The Bestest Small Town in America

May 5, 2012
By Mickey Friedman

Gettya free money! Free money! Right over here!

Reminds me of the Marx Brothers and A Day At The Races. Gettya ice icream. Tootsy fruitsy ice cream here.

Free Money

I thought of this walking to Fuel at seven this morning as the machines tore up the street for the new water main. Imagining when the Little Dig morphs into The Bigger Dig.

Digging up and replacing what we’re told is the worst street in the Best Small Town in America. You know the Main Street with the worst flowering pear trees in the Best Small Town in America. You know the trees that reside beside the worst sidewalks in the Best Small Town in America.

What were those Smithsonians thinking when they decided Great Barrington was The Best Small Town in America?

Were they smoking pot in a school zone? Had they been drinking before dawn? Maybe someone put a couple of grand in a secret Smithsonian account in the Caymans?

I appreciate that all God’s children need water mains.

We're Number One!

But I can’t be the only one thinking there is something really weird about ripping apart The Best Small Town in America for a summer or two for a mere four or five mil. Granted, it’s the State’s money, not ours. Gettya free money! Free money! Right over here!

Some folks thought we should replace Main Street over ten years. But they were merchants. And some of them actually lived outside of town. A little bit of work for a manageable amount of money each and every year. Find a crack, fix a crack.

But the Town Manager and the Select Board and the State are convinced the free State money will make the Best Small Town in America even Bester.

And you can’t be Bester without some pain. Lose a few small businesses. You can hear the coaches yelling: “Dig Deeper!”

I’ve said before that I am barely able to keep up with living in the Best Small Town in America. It’s not easy wending your way through the ever growing dense line in front of Baba Louie’s at four-thirty in the summertime. Or trying to make it safely to the deli counter at The Marketplace at Guido’s. Or to see a single measly film at the Great Barrington International Film Festival when everyone and their grandmother has those high-priced pink or purple passes that lets them move ahead of those who’ve been lined up for an hour.

It’s not crazy to wonder whether they’ll even be a place for some of us in the Bestest Small Town in America. With its brand new sidewalks and brand new trees and brand new street and brand new streetlights. Without those really old and dilapidated turn lanes to help you make it up the Hill to the doctor’s office or the hospital or to turn toward the co-op.

Do those of us with bad backs or cheap shoes, bad haircuts or incomes under fifty grand even belong in The Bestest Small Town in America?

Right now we sort of blend into the undisciplined, slightly chaotic style of The Best Small Town in America. We’re just part of the charm. A cleaner, more reasonable version of David, our homeless Magadini. We’re like those pear trees. We’re a bit cranky. We bend a little bit this way or that way, and occasionally bloom. Maybe not always but sometimes we’re even beautiful.

Of course, there won’t be any crime in the new, improved The Bestest Small Town in America because the Commonwealth insists on National Grid’s brand new Crime Prevention lighting with its computer-based sensors. Simultaneously providing illumination and 24-hour a day monitoring. It’s part of the package deal for the free money. So you may have to forget about those artsy and aesthetic streetlights you thought you were getting. You know, those lovely and charming turn-of-the century streetlights with not enough illumination to see what’s in your pockets. Or your heart.

The kids are going to hate those lights. And Dave Magadini too. Probably all the complainers.

I admit I’m too attached to what works. I often can’t see the promise of what works better. That’s why we have Town Managers and Selectpeople. While I’m stuck living in The Best Small Town in America, they can imagine The Bestest Small Town.

What about you? Will you grumbling when they come for Main Street? The big trucks and the big noise? Will you see the future or be stuck in the past? Will you rant or rejoice when the trees are gone? Will you dance or despair when you can’t park in front of Fuel? Will you be seeing the Bestest Small Town in America when you are stuck in front of Price Chopper when all you want to do is make it home to the Hill?

I know I’m not to be trusted. Best is good enough for me.

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