Book Bag: ‘One More Cup of Coffee’ by Tom Pappalardo; ‘Connecticut Valley Tobacco’ by Bianna E. Dunlap

Published: 1/5/2017 1:12:55 PM


By Tom Pappalardo

Graphic artist, cartoonist and writer Tom Pappalardo is no stranger to coffee. One of his signature creations is the screenprint “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” (the opening line of the Simon & Garfunkle tune “The Sounds of Silence”), with an image of a free-floating, tilted coffee pot sending a stream of joe to a mug about a foot below.

In “One More Cup of Coffee,” Pappalardo, of Northampton, has created a hybrid book that’s not easy to classify. It’s part review of coffee from cafes, diners, donut shops and other places around the Valley, part journal in which he records his observations of those places (including snippets of overheard conversations), and part meditation on his general alienation (though that’s delivered with a good helping of irony).

“I wrote [this book] as a way to motivate myself, to push my recently-divorced ass out of my apartment door and keep me among human beings,” he writes in an afterword. “It also proved to be a fine writing prompt, a good exercise in mindfulness: Go to a place. Sit. Listen. It mostly worked.”

It’s mostly a droll and deadpan (and sometimes snarky) trip, where you can learn about his preferred places to eat and drink, like Jake’s in Northampton (“I hope someday somebody holds my wake here”), as well as the places and things he’s less enthused about. Pappalardo, who’s also a guitarist, is not exactly a fan of singer-songwriters, as it turns out.

His vignettes of the odd behavior and conversations he comes across make for some of the more entertaining reading, like the “coffee date” a man and woman appear to be having at the Cup and Top Cafe in Florence, where the guy monopolizes the conversation: “The man keeps talking. … It’s been nearly fifteen minutes now, and she’s only peppered in a few scant ‘mm-hmmms.’ This is a terrible thing to earwitness.”

Along the way, Pappalardo also describes the weird vibes that can abound in places where many people (including him) eat and drink by themselves while staring at their phones, laptops or notebooks. That atmosphere can make him a bit paranoid; he imagines someone swiping the money he leaves for his meal on a cafe serving counter, making him look like he’s trying to skip out on his bill.

“It’s an irrational fear, like when I used to be worried about being accused of stealing my own clothes out a laundromat dryer. I am under constant surveillance. People are watching me, waiting for me to step out of line so they can judge me.”

Oh, he’s also got some nice black and white sketches in the book of the places he visits.


By Bianna E. Dunlap

Photos by Leonard Hellerman

History Press

Though the Connecticut River Valley has long been known for its varied vegetable crop, it also has a long history of growing shade tobacco for cigars. In “Connecticut Valley Tobacco,” author Brianna Dunlap outlines the story of the crop, from southern Connecticut up to Brattleboro, Vermont, over nearly four centuries.

Dunlap, a graduate student in public history who also oversees the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum in Windsor, Connecticut, has included many period photographs in her account, showing workers harvesting and processing the crop in the early to mid 20th century, when the industry was at its height.

Though her book includes more information on the tobacco crop in Connecticut, there are also details about how it’s been grown in western Massachusetts, such as how summer workers from the Caribbean first began coming to the region in the years after World War II.

Tobacco was such a big deal, Dunlap writes, that Valley communities used to celebrate harvest season with various festivals. The book includes a picture from a 1952 program featuring photos of 16 young women from Connecticut and Massachusetts who competed to be named “Tobacco Queen,” including one representing Whately/Deerfield and another, Hatfield.

The book, by a South Carolina publisher that specializes in local history topics, includes color photos of the contemporary tobacco crop era.


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