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This week in Hampshire Life

  • This photo of me first appeared in Hampshire Life last year for a story on magazine editors living in the Valley. Staff photo/Carol Lollis


Friday, August 31, 2018

Welcome!

It’s my second day at work, so I don’t know how to access my voicemail here or process an invoice. Truth be told, I’m leaning hard on my warm and talented coworkers — Steve Pfarrer, Debra Scherban — to show me the ropes.

What I do know is that I’m honored to work at a paper that celebrates the Valley’s wonders and quirks, and I think of this magazine as a place for your stories. So if you have an essay to share, I’d love to hear from you — just hold off on the voicemail for now, to be safe.

My mother, Allison Young Conley, was born on a c. 1750s dairy farm in South Williamstown, Massachusetts and won a four-year scholarship to Smith College from Proctor & Gamble. It was big news locally and the talk of the feed store in Pittsfield on a day my grandfather stopped in. I often think of how proud he must have been to say, “That’s my girl.” And I love feeling connected to her through a sense of place. I’m told that my parents had an early date at what’s now Smith Corner Convenience Plus – the convenience store Gazette intern Zoya Azhar wrote about here a few weeks back — which my mother said was a diner in the late ’60s. Back then, she said, Northampton wasn’t the artistic mecca it is today.

Today, it’s a place where kids and grandparents alike dance to guitars and congas as they do at Millpond Live, a free concert series in Easthampton and the subject of this week’s cover story by Chris Goudreau. “They’re bringing together a lot of people to listen to really diverse music — from hip hop to Celtic,” he says. Or a place where the residents consistently rock such spirited personal style (that’s why I love Daisy von Furth’s Style Stop interviews with prepossessing individuals, like the one on p. 5).

By the time I visited Northampton in the early ’90s, it was already nationally renowned as a small arts town. I was spending the summer at my grandmother’s farm and finally old enough to do something ridiculous like drive an hour and a half for coffee. I was looking for something cool.

What I found was the Haymarket, when it was strictly underground and mostly a bookstore. I remember amber lighting, lots of communist manifestos, and a small counter manned by Peter and David Simpson. It was my first encounter with bohemianism, and it was thrilling.

As someone who grew up in a place that epitomized all the words in the Nields song, “This Town Is Wrong,” where conformity and pantyhose were required, the Valley and its live-and-let-live ethos felt so right. I wanted that sense of freedom for myself — and my family. Because while I’m certain I will mess up the psyches of my children in all manner of ways — that’s inevitable, right? — I wanted to raise them surrounded by interesting individuals. Which our community — thank goodness — has in spades.

So, hi, that’s a bit of my story. Tell me yours. I want to know all about love, life, work, and discovering unexpected meaning in this Paradise we get to call home.

— Katy McColl Lukens

klukens@gazettenet.com