I had a conversation with Murray, the world's cutest and smartest pup who was taught how to read at the Literacy Network of South Berkshire. If you live with dogs, I'm sure you've often wondered what the dog is thinking.
In our case, I know what Murray is thinking because he tells me. For example, food is at the top of his list. Just the other day as I was eating my dinner, he hopped up on the couch and said, "You know, pops, the only reason I'm sitting next to you right now is that you sneak me food, and mom, who I love much more than I love you, doesn't."
"You know, Murray," I said to him, "that isn't a very nice thing to say to me."
"Oh, you know what I mean, pops. I do love you, but mom is my prime caregiver. Ever since she retired and I spend most of my time with her, we've super-bonded. Now she takes me to work and I play with a pup down the hall named Snowball. We run around and drink water together and we keep our ears open for political gossip because I know how much you need me to feed you stuff for this column."
"Thanks, Murray. Do you have anything for me this week?"
"Well, there's one thing, but I hope you won't get too upset. Mom told me not to tell you, but you really have become a burr under the saddle of the political class in Great Barrington. I overheard a conversation just the other day. Mom had me on a leash in front of Fuel when she went in to get her one shot, skim cappuccino. Naturally, the people at the tables out front don't know that I can understand English and I'm pretty sure I heard one of those political guys say, ‘Who does that Chartock think he is?' It had something to do with their salaries and the fact that they get health insurance for what is supposed to be a citizen-like job.
"Do you know, pops, that there are around 4,000 registered voters in Great Barrington and there were more than 400 at the town meeting? I heard a nice man who is a selectman saying that there is a rising tide of anti-Semitism in the town. He quoted one guy (who gets up regularly at the town meeting) as saying, ‘The Jews are running the town. We have to take it back.'"
"Well, Murray, that is really dangerous," I said to him. "I've heard that story from two separate sources. I sure hope it isn't true. When I grew up in the ‘50s, we had that same kind of situation on Fire Island but it dissipated as the years went by. People say stupid things and most of the time they are known for their stupidity. My mom used to say that when you hear someone say something prejudicial, you have to have the guts to tell them, ‘That's un-American.' It's not easy to do. Most of the time these people are seen as dangerous dopes. The problem is that every once in a while, they can cause big trouble."
"And, Murray, on a related subject, everybody should get to the Mahaiwe on Sunday, May 19, to get to see ‘Ghetto Tango: Cabaret Songs of Love, Truth and Defiance,' which will be presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and Congregation Ahaveth Shalom. I recently interviewed Zalmen Mlotek, a leading figure in Yiddish theater in the country. The material is described as ‘edgy, political, sexy and satirical.' When they had nothing else, those imprisoned during the Holocaust wrote music that has been inspirational for all who survived and for all the rest of us. The Chartocks have their tickets."
"Pops, can I go?" asked the little dog,
"Afraid not, Murray. No dogs allowed, but we'll see you right after."
"I love you, pops."
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.