Northampton’s Ridic Streetlights Break Up Sonic Youth25

Posted by Deirdre // 10-14-2011


Okay, that may be conjecture. But it is conceivable, having spent a mere hour or so there a few Fridays ago, that living in that town would drive me crazy enough to scrap a 27 year marriage and threaten the future of one of indie rock’s great bands.

Sonic Youth photo by Peter Anderson

And yes, I also love Northampton in my mind. We were actually going to move there, remember? It was just too crunchy for us in reality, the first time we went. And there was that drunk asleep on the sidewalk. But there was also the amazing cafe, so I didn’t rule it out for the can-count-on-two-hands group of cities and towns we throw around every time we’re just fed up enough with NYC.

So on our way to Brattleboro VT to visit family, we decided to stop there for lunch. It was a Friday afternoon in the Fall – potentially parents weekend for one of the schools, or filled with tourists on their way to look at foliage so it may have been more crowded than usual. On that day it was like 7th Avenue after 321 drop-off, but less monied and smelling much more of patchouli. We went to a place called “Karma” for lunch (my husband, on diet: “if you can’t find quinoa in this town where the hell can you find it”?).

I can handle crunchy, though – I do live in Park Slope. And I went to UVM. It was seriously the street lights that made us run screaming. We waited on a (very busy) corner for a good several minutes for the light to turn. The stop lights for the cars changed several times, but the walk sign still showed a solid red hand – on both the street we were trying to cross and the other. A few others stood there dumbfounded with us.

And then, it happened. The walking man was lit, but not just on the street we were crossing, on the other street, too (the one that’s normally red when you cross, because of the cars going the same direction as you). People were walking across both and then diagonally across the streets as well. I’m not talking New York jaywalking where you cross in the middle of the street. It was a frigging free for all of pedestrians every which way through this intersection.

The craziness that is Northampton’s traffic lights. Image Google Maps Street View

It lasted less than a minute – we had to rush our oblivious kids across to make it before the light changed. I tried to depict the various routes one might take in this image – no that is not my own blood but the color is fitting for the fact that mine was actually boiling at that point. I mean, why the hell does a town think they can reinvent traffic lights? Why would they try? They kind of just work as is in MOST OTHER TOWNS IN AMERICA, don’t they? Do they just want tourists to never come back? It’s possible. If that’s the case I can respect it, and I’ll stay away.

After the bloodletting we stopped at the great Northampton Coffee, and it is a winner – amazingly beautiful modern, bright room. Perfect latte. But that’s not enough. And sadly, it may not have been enough for rock’s last great couple either.


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  1. May 8th, 2013 at 11:01 am

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