The New York Times has an article about melting glaciers. It’s a complete bummer. They’re melting faster than Mitch McConnell can deny they’re melting.

Maybe the sea will rise three feet by 2100. Or maybe six feet. Trouble if you live near the sea.

And SLATE magazine published a series by Timothy Noah about the growing gap between the wealthy and me.

I’m feeling like I’m losing my world. Like they’re telling me: “It’s my way or the highway.” And I should pack my bags.

Which is why I selfishly want to hang on to Great Barrington. With all its blemishes. Maybe that makes me a foe of progress, a short-sighted stand-in-the-way of the future kind-of-a-guy? I’ll own up to my serious shortcomings. I clearly don’t get it.

I went to a couple of meetings. The first one started with this visioning kind of thing: “What do you like about the Town?” the moderator asked us. “And now what don’t you like?”

I’m afraid that what I like will be gone, and what I don’t like will multiply. What I like is imperfection. The random. The quirky. Much like the odd and eclectic group of people you find in the laundromat at seven in the morning. The woman making her weekly pilgrimage with laundry for two and the thick historical novel she reads. The Mexican-Americans who’ve balanced their laundry bags on their bicycle handle bars. The single mom with a bunch of kids clothes.

Well, Great Barrington’s a bit like the laundromat. Railroad Street has gone from being Barrington’s block of iniquity to its Columbus Avenue. And there is nothing like the view down from the top of Railroad Street as the sun sets on our small townscape.

When I first heard about Downtown Revitalization, I was under the impression that a perfect storm of imperfection made reconstruction necessary. There was the slide show of crack after sidewalk crack, each one capable of inflicting harm. And, in fact, it was only a short time later when someone called out to me from a passing car, and without seeing where I was going, I hit a small pit besides the now-closed Reid’s Cleaners and went flying, scraping my knee. I took it as a sign that Herbie Reid wasn’t happy with how our New York Giants started the season, but it could have been more. Anyway, it was the parking lot not the sidewalk that did me in. So I’m all in favor of patching.

Then it was the trees. Poised to fall and crush not only cars, but any one of us. And it’s true our trees are in trouble.

The trees not only poised the immediate threat of coming down, but the even worse threat of staying up. Too tall, they would block the ability of firemen to get to an upstairs fire.

So how about slowly replacing the trees one-by-one over the next few years.

Then, for me, the most compelling reason to re-do Main Street: the aging infrastructure beneath the street. One hundred year old sewage pipes. If ever there was a good reason to tear up Main Street from Taconic to Cottage, pipes-about-to-burst is the best.

But I recently learned that that’s not the case. A recent test revealed the pipes are old but fine.

So a project of necessity is really a project of choice.

And that makes a very big difference. And raises a whole lot of interesting questions about not only what we choose, but how we make our choices.

I’ve been stopped by many townsfolk as I take my walks about town. Retailers, customers, former town officials, and some dreamers. The dreamers want to use this opportunity to think bigger about preparing the town for the future – transportation alternatives: vans, small buses to lessen the need for cars, a green parking garage, closing Railroad Street to all auto traffic except for deliveries and emergencies to make a pedestrian mall.

Many retailers are very frightened they won’t be able to survive the dislocation of two summers of torn up streets and sidewalks. They speak of how badly merchants were hurt in Lenox. Some retailers seemed resigned to the fact that this is a done deal. And some are reluctant to speak up.

I’m afraid to stay silent.

Quite frankly, I was a bit creeped out by the new improved Lenox. Too neat, in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of a way. As if the aliens captured the form but not the spirit of a small New England town. Last time I was there I wanted to tell my friends it was a trap, and we should run, but the food at Nudel was so good I calmed down. But I never fully relaxed.

Anyway, let’s speak up before they tell us it’s Their Way & The Highway.

The Berkshire Record, Thursday November 18, 2010. © Mickey Friedman. All rights reserved.