Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lunch at Jack's

Jack's Hot Dog Stand, on Eagle Street in North Adams, is one of those rare places - a landmark, an institution, a tradition. The hot dog stand has been in business since 1917, in the same spot, owned and operated by the same family.

I'm a real hot dog afficianado - I could eat hot dogs three meals a day. They are the world's most perfect food. A great hot dog appeals to all of your senses. Taste and smell, obviously, but when you bite into a good hot dog, with a natural casing, you hear a satisfying "crack" as your mouth explodes with flavor. Don't put a good hot dog in those awful top-split hot dog rolls - use the side split 'frankfurter' rolls. They have more crust, and contribute more flavor to your hot dog experience.

Jack's dogs aren't natural casing, so they just can't qualify as the best I've ever had - but that's not why you go to Jack's, anyway. Don't get me wrong, the hot dogs are great, but you're there for the atmosphere and the history.

The place is little more than a hole in the wall - a slot with a counter running down the center, 10 seats on one side, and a galley-sized kitchen on the other. The menu is ultra-uncomplicated: hot dogs, cheese dogs, chili cheese dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, cheese fries, chili cheese fries... you get the idea. Fast food.

If you're sitting at the counter, you better not be the kind who can't eat with someone standing behind you - there will be several people standing along the inside wall, waiting for their take-out orders or waiting for a seat to open up. Jack is busy.

The place looks like it hasn't changed much since about 1950. I was there for lunch with my father, who said he hadn't been there in about 55 years. The biggest change, he said, was in the preparation. Apparently, 55 years ago, there was a hot dog cook with a certain flair. The condiments were applied with flat wooden sticks - tongue depressors. This particular cook applied the relish and mustard with one smooth, fast, stroke; dipping into the mustard, and almost throwing it into the bun with a flick of the wrist.

Quite a show. But even without the entertainment, Jack's Hot Dog Stand was a great experience. And I just found out there's another hot dog place in North Adams - the Hot Dog Ranch. Next week, yeehaww!

Monday, September 17, 2007

How about a little digital astrophotography?

So this is how I spent a chilly Monday evening. After photographing a gory looking Deerfield Valley Rescue training scenario, I kept the camera mounted on the tripod and took a few shots of the night sky. I've been wanting to try some astrophotography, tonight was my first stab at it.
I also shot some B&W film in a few longer shots - several minutes - which should yield some nice star trails when I develop them.
Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. If you look closely you'll see an oscillating line bisecting the Dipper's handle - an airplane was flying overhead while I was taking the shot. If you click on the photo, you'll see a larger version with more detail. This photo was taken with about 30 seconds exposure.

This is a 15-second shot straight overhead. That's an apple tree in the lower left. What I found fascinating about this shot is the color - the sensor picks up each star's color, something the human eye isn't very good at in the dark. Click on the photo and you'll notice some of the stars are blue, others red, and some white.

These were taken in my back yard, right in downtown Wilmington. Imagine how spectacular these shots would be if they were taken away from the lights of Main Street. Next time, a better location. And maybe some more equipment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Early morning, post rain

After weeks of dry weather, the recent rain greened things up around the valley. A mist was rising along the Deerfield River and the Wheeler Farm early this morning (well, 7 am is early for me). On this morning's drive, the Deerfield Valley reminded me a little bit of Ireland, my once and future home: cool, damp, and a thousand shades of green.

The fresh green of the field contrasts nicely with the red barn.

The angle of the sun was such that the sun struck the cows, but left the trees in shadow.

Mist rising off the hillside

The sun glinting off the silos.

Mist rising off the Deerfield.

Friday, September 7, 2007

By Request

This Luna moth was spotted outside our offices in Wilmington. The Luna moth is beautful, but its adult lifespan is tragically short: about 7 days. So, enjoy them when you see them.


The goldenrod is in bloom along Route 100, across the Deerfield River from Adams Farm. Goldenrod signals the end of summer and, for many, it also signals the beginning of the fall allergy season. Many allergy sufferers think it is the colorful and copious goldenrod blooms that are responsible for their misery, but few people are actually allergic to goldenrod. The real culprit is ragweed, a non-descript plant that grows along roadsides and in fields. Ragweed blooms at the same time as goldenrod, but its "flowers" are green and blend in with surrounding vegetation.