Article

“NIGGER”: IT’S ONLY A WORD, plus, MORE DOWNTOWN FOLLIES and THE PITTSFIELD COLONIALS STRIKE BACK

BY DAN VALENTI

Nigger.

Did that get your attention?

MARK TWAIN: Not a racist, just a great writer who didn't suffer fools.

That’s the word on publisher wants to remove in Mark Twain’s great novel, Huckleberry Finn. The PC Police and other misguided “moralists” somehow got a publisher of a new edition to replace the word “nigger” with “slave” as it pertains to the character of Jim. Not only must the PC Police muzzle freedom of expression in 2011, they must go back to the late 19th century and retrofit their chilling political agenda on previous centuries. While they’re at it, they should put a bra on the “Venus De Milo” and a pair of shorts in Michaelangelo’s “David.”

Because people will misconstrue or deliberately misrepresent our use and discussion of the word “nigger,” The Planet unequivocally condemns the word as a racial epithet. It is not and has never been a part of our vocabulary. Moreover, anyone who uses the word in this way deserves unmitigated scorn.

However, let’s keep our senses. Twain never used the word “nigger” in derogation. His use was ironic, and he puts down in scathing terms precisely that which the PC Police somehow imagine to be, but isn’t, in Huck Finn.

Huckleberry Finn isn’t some Danielle Steele sex-and-shopping novel. It’s arguably THE mythic Great American Novel (although The Planet’s money rides on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby). To change a word of this great book 130 years after the fact and therefore long removed from being able to consult the author crosses beyond the line of censorship and moves into intellectual and moral dishonesty. It also produces an irony of its own by adding more, if that is possible, to the explosive power of the word “nigger.”

Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger … We never have to fear a word. We only have to fear what the hearts of men and women contain. Let idiots use “nigger” they way their sick minds wish. In doing so, they will condemn themselves to the marginalia of the public agenda. Who would take them seriously, who revealed their hatred so openly. That’s the only chance of defusing the word of its awful power. Meanwhile, leave Mark Twain alone.

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Great Guns, and Other Deli Delights

JOE'S LUNCH BOX: A flap over Facebook "gun" reference.Joe’s Lunch Box has been in business at 137 North St., downtown Pittsfield, for seven years. The business, which has morphed into a catering and food delivery service called Brenda & Company Caterers after owner Brenda Torchio, has been trying to scratch a seven-year itch given to it by what Torchio calls the anti-business attitude of the city. Specifically, Torchio says her business has been and is being harassed by the uneven parking code enforcement on North Street.

“The whole parking issue is driving me from the downtown,” Torchio told The Planet. She says the city has an uncaring attitude to small businesses such as hers and remains insensitive to the issues faced by such companies. She mentioned a slew of parking tickets slapped on her delivery vans when legally parked in the “Loading Zone” space — a designated area in front of the Joe’s/Brenda’s meant to be used by businesses that need to temporarily park a vehicle there, either to receive or ship products.

Torchio blasts parking czar Frank Anello. She says his attitude has been inconsistent and unlawful: “Frank Anello thinks I don’t pay parking tickets. I’ve paid 24 tickets [in 2010].Yes, I have gathered up a bunch of them I thought were given to me [wrongly] and sent them back to city hall unpaid. I don’t know what else to do. The city’s giving me no help.”

That came to a head yesterday, when, after the latest round of parking tickets, Torchio posted on her Facebook page: “Somebody get me a gun! First of all [for] the parking superintendent & his parking peons for $600.00 worth of parking tickets for being a DELIVERY business in Beautiful Downtown Pittsfield! Next stop the Post Office! for delivering my 74-year-old Dad’s Xmas present of frozen homemade soups in a garbage bag so broken up he can’t use them. All of these people better HOPE I don’t FIND or BUY a gun.”

The Planet received several complaints from people, some genuinely afraid of the what they perceived as a threat of violence. Once person said, “As someone who works with the public on a daily basis, it’s posts like this that [make] me very uncomfortable.” Another said, “Probably ought not to post something like this, even if you’re kidding.”

Another person wrote: “Truthfully, I wondered whether or not this post should have been reported to the police and whether those of us who read it and did not respond would be held accountable in some way if [s]he did indeed act upon the threat.”

Torchio apologized for the post, which she says she realizes was a mistake: “I’m sorry if I offended some people or worried some people. I’m not a violent person. I don’t own a gun. I have never owned a gun. I will never own a gun. I’ve had an extremely frustrating couple of months dealing with parking issues and and extremely frustrating seven years dealing with the city of Pittsfield. They are punishing me. I’m a single mom, own my own home, and trying to stay in business. It’s tough enough to stay afloat and make ends meet.”

A poster on Facebook wrote, “The powers that be in Pittsfield cannot figure out why business is leaving the city or why they cannot attract new ones that pay WELL. They really need to look in the mirror.”

Yeah, The Planet adds, and when they do and don’t like what they see, you know what they will do? They will blame it on the mirror. They will smash it and buy a new one, thinking the reflection will miraculously look better. PLANET TO CITY: IT AIN’T THE MIRROR.

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More Shuffling of Deck Chairs Aboard the Downtown Titanic

The Emporium moved last night from the 400 block on North Street into a prime location on the corner of South Street and Bank Row, where the Cottage used to be. The site has 10 times the visibility as the 400 block and fabulous, inviting display windows. End of story, right?

Nah, this is Pittsfield we’re talking about.

All would be well and good, except how does a struggling business move from a space where it’s paying $600 a month rent to one that probably goes for six times as much, not counting utilities. Could the answer to the mystery be in the Storefront Artists Project?

The Planet heard SAP also will be moving into the Bank Row space. That’s all well and good, too, as everything in Pittsfield is according to the official version, but isn’t the SAP a non-profit organization? How can a commercial venture and a non-profit share space? Could a non-profit legally pick up the tab for a for-profit business? These are questions that need answers.

Also, why is SAP moving from its present location on Fenn Street? Buzz on the street, unconfirmed, has it that most of the residents of the Howard Building on Fenn and First got eviction notices. What’s up with that?

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The Colonials are Coming! The Colonials are Coming!

Dressed for success in 2011

Not all downtown yesterday was craziness and dysfuction. The Pittsfield Colonials added hope by sanity by hosting a citizens advisory board meeting at its headquarters at the Berkshire Common in the corner suite on West and South streets. Colonials owner Buddy Lewis led a team contingency that included new GM Jamie Keefe, Asst. GM Nick Avanzato, Heather and Amanda of the front office, and about eight fans that comprise the ad hoc advisory board. The team had invited The Planet to make a presentation to the group, and we were all set, until deadline came a crashing and we had to exchange some words for dollar bills.

Bottom line: The Pittsfield Colonials are in ernest to build upon the successes of 2010, address the concerns, and make 2011 a memorable baseball year at beloved Wahconah Park. Here, published first (but you’ve come to expect that of The Planet) before anyone else has it, are the changes that the C’s believe will generate much greater fan interest compared to last year’s inaugural:

* Fireworks every Friday night when the team is at home.

* Various ethnic days for the many different ethnic groups in the city.

*Adding a beer garden on the 3B side to complement the successful 1B beer garden.

* Building a children’s play section in the lawn area adjacent to the restrooms.

Pro ball and Beloved Wahconah Park: A match made in baseball heaven.

* Wait service for fans in the box seats.

* Securing a radio broadcast deal.

* Allowing free admittance to players in organized leagues if they come to the ballpark in uniform and wearing the proper Colonials’ lanyard.

* Contracting with the new ice cream store on Wahconah Street to become the park’s vendor.

Other ideas that surfaced during the brainstorming session included:

* Baseball-themed movie night at the ballpark.

* Allowing children to play catch on the field and run the bases after Sunday games.

* Having Colonial players participate in LL and BRL youth baseball activities.

* Doing something about the “lethargic” Capt. Colonial mascot, who, in truth, had all the spunk of a centenarian recovering from a head transplant and all the energy of a slug drowing in beer.

This from attendee Josh Cutler: “I hadn’t met Jamie Keefe before tonight, but I was very impressed with his open-mindedness and his willingness to ‘tell it like it is’ about the failures of last season’s game presentation.”

A team source also revealed that there will be additional home games this season, as many as 54 (compared to last’s years 44). The 2011 schedule will be officially released tomorrow.

The Colonials are doing all the right things this off season. They have studied 2010. They are applying the lesson. They are consulting Joe Fan. They are marketing the product with fervor. Opening Day, two of the greatest words of spring, we long for you.

17 Responses to ““NIGGER”: IT’S ONLY A WORD, plus, MORE DOWNTOWN FOLLIES and THE PITTSFIELD COLONIALS STRIKE BACK”

  1. Jonathan Melle
    January 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Carmen Massimiano is no longer the Sheriff of Berkshire County! YEAH!

  2. Joe Nichols
    January 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Brenda,
    You have every right to be angry with the city of Pittsfield. You are not the only one. The only solution though is to work hard towards electing a new Mayor this coming November. The city belongs to us, the people. Not Mayor Ruberto!
    Help take back Pittsfield!

    • Some doubts
      January 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      I have some doubts that was posted by Pittsfield City Councilor Joe Nichols.

      • danvalenti
        January 6, 2011 at 9:56 am #

        SD
        Well, all The Planet can do is verify that the Joe Nichols missive was sent from Joe’s personal address. We take it for genuine.

        • justin
          January 6, 2011 at 10:27 am #

          That’s unfortunate.

          Maybe I’m just having an off day interpreting things, but that is not very professional language for a mayoral candidate to use.

          Joe, I wish you luck in your race. For the sake of your campain, please do a better job of picking your words and your medium.

          If you get associated with these blogs you are going to appear weak, as they are not perceived by credible people to be credible sources.

          • danvalenti
            January 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

            JUSTIN
            Joe is not a polished wordsmith. Fortunately, that is not a requirement for the job. Plus, honesty and integrity, plus hard work, determination, and a sense of fair play trump being slick of word any day when it comes to politicians.

    • Brenda
      January 7, 2011 at 7:56 am #

      Thanks Joe, for anyone’s information I wasn’t quoted exactly and alot of times not even close! but the basic content is correct. I do not feel “punished” but DO feel harassed. I do not feel that Pittsfield is anti-business but DO feel that they may have forgotten those of us that have seen downtown thru the bad times, if not for us there would BE no downtown for the new businesses. I did not call Frank a CZAR & did not call the tickets illegal – wrong but not illegal.
      I apologized for my Facebook comments but was thinking today of people’s reaction to it. Do people not see this as a grown-up version of bullying? Why am I brought to task & not the bully? Alot of people may understand my frustration when all I am trying to do is my job, with no health insurance for me or my son because I cannot afford the 1100.00 – 1300.00 a MONTH to pay for it but I am supposed to just hand over 600.00 to the local or state government for nothing tangible! I am NOT crazy just frustrated, I do NOT own a gun & will NEVER own a gun, but you can be sure I can’t wait to get away from downtown – preferably somewhere with a couple of parking spaces!

      • danvalenti
        January 7, 2011 at 9:00 am #

        BRENDA
        I have amended the article based on what you wrote above. Notice that I’m the one calling Frank A a “czar.” I didn’t attribute that to you. We tried to present an accurate account, and we are heartened to hear that the content is correct. Good luck with your situation.

  3. Sheriff Dawg
    January 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    The word is inflammatory but it definitely belongs in Huck Finn. a post like this takes courage, man!

  4. George Peaslee
    January 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I understand that the re-write explains quite clearly why it was done, but I’d think most of us would liken this to re-writing history. Over 100 years ago it was common and changing it changes the book. PC needs to die a graceful death and people need to learn to deal with it. Reading Twain I expect to be brought back to that era and the language and usage is part of it.

  5. Cara
    January 6, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Is this article written for the Enquirer??? REALLY DAN? Facebook quotes? Being one of Brenda’s friends on Facebook, I find it pathetic that it’s being used in a “news” article. Anyone that is an actual “friend” of Brenda’s knows her brand of humor and would be able ( or adult enough) to read between the lines… I guess Inflammatory reporting sells blogs. THAT is what’s wrong with the world today.. If Facebook quotes had any place in reporting I and millions of others would be in jail, or in an institution by now…

    • danvalenti
      January 6, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      CARA
      Heck hath no spark as a woman scorned, true, but you should reserve your tongue lashing to a more societal audience. It is the current aspect of culture that takes comments about guns literally, as in the kid sent home from school for drawing a picture of a gun. Fact is, I took her comment figuratively but others did not. I received multiple contacts about this, asking me to address it. I did. Brenda apologized and wished she had not made the statement.

  6. GMHeller
    January 6, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    It sure would be informative to know exactly what ‘parking czar’ Frank Anello is paid by the City of Pittsfield.
    It would also be nice to know what ‘perks’ he presently gets with his employment?
    Does he get free use of a city vehicle?
    Is he allowed to drive it on non-city business?
    Is his health care fully paid-for by taxpayers, and does he get free dental care courtesy of the local residents?
    Also, what kind of pension plan must city taxpayers look forward to paying when Mr. Anello finally retires?
    Will he annually get paid 80% of his highest salary year when he finally retires, and just how old may he be when finally he retires?
    If he lives to be 100 how much is Mr. Anello going to be costing city residents and their children?
    Pittsfield residents are already on the hook for so many pensioned city employees, how much is this one going to cost future taxpayers?

  7. justin
    January 6, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Really? A facebook posting is news?

    This may not be the case, but it comes across as petty and small, that the author is looking to pick a fight based on something personal.

    The author comes across as the bad guy here.

    • danvalenti
      January 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      GOSH! What a bully I am. I guess that’s why Brenda thanked me for calling and hearing her side of the story, to share with others.

  8. GMHeller
    January 6, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Mr. Valenti:
    While we are on the subject:
    Given that the subject of debt obligations of municipalities and states is very much a part of the national dialogue nowadays, it would make for a very informative column if one could find out exactly what are the current indebtedness and future debt obligations of the City of Pittsfield?
    City residents are currently on the hook to pay for the pensions and healthcare of everyone currently on the city payroll as well as those who were formerly employed by the city.
    The Berkshire Eagle has scrupulously avoided this subject, as has Mayor Ruberto as well as everyone on the City Council.
    The bad news is that the total dollar figure of all that debt and those debt obligations may end up being more than the aggregate value of all the real estate in the city.
    Ooops!

    • danvalenti
      January 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      GMH
      I regularly addressed this column on “The Dan Valenti Show” and visted it multiple times in print over the years. A refresher is in order, given that the city keep postponing the payment schedule on its unfunded pension liabilities (in part because it refuses to face economic facts and initiate home-rule pension reform). Meanwhile, each year, taxpayers shell out 85% of public employees’ health care costs, and those costs keep skyrocketing. The total debt liability easily exceeds $100 million.