It’s not that the Irish are gullible. It’s just that we aren’t always paying full attention to the matters at hand. But that’s not a bad thing. We tend to see the best in others even when life’s negative tides want to pull us further out from shore. We stumble, pick ourselves up, stumble again, and move forward. It’s a helluva way to dance through the four-leaf clovers, but if the Irish don’t see the world through shamrock-colored glasses, then who will?
Preamble concluded, here are some Pittsfield positives about which I’d like to comment.
The skateboard park on the corner of East Street and Appleton Avenue. We’ve all driven by it many times during daylight hours when the facility has been littered with young enthusiasts who understand the tricks of their trade better than I do. But that’s OK, because collectively they look under control and it strikes me that the area is self-policed by the teens who gather there. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t see any objectionable graffiti or behavior.
This past Veterans Day, a swarm of youths were engaged on a mild afternoon at the park. They were no doubt happy to take advantage of both the weather and the school holiday. It took a while for this venue to manifest itself and even though many teens spoke passionately at public meetings about the need for such a place, it was greeted in some circles with great skepticism.
The previous skateboard park, which was located on the common in back of the former Berkshire Community College, was a scary place and produced more than a hint of negative energy. It seems like it’s quite the opposite at the new location, so it looks like the kids had this one right. Maybe we’ll listen closer the next time they have something to say.
It wasn’t always easy getting around this summer. There was, it seems, road construction going on anywhere and everywhere. I fell asleep at night by counting imaginary orange cones in my head. Tyler Street was still a work in progress into October, but the proof, they say, is in the pudding. And when it was all said and done -- I’m pretty sure it’s done, at least for now -- you have to admit that your ride around town is a lot smoother.
The true test, however, will be in the spring. Here’s hoping that the elements and compounds that make up the new roads will withstand for a while the harsh uppercuts that can be thrown by Mother Nature. Over the years, my back has been thrown both out of whack and then been realigned by the circus ride that can be a bumpy East Street in the spring.
And speaking of the Irish, the O’Malleys are one of the great love stories in the city’s history. I say "are" instead of "were" because the kind of love this couple shared, I believe, lasts an eternity.
James died on Oct. 11 at the age of 92. His beloved wife, Ella, joined him less than a week later. She was 89. They had been married for 66 years and lived in the same house in the Herberg Middle School area of the city since 1957. He owned Jimmy’s Package Store on Dalton Avenue for years, working 16-hour shifts to pay the bills. A city native, he met his future wife while serving in the Air Force during World War II as a radio specialist at a base in Charlotte, N.C.
Ella was a Southern belle, and the pair raised two daughters and cared for each other deeply until the end. The couple chose to stay in their home despite health issues. It’s what they knew, and Ella was still cooking Jimmy’s meals into the last week of his life despite being ill herself.
Jimmy was a well-known local artist, and his paintings hang in various lobbies and halls around the city. He gained some notoriety when he earned an Arts History degree from Berkshire Community College in 1991. He loved Irish ballads and belted out "Danny Boy" on his 92nd birthday party for friends and family.
When it was Jimmy’s time to leave this earth, Ella wasn’t going to let him go alone. She wasn’t letting her "Jimmy" head anywhere without her.
What kind of love can sustain itself and evolve that way? You hear these stories from time to time and you can’t quite fathom it. It’s how it always should be, but that kind of sweet and perfect finish rarely happens that way. Together they conquered, and they were only divided for just an instant. And now they’re together again.
I just think it’s a beautiful Pittsfield story.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.