The sidewalks of Great Barrington are once again busy. Photo: Kelly Cade

Alan Chartock: I Publius

It is getting more and more like the old days. It takes quite a lot of time to even get through town. Parking is tough once again and the streets are filled with people.

When the pandemic first hit, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, went on self-imposed lockdown. If you were crazy enough to leave your house, you’d see the main street looking like a ghost town from an old Western. It’s always been tough to find a parking space, but you could now have your pick. The whole town was a parking space. “That was then,” as Sen. D’Amato was once heard to say, “and this is now.”

It is getting more and more like the old days. It takes quite a lot of time to even get through town. Parking is tough once again and the streets are filled with people. The ice cream place, SoCo Creamery, has a line out the door. The town, in its wisdom, has made it easier to eat outdoors and there are lots of tourists roaming the streets.

Like everyone else, I am paranoid about getting the virus. If I sleep on my left side instead of the prescribed right, I will feel my back go out of alignment and that may even extend to my ribs. Then I’ll think about what I heard Chris Cuomo saying about how painful it was to breathe when he was going through his own recovery. I am seeing every potential symptom from an upset stomach to a sore throat as proof positive that I have contracted the cursed COVID and I imagine that everyone else is going through the same thing. I mean, tens of thousands of people will die of this thing. Every day, things get more complicated. Parents and teachers are frightened about opening schools, and for good reasons. Now it turns out that kids who were once thought to be immune are not. In fact, kids can get it and be asymptomatic but still hand it off to the elders in their homes. As I write this, our grandchildren are visiting: one 3 and one 6. They are both in school, and the temptation to hug and kiss them is very great. You just can’t do it. In fact, you risk your life if you do.

So, when you walk through the crowds in Great Barrington or any other Berkshires or upstate New York town, you ask yourself what’s going on. Don’t these people realize what’s at stake here? It’s a fascinating question. We all know people, including close relatives, who resignedly say, “If I get it, I get it.” Like a 2-year-old who screams in frustration that “I want [fill in the blank],” adults who are used to going to concerts or the theater just want what they want. If you poll them, they will tell you that dying is not worth it. On the other hand, they will always be looking for someone to blame. The truth is, there are people we can blame. Donald Trump once told us that the pandemic would magically disappear and still keeps telling us what great shape we are in. One reason he will be going down big time in the coming election is that people know he is largely responsible for so many of the deaths in this country.

But what about all the wonderful restaurants and businesses that may end up going under because of this? What about all those children who risk losing years of education? What about all those people who moved out of the city? Will they ever go back? For years, people have been complaining that they can’t afford to live in New York and have now moved to Great Barrington. Will Great Barrington real estate prices soar? We are in a situation where people who we desperately need to be part of our community will not be able to live here.

There are no easy answers, but in the end, staying healthy and alive beats almost anything else that we may have to do without.