I Publius: Anonymous writer makes accusations

I recently received an unsigned letter that made two points. The first was that an arrest has been made in the Great Barrington graffiti case I’ve been yelling about for what seems like forever. Graffiti, a sure sign of social decay, makes me nuts. I was assured that the arrest had absolutely nothing to do with my efforts to publicize the graffiti which has been around all winter. The message is quite crude and many little kids have to traverse the tunnel. Maybe my columns have had nothing to do with the arrest, although it has been my experience that public servants sometimes work a little more assiduously when challenged in print. In the long run, who cares who gets credit if wrongs are righted? The letter writer went on to suggest that I watch what happens to the perpetrator in our court system. It was predicted that the punishment would not amount to much.

The second hint from my anonymous correspondent was that certain police officers were padding their on-duty hours. The writer noted that those in charge of police operations had been so informed but nothing had happened. I picked up the phone and called head Selectman Bud Atwood who was, as always, quite responsive. Bud told me that he would look into it and called me back to say that when the town underwent its annual audit, he would make sure the auditors took a very careful look at those on the special “flag man” details for the town.

Maybe these allegations are made up, maybe not. If they are true, it is one more argument in favor of Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal that we should use civilian flag people rather than police officers to do this work as so many other states and localities do. You know, one of the silver linings for these economic downturns is that everything gets looked at. Hey, if you can save money, it’s a good idea. This is one that makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder who my secret correspondent might be? Who would know that an as yet unpublicized arrest had been made? Who might know about a police officer or two who had been padding their hours? What do you think?

On another subject, Daniel Klein of the Berkshires has published a book, “The History of Now.” It is about a small community called Grandview that looks an awful lot like Great Barrington. It has a restored movie theater and a rogue cop who hits on young girls, a Railroad Street and a thousand other familiar places and people. No mistake, this is Great Barrington! I loved this book and you will too. In fact, there are things in it that will make you LOL. Nothing is safe — not public radio, not the Great Barrington Rudolph Steiner School, certainly not the aforementioned cops, not the old money and country club crowd, and not the guidance counselor who embarrasses his own daughter. You will howl when Klein takes on the Steiner School parents when they refused to get their kids inoculated and the school came down with whooping cough. You will recognize the people you see every day on the street, in the coffee shop or at the diner.

I really loved the way the book traced the town’s history from its very beginning to current times. From the people who got here in the covered wagons to our place on the Underground Railroad to our wonderful and sympathetic neighbors from Latin America, the stories are told with great empathy and passion. The story is multi-generational and I’m a sucker for that kind of book. The hero, Wendell deVries, and his immediate family are incredibly decent and you’ll be sad when the book ends. You just want more.

Danny Klein has been incredibly prolific and successful as an author and has hit it big with a number of recent books. I think this is his best yet. If you want to read a story by a talented tale spinner, this is the one to get.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 4/4/09

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