Even now it’s hard to believe. But I have the letter right here: “Dear Mickey Friedman. We’re excited to inform you that you have been granted $375,000 to design and implement the Great Barrington Downtown Revitalization Plan. We know how much time you have spent sitting on the bench in front of the Fuel Coffee Shop and several people in our office believe your mix of innovative and traditional ideas are just what downtown revitalization is all about. Congratulations, Josiah Schmidlap, Massachusetts Department of Downtown Revitalization.”

Quite frankly, I had just about given hope of getting this contract. But for $375,000 I’ll redesign anything you’ve got. So I’ve spent the last three hours deep in thought and I’m prepared to offer my preliminary ideas to you.

First things first. Let’s face the facts. Those pear trees, while beautiful, have got to go. They want to kill us. I don’t blame them. We haven’t given them a lot of love, or soil, or trimmed them. But that’s no excuse. They’re standing there just waiting to send their lethal branches plummeting down upon us like rain.

And the sidewalks. Have you seen those cracks and splits? Urban terror. I dare you to walk from Cottage Street to Mahaiwe Street without tripping and falling. We are talking head injuries waiting to happen.

Not to mention that Main Street is higher in the middle of the road than it is by the sidewalks. A blatant invitation for massive flooding.

But enough about the horrors. Let’s embrace the opportunity.

My bold plan: back to the future. Ye Olde Slightly Eccentric Great Barrington. A combination of the best of what’s been and what we need.

Enough with the cars. Starting in April 2013, visitors will park their cars at expanded lots at the Barrington Fair and the Barrington Brewery and exchange them for horse and buggys. Not only we will be reducing global warming emissions, but we will be revitalizing the oats industry, and providing jobs for professional pooper-scoopers. And, as an added bonus: no sidewalks, no cracks. No asphalt, no problems.

Advanced polymer appendages. Trees are yesterday; plastics are today. With the help of Sabic Plastics in Pittsfield, we hope to install our advanced polymer appendages everywhere the dangerous pear trees were. What’s great about them is they not only capture sunlight during the day and produce electricity but their faux branches are programmed to glow green and red during the holiday season. Take that Bill O’Reilly!

Now for the human touch. And, if I say so myself, this is what has distinguished my previous planning efforts. Quite frankly, our street life is far too boring. So I’ve invited an extended family of Bulgarian gypsies to set up an encampment at the Fairgrounds. As an added bonus, they’ll be working with Railroad Street Youth Project to set up a gypsy apprentice program. Soon the streets will be filled with accordion players and dancing bears and clever monkeys.

The Great Barrington Historical Society, as always, will be stepping up to the plate with daily re-enactments of the 1786 Shays Rebellion. We’ll be auditioning for an enthusiastic corps of debt-ridden farmers willing to take on the state government. We’re hoping that some of you who lost most of your retirement portfolios might be willing to channel some of your rage in a more productive way. There is, of course, a growing tourist market in historical pageantry. Suffice it to say, the South Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, is quite enthusiastic about the project. We’re hoping for a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities to create an educational but entertaining script. And if you’ve already got a permit to carry, there’s a place for you.

Anyway, soon the streets will safe, if a bit dusty, for all.

Until then, keep an eye on those trees!


When he’s not working on his mystery novel, Mickey Friedman is taking an online course in Rural Planning and Demolition from Oral Roberts University.

Thursday October 8, 2009 © Mickey Friedman – All Rights Reserved