Seven Sisters

The Holyoke Range is a modest line of mountains, 9.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, that runs east-west through the towns of Hadley, South Hadley, Amherst, Granby, and Belchertown in western Massachusetts. Although its tallest peak is only 1,106 feet above sea level, the range appears taller because it rises so abruptly from the […]

City of Oaks

The Raleigh, North Carolina, of my childhood and youth was a constantly growing, ceaselessly expanding boom town. Every day, it seemed, some new shopping mall, office complex, or housing development opened; every week, a new road or highway was cut through the landscape; every year, the population swelled, and the town’s borders reached further out […]

Suddenly, in Scotland

Perhaps the most memorable character in Tune In, the first volume of Mark Lewisohn’s projected three-volume biography of The Beatles, is not a person at all but a place – Liverpool, England.  Given the fascinating personalities involved here, that says a lot.  But the fact is: funny, drunk, dirty, old Liverpool permeates every aspect of […]

Letter from the B43

It was late August, 2006.  I had just moved to western Massachusetts, and I needed to figure out how I was going to get to work every day from my home in Northampton to my office at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, seven miles away.  In the weeks leading up to the start of fall […]

Mount Vernon, North Carolina: Part One

The European settlement of North Carolina’s piedmont took place primarily in the mid-eighteenth century, when Scotch-Irish and German migrants, travelling south from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other points north, passed through the Shenandoah River Valley of Virginia and entered the wide, thinly-settled region of North Carolina that lay between the seemingly inhospitable mountains to the west […]

Searching for Ulmus americana

Last Wednesday afternoon, while driving home from campus, I heard a story on National Public Radio about New York City’s ongoing effort to re-plant its storm-damaged beaches with native grasses.  It turns out that seeds from those grasses have been painstakingly preserved at the city’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island, and those seeds […]