Thursday, August 8, 2013

There He Goes Again!

So everybody's favorite downtown character -- well, maybe most peoples' -- Bill Elsasser made the news for his quirky style of maintenance.  This time it was pruning the trees on the town common.

Town officials inspect rogue pruning last week to downtown trees 

Bill can be seen most days patrolling the downtown on foot picking up cigarett butts -- sometimes on hands and knees -- and any other litter he comes across.  He also donated some of the flowers in the downtown.

 Bill Elsassar on patrol

Just one of the many attractions of downtown Amherst (Bill and the flowers).


Anonymous said...

Depending on which persona he picks, he is often an embarrassment. When he pretends to be gardening and pulling weeds, visitors think he is a Town employee. When he decides to be an 'activist,' he engages gullible young people in double talk. Just another example of someone inflicting his illness on others, in the same way that drunks do. 'Pity me, I have a problem -- but I will not do anything to try to alleviate the problem.' Yes, it's his right to be unmedicated, but it's my right to not have to watch him expose himself or chat up young college girls.

Anonymous said...

He's a pest.

Anonymous said...

He lives in Amherst public housing. If he is going to take public assistance, he should be treating his condition and doing everything he can to contribute financially to the community. As it stands now, he does whatever he wants all day, unlike most of us.

Anonymous said...


Unless you have had a mental illness or had members of your family (or even a close friend) with mental illness, I know you have no idea what their life is like. It's easy to mock or criticize this man and his struggles. I speak from experience. Two members of my immediate family had severe Bi-Polar Disorder. I grew up with it and had to deal every day with people like you who did not understand. Their life is not easy no matter how it looks on the outside.

Sometimes taking meds (if it's the wrong dose or medication which can happen all too often) is worse. For one family member, his choice was to sit in a chair and be almost suicidally depressed without meds or to be in a catatonic stupor with meds. Nice choice, huh? Do any of you have any idea what it's like to have no control over yourself? Or to not even be aware that you don't?

I've met Bill and spoken with him on occasion and, yes, he is difficult. I don't like some of his behaviors either, but I do understand the reason for them.

To you anons who think he's a "pest" and that "he does whatever he wants all day, unlike most of us", I'm sure Bill would love to switch places with you. Are you willing or do you just like to crap on people who can't defend themselves?

Anonymous said...

There was a really nice story done on Bill a few years back. I thought he has a supervised trust, and is not living on public assistance. He doesn't hurt anyone, doesn't beg or get arrested. What's the big deal?

Anonymous said...

Bill does in fact contribute most of his time and money to the community. He may be quirky (and as the previous comment eloquently notes, mentally ill), but at the end of the day he does more for the town than most people living here. Every town has characters and Amherst is lucky enough to have a character that actually does what he can to help out. For those of you worried about him taking advantage of public assistance, you'd be far better off worrying about the town's willingness to spend tax dollars on sending police to stop a man from using his free time and own equipment to trim the flowers that he himself donated to the community. You're 'embarrassed' that visitors mistake him for a town employee? You should probably work on developing a thicker skin. For those of you questioning Bill's motives (as well as his self-awareness):

Anonymous said...

Give me a thousand Bills over one pedantic professorial prude any day. He is intelligent, good-hearted and most of all, an interesting person.

Granted, he was aimlessly walking throughout CVS one day that I was waiting for a prescription to be filled and he was compulsively rambling lowly about the female anatomy in bizarrely scientific language. Still, I'll give him a pass because there's more personality in him than all of the polite and hopelessly boring five college faculty.

Anonymous said...

Leave Bill alone, at least he actually does something. Who are you to judge him? You all sound like a bunch of self-rightous hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Fine, but he's still a pest.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this guy is held to a different standard than everyone else on the planet. He's certainly sane enough when he's giving you an impromptu lecture, ripping flowers out of the flower pots, or bothering people. He knows what he is doing. He's not some cute, cuddly town eccentric. He's a nuisance. He bothers other people and he should just stop it. Embracing him as some kind of natural wonder isn't doing him any good and it's really condescending.

Anonymous said...

The guy is freaky. You want to live out in society among the rest of us, you have to behave. He's too weird. Give him a one way bus ticket to Northampton and go visit him over there if you think he's so cute.

Walter Graff said...

He's not too far off from many folks who have a serious dysfunction or mental illness but don't present as bad.

Ever see the wacko women who works the self checkout at Home Depot in Hadley. Worse than he is. At least he's interesting to tslk to.

Anonymous said...

Some of his behaviors are a danger to himself- and others.

I'll never forget the day I saw him crawling on the yellow traffic lines on North Pleasant St.

How was I to know it was routine
(APD must of had a laugh when I called with my concern)

Maybe his talents could be used with the overgrown traffic islands in S Amherst- or he could clear street storm drains (I'm amazed they are not tended to with the frequent street flooding warnings this summer

Anonymous said...

These people complaining about Bill are really just worried they won't be able to vote themselves Best College Town in the world again.

He's not a danger to himself or anyone else. He doesn't bother anyone. He just conflicts with the Utopia you've made Amherst out to be in your mind.

Walk around him. Drive around him. Stop being such fart-sniffers all the time.

Anonymous said...

All I ask is that he be treated like a UMass Student.

We all know what would happen were a UMass student cutting branches of a town tree -- don't we?

They routinely commit UM students for a s-load less than what he does on a daily basis. Fairness?

Anonymous said...

All the people here commenting about how "colorful" Bill is should put up or shut up: invite him to live with you. You can enjoy his "colorful" behavior and language all day while the rest of us can get on with our lives unbothered by a large, angry-looking crazy person.

Anonymous said...

8:20AM has a point. Don't you think it's high time we had a good old public stoning? Maybe we could tie him to the "Merry Maple" and give him thirty lashes. Or maybe we ought to run him out of town on a rail and send him to Noho like one anon suggested. If you assholes lived here for any length of time, you would know he's not the first person in town center to be like this or will he be the last. As long as he's harmless, let it go and move on already. Man, you people are a bunch of old hens worried about your neighbor instead of yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Wait til he has a break from reality, hurts someone, or does something stupid like lay down in front of an 18-wheeler trying to meander thru town. Yeah, real harmless. Love the mind your own business mentality. Only in Amherst....

Anonymous said...

I have a theory that he is not actually a real person, but rather, a human manifestation of the Town of Amherst -- trying to keep up appearances, yet demented, confused and dirty underneath its shell.

Sasha said...

There are characters far worse through Amherst, that actually make me cringe. Apparently homeless, drunk and cat-calling young girls all over town. I'd rather that be controlled by the town, than a old professor, who's willingly quit his job and gone off medication, to live off his savings and help around town, playing incredible piano on occasion. I've been in town 7 years and never had a single problem from the guy.

Anonymous said...

My issue is very simple -- if he has trust funds, why the hell am I (and every other taxpayer) paying for his apartment at Ann Whalen?

If he wants to be weird, fine, but laying down in the road is disturbing the peace or something. Sawing branches off trees that aren't yours is somehow illegal.

I don't care how crazy someone is, this is a free country and as long as you are obeying the law, you ought to be left alone. But he ISN"T obeying the law...

Anonymous said...

anon. 4:06 am-
The difference between how Bill and UMass students are treated is this:

Bill is mentally ill.

UMass students (who get in trouble with the law) are being assholes.

There ya go.

Anonymous said...

Bill Control part 1 of 2

And then there is this -- look at the earlier entry of the homeless man sleeping outside the North Amherst library. More likely than not, THAT man wasn't bothering anyone -- not asleep -- and I contrast that to Bill.

Crazy or not, cutting branches off town trees is an offense for which one should do a penitence. Like a child, Bill doesn't understand concepts like "town property" or "church property" or "store property" -- but he does understand the concept of "mine" and "my property."

He understands it as to his own property -- any child understands the concept of "mine" -- and he understands that he doesn't own something when someone else, some specific person, personally owns it. Anything beyond this is, of course, a higher level concept far beyond his comprehension.

I don't care why -- if he (personally) was asking for assistance in fixing whatever is wrong with him it would be one thing, but he isn't and this is a free country. He wants to live as a child and can only address concepts with the cognitive capacity of a 5-year-old -- and he needs to be treated like one would a 5-year-old.

I have found that he understands the concept of "mine and yours" -- when someone politely but assertively (in a "there is no debate about this" manner) explains to him that "this is not yours because it is mine" *and* "I'll respect your stuff if you respect mine."

I didn't have to explicitly say the next part -- if you don't, I won't either. That I am bigger, meaner and probably crazier than you are -- that if you mess with "my stuff" again, I'll do exactly what you would do if someone tried to steal "your stuff" from you. And you wouldn't like that.

He understands things on this level.

Anonymous said...

Bill Control Part 2

I think that everyone -- Selectboard, APD, DPW, etc. -- needs to agree that these are all Allen Snow's personal trees. Not that Allen is responsible for them but that they are "his." The flowers, Christmas lights, everything needs to belong to a specific someone else, and hence not to Bill.

I think the APD needs to designate a specific officer -- I would recommend an older patrolman -- as the person who personally owns all Amherst streets. This officer has to tell Bill that he owns the streets, and that Bill can only use them if he follows the officer's rules (i.e. state law).

Then when Bill is laying in the middle of the street or otherwise doing objectionable/dangerous/disruptive things, any APD officer can say "That's Officer Mike's street - did he give you permission to do [whatever]? No, he didn't, so stop it and don't do it again."

I suggest patrolman because it really doesn't matter *who* and you honestly don't think Bill understands rank structure, do you? And "the brass" simply doesn't have the time to do the second part of this which is the personal followup visit to Bill explaining that "the streets are mine and don't do [whatever] in my street again."

Whenever "Officer Mike" is next on days and isn't backed up on calls - it doesn't matter when.

This is behavior modification and you aren't going to eliminate the problems with Bill, but you can reduce them quite a bit. The only caveat is making sure that "Officer Mike" isn't going to say something stupid -- the ideal person is someone who could easily have had higher rank long ago if he'd wanted it, but explicitly doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Bill is mentally ill.
UMass students (who get in trouble with the law) are being assholes.

This is a distinction without a difference for three reasons.

First, mental illness (or any disability) is not an excuse for any specific illegal conduct. Sex offenders are mentally ill too, do we tolerate them offending because of this? What about the "Batman Shooter" -- should he get a pass on that reprehensible act because he is (clearly!) mentally ill?

Second, intoxication is also a form of mental illness, albeit temporary. After all, what is the reason to proscribe OUI -- the drunk driver doesn't maliciously lack the abilities necessary to safely control a vehicle.

Third, there's free will in both situations. People don't have to drink, there are meds that could help Bill -- it may be easier for the college kids to drink, and easier for Bill not to take the meds -- and in both cases, they might be the right choices for the individuals involved -- but they ARE choices.

Did the APD have to physically overpower Bill to stop him from continuing to cut off tree limbs? No -- he has some self control, he can not do things if he sufficiently wants to.

Likewise, drunken a**holes can not do things if they sufficiently want to. Think for a minute -- how many officers, how many college students, how much beer consumed on any weekend night -- there are a lot of them who inherently are quite drunk, but who aren't being a**holes....

Walter Graff said...

"This is behavior modification and you aren't going to eliminate the problems with Bill, but you can reduce them quite a bit. The only caveat is making sure that "Officer Mike" isn't going to say something stupid -- the ideal person is someone who could easily have had higher rank long ago if he'd wanted it, but explicitly doesn't."

Or what if officer Mike tells Bill it's his and Bill already thinks it's his. Nice idea that in a book sounds interesting but this is the real world and the town doesn't have time to change how it operates for one person.

Anonymous said...

Bill's favorite hobby is debate. You really want to delegate the ensuing debate about ownership to a police officer? I'd rather have them preventing crime or breaking up riots.

Anonymous said...

The most "Interesting person in Amherst!"

Dr. Ed said...

Nice idea that in a book sounds interesting but this is the real world and the town doesn't have time to change how it operates for one person.

Then you arrest him each and every time he does these things, which is exactly what I think should be done and have consistently said that.

You arrest him, you arrest him for absolutely everything and leave him in a cell each time until someone bails him out (which won't happen) or the court appearance and you keep doing this in spite of how much it swamps the B-town court, just like the collective arrests of the UM students are.

You address his behavior which you legally can do -- disability or not, mental illness or not -- and you prosecute his violations of the law. This may be politically unpalatable, but is perfectly legal.

The attitude is that "there is nothing we can do because he is mentally ill" and that is bullshite. Mental illness is not a license to do anything you want to, it is not an exemption from all laws and regulations.

Walter, I want him arrested & prosecuted -- and people aren't willing to do that. They are the ones who wishes to change how the town operates for one person -- I am not willing to do that.

And hence I was suggesting a compromise. If the town must change its procedures for one person, at least do so in a manner that the rules are still enforced!

Dr. Ed said...

The most "Interesting person in Amherst!"

A rather clear indictment of Amherst itself, I would have to say. Usually the most interesting person is someone with great knowledge or skill.

Anonymous said...

"Usually the most interesting person is someone with great knowledge or skill."
Well Ed, I guess you'll never make that list. You don't have any of the qualifications. You and Wally could try for blowhard of the year though, you both qualify.

Anonymous said...

Who the frick do you think you are Ed, calling for someone to be arrested in A TOWN YOU DON'T EVEN LIVE IN?!
Move on already...

Anonymous said...

I think the most interesting person (intelligent and skilled)in Amherst is Ms. Enku at UMass.

Anonymous said...

Larry's the nuisance, not Mr. Elsasser.

Dr. Ed the Enku Watchedr said...

I think the most interesting person (intelligent and skilled)in Amherst is Ms. Enku at UMass

Personally, I am speculating on who will be the first to spectacularly "crash & burn" -- her or Maria G.

They are quite similar women, both quite incompetent and too arrogant to even admit that to themselves. Both control information to preclude any effective review of their tenure because it would inevitably reveal the woman to be quite incompetent. Both use admirable social skills and their biological feminine charm to dodge embarrassing questions and to preclude any awareness of their incompetence from becoming general knowledge.

Enku's flameout will have a higher body count in that she and her ACT Nazis are going to create a mass-murderer, it's only matter of time. And when (not if) it happens, and the national media ask me for comment, well let me say that I have it already "in the can" and ready to go.

And while it hurts me to write this, Maria G is far more competent than Enku G ever will be.

Anonymous said...

This is more than a little scary. This Dr. Ed character is telling us he's certain there's a mass murder in the making. How on earth could anyone know that, or proclaim it, unless he was contemplating it himself? He's even got his statement ready for the media!

Does Ms. Enku -- the apparent focal point of his ire -- know about this?

Anonymous said...

Bill would be a better town meeting member than most that are already there. He has more common sense....

Dr. Ed said...

minuHow on earth could anyone know that, or proclaim it, unless he was contemplating it himself?

How on earth could Woodrow Wilson have known that WW-II was going to be inevitable?

How could folks such as Larry K know that a "Barney Day Blowout" would lead to large numbers of quite intoxicated persons wandering through town unless he was intending to be the most intoxicated of them all.

How can the AFD know that dumpsters often tend to be lit on fire unless they are the folks lighting them on fire -- and accuse them of doing it, I double dare you.

No, Enku and the rest of her ACT Nazis are going to get people killed. I've said that to her face and to the face of other members of that kabal -- and these conversations are part of what I will be releasing when they eventually wind up being successful in carnage.

ACT Delenda Est!

Dr. Ed said...

How on earth could anyone know that, or proclaim it, unless he was contemplating it himself?

I am going to to further and question the mental health of a person either paranoid enough and/or psychopathic enough to even think that question.

Let's apply this person's logic to some other situations, starting with the Puffer's Pond bridge.

When the state said it needed to be closed before it collapsed and killed someone, they weren't planning to cause it to collapse under someone! Instead, they essentially stated that it was unacceptably likely that it would happen if action wasn't taken.

When Jeff Parr says that folks he represents need things -- personnel, equipment and such -- is he saying this because he is personally planning to go light a bunch of fires and make a bunch of babies stop breathing?!?!?

Seriously -- no rational person believes that!

Yes, a trained firefighter likely would know how to light a fire that would be difficult to put out, and the ambulance probably carries drugs that would make a baby stop breathing. But absolutely no one -- at least I like to think "absolutely no one" -- believes that the AFD is going to start lighting fires & killing babies!

When the DPW says that it needs money for winter road maintenance and that people will die if they don't get it, no one believes that the DPW guys are going to go out and maliciously run people off the road. No, they're stating a risk and the likely consequences for not addressing it.

When Maria G says she needs money for bigger/better locks on classroom doors, is it because she is planning to go shoot up a school? Absolutely not!

Likewise when the APD submits a budget in anticipation of a certain amount of crime, it isn't that they are planning to be the ones committing it.

And when I, who -- unlike Enku -- actually have a MEd in Student Affairs --state that the university's practices and procedures are actually creating the likelihood of the very situation they are trying to prevent, that doesn't mean that I'm going to be the one perpetrating it.

In fact, I'm actually the least likely. I'm having way too much fun reducing UM's admission yield, although it actually will be next fall before what I'm doing really starts to be noticeable. I may even get the UM budget reduced, and at some point I will be having a book coming out.

Violence is inefficient, the pen really is mightier than the sword. A year ago, I was willing to walk away -- but UM wouldn't stop twisting the knife, and I'm anticipating the pleasure of seeing them all unemployed. Seeing them penniless and in disgrace, publicly humiliated.

Violence is the absolute last thing I want to see happen -- no, I want to see Enku, Eddie and the rest of those schmucks working at McDonalds.....

Hannah Elliott said...

Someone commented here that Bill spends all day, every day doing whatever HE wants to do, while most of us have to work, etc. I'd like to point out that this may be true, but what Bill chooses to do with this "free time" is clean up the trash that no one else wants to take care of, call out friendly greetings to locals he's come to know, and wash dishes and otherwise help out three times a week at Not Bread Alone, the soup kitchen that I run in Amherst. Seems like a pretty good way to spend one's time helping others and the community.

When someone with a mental illness acts in a way that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive to others, chances are quite high that he/she has little to no control over that action. A little empathy would be well-placed here, the same that we would show to someone suffering from cancer, diabetes, or any other severe illness.

If you haven't lived with or been close to someone who struggles with mental health issues, as I have, I understand that it may be hard to feel compassion here. But please know that hurtful and hateful comments against Bill are also crushing to those of us who do have loved ones with similar struggles. And, please know that Bill, along with countless others struggling with various issues (aren't we all, in one way or another??) do more than most people to help improve our community and lend a helping hand to those who need it.

Dr. Ed said...

[S]omeone with a mental illness .. has little to no control over that action.

This simply infuriates me on multiple levels.

First, we are sentient beings, we all have control over what we do and do not do. Granted, it is much more difficult for some of us than for others, and it's particularly difficult when our body chemistry gets messed up -- either on its own accord or because of addiction -- but we do have free will.

Second, this is the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Its the same type of bigotry that once justified women being precluded from the workforce -- it once was believed that "it is hormonally impossible for a woman to be objective."

It's the "barefoot & pregnant" mentality of not considering women to be adult human beings. We did the same thing with African Americans -- considering them to be something less than human.

Third, because I often am the person who gets called when "everything starts going off the rails", I've come to know that a lot more people have mental illnesses than one might think. For every Bill, there is a Brenda, Bob, Betty, Bill and Bobbie.

To excuse Bill because of his mental illness is to insult and degrade all the people who are dealing with the same things but who choose not to act like him. I presume they do this with a great deal of difficulty, I don't know but I presume they do, and excusing Bill is an insult to them.

Fourth -- once someone isn't considered human, it becomes acceptable to treat the person like an animal. Locked up in a cage like an animal -- or killed outright as Hitler did. "For their own good."

Rights and responsibilities are concurrent and by saying that Bill can't be held responsible for the decisions he makes about what he does means that he shouldn't be allowed to make those decisions. That he should be locked up somewhere.

A little empathy ... the same that we would show to someone suffering from ... diabetes....

Diabetes is a good example because if you've ever seen severe hypoglycemia (i.e. "Insulin Shock") once, you will both never forget it and understand why I consider Diabetes to be a mental illness.

In my case, he was the only other person with me at a working fire and the only one of us who knew how to run the truck -- and hence an experience that I definitely will never forget.

But that was a one-time exception of someone not planning to be physically active at 4AM and in the midst of chaos. Most people with Diabetes are responsible enough that situations like this are quite rare.

I come back to where I started -- we are sentient beings and that is what makes us human, it is that which gives us our human rights. It is very scary to say that someone is not a sentient being because that's the slippery slope that leads down to One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest and the rest.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Ed... You are so much fun! Easier to wind up than a cheap toy. Too bad the toy itself never has any fun (or the ability to understand metaphors).

Anonymous said...

Ed, your comments show you are such a monumental moron on so many levels. Please buy or rent a life and stop posting to this blog. It's truly a waste of our time.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, that cancer you have finally ate the last of the brain cells. Must run in the family. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moderator..block he is a block-head and ruining this blog. I scroll past EVERY post he submits (more like manifesto) and my finger is getting tired.

Anonymous said...

Am new here. Who is Dr Ed and what is his story? Does he live in Amherst?

Anonymous said...

If Ed weren't spending considerable time commenting on this blog, and believing that we're all reading him intently, what would he be doing instead, and where?

Think about it. This form of annoyance seems preferable to the other possibilities.