I’d rather be in the Berkshires

By Alan S. Chartock | October 22, 2021

We love it in the Berkshires, but I have a special affinity for the area around 89th Street on New York’s West Side where I spent my long-ago boyhood. Lately, there has been big trouble in the neighborhood which I think of as my own, concerning restaurants. One of these places is the famous Carmine’s, where a real brouhaha broke out when potential patrons would not follow the house rules having to do with COVID.

My wife and I just happened to be passing by when it all came down. I am a big believer in mandates since I value my health and my life. When the house rules demand proof of vaccination or the wearing of a mask, I’m all for strict enforcement of the rules. I prefer to stay alive and don’t wish to get sick and end up on a ventilator, particularly when I’m the one following the rules.

I do not think that I am alone in my concern about this. I admire those restaurant managers who take the tough way out and enforce the rules that either government or the management have put in place. I simply cannot figure out what the people who refuse to comply could be thinking. In many ways, these refuseniks are potentially suicidal. I do admire Carmine’s commitment to saving the lives of other customers as well of those people who work there on Broadway. Unsurprisingly, one of the people involved in the to-do played the race card. Give me a break. No one is more committed to fighting racism than I am but what does wearing a mask have to do with racism? It’s just common sense.

For those who believe that COVID has run its course, think again. This cannot be presumed to be over, as experience has taught us. The front-line workers such as the people who serve us in restaurants need to be protected. We have come to the point where the real heroes are those who take risks at the peril of their own personal safety.

The other big West Side story as featured in the New York Post and NextDoor is just one block up from Carmine’s on Broadway to Edgar’s on Amsterdam Avenue. Roselle and I have eaten at Edgar’s. The restaurant is named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, famed for his mystery stories. As the tale goes, the proprietor of Edgar’s threw out a long-term customer because the boss had seen him eating at a nearby restaurant. Now that is an extraordinary sin, eating at a rival’s joint. Trust me, I get it.

I run a whole bunch of radio stations and every once in a while, someone will report to me that they heard a story on another station. Since I believe that our rivals couldn’t kiss our feet, I feel that heat rising up through my neck. But, and this is a big but, I wouldn’t think to tell the guy never to listen to our radio station again. We don’t know what was on the mind of the Edgar’s guy. Maybe things were not going that well. Maybe the presumed restaurant owner needed some additional resources and the accused became a symbol of that need. It doesn’t really matter, the story made the news and brought embarrassment to the owner. Maybe he should learn to count to ten.

There are lots of great restaurants on Amsterdam Avenue, places like Bodrum’s, the fabulous Turkish restaurant, and our wonderful Japanese restaurant, Modo. Don’t get me wrong — Great Barrington has excellent restaurants that can certainly compete with New York, but I never heard of any proprietor kicking anyone out for eating somewhere else or having to call the police because a potential customer refused to wear a mask. Maybe I haven’t heard everything. In any case, I’d rather be in the Berkshires.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].