My buddy Anthony is now off to Italy for a month. He was kind enough on Friday and Saturday to grace me with a couple of last coffee shop conversations/arguments but it wasn’t a fair fight. He was still steaming from the five hours he spent on line trying unsuccessfully to get this season’s opera tickets at the Mahaiwe. He was 78 on the line, but still couldn’t find two seats anywhere near each other. Seems that even though he and Dana had gotten tickets from the very beginning, a friend had gotten them last year’s seats and they no longer qualified as preferred season ticket holders.

So he was waiting with the other un-preferreds. I, in my own sneaky left-wing way, tried to connect the Rorschach dot, talking about how money has made the arts unavailable for the many, but Anthony was still smarting about how he had been treated.

I can’t remember how we made the transition to the Mosque but nowadays it’s hard not to find your way there. Anyway, Anthony was saying everything could be solved if only they would compromise and move their center a few blocks away.

We were back on familiar ground. Why is it the minority is always asked to compromise? I threw out the First Amendment, and while Anthony agreed that the Constitutional argument made perfect sense, he still thought a compromise was called for. I forget the numbers but Anthony offered a new poll, saying that 60-some odd percent of New Yorkers were in favor of moving it.

Which got me onto Fox News and how just a few short months ago, nobody in New York City cared a fig about this Islamic Community Center. And, by the way, what about the fact that there are daily services for practicing Muslims at the Pentagon. The Pentagon, for God’s sake. Wasn’t the Pentagon hit during 9/11?

Which, finally, brought me to Gypsies. So there’s a reason Gypsies are in the title.

Now I know it’s not fair to Anthony, who right now is recovering from an extraordinary lunch in Milan and can’t respond, but I think I made headway with Gypsies.

Really, truly, I asked, do you think that Germany was so terribly endangered by Gypsies, Jews, and Homosexuals? Do you really think the G’s and J’s and H’s could bring a nation to its knees?

How hard was it for Hitler to convince a nation that these mongrels were poised to destroy their homeland? How hard is it to whip a distressed and disturbed people into a collective hatred so potent they would drag their neighbors from the street to their deaths?

Anthony didn’t really need me to tell him any of this. Then he gave me the look I had seen before. Yes, you might be right, but you’re nevertheless incredibly naïve. That all could be true, but you’re missing the point. There’s a worldwide movement of Islamic extremists who want to destroy us.

Yes, I agreed, there are some crazed and desperate Islamic extremists who want to destroy the West but that doesn’t deny the fact that some people have a vested interest in exaggerating the threat. Which made it time to play the Eisenhower card: the danger of the military industrial complex and the extraordinary profits made by fighting the never-ending war.

Anthony had packing to do and we left it at that. But clearly somehow the Gypsies had made their way into his subconscious. He made it to Fuel a few minutes before me on Saturday morning and had the paper waiting. Anthony wanted me to read the article about the Gypsies.

And so here we go again. France ordered the deportation of two hundred Gypsies to Bulgaria and Romania.

But there was good news as well for lots of us. For Anthony and Dana, Richard Stanley is offering the Metropolitan Opera series in HD at the new Beacon Theater in Pittsfield. While not as convenient as a walk to the Mahaiwe, they will at least have the opera they love.

For the world at large, the Pope himself has spoken out, urging French Catholics to “accept legitimate human diversity” and practice “universal fraternity.”

And I have my own friendly Gypsies right down the road. 
My Gypsies – the Wellers – have their own Joynt. At 389 Stockbridge Road
in Great Barrington, MA 01230. They work extremely hard but with grace to offer great food, and terrific music from all around the world.

I have seen and heard the ever-exuberant Pine Leaf Boys from Lafayette, Lousiana; Kinobe, who brought me the traditional instruments and contemporary energy of Uganda and Africa; the very talented singer-singwriters: Mark Erelli and Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst, Guy Davis, and Charlie Mars; and the Parisian bluegrassers, Blue Railroad Train. All at prices, I and the rest of the un-preferred can afford. In an incredibly unpretentious and intimate setting.

The Gypsies are ever-present everywhere. Gypsies, more Gypsies and their Joynt.

The Berkshire Record, Thursday September 9, 2010. © Mickey Friedman. All rights reserved.