Mickey Friedman writes a column every other week about life, local and global, for The Berkshire Record, a small but vibrant weekly newspaper:
SHAME ON THE STATE
Congressman John Olver was nice enough to march in Great Barrington’s 250th Anniversary Parade. But he and Senator Scott Brown and officials at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs just did something despicable. They have gone over the heads of our local Environmental Protection Agency officials, the folks who have been studying and cleaning the Housatonic River for the last fifteen years. They’re trying to delay the cleanup.
DENMARK MEETS MAIN STREET
As I sat there in the Great Barrington Selectmen’s meeting, I was thinking about once again falling down a rabbit hole. But instead of something from “Alice in Wonderland,” I heard in my head that famous line from “Hamlet:” “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.”
MEMORIAL DAY 2011: THEY DESERVE BETTER
I’m writing on Memorial Day 2011, a particularly confusing Memorial Day for me. I’m experiencing a shifting mixture of pride and bewilderment. Yesterday, I was out with my peace sign again as I have been these many years, glad of the appreciative honks, accepting of the occasional curse and upraised finger. This is the third generation of signs. The snow and rain and the odd angle it rests in the back of my car obviously takes a toll.
Good government. When was the last time you heard that expression? Or believed in it?
Well I’ve seen it. From the United States Environmental Protection Agency. That’s right, the federal good government.
Ninety members of the community were treated to three nights of lectures about every major aspect of the Housatonic River, and then asked to take some of that knowledge and pretend we were the government. To try our hand at shaping a sensible solution to the very complicated problem of a poisoned river.
MY ROYAL WEDDING
I was annoyed I didn’t get invited. Anyone who is anyone was invited. And quite frankly it’s hard knowing I’m just not anyone.
I wasn’t going to watch.
And I didn’t.
Until Saturday night. I was really, really tired and headed off to bed. Turned on MSNBC but for some strange reason on the weekends they have these docu-crime things. Capturing criminals in Kansas City or life behind bars in Nebraska. Very depressing. And bad-dream inducing. Which left me with CNN. And, of course, a special about the royal wedding.
Aren’t you tired of being taken for a ride? I am. Big time.
We’re living in Scam City. The U.S. of A. United Scam Artists. Being told a billion small lies; a million big ones.
Every morning at the Fuel Coffee Shop when I complain about a politician, my friend Anthony just shakes his head. I know he’s thinking I’m a sad case for even saying it. All politicians lie. Everybody knows it.
THE RIGHT CHOICE
I’ve been protesting the War in Iraq for a long time now, and someone who has seen me out there with my sign, asked what I thought about Libya.
I think I surprised him when I said if ever there is a time and place to intervene this is it.
I don’t have any particular expertise but in my humble opinion Qaddafi is a psychopath who will not hesitate to kill millions of his own people. And he needs to be stopped.
NOT FEELING THE LOVE?
As I write, all six of the nuclear power reactors at Tokyo Edison’s Fukushima – Daiichi plant have sustained serious damage. We have chosen to intervene against Ghadafi but not the royal family of Bahrain. So we’re bombing Libya. While filming for Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” is finally underway.
Considering the pervasive violence of the Lord of the Rings – albeit we watched the wholesale slaughter of specially-effected beings and not living, breathing New Zealand extras – I’m not feeling the love these days.
1Berkshire. 2Berkshire. 3Berkshire. When last we spoke, 1Berkshire acknowledged they had received $300,000 from GE. And we learned that 1Berkshire – the new super-agency designed to promote economic development – had launched the Smart Clean-Up Coalition. Because they wanted to make the case that an energetic and comprehensive PCB clean-up of the Housatonic River would hurt tourism and economic development.
Well, the story won’t go away. We learned from the Boston Globe that Michael Daly, chairman of 1Berkshire and the President of Berkshire Bank, declared unambiguously that the “Smart Clean-up Coalition is not working with GE in any way, shape, or form.’’
LIAR! LIAR! RIVER ON FIRE!
Liar! Liar! River on fire!
The Berkshire high muckety-mucks – the bankers, lawyers, corporate execs, and their cultural minions – are trying to help GE save millions with a minimal PCB river cleanup. They have new organizations with new names, 1Berkshire and the Smart Clean-Up Coalition, but these are the folks who ten years ago tried to scare everybody about the EPA and Superfund. And, I’m told, GE just gave 1Berkshire hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who’s 1Berkshire? They’re the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Creative.
They don’t mention PCBs. Probably because they never had to work at Power Transformer, slogging through PCB oil, clothes soaked, shoes melting as they worked. Probably because their kids went to Berkshire Country Day School instead of Pittsfield’s Allendale School, which was built on top of GE’s PCB-poisoned fill.
My friend Anthony and I find new ways to have the same argument each morning at Fuel Coffee Shop. It’s about the role government plays in our life. Somehow I’ve been transformed from a perennial protestor into a government defender. Mainly because Anthony has almost nothing good to say about it.
If you have a pesky ghost, who are you going to call? For me, it’s always been Ghostbusters. When it comes to protecting public health and safety, for all its built-in limitations, I’d rather call Government than Big Business. The lesser of evils. Sure there’s corruption and bureaucratic incompetence, but there’s no compelling, unrelenting need for profit. That’s a big one for me.
A ROYAL PAIN
To the royalty in Elizabethan times, the Fool was a royal pain in the neck. Unimpressed by wealth or power, the Fool told it like it was. In today’s world, with its unrelenting barrage of hype and hypocrisy, and a legion of hucksters who sell us Sarah Palin one moment, and new digi-gadgets the next, we need all the Fools we can find.
One man’s branding is another’s bull. Selling mortgages people can’t afford; prescription drugs plans that won’t pay for the drugs you really need; and caring politicians who don’t really care.
Which is why we need Wikileaks more than ever. Because Wikileaks has never been about state secrets or about putting secret agents in harm’s way. Cheney did that to Valerie Plame; not Julian Assange.
A FISHABLE, SWIMMABLE RIVER
EPA Rest of River Project Manager
I am not an engineer, biologist, or expert in river remediation. I have, though, been reading and analyzing GE’s studies for more than twenty years.
In my opinion, GE’s revised Corrective Measures Study for the Rest of the River minimizes the many problems of PCB contamination in the Housatonic, and emphasizes the cost and difficulty of solving those problems. It is more propaganda than science.
OUR TEA PARTY MOMENT
Like many, I’ve been watching the Tea Party.
Anthony, my Fuel Coffee Shop buddy and Republican counterpart, has been drinking tea for a while.
I’m not talking about the corporate funded Tea Party, but the grassroots populist and libertarian movement.
And, I didn’t quite get the anti-government annoyance that fuels the Tea Partiers until recently. Until I realized we’re approaching our own Tea Party Moment here in Great Barrington.
THEIR WAY & THE HIGHWAY
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.
I’m worried we’ve scheduled our Main Street Reconstruction project during a Downtown Downturn. It must be the free grant money: $3,764,000. Free, in today’s odd world where words have no meaning, and free is just another way to spend the taxpayer dollars the State recently took from us.
For the dough, we get new sidewalks, a new road, new streetlights, and new trees from Taconic Street to Cottage Street. And at least two summer seasons of at best, dislocation, and at worst, a living hell.
TELL GE: MORE IS MORE
It’s David vs. Goliath time once again. GE vs. the fish, the birds, the animals and us.
GE has just issued its Corrective Measures Study (CMS). Having been forced by the United States EPA to clean up a two-mile section of the Housatonic River, GE was tasked with coming up with a plan to clean up the “Rest of the River” south of Pittsfield. 1200 pages of highly technical scenarios and charts which explain why GE should leave its highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the river.
IT’S HARD TO BE GAY
I woke up feeling really dumb. Like I just don’t get it anymore.
I mean I know it’s been a very long time since the days when I began to get it. The Sixties became the Seventies which slipped into the Eighties, and then we found ourselves in the Nineties and Two Thousands with a couple of Bushes, and whoosh, it’s 2010.
When I’m feeling this kind of stupid, it seems to me as if we’re moving back in time and instead of forward. And the light of hope seems to be fading before my eyes.
GOD WORKS IN MICESTERIOUS WAYS
I was going to poke fun at the Tea Partyers and their Senate candidates. The “you betchas” who don’t believe in big government but want to control it. The family value folks who ditch their wives when they have cancer, or, using our tax dollars, fly off to Argentina to cheat on their family-value wives.
I was about to poke fun at Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Party nominee for the Senate in Delaware. She’s pro-life and against Obama health care and thinks women who are the victims of rape and incest should give birth. Because she’s not a feminist, she thinks women shouldn’t serve in the military. Because she believes in marriage, she believes that gays and lesbians shouldn’t marry. Because she believes in limited government, she’s against Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance for middle income folks but loves giving the super rich a whole bunch of tax breaks.
GYPSIES, MORE GYPSIES & THEIR JOYNT
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.
If combat operations in the Iraq War began with Shock and Awe, they seem to be ending with numbness: a war-weary America paying more attention to bogus issues about a Muslim community center and Ground Zero.
I’ve spent these past seven and a half years safe at home. No IEDs, no house to house combat, no crazed and fanatic suicide bombers threatening my person. Even so I have paid a price for this abomination.
THE WRONG DEAD BLACK MAN
I kept silent out of respect for those who worked so hard to honor Great Barrington’s native son, W. E. B. DuBois, including the Gunns, Skip Meade and Esther Dozier. For the volunteer artists who painted the DuBois mural, not once but twice. For Carr Hardware for their generous support of the project. And Railroad Street Youth for their sponsorship.
But I’m disturbed by what seems a case of mistaken identity. A recent letter in the Eagle and Record celebrates the new DuBois mural, so very happy that we finally have “a community-friendly DuBois.”
DuBois never tolerated fools. And considering he was an Einstein-like genius, he was always surrounded by fools like you and me. And he was fired many times for his arrogance and obstinacy.
‘BUKED AND SCORNED
The 1960s was a decade of buttons: a button for every cause and every march. And there were organizations of every size and shape: dozens of peace groups and civil rights groups. There were political parties of every shade: young socialists and old socialists, scholarly Marxists and slightly mad Maoist Marxists. Splinter groups and then groups who splintered those groups. And, of course, they all had a button.
My favorite button, the button I treasured most, was the button of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. SNCC called “Snick!”
The SNCC button was simple and beautiful. A white and black hand clasped together.
In the Bronx we played basketball all year long, outdoors on concrete with metal backboards.
I loved basketball as a boy and still love it.
In the late 1950s, the average salary for a professional basketball player was $12,000. By 1968, it had risen to $20,000. Bill Russell, who transcended racism to win 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, made $100,000 one year.
The other day, Joe Johnson, a very good player signed a contract for $124 million for six years of work. And three stars – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh – made a mockery of a game millions of people hold dear.
First thing you should know is that enviropigs are not pigs that care about the oil spill. Second thing you should know is that they are not creatures of God.
So why am I writing about them?
It all started with the tuna. The New York Times had an incredible article about the death of the blue fin tuna by a writer named Andrew Pollack. God works in mysterious ways when it comes to delivering the news.
We are fishing and sushi-ing them to death. Pollack writes that they may be only 9,000 left of the most vital breeders in the North American stock. Along with the Mediterranean, it is one of only two stocks of bluefins in the world. And it just so happens that the very place that BP has spilled its oil in our Gulf Coast is only one of two spawning grounds for the Atlantic bluefin.
APPLE PIE FRIDAY
Apple Pie Friday began for me with the opening ceremonies for the 2010 World Cup. I was moved to tears to see the stadium in Johannesburg filled with proud black Africans and football lovers from around the world.
If you relied on the sports commentators, you really wouldn’t understand what a truly historic day it was. Because South Africa – like our American South – was for so many years a bastion of segregation. And because, before he was Nelson Mandela, the revered civil rights leader and President, he was Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary. And thanks, in large part, to Nelson Mandela, the World Cup had come to Africa.
THE EARTH IS BLEEDING BLACK
I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. One of the most rewarding, but also most depressing, is my work for Penguins United.
A few years ago I reluctantly agreed to be their Associate Director of Penguin/Human Relations. Penguins are a lot shrewder than you think. They knew if they made me Director they might have to pay me.
When I heard about the oil spill, I was pretty angry. Between you and me, I was so annoyed I was ready to fill up my car at the Mobil station.
Then I started to read all kinds of stuff blaming BP and Halliburton and TransOceanic.
Luckily, just before my blood pressure hit the roof, I remembered that BP isn’t really an oil company, it’s an energy company.
I LOVE FABRICE
No matter what the French are talking about, it sounds so delightful.
Like Fabrice Tourre, testifying before Congress about how he and his Goldman Sachs buddies screwed – oops, made love to – just about everyone they came in contact with.
Fabrice helped to come up with a financial instrument that enabled some people to make a killing while people defaulted on their mortgages and our investment banking system went down the toilet. Or as the French say, toilette.
ME AND THE GOVERNOR
I don’t own a tux or a suit. So you’re not likely to find me at those spiffy social occasions they hold around here. And I only get paid fifteen dollars a column, so I can’t afford to attend those fancy fundraisers.
So it was kind of amazing that me and Governor Deval Patrick had a chance to chat. My friend Claudia told me that when the booklovers found out he was coming to campaign at the Riverbend Café – a great place for coffee and breakfast burritos, by the way – they decided to rally and say hi. I thought it would be nice to demonstrate about something other than war and death.
WORLD’S WORST SOCIALIST
We’re a small but dedicated group, meeting once a month at the Food Court at the Big Y. You probably haven’t noticed us. Fact is, we look an awful lot like a fantasy baseball league. This maybe isn’t the best time to admit it, but we believe in sharing the wealth. Simply put, the earth belongs to us all. We need to distribute its bounty in a fair and equitable way. And most radical of all, we believe that the people who do the bulk of the work – making and building and growing things, teaching people, healing people, serving people, and hauling away our trash deserve more money than the insurance company executives who live to say no to cancer patients.
THE SIDEWALKS ARE HEATING UP
I can’t go anywhere these days without people asking me about what I think about the heated sidewalks.
Some Great Barrington merchants believe that since we are going to rip up and replace our Main Street sidewalks, we might as well be proactive and deal with another major problem.
According to Craig Okerstrom-Lang, a local landscape architect with experience installing such systems, installing heating tubes beneath the new sidewalks would effectively keep them clear of snow and ice.
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL, DON’T SHOWER
I finally decided to ask Google about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Because every time I heard someone talk about it on TV, I thought maybe I was really stupid. I never quite understood what they were talking about.
Now I’m beginning to feel like it’s not me who’s stupid. It’s like some enormous shell game, a slight-of-hand exercise that appears to respect human rights but doesn’t.
UH OH CANADA
If you’ve been watching the Olympics like me, I’m pretty sure you’ve come to the same conclusion that I have. It’s time to invade Canada.
It’s a really nifty place. How about those mountains?
And they don’t really use it. It’s the second largest country on Earth after Russia, and after all these years, they’ve got less than 38 million people. We’ve got just about as many folks in California alone.
Can you believe we import more oil from Canada than from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait combined. And they make us pay for it.
The more I watched Canada on TV, the more sense this war makes.
I was just taking one of my early morning walks. I’m trying to remember to get up every couple of hours and leave my computer behind and walk around the block. Otherwise my back and neck turn to steel. Lately I’ve been writing mysteries and it’s easy to get stuck on my chair and in my brain as minutes turn to hours.
Anyway, today is Monday and often on Mondays I see New Yawkers pull into the Triplex Parking lot eagerly depositing their trash in the dumpsters. Could be Gorham and Norton’s or 20 Railroad’s or Baba Louie’s. Today, it was two spiffy looking guys in their thirties and their Mercedes SUV who, without a moment’s hesitation or embarrassment, took their white plastic garbage bags and strolled over to 20’s dumpster.
ZOOM – ZOOM
I don’t know why liberals are up in arms about the new Supreme Court Decision. All it does is to allow corporations to spend oodles and oodles of cash on political candidates and political campaigns. Finally, we get some enjoyable commercials.
Personally, I embrace the change. I think it’s going to be fun. Like going to American Airlines Arena to see the Miami Heat. Or Bank One Ballpark to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks. Or Cinergy Field to see the Cincinnati Reds. Quit complaining, you lefties. This is America for God’s Sake. Love it or leave it.
LONG LIVE PANDORA
I gave in. I tried not to. For a while I ignored all the gushing Facebook posts. But then just about everyone I knew was talking about it. Life-changing, they said. No, not Tiger Woods. Not the new Depression. Or the new escalation in Afghanistan. Not even the Underwear Bomber. I’m talking Avatar.
So my friend Bill and I made a strategic decision and decided to avoid the crowds and fly to Pandora at eleven-thirty in the morning on a Wednesday.
HE WAS A PHEASANT FRIEND OF MINE
Many of my friends these days are packing. They’ve got permits and they’re armed and ready. Several of them are going to the Pheasant Sanctuary with shotguns. It’s the story of my life but I can’t help but think of myself as the pheasant in this tale.
I want to meet the brilliant guy who first decided to call Pheasantville, a Sanctuary. I bet if you asked every single pheasant there, not a single one would have picked that word. Sanctuary, my ass. A refuge? A holy place? And get this, “a place where wildlife is protected.”
My friends are kind and considerate people. They really don’t want to cause the pheasants too much pain. The kind and considerate thing to do, they insist, is to blow their heads off. By using shotgun shells with hundreds of little ball-bearing-like pellets you can aim in the general direction of the bird and somehow some of these pellets will do the trick.
YES WE CAN; NO WE WON’T
Barack Obama, we hardly knew you. Gone are the inspirational orations, the call for new beginnings, and the promise of a new day. Somehow you’ve gone from “yes we can” to “no we won’t” in less than a year.
You are now the Obama of the corporate bailout; the Obama who will offer yet one more extraordinary gift to the very same insurance companies and pharmaceutical conglomerates who have brought our health care system to ruin; and perhaps worst of all, you are the Obama of war, not peace.
My mother’s Italian mother died before I was born. My Hungarian grandma made it to ninety-four. I swear I didn’t kill her. I have, in fact, never ever killed anyone’s grandmother.
But I can’t prove it to my conservative friend, Anthony. The other morning at Fuel he announced loudly that liberals want to kill grandmas.
It’s about government, Anthony says. Government is evil and more government is more evil. Liberals and leftists want to use government to control the way people live, and now the way they die. It costs too much to maintain an unproductive grandma. Why keep her alive when she can no longer make macaroni?
“Anyone who can fill up a sweater like Sarah has got my vote!” So says my Republican friend Anthony. Adding, “the truth shall make us free.” And so begins Sarah Palin’s slow sashay to the American presidency.
In the upside-down world we live in, where tea-partiers criticize Barack Obama, that sly socialist who saved American capitalism for the criminally wealthy, sensible folk had better start imagining a political universe where the President of the United States outlaws press conferences. And permanently bans Katie Couric from the District of Columbia. Because if it wasn’t for the press and stupid questions like ‘what do you read?’ Sarah would have been vice-president already and that much closer to the Oval Office. We’re talking about a few wasted years when she could be turning things around for all of us, in the efficient way she helped Alaskans.
CARDS AND LETTERS
I get letters, stacks and stacks of letters. And emails. So my apologies for not getting back to all of you.
Some concerned reader wrote to me that each time he drives through town he is concerned that I am sit beneath one of those lethal flowering pear trees for hours at a time on the bench before Fuel. I must admit that even though I have written about the dangers I didn’t realize that I was so close to the problem. It’s amazing what you can miss. And lo and behold, I looked up to see a threatening branch above me. So many thanks. We are none of us safe. Luckily they will be taking our benches away any day now. And then the trees. In the meantime I’m staying inside, safe if not totally sound.
AMERICA FOR AMERICANS
I’ve always loved Robin Hood. In all his many manifestations, including the most recent BBC Robin. I’m quite fond of Maid Marion, but that’s for another day, another column.
Robin has a healthy disrespect for laws that penalize the many, and serve the interests of the few. And I have always known that if push came to shove, I’d jack a deer or two in Sherwood Forest to feed myself and feed the poor.
Which brings me to Albaro Francisco. Many people in Great Barrington were shocked when Albaro Francisco was handcuffed and led away. Albaro is a successful small businessman, a talented music promoter, and a respected community leader. In a meeting held two Saturdays ago at The Triplex, I heard several people speak of his many kindnesses.
YE OLDE SLIGHTLY ECCENTRIC GREAT BARRINGTON
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.
Just so we’re clear. I’m a pinko commie big government nazi. I don’t really want to kill your grandmother but I do think it’s a smart idea to talk with your doctor about what you might want when you’re experiencing more pain than pleasure at the end of your life.
I’ve lost some of the little sanity I have left listening to the health care debate. I’m as annoyed at the Democrats as I am at the Republicans. I’m perpetually embarrassed at how stupid the debate has been considering what’s at stake. I am angry for myself and for those I have lost to illness; and I am angry for every American who worries about his or her healthcare, and the health of those they love. I’m angry for everyone who has spent hours dealing with their insurance companies for reimbursements they deserve; for everyone who has given up and gone without the care they need or the care their doctors tell them they need.
TREES: THE PUBLIC OPTION
What I know about trees could fill a thimble. You could stop ten people on Main Street and they would all probably know more about trees than me.
But I am nevertheless a bit sad and bewildered about the prospects for downtown renewal in Great Barrington, about losing my pear trees and having to learn to love a whole new set of trees.
THE 5% SCAM
I’ve been working pro bono as Associate Director of Penguin/Human Relations for Penguins United: http://penguinsunited.com. The penguins have taught me about global warming.
I mention this so that you know up front that I care about the climate crisis.
Now some people will tell you we have to give up our mountains if we really, truly, deeply care about global warming. Some of them get paid to tell you this; others believe it from the bottom of their hearts.
I think it’s a false choice, or as we used to say in the Bronx, a crock.
WELCOME HOME, TOMMY
I have to apologize. When I was asked the other day about the Tommy affair, I spoke off the cuff and without my usual thought and reflection. I shouldn’t have said the Great Barrington Police acted “stupidly.”
The fact is I wasn’t at Fuel when the incident happened and have no way of knowing exactly what the Police Department had been told about Tommy.
I AM A DODO
It was like old times this past Saturday. Me and my sign in front of Great Barrington Town Hall. Unfortunately, my sign, bent and bruised after several years of valiant service – days of rain and wind and snow and sun – fell apart just minutes before I had to go out there. I made a pathetic attempt to revive it with scotch tape, but I really needed a staple gun and heavy-duty gaffer’s tape.
Standing there alone for an hour with my disintegrating “Cease Fire Iraq” sign, I had time to reflect on my almost seven years of demonstrating against the war.
THE MUSEUM OF LOST AMERICAN VALUES
The other day I was sitting all by myself on the bench in front of Fuel wondering why nobody has asked me what I think about the Searles Bryant complex. I know I’m not a developer, and I certainly can’t afford to buy one of the luxury condominiums they keep talking about. But I am a citizen and every once in a blue moon I have a decent idea.
It might have been one of those blue moon days because all of a sudden I got a doozy of an idea for GB. When you were a kid, did you ever take a bus ride to a big-city museum? I used to go the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. They have these amazing dioramas: life-like little scenes behind glass. American Indians offering the Pilgrims a really delicious dinner. A grizzly bear protecting her cubs.
MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE
Yesterday I believed that one of the great disadvantages about living in Great Barrington is the number of times each year you have to hear that Mercury’s in Retrograde. If someone loses her car keys, it’s because Mercury’s in Retrograde. If your friend shows up an hour late for lunch, it’s because Mercury’s in Retrograde.
Early on, I tried to make a joke about it. Like “Mercury’s in my thermometer!” Well, that didn’t work big time. Because the people who care about where Mercury is, really care about it. And they definitely didn’t appreciate my mocking the higher powers.
WAITING FOR THE TROLLEY
I have been waiting for the trolley to stop on Main Street every since I came to Great Barrington. You can often see me sitting on the bench in front of Fuel. Luckily, I have a paperback mystery to read while I wait.
Occasionally, people will stop to tell me that it’s never going to come. But I know it just a matter of time. The Barrington Brewery-to-Guido’s Local.
Waiting for the trolley gives me plenty of time to think about the important issues of life.
BIG MOUTH SYNDROME
Some people are powerless in the face of alcohol. Other people are powerless over tobacco. I used to know some people who couldn’t face the day without smoking dope.
I hardly ever drink. Don’t smoke. But I’ve got a big mouth.
I’ve looked for an effective support group but haven’t found one.
My problem is that when someone asks me what I think, I tell them. I know. You’re absolutely right. I’m an idiot. God knows, I should have learned to keep my mouth shut.
DREDGE OR DIE!
Jess had an extra shot of espresso that she added to my morning coffee at Fuel, so that might be the cause of some of the extra passion I’m bringing to this issue. But maybe not.
PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, a man-made chemical that was at once marvelous and diabolical. PCBs, a heavy oil that does not conduct electricity, were used in electrical transformers and capacitors, in carbonless paper, in fluorescent light fixtures, in caulking, and even for a brief while in chewing gum. Before 1929, there wasn’t a single PCB anywhere on Earth; today there is not a human being walking the Earth who doesn’t have PCBs in his or her body.
I’VE GOT A SEAT AT FUEL
I’ve got a seat at Fuel, and a table I love for my morning double espresso over ice. After an early city life, and some country living of chopping and splitting wood and baking bread, I found GB. It is, oddly enough, the closest thing I’ve found to my Bronx neighborhood, manageable yet dynamic. And, because more than 20-something years ago I found myself living in what was then considered the wrong side of town, I was able to afford it.
Unfortunately, “community” is an over-used word, and we tend to devalue the language we misuse. But, for better and worse, GB is a community. And, today, coffee shops are the general stores of yesterday, the geographical centers of community. The potbelly stove may be gone but the need people have to find one another still exists.