Amherst Life Blog

Welcome to the Amherst Life Blog! Here we will be posting information on activities, events, arts, community concerns, local business, and a variety of other topics related to life in Amherst, Massachusetts. If you are new to the area and looking for housing, please check out our other blog too ------------>> Amherst Housing Blog ::.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Project for Young Writers

Check out the following e-mail that just arrived today! This seems like a great project!

To the Editor of the Amherst Life Blog:

I am a Doctoral student in the English program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and previously worked as a College and Career Advisor for Aspira of New York. In the Fall, I will be teaching a basic writing course for incoming freshmen and would like to begin an outreach/dialogue/exchange program with high school students from all over the Americas and the group in my course.

The idea is to get students to post their writing on the online forum that I created, comment on and encourage each other's work, and, towards the end of the each semester, have students from New York, Springfield, Holyoke, and other participating cities come to the university for a college visit and a chance to sit in on several different courses including my own. In addition, I plan to organize a poetry / spoken-word “jam session” which will be open to the public and broadcasted live on the website and 103.3 FM Valley Free Radio.

For more information about the project goals and objectives, please click here

You can also view a project summary (page 1) and a flyer for students (page 2) by clicking here.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope that we can get this project in motion.

Best regards,
Jacob Dyer-Spiegel

Monday, July 24, 2006

Que le ponga SALSA! Pa Gozar, Pa Gozar, Pa Gozar!

Salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaetón, cumbia, samba... Te cuadra?

Here are a few venues:

Noche Latina at the "Iron Horse" in Northampton every Tuesday (free! 10pm-2am)

"Trumpets" in Chicopee on Friday nights (450 Memorial Dr Suite 1, Chicopee, MA 01020-5017 (413) 739-7311)

Also on Fridays there is a place called "Latin Quarters" with live bands downstairs and club music upstairs (cover $5, 80 Worthington St. Springfield, MA 413-205-2986/2987)

On Fridays you can also go to the "International Dance Club" (Click for directions)

On Saturday nights you can go to "Beaver Brook Golf Course" (183 Main Street Haydenville, MA 01039)

I will post more. Please post reviews (as comments) about these venues and let me know where else you can find música "latina" in the area...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Links to Area Events

Here are the best websites on entertainment in the area. Of course, they don't list all of it so please visit the Amherst Life Blog regularly for the latest info and commentary...

Check out the Amherst Chamber of Commerce listing, the Valley Advocate, GazetteNet, and MassLive.

Post other links/listings in "comments" and please let us know of other things that are going on in the area. Feel free to promote your own work!!!

Conscious Hip-Hop Gathering

On Saturday, July 29th, The Alchemists, I-Shea, Gokh Bi System, Barak Yalad, and DJ Theory & 1ne man sound will be on stage at "The Elevens" (140 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA). Doors open at 9PM and the show startes at 10PM. Admision is $7 and is certainly worth it.

Looking to broaden your conscious hip-hop collection? Check out Jeru the Damaja, Gang Starr, and Mos Def & Talib Kweli by clicking on the links.

Let us know what you think about the show by posting comments (you don't have to register to leave a line or two!)

Friday, July 21, 2006


On Friday, July 21st at 8pm in Amherst Books (8 Main Street, Amherst), Mr. Todd Felton -- my former English teacher!! -- will be celebrating the publication of his exciting new book, "A Journey into Transcendentalists' New England". To check out Mr. Felton's book, Click Here!

In the spirit of his book's theme (travel and travel literature), here is an interesting site that can help you adventurous folks visualize your experiences on the open road.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Los tiempos coloniales en el "Colonial Village" de Amherst

El siguiente ensayo fue enviado por un miembro de nuestra comunidad como respuesta a la entrada que puse el día 3 de julio entitulado, “El Valle”. Por favor, lean lo que dice.

Yo vivo en un lugar se llama “Colonial Village” en Amherst, Massachusetts. Al llegar, solo reconocí la palabra “colonial”: pues, en nuestra lengua que también fue impuesta, el significado es lo mismo, e, irónicamente, nuestra condición es la misma. ¿Quién somos nosotros?: somos los salvadoreños, los ecuatorianos, los guatamaltecos, los mexicanos, los dominicanos, los colombianos y muchos otros grupos que vienen a trabajar en los restaurantes de aqui para buscar una vida mejor. Arrancamos de nuestros pueblos para apoyar nuestros padres, esposos, hijos y amigos en un sólo paycheck que ni sirve para nosotros pagar la renta y comer bien. Los de la villa trabajamos duro, ganamos poco y tenemos que escondernos, bajarnos la cabeza para no llamar la atención, para no enfrentar aquella mirada que nos refleja la aceptación de la desigualdad. Nosotros de la villa nos reunimos los sábodos y los domingos con toda la familia y todos los amigos que tenemos cerca para recrear y reforzar nuestras memorias. Cocinamos, tomamos, comemos, bailamos, jugamos volibol y fútbol, nos transplantamos a nuestras tierras por un día que nos salva por toda la semana. Respiramos profundo, escuchamos trás las palabras que salen en español, las lenguas maya, azteca, quechua, nahuatl, voces de nuestros abuelos que hicieron, de alguna forma, el viaje al norte. Juntos conseguimos regresar a nuestro centro que compartimos sin importancia a la nación de donde vengamos. A veces pienso que todo esto es para mostrarnos la hermandad de nuestro pueblo que llaman de “latinoamericano”, quizás para después mostrar que no somos nada “latino” sino, somos los oriundos de todo esto, los que trataron destruir para crear algo sin valor. No sé. Pero sé que en numeros grandes, el blanco ya no nos puede mirar asi, el policia ya no puede interrogarnos todos, el jefe ya no nos puede demoralizar y podemos reconstruirnos. Pero ya pensando en el nombre del lugar donde vivimos, me doy cuenta que todo esto es parte del plan: vivimos en tu ‘colony’ y somos colonizados. Nuestra diáspora ocurre en el espacio que nos asignaron y hasta viene con nombre que indica nuestra posición. Hasta el único espacio que podría aparentar nuestro está marcado para que recordemos bien quien somos: mano de obra barata. Y a mi me revela que nuestra situación es tal que ni siquiera puedo poner mi nombre al final de este fragemento de un pensamiento.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Northampton's 'Vision for Downtown'

So, the Gazette publishes another article on Northampton's Future and the city has paid The American Institute of Architects a handsome sum to come up with a "plan" (if you can call it that) to take down the trees in the center, widen the sidewalks, and put in parking garages. I quote, "Trees that block visual connections to sterling facades should be removed and replaced with lower profile plants and vegetation providing colorful and seasonal displays of community pride."

Interested in community pride? Instead of investing in ridiculous plans by the Institute, how about investing in a community garden for the folks on Michaelman Avenue and the "projects" behind Stop and Shop? Why not invest the money in developing real "equal opportunity" housing programs that aren't using the foundations of former mental institutions that were forced to shut down due to negligence and abuse? Would you city planners want to live there?

What else? Instead of spending a million on re-doing sidewalks, why not create a center for workers where basic language, reading, composition, information technology is taught for free? A few non-profits never hurt the area.

And what about the ongoing drug problem in Northampton? How about a community center for the kids? How about using the money wisely? Read trough the blog and check out some of the ideas for Amherst: they all apply to NoHo.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Route 9: express lane, commuter lots, ride shares

In response to the Gazette article:
Most of the traffic on Rt. 9 is related to student and faculty commutes. UMass and especially the wealthy colleges need to pool their money and purchase student/faculty commuter parking lots in Northampton and Amherst. These lots should be free to students and faculty to encourage them to use the free busses (and there need to be more of them) between schools. And you guys are right, those busses need an express lane.

Also, most of the cars that are causing all of these traffic jams on Rt 9 are only occupied by the driver... We need a ride share program.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

TRGGR! New Hip-Hop Radio Show!

I have heard some good stuff coming off of the new Valley Free Radio dial (103.3 FM), but check out the show entitled TRGGR (pronounced, "trigger") from 2-3:30 PM on Tuesdays!! In addition to being the name of the radio show,TRGGR is also a journal of grassroots intelectual thought edited by two Amherst-based scholars, educators, community leaders, historians, Ph.D. candidates in the African American Studies Program at UMass-Amherst, and now DJs (among many other things). As the show's name infers, the direction that these two are taking is one of initiating & moving forward (and moving quickly at that!):

"Instead of its common association with guns and violence, we use the term to connote the sparking of ideas, the TRGGRing of new ways of thought, new ways of being, new, different and courageous ways of seeing ourselves and our role in society and in the world.

We seek to TRGGR the transmission of knowledge for self and community education and edification. We seek to TRGGR discussions with topics that speak to and illuminate the conditions that we as a global Hip Hop generation find ourselves in, with specific focus on people of color, poor and working class, oppressed and repressed communities. It is a celebration of our rebellious spirits, our dedication to struggle and our commitment to bridging the gaps between and within our communities, and to open dialogue across generations."
-- (from

If you can't find a radio, you will soon be able to listen online during the show hours. Please post comments on this exciting show!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Share rides, split gas

OK people: gas is soon to be $4/gallon and will continue to increase, it is cheaper to take Peter Pan anywhere than drive alone, so, logically, it is time to share. Yes: post where you are going or where you want to go as "comments", contact each other (also as "comments" on this blog), share rides, and split gas/tolls. All in, post away!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Music in Amherst!

Did you know that Amherst has been/is the home to such musical giants as, Yusef Lateef, Max Roach, Avery Sharpe, Taj Mahal (well, he is from Springfieldd, MA which is close by!)... Let me know who I'm missing from the list (I know it is much longer), and I'll post their info.

See what I mean? (I am referring to the "What the people want: Live MUSIC" post that you can find below) We have music here -- innovative music rooted deep in centuries of tradition and culture that spans the globe -- and we have to figure out a way to provide a physical space for it right here in Amherst! It is going to be a little bit of work but well worth it! So who is going to organize that new committee and tell us (via "comments") when/where you are going to have your first meeting? Don't be shy!

More Amherst-based writers!!

Check out some of the latest, innovative fiction & poetry by Amherst-based writers:

John Edgar Wideman (one of the greatest authors writing in the English language; I highly recommend all of the books you will find when you click on his name above), Martín Espada (almost all of his work is excellent but I would recommend, "A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen: Poems" and "Alabanza", James Tate ("Selected Poems" and "Return to the City of White Donkeys: Poems" are great!), and Dara Wier (check out, "Hat on a Pond")...

Please let me know about other Amherst-based authors as comments and I’ll post their links! Enjoy!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Professor Ron Welburn

Looking for some of the best poetry available in the U.S.? You don't have to go far! UMass Professor of English and Native American Studies, Ron Welburn is Amherst-based and will be teaching a fascinating course on American Identities in the Fall!

Check out his work and post comments here!!

What else do we need?

Another possibly great tip for the BUSINESS folks:
A new idea... Amherst needs an organic Indonesian Restaurant!!! It will make you a bundle!!! All those in favor or against, “comment” away!

And another:
Reading, music, arts, fresh squeezed juice center for Amherst youth!! What do these kids have to do? Why are they never around? Give them something good because Public School is cutting back on after-school programing... And they need alcohol and drug free “socials” off of school grounds.

You wealthy people looking to invest are really going to thank me! Just give your contribution to the TA/TO union at UMass so they can stop charging us exploited student-teachers a riduculous sum each academic year to represent us. Whose idea was that anyways?

Restaurants in town...

Although I am not sure how well the owner pays the workers (comments?), Pasta e Basta has very good food, large portions, and fair prices for what you get!! Keep up the good quality!! Like the no-waiter concept downstairs!

Judy’s... great location, great physical space (at least, in the expansive window area), pretty good food, but what happened to your prices? Up, up, and up, means we students are moving, moving along. Student fare, please!

Amherst Chinese: sometimes very good, sometimes not. You have an organic farm, right? So, why are you charging apx. $10/plate to order from your organic veg. menu? Not making sense. Great bean sprout salad, great physical space (lots of natural light), beautiful orchids all over the restaurant... But lower the organic veg price and nobody can compete with you!

Panda East: Sometimes good, sometimes not so hot. The owner is a terrific guy but when he is not around, the kitchen staff sometimes gets lazy and doesn’t cook/heat up things so well. My opinion, if you have more organic menu, more veg., less MSG, you can make moves.

new African/Caribbean joint: some TASTY dishes!! Keep it up but no more of the frozen veg. sides please. Get some fresh veg from Whole Foods and you are golden!

Brugers: 1 bagel, cream cheese, drink, $82.45. Black sheep: $2. Loose Goose: better.

Loose Goose: The best quality cafe in town!! Keep it up! All fresh, all good! Great service. But don’t all go there because that is the quiet cafe in town and you don’t have to deal with lusting coffee drinkers staring at you.

Black Sheep: good but the sanwiches decreased in size and the country music thing needs to be reduced in favor of BETTER live music!! It is not hard to find!

Raos: a little less strange stimulant you have concocted for your coffee might be nice. Great sitting area, new tables, and chairs!! Internet connections needs a revamp, though. Huge cookies are nice but a little less sugar might be a good idea....

Craving woods, not knowing where to go...

So, you feel like you are in the wilderness but can’t find places to go to without a car? I can help: check out the Amethyst/Robert Frost brook trail (from Amherst center take the FREE bus to Belchertown Road, get off at Amherst Glass, continue walking straight through the traffic lights, 1 mile on your left is the entrance to a BEAUTIFUL system of trails and brooks), and go for a walk/ride your bike along the BIKE PATH (ask anybody where the closest entrance is, they are ALL OVER and all are great!!) . Recommend a place/tell about your experience by clicking on comments!

For you business tycoons: a few ideas

What could be better for you entrepreneurs? I do your research for you, present what is needed in this growing town, and you get to see how people react. I’ll accept tips and free service!

Needed business ventures for Amherst/UMass:
New Affordable taxi-service (people, you can get anti-drunk driving funding, University/college funding, non-profit status, and form links with local bars/clubs/etc.). And please, do include service to Logan, Bradley, and JFK (you will compete with Valley Transporters who are charging WAY too much $$ for the trips to and fro)
Amherst to Boston, Amherst to NYC vans for weekend trips too please!! And don’t think about charging no $50. We will blogify you until you lower rates!

Live Music venues: no more rock, no more goth, no more punk... we want “world” music with some flava’ (that means ‘flavor’ for you not-so-street-inclined-folks). And we want NYC style lounge with quality tunes, please. Take a look at your competition and a look at the student body! You have a market! A big one! Let us really celebrate our diversity!

We want soul food, we want comida criolla, we want feijoada, and lots of organic fresh greens. We want it buffet style, perhaps the kind of deal where you weight the plate. You have a African, African-American, Caribbean, and Latin American studies departments and people want their food, music, and non-alcoholic beverage.

UMass Campus Center needs an affordable, organic veg Indian food vendor. Who is in charge of food services at the Campus Center/Student Union? You should be ashamed of the quality. The President of UMass would never eat that stuff. People are paying a lot of cash and you are giving them una sinverguenzada: that means, get some real cooks in that piece, please, and no more greasy poisonous U.S. foods. We are trying to make moves via our studies so SUPPORT US with new vendors that have REAL food. Open our minds to the culinary traditions of different cultures – good idea? Post comments, and put pressure on these people. This is 2006. Pizza ain't cutting it for college student diet.

I will come up with more ASAP!!!

Restaurant of the month award!

This month's award goes to.... Freshside Cafe (Pan-Asian): You guys are doing your thing, organically and free of nasty additives!! In my opinion, the best food in Amherst, hands down. Keep it up!!! So, when are you going to start a Silk Road, live-music night? Which group is going to approach them? Post comments!

Law enforcement in Amherst

How many more times are we going to see UMass cops (they are contracted by the state and can thus be considered “staties”) and Amherst cops harass our brothers and sisters before we create much more comprehensive, mandatory, intensive workshops for all police officers serving our community? When are we going to meet to discuss this issue and form a delegation, please? And when are we going to get a few more Spanish-speaking and non-Euro-American police officers? Unfortunately, you guys are taking profiling and discrimination to a new level and you have made the formation of an anti-racism committee an absolute necessity. Post comments on personal stories, times/places to discuss the issue in public, and whatever else is relevant.

El Valle

Have you noticed that Spanish is widely spoken in Amherst now? ¡Gracias a diós, la comunidad latina está creciendo en el valle! ¡Que sigan viniendo! ¡Que monten sus empresas y que no se olvidan de la necesidad absoluta de tener música en directo (entre otras cosas)! Most new Spanish-speaking members of our growing community are coming from El Salvador and Guatemala. Specifically, from San Vicente, San Miguel, Santana, Concepción las Minas, El Ranchón, and Sacapa el Paso. (Por favor, que me perdonen los compañeros boricuas, colombianos, ecuatorianos y peruanos, e quem pode esqueçer dos brasileiros?!). In Mount Vernon, NY, the local officials celebrate a thriving Brazilian immigrant community by creating official sister-city/town ties. We have the numbers to do the same in the Pioneer Valley, so where is the love in Amherst? Would that mean that people could no longer ignore the fact that many community members are being exploited for cheap labor? And our lovely academic departments at our nation's leading academic institutions are studying the problem and doing what with that knowledge exactly?

What we want, continued...

Let me amend my previous comment which I now find vague/broad, and a little weak.
OK, here is the deal: there is no good live, “world” music in the area and there are thousands of us students and faculty (and others, of course) from all over the globe that NEED to hear/see/feel some powerful art so as to get out of our esoteric little world of academia, be stimulated, and direct our maddened study of everything in the universe to something that is meaningful (our community, our earth, our brothers and sisters living in misery while others flourish at their expense, the need to change inhumane policy, and the list goes on and on). WE are a university community, there are thousands of established and rising artists living here (see links above to check out their stuff), and it is time to cater to US.

Possible solution #1: Town of Amherst, in conjunction with UMass, Amherst College, and Hampshire College (2 exceptionally wealthy private schools, I may add), in conjunction with state and federal grants, purchase the building/house across from the Black Sheep Deli (former site of the “Prudy’s” enterprise) on Main Street, and turn it into an artists space, preferably a non-profit.

Possible solution #2: So, if the town is too cheap, at least give/acquire a subsidy to a non-profit who will USE that space on Main Street to bring in MORE LIVE MUISIC!

Point made? There are so many possible funding sources to tap into with a musical venture... Residential Arts and Life, housing programs, alternative ed programs, non-alcohol programs, arts programs, you name it, the funding opportunity is there. So who wants to form a committee and get this rolling? Comments please!

What the people want! Live MUSIC!

We have to keep this conservative, sleepy town board on its toes. The method: blogging. We have entered a blogalitious age and need to tap into tecnology's resources to put pressure on policy makers and legislators in this small town that could be quite hip but is not quite on the right track.

So, what is one thing that we residents want? More LIVE MUSIC!! I'm talking about Jazz, Flamenco, Samba, Cumbia, Rumba, Salsa, Bhangara, North African, West African, South African, Calypso, Indian (just to mention a few), and all of the astounding musical traditions that are connected to our great international student body. That means more venues, more festivals (ok, even ONE festival would be nice), more support via town funding, and a re-evaluation of how we are using public space in the non-winter period (The Common, Mill River Park, Puffers Pond area, and, of course, UMass and Amherst College).

Why is binge drinking such a craze among college students in the area? Look at the options they have in town: Irish bar with bad music, Irish bar with worse music, wanna be trendy bar with bad music (except for Thursday that draws a borderline music- oriented crowd for hip-hop night), and that is it!! Amherst Coffee is leading the movement towards a new stlye of venue and, with live Jazz on Fridays, is certainly heading in the right direction. But we need more.