Alan Chartock | I, Publius: There's comfort in having a favorite spot


GREAT BARRINGTON — There are reasons why we choose some restaurants, cafes and joints over others.

My partner and critic, the Lovely Roselle, likes to experiment and try new places. I am exactly the opposite. Once I find something that I like, that's it.

For example, I really miss Michael Ballon's Castle Street Cafe. It was my place. I loved the two managers, Sally and Michael. They greeted me warmly, and I had a usual table that I loved.

Castle Street was replaced by Number Ten. It is fine, but it just isn't the same. More recently, I have come to consider Rubi's my "bunk."

Of course, each of these places has its own character. I like the Patisserie in the middle of Great Barrington. They have wonderful pastry (which I can't eat) and good salads and the crowd is very different from the more egalitarian Rubi's in Great Barrington, which caters to a lot of young people with their kids, as well as every other imaginable combination and permutation of individuals.

I am reminded of my own youth, when a friend and I would find our spot, which was often the Cedar's Tavern near NYU. Rubi's is staffed with a gaggle of young people who are attentive and somewhat enigmatic as they fill your order. Owner Matt Rubiner, who also runs the upscale cheese shop around the corner, has trained his staff well. You take one look at Matt's face and you suspect that he is unlikely to suffer mistake-makers.

The thing about Rubi's is that you have to tune out the sounds of the occasional screaming child and people talking to one another. I find that very easy to do, because I consider it a kind of white noise.

Of course, every once in a while there will be someone with a piercing and obnoxious voice. Then again, such a person is as likely to be in the Triplex Cinema as they are in any particular restaurant.

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There is really nothing you can do about it except possibly clearing your throat loudly. Sometimes that actually works, maybe not because of the offender, but more than likely because the person sitting with the obnoxious one is smart enough to "shush" their partner. That, however, doesn't happen that often.

Perhaps it's my ageism showing, but just this morning a young man turned to me and thanked me for my good work at WAMC, saying, "I listen to you every morning."

Now, that really made me a happy camper, since we make wrongful assumptions that young people don't give a damn about contemporary events. Of course they should, because they are going to have to live in this world.

Now, they may have their own language, but I suppose we did, too. Even 40-year-old people say "like" a lot more than I might wish, but so what, or "tough noogies." In fact, some of the new words, including "right?" interspersed between words, are somehow refreshing, right?

It is also interesting to see what singletons in a coffeehouse are doing with their time. For example, there are the old-fashioned crossword puzzle experts. Some work in pencil, others in pen, where mistakes are less tolerable.

Then there are the omnipresent cellphones that prevent loneliness or the appearance of loneliness. Unfortunately, some of the people who use them are hard of hearing and don't know how loud they are, and some are just plain rude.

There are a few places I never visit because of one or two obnoxious characters who would put me off my feed. In the end, however, one of the most important things about any joint is the feng shui of the place.

Some are antiseptic. In some, the tables, are badly situated while others, as Goldilocks once said, are "just right."

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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