My buddy Mark and I attended an event in Easthampton this weekend that was part of a town-wide literary festival. As we were driving down the mountain on Rt. 141 it struck me how much of a difference there is between the lifestyles of Hampden County and Hampshire County.
It’s not that the two areas are separated by miles of mountains or deserts or cut from one another by a huge body of water and yet the more rural Hampshire County can at times seem to very much to be a foreign world than the industrialized urban centers of Hampden County.
I’m always curious about the perceptions Hampshire County people have about us. In my experience there is a certain amount of trepidation about what Hampshire County people call “the lower valley.”
The Valley Advocate recently spent most of its recent edition focusing on several Springfield stories. One piece was a roundup on how abutting communities view the impact of the MGM casino, while another was on the recent “Vision 2017” presentation on present and future economic development.
While the stories weren’t outright hostile, as too many media reports about the city are, there was a tone that transcended the mere questioning of what is happening here.
I’m tired of the constant portrayal of Springfield as some sort of urban hell. I really do think our positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
The story on “Vision 2017” urged its readers to cut out the story and keep it as a checklist to see how many of the development actually take place – a cute, but snarky, idea.
The story on reactions to the casino revealed that Northampton is still hoping to receive economic impact mitigation money from MGM and the city has requested five over-quota liquor licenses from the state in order to compete with the casino.
The belief expressed in the story is that Northampton will be a direct competitor to MGM as a “tourist destination and as a source of dining and entertainment” is an assumption that I can’t quite buy. What MGM is going to offer will be quite unlike what Northampton continues to be. One could make the argument the two approaches will complement one another. Why not view it in that way?
Perhaps the piece that seems to indicate the greatest level of fear or certainly misunderstanding from our friends to the north was “Twenty Ways to Tell You’re from Springfield” assembled by the Advocate staff. Allow me to note several and annotate them as someone who actually lives in the city.
“You’ve been to the Alumni Club once or a hundred times – there is no in-between.” The Alumni Club has been closed for quite some time.
“You’ve wandered into Mardi Gras just to see if your friends are there.” That’s not the reason you go to the Gras, let me assure you.
“You miss the Hippodrome.” Really? Who says that?
“You know all the bikers hang out at Stearns Square in the summer.” Let’s be clear. The Stearns Square Concerts attract thousands of people, some of who ride motorcycles on Thursdays in July and August. It’s a great event.
“You have a cousin who is an aspiring rapper.” I have two cousins, neither of whom raps.
“When the sun goes down, you stay the hell out of Six Corners.” I’ve lived in that neighborhood since 1990. This is offensive.
For the education of some of our Hampshire County readers, here are some of my suggestions based on the experiences of an actual resident.
You know you’re from Springfield if you:
• Can tell which high school a kid attends by the color of the uniform;
• Knows where to get the best fresh baked Italian bread;
• Can tell a person where the Monkey House was;
• Know the joys of Velma’s Kettle Corn at the Farmers’ Market;
• Are amazed at the programming offered by the city library and the Springfield Museums;
• Know the house in which Timothy Leary grew up;
• Think of Indian Orchard as a separate town;
• Know the best fries – and political commentary – in town are at City Jake’s’;
• And listen to WTCC to catch the pulse of the community.
And any of the Advocate staff who wants to learn about the real Springfield, email me. I would be happy to show you around.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.