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Swimming upstream

I'm in the middle of moving my writing studio out of Pittsfield, the ex-General Electric mill town, in the Berkshires where I live. A friend, a novelist, offered me his third-floor corner office in Great Barrington.

GB, as it's called, is a busy little village on down south along the Housatonic River. Even though the room is in the center of town, it's quiet ' and companionable. There's a coffeeshop next door. It's got the makings of good karma.

Sometimes, there's no good reason for moving on. It happens. And I've been putting it off, having two places, unable to commit to either one, saying I would, then not getting around to it.

When she heard what I was doing, a friend, an actress, a really good actress, whose acumen I respect and whom I have interviewed for my book on high school misfits, remarked, in so many words: why would you want to move to GB. Everyone else is migrating to Pittsfield, the center of gravity, pulling in the cool and the hip and the cutting-edge art and artists and writers.

And for one millisecond, I felt that urge to be part of the cool and the hip and the cutting edge, too,as if it were something you could put on, like black Converse sneakers, to be on the vanguard of what's new and exciting, that some people say 'Wow!' and friends gather round, and not be left behind, and to be part of a creative energy surge so that the city could recover whatever it lost when GE shut down and left a couple million pounds of PCB carcinogens behind. It's like joining a political movement to change the world, or a religion, or both.

I know about that impulse. Once upon a time, I'd set up a desk in a city storefront. I'd write stories late at night to tape to the win.

That was before Pittsfield was the latest thing.

And here I was with my car loaded with books, a drafting table and bar stool.

So I tell my actress friend: Pittsfield thinks it's going to become the Brooklyn of the Berkshires. It isn't. Not even close. DUMBO is DUMBO. Pittsfield is the Pittsfield of the Berkshires. Art in the service of economic development doesn't work.

And then, there's history with this city. It began a while ago, a long while ago.

I have a T-shirt that's been through three cities, three countries, two wives, a serious girlfriend, and one instance of all those combined. And the shirt isn't that old.

It shows a school of fish against splashes of Caribbean blue-green background and a slash of red ' it must be off the Yucatan -- diving more or less toward the left hip. You could imagine them fleeing the teeth of a big predator, just off camera, on the right shoulder. But look again. There is some poor meshuga fish, heading in the opposite direction, against the tide, straight up into danger. You don't want to imagine what's going to happen to him.

Then again, maybe you'd like to know.

Welcome to Got Bridge and the WigWam ford


I made the same move many moons ago.
It was the right move.
You are simply our gain.

And now GB has been named the number one small town in the country by The Smithsonian Magazine. Looks like you knew what you were doing!

Swimming upstream
Avoiding the next new thing.

The Last Hurrah
It was only a matter of time before local daily newspapers - the ones we used to count on for being a complete, accurate archive of essential community information, like the records of births and marriages and deaths - would realize that there's a pile of money to be made on death and dying and grief.

Parents to District Attorney: Why?
Fourteen years ago, 52-year-old Joseph Mechare and his wife Sharon had a dream. Just married and living in Millerton, New York, where Joe had grown up in a working class family - his father was a carpenter and he had been trained in autobody repair - they wanted to start a new life together.

The Disappearing Newspaper Blues, or Why I Love Those Inky Fingers
To the delight of newshounds and newspaper junkies everywhere - an endangered species -- The New York Times published last month a collection of its front pages from 1851 through 2008, 300 in all in a handsome volume.

Advice to a President: Don't Adopt Massachusetts Health Care Model
Dear President-elect Obama:
It is certainly refreshing that you have placed universal health care for Americans as one of the top priorities of your administration.

Lament for a Fallen Bookstore
This week, the exquisitely intelligent and charming Stockbridge Booksellers on Elm Street is having a going out of business sale, preparatory to closing its doors after a four-year attempt to create a unique literary community.

The ICE-men Cometh: Local Skirmishes in the War Against Illegal Immigrants
At dawn on Saturday morning, Sept. 27, 2008, men in jeans, flannel shirts and workboots were getting into old cars and battered pickups outside what is known by the Hispanic population in Valatie, N. Y., as the

The Brooklyn of the Berkshires? Pittsfield's Push for a
When more than a thousand people turned out on the streets of downtown Pittsfield on a rainy Thursday evening in June for a celebration of the arts, music and culture, the city

Regional Passenger Rail Projects Await Green Light
Late on a summer's day in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Jack Fitzpatrick, former state senator and owner of the Red Lion Inn, likes to pace the platform of the Stockbridge rail station he bought 10 years ago for $150,000.

©2009 David Scribner

Starving Artists Detective Agency
255 North St.
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201