's election. And I realize it’s hard to think of anything but the election right now, but as exciting a political time as it is, I'm guessing you might equally enjoy a short break from the non-stop, round-the-clock multimedia political bombardment. So with that in mind, I submit to you a brief essay I'd like to call 'A Sigh of Relief'.

Well, it seems another summer season has come and gone. The leaves on the trees, what few hang on for dear life, now cast a pale shade of rust. The blankets have returned from their summer vacation. Your tank tops and swim trunks are now neatly tucked away into plastic tubs destined for a long winter slumber in that dark corner of the basement. Halloween is but a memory, a handful of leftover mini-Milky Ways in a big mixing bowl, and a camera full of photographs. The end of daylight savings time has reclaimed that hour you so graciously volunteered back in April, as if returning from a far-away vacation and passing back through an international dateline where that day became tomorrow, and now today has suddenly become yesterday.

There’s something about Halloween that feels so distinctly Fall. Leaf piles, pumpkins, hayrides, trick o’ treats, sweatshirts, hikes over crinkling leaves. Then right on its heels comes that big bully November, who taunts with an Indian summer or two, like today, while he literally beats the life out of the landscape. The brilliant hues of the Fall backdrop are replaced with a dull blur of burnt sienna. Jack o’lanterns that once danced dazzlingly in their own candlelight now lay lonesome and shriveled into themselves, like old discarded apple cores long past their purpose. What was yesterday’s amazing Halloween wonderland - a neighbor’s lawn decorated stoop to sidewalk with ghosts, goblins, mock tombstones, and giant spider webs, now looks like a tacky and picked over aisle in the seasonal section of Target. Amid the Halloween hangover, replete with egg carcasses, strewn toilet paper, and candy wrappers littering the streets hangs a general morose, like a collective coming down from a long weekend sugar high.

What’s there to look forward to now? Thanksgiving, the year’s biggest meal, followed by four hours of football and a half as long nap? Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving is a great holiday, custom-designed for family fun to compliment the unabashed gluttony. But let’s face facts, the passing of Halloween brings with it days that plunge us into darkness before five o’clock and throw frost on those decaying pumpkins every morning, foreshadowing the many dreary months of weather debauchery such as snow, ice, and bone-chilling, wind-chilling cold to follow. Ah, just around the bend awaits Old Man Winter, the ultimate unwelcome guest.

You’d think as an ice cream guy, I’d be a lined up right beside Chekhov (‘winter as bleak and bereft of hope’), a fully-sanctioned dreader of anything that sniffs of winter. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy this time of year. The summer has come and gone, hopefully leaving us with a fistful of ‘fun in the sun’ memories. For me, if the ice cream gods have shown down on me through the on-season, my barn should be full of hay. My array of previous professions doesn’t include farming, but I’d imagine what I feel at this time of year is akin to a farmer’s Autumn sigh of relief, the time when Bob is finally able to catch his breath after so many long days and months spent toiling in the field. For me, as the farmer, the work doesn’t end after the first killing frost or the end of daylight savings, but the pace of life certainly does change considerably. And after all those days ‘making hay while the sun shines’, we giddily meet this change at the door, enthusiastically invite her in, and say ‘Damn, it’s good to see you!’ The bank account never has the same reaction, but just as the early darkness seems to provide more time for those indoor projects you never have time for when darkness doesn’t descend until nine, the off-season gives me a much better shot at balancing that work-life scale, albeit on a little tighter budget.

So it seems to me there are two ways to look at the coming of another winter. You can grimace at the end of long days and warm nights while you cringe at the thought of being cold all the time and shoveling snow as high as streetlights. Or you can see the baring trees and grey skies as a chance to catch your breath, savor the great moments of the past season, and actually look forward to that inevitable slowing down of things that seems to come with shorter days and colder nights. You may not enjoy digging out your car or driving to work on a particularly snowy morning, but you have to admit the anticipation of a big storm, waking up to a fresh and cleansing blanket of white, or the ultimate, a giant storm that stops everyone and everything in its tracks is at least a little exciting to think about, don’t you agree?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting Day - Finally!

Couldn't think of a better reason to get out there and vote.

Congrats to Tim & Liz Jenks, owners of the coolest video store in town - Pick Your Flick, and now proud parents of a bouncing baby girl, Guenevere.

Go vote.

Right now.

Do it.

It takes five minutes, tops, and doesn't hurt a bit. I recommend walking, doesn't get much nicer out there than this on a November day.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Introducing our Newest Scooper - Snow White

Unfortunately, due to health and crew morale concerns, I wasn't able to hire her six or seven dwarf buddies. Snow White started yesterday, and despite having to work sans dwarfs, she really hit the ground running. Seems she's a natural born scooper. Not even the brothers Grimm could have predicted that.

In the interest of her safety, she's not allowed to serve anyone who even remotely looks like a queen, and as part of her first day orientation, I made it clear she should stay away from the Apple Pie ice cream, Sour Apple gummy O's, and Apple Jelly Bellies.

She already makes a mean hot fudge sundae, and doesn't seem at all self-absorbed, which is surprising because I overheard someone from school spilling the beans, telling SW she heard she was fairest of them all, even more than last year's homecoming queen. To which Snow White nonchalantly replied, 'would you like that in a waffle cone?'

Snowy's working out so well, I had to let Mimi go. Hated to do it, but biz is biz, and when you have to chance to put a princess out on the front line for $8.25 an hour, you gotta do it man.

Ok, it seems someone's had a few too many leftover candy corns and should go back to making ice cream. Fear not, scooper extraordinaire Mimi will be back in the trenches tomorrow.

Hope you had a merry and safe Halloween.