PITTSFIELD >> I happen to think Theodore Geisel was one of the most brilliant, profound writers of our time. More commonly known as Dr. Seuss, writer of rhyming, nonsensical books we read to our children, but many of his stories have adult messages and reflect social issues.
One of my favorites is "The Lorax," in which the main message is about the sacrifice of our environment and our forests for the sake of making a clothing fad called a thneed, "which everyone, everyone needs," the consumerism which drives the destruction of the precious Truffula Trees and drives the Lorax and his friends away.
This story could relate to any environment, but I want to focus on the message of the Lorax, a creature who did all he could to stop the ruination, by warning the Once-lers that they needed to stop or there would be no trees, animals, clean air or happiness.
The Lorax was ignored, the land ruined and he and the animals fled, but his message was given to a young boy — the future — by the Once-ler. His message was simply, "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Everyone jumps in
My husband and I renovated a building in downtown Pittsfield. We opened a boutique hotel, restaurant, bar and small retail store. We took a leap; we took a chance; we took a risk. We are not heroes; we are not visionaries; we are not wealthy; we are not smarter, better than anyone else.
We took a big step with this little hotel with a revolving door and gorgeous lobby and fabulous restaurant that serves fresh, local yummy food and the bar that is friendly and fun to sit at, and a store, Dory & Ginger — but you see, none of that matters without everyone, everyone jumping in with us.
We have been overwhelmed, rendered speechless and touched to the core by the outpouring of generous praise for this risk we have taken. We have been put on a pedestal of sorts, wined, dined, written about, interviewed countless times, rewarded, awarded and touted by many to others.
We are so very flattered and humbled by the support, but this hotel/restaurant/bar/store cannot revitalize this city alone, nor can it survive alone. We are not enough. Pittsfield will not truly be revived without every one of you doing something.
Whether investing, doing business locally, reclaiming our streets, or saying no to injustices, use your voices and please use them positively. Stop the negative behavior/talk/headlines/moaning — it is contagious.
We have people come into our store and ask if North Street is safe. We are ambassadors of sorts, sending visitors to local restaurants, coffee shops, stores and saying "of course our streets are safe" — but are they?
They aren't pretty — peeling paint on buildings, cigarette butts littering sidewalks, trash blowing around, garbage cans overflowing, people loitering in doorways smoking and yelling out to friends, grown men riding bikes down the main sidewalks and people who don't look/act/seem friendly.
I would love it if our investment was a wake-up call and a rethinking of what it is to be a resident of this city. Unless...
UNLESS we stop pining for the days of General Electric. It's gone folks, along with smoking in restaurants, 50 cent hamburgers and martinis in the office — let it go, let's move on. We have a world class medical and cancer facility, we have theaters and art venues, we have General Dynamics and so many passionate people who truly care about this city.
UNLESS every single business owner in downtown takes one tiny step — mows the grass in front of their business, picks up the trash, scrapes and paints their building, sweeps the sidewalk, lights up and washes the windows, becomes vigilant and voices concerns about unsavory activities, stays open just a little bit later so our street looks alive again, gets involved and demands your city government work to make our streets safe and attractive.
UNLESS others who want to invest take that risk, then our city is just a city. Come on people, think outside that little box we have all made for ourselves where it's warm and cozy and dark — come out into the light and think creatively.
Fight for the city
UNLESS the people in our city regain some of their pride and fight back against anything or anyone who either stands by while conditions worsen or makes our downtown less desirable, then why would anyone love and believe. If you don't love or believe in Pittsfield, then how can we expect people who visit us to see its beauty?
UNLESS we all support these local businesses and urge others to do the same, either by word of mouth or going on social media or Trip Advisor, then they will disappear like the Trufulla Trees and the Lorax.
UNLESS all who put us on this pedestal heed this message and encourage the same thing I am encouraging, then this city of ours will not get better. We have incredible places on each end of North Street with a sprinkling in the middle — let's fill in these blanks. Let's take these beautiful old buildings with their intricate architecture and coax them back to life, light and a future.
I thank each and every person who has supported our hotel/restaurant/bar/store/venture, but remember the Lorax — "The word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back."