Let’s face it, we have very few victories in our lives, so we take them where we can get them. Take my marriage to the very lovely Roselle. She is blazingly smart and even more, nice. Usually when there is a contest of wills, she prevails. That’s why when she turned a very young 70 on July 7, the mailbox and e-mail was filled with congratulatory greetings. That’s why, when there is a contest of wills between us, which is really not that unusual (air conditioning versus no air conditioning, late night walk versus my daily hour in the morning), she wins. So it is with great satisfaction that I can recount a recent to-do which turned out in my favor.
We were being visited by two of my dearest and oldest friends, Jeanne Baker and Walter Bradley, up from their plush digs in Miami to visit with us, and then with Phil and Anita Heller, their close cousins. As we sat on our screened-in porch sipping our drinks, deciding where to go to dinner in Great Barrington, I mentioned that our little town, in fact the best small town in America, according to Smithsonian Magazine, boasted 70 restaurants. Roselle, who with some justification thinks that I am sometimes given to exaggeration, took a tone with me. She announced, “No Alan, it’s nothing like that, maybe 30.” Now I will admit that the idea that Great Barrington boasts a lot of restaurants, some better than others, but I just knew that I had read somewhere, perhaps in this very newspaper, that the town had 70 restaurants. So I knew that I had to stick to my guns.
Years ago I had learned an important lesson. My friend Eliot, who I first met at Camp Bronx House, was then the swimming counselor. Because I was the head counselor I lived in a house in a small room. The house had few amenities but it did have a bathroom with hot and cold running water. Eliot came to ask if he could use the bathroom because, he said, the shower house, which the staff had to use, had hot water in the shower but not in the sinks. Also living in that house was a man considerably older than I was at the time, named Murray, who was the head of the work camp. He had a family, and clearly he didn’t want anyone else sharing that bathroom. He was outraged that I had said Eliot could shave in the bathroom. He went to my mentor, camp director Aaron Mitrani, and I was dragged in for a session in humiliation in which Murray maintained that it was ridiculous to say there was hot water in the shower house showers but not in the sinks. The always sagacious Aaron, who I dearly loved, asked Murray to leave and let me have it. How could it possibly be, he asked, that there was hot water in the showers but not in the sinks?
Upon leaving the camp that summer I saw Murray sitting on the porch. He sardonically smiled at me and said that I really should have gone into the shower house to check with me about the validity of Eliot’s complaint about no hot water in the sink. Red-faced, I realized that I had been right and because I hadn’t checked and because Murray the bum hadn’t told the truth, I had to live with this black mark on my permanent psychiatric record. I decided right then and there never to let that happen again.
So here was my chance. I dug out my cellphone and wrote in “How many restaurants in Great Barrington?” It turns out that, according to the answer, there are 63 restaurants in my town. So I triumphantly looked up at Roselle and said, “Well Roselle you are right, there aren’t 70 restaurants in Great Barrington, there are 63!”
A great victory if I ever had one.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 7/28/14