Berkshire weekend top 5

Though we originally hatched the idea of spending this weekend in the Berkshires with a plan to reprise our Bang on a Can fun at MASS MoCA, we quickly decided that Slade’s country house and immediate environs had more than enough to offer to keep us busy.

Here are some highlights, the top 5, in descending order, written late at night at the end of a long weekend. (I actually completed this post once but lost almost all of it, even though I had been saving as I went, no doubt due somehow to the fact that I’ve got only a shaky wireless connection to the town library down the hill.)

5. Deciding to pull in, while traveling West on I-90, to Springfield on Friday afternoon, simply because it seemed the appropriate place to watch The Simpsons Movie. I don’t want to offer spoilers, so I’ll limit my comments to these: Full frontal male cartoon nudity. (That phrase should generate some interesting traffic to TGW this week.) Oh, and the scene where the government command center eavesdrops on Lisa’s conversation on the train heading to Seattle from Alaska? How apropos was that in light of this little story from the weekend papers? Dave, who had driven up with Slade from the city, reminded us that he had predicted here, back in May, exactly how big this story looks likely to turn out to be. (Okay, I realize I just went from The Simpsons to Bush in one Top 5 list item, but that probably just goes to show how pertinent the political satire is in this film.)

4. Dinner at the Dream Away Lodge. My usual cultural references, when it comes to the Berkshires, are MASS MoCA, the 1704 French and Indian raid on Deerfield, and Melville’s fantastically overblown dedication of his novel Pierre to one of the more majestic of the local mountains: “forasmuch as I … have received his most bounteous and unstinted fertilizations, it is but meet, that I here devoutly kneel, and render up my gratitude.”

Now we get to add to that list the Dream Away Lodge, a not-so-secret hideout of a restaurant/bar tucked away atop a mountain in Becket, Mass., at the end of several winding roads. Apparently the place has been pulling in high-profile vacationers and locals alike since the 1940s, when it was opened by a woman named Mama Frasca. Though most of the restaurant sticks to the homey mountain lodge vibe, the abundance of kitsch that makes up the decor — from a prominently displayed nude Marilyn to Michelob lanterns hanging in the corners of one room — ensures that not even the very un-mountain lodgey lighted bar in the “Dream Room” feels out of place:

hangar one gimlet, up

The place was large enough to host a gaggle of hipsters listening to live music on one side of the building, folks eating dinner on the front porch, and after-dinner smokers gathered around a fire pit out front. We ate in one of the main rooms of the restaurant, far enough away that we couldn’t hear the live music. Our room had low colored lights and a picture of Mama Frasca hanging over the piano.


The atmosphere was more remarkable than the reasonably priced four-course prix fixe, though the single spoonful of Dave’s split pea soup I tried was enough to set off any deficiencies in the menu. (I should have known better than to order seafood provencale this far inland.)

Of the anecdotes about famous Dream Away diners we found online, my favorite was about Dylan coming through in the middle of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour in ’75, Allen Ginsberg and others in tow. Arlo Guthrie tipped them off to the place, and Mama was apparently thrilled most of all by the prospect of having Joan Baez sing at her piano. According to one of the locals there that night,

When Joan Baez got there, Mama swooped her right upstairs. Joan came in in dungarees, all denim. She went upstairs like that — she came down in a white dress with a white pearl necklass. She went right into the music room and Mama took her over to the big square piano. I think she sang — what’s that song — with a wretch like me? — she sang “Amazing Grace.”

My favorite part of the interview this story comes from, though, is this:

They served the standard dinner — salad, chicken, spaghetti, and Mama’s famous hot potatoes, and coffee and Anisette after. Ginsberg was walkin around with Moby Dick, reading it, reading Moby Dick as he was walking around, because he knew of Melville’s stay in the Berkshires, writing Moby Dick in Pittsfield.

3. Hiking part of the Appalachian Trail. Sunday afternoon, while making a lovely loop on a set of mountain paths known as the Tyringham Cobble, we stumbled onto part of a much more famous trail. Which way to go? Georgia, or Maine?

 duelling wizards on the appalachian trail

2. Sitting in the river, small waterfalls rushing over you, massaging your shoulders and neck. Behind Slade’s house, down a slight hill, you’ll find a rushing rivulet that runs through woods so green they look digitally enhanced. We soaked in the last of the afternoon sun there yesterday. I’m listening to the river out the window while I type; at night it sings you to sleep.

1. Friends with country houses in the Berkshires and good taste in food and music and art, who bring along other nice people to play with. What can beat a few days with smart friends, lively kids, a Frisbee-catching dog, a sprawling lawn, woodland trails, a large grill (backed by a large kitchen), an unbeatable nearby fromagier, and reasonably warm weather to boot? Bounteous and unstinted fertilizations indeed.

5 responses to “Berkshire weekend top 5”

  1. ssw says:

    i think summer is fun once it starts. if it starts. grown-ups in our country don’t choose enough to simplify life and just take a break from it all–it feels like a privelege for the rich, rather than an expectation for the majority. what is it about us as a culture that we have deteriorated to the point that we think 2 weeks off of work is normal? that’s a terrible value–ever since I visited Europe, I’ve changed my mind about what a reasonable vacation length should be. Taking breaks is critical. Yikes. Like right now. What am I doing here?
    No more thinking. Or Analysis. Or Discussion. Greatwhatsit? Where are you? It’s 2:00. On the East Coast. This is so weird. I, um. Well…I guess I’m going to go outside now.
    But, dear readers, if there are any–I have one last summer comment that cracked me up from last year. I was listening to NPR, and this story came on about how if you’re listening to NPR, you should turn it off now and go read something. Unplug. Turn off your phones. Don’t call people back, etc. etc. I guess you had to be there, but it was so funny–it just made me realize how hard it can be for me also, to get away, relax and unwind from it all. But, this past weekend was a good start–your post was dreamy Bryan. We should find more of that trail..I’ve never been to Georgia.

  2. Rachel says:

    Ha! Steph, I was wondering where everyone else was too. But to answer your question, I’m doing the same thing I did all weekend: sitting in my office banging out an article, while the sun shines outside. Agh. Please take me with you to the Berkshires!

    As for the Appalachian Trail–I did some serious research into hiking it before realizing that going more than a day without a shower was going to be an utter impossibility. Me=bad through-hiker. Most people start in Georgia in April, where it warms up early, and try to make it to the top of Mt. Kitahdin before the first snow flies at the end of August. So what do you think? Great Whatsit great-roughs it?

  3. lisa t. says:

    hi everyone! what a cool post– and i agree with steph: if you’re not reading this now, hopefully you’re outside enjoying the summer.

    we just got back from an equally so-green-it-seems-digitally-enhanced week, part of it on the oregon coast and part in southern oregon at crater lake. our photog pal josh took some pics you can check out here. john and i rode tandem around crater lake in a day, which took its toll on my hamstrings, but the views and breaks for goat cheese, crackers, and corn salad made it well worth it. probably my favorite part of the week was the whales breaching and grazing for dinner right off the cliff from where we watched them, barnacles and all. oregon is fantastically gorgeous. no white whales, though, bry.

  4. Dave says:

    Wow, that story about Dylan and his posse is great.

    Marty Lederman has some new, informed speculation about the wiretapping/data mining issue for anyone who’s interested. The political fireworks right now are about whether Alberto Gonzales perjured himself when testifying to Congress about this, but remember the real issue is that it sure looks like the highest levels of the administration authorized acts that are clearly felonies under federal law and gross violations of civil liberties.

  5. […] entry. It just happened that our friend Slade had swapped out her apartment in DUMBO and her country house in the Berkshires for two apartments in Paris — enough room for her and half a dozen […]