Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Friday, March 28, 2008

As a couple of you know, I am away from the Berkshires for a few days doing some professional development in Northern California. It is a great understatement to say that this region is one of the great culinary areas in America. It may well be the greatest area for the mix of agriculture and food in the world. And don't forget west coast seafood. It doesn't get any better.

I could write thousands of words on this subject, and maybe I will, but this post is simply to declare my affinity for the Pacific Ocean. I don't know why I prefer the Pacific to the Atlantic. Perhaps it is the fact that the wind is always blowing in from the sea creating the always comfortable temperate climate of the Northwest. All I know is that even on a crappy rainy day, sitting atop a cliff watching the waves break over the rocks is possibly the most peaceful thing I've ever done.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
  Compare and Contrast
A reporter for the LA Times gets duped by forged documents about the killing of a Hip-Hop star 14 years ago and then he and his editor write:
"In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job," Philips said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm sorry."

In his statement, Duvoisin added: "We should not have let ourselves be fooled. That we were is as much my fault as Chuck's. I deeply regret that we let our readers down."
But the reporter who was the single most culpable media dupe in hyping the non-existent Iraqi WMD threat in 2002 and 2003, reporting absolutely false information passed to her by criminal Iraqi exiles says mealy mouthed things like:
Although Ms Miller apologised for the intelligence being incorrect she defended her journalism saying she was right to publish and had done everything she could to verify the facts. She said: "I'm deeply sorry our intelligence community got it wrong.

"I am deeply sorry that the President was given a national intelligence estimate which concluded that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and a active weapons programme."
Ain't society's priorities grand?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
  Issues of race are not simple.
Those who think they are tend to be naive or flat out bigots.

The quotes in the above link are the things I hear all the time and have heard all my life. And the jerk spouting off in those posts is pretty representative of a lot of people I know.

We've got a long way to go. I fear the mountain top is still far away.
Monday, March 24, 2008
  Come and Go
A couple of things are happening on the Restaurant Front. Sean from the Freight yard Pub has bought the old Christina's and is turning it into a bar and pizzeria. I suspect he will have have another success.

Two more Pittsfield restaurants quietly folded up last week. Kneebones and the little Brazilian restaurant are gone, but I have few details as to why.

Finally, The Alley on Eagle St. in North Adams should be opening for business in the next few weeks. I know the cook there and he is absolutely outstanding. It's definitely going to be on my list of places to check out.

This winter has been a weird one for Berkshire restaurants. As Lili von Schtupp said in Blazing Saddles; "They keep coming and going and going and coming."
Friday, March 21, 2008
  A local angle on the $100M Starbucks decision
This ruling against Starbucks for paying supervisors and managers out of the tip pool is similar to several huge cases that have been won by waiters, bus boys and bartenders in the last few years. I have no sympathy, none whatsoever, for the large corporations that pay their lowest rungs of management so poorly by illegally taking tips from the hourly workers and shifting them up the restaurant food chain.

As of a year ago, there were very similar cases against Cranwell and Canyon Ranch. I assume those stories made the papers when the plaintiff's attorneys fed the info to the press. Since there has been absolutely no follow up, I can only assume that they settled. Lawyers love to play the press.

Is there an enterprising local reporter who can pull up the paper's archives and make a couple of calls to give us the local angle on the "great management tip scam." Just because the parties to the suit are quiet doesn't mean that it is no longer news.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
  Contradicting his Partner
Larry Rosenthal does just that in The Eagle regarding Spice's plans.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I spoke with someone who had been chatting with a member of Spice's senior management and supposedly the restaurant is planning on retooling and reopening. Reportedly there still is money in the bank, but the current business model was hemorrhaging cash during the slow winter months, so the decision was made to stop the bleeding sooner rather than later.

Carrie Saldo has a report on WAMC with an on the record interview with the restaurant's owner Joyce Bernstein that pretty much confirms the main points.

I take all of this retooling talk with a grain of salt (pun intended) but it is certainly possible that "downscaling" the menu and the prices are what's in the works. Who knows? I don't.

What irks me is that if this is truly just a hiatus, why did they close so abruptly, screwing all the employees with no notice? *That* makes me wonder about management's integrity and their honesty with the press.

Are they really planning on reopening or are they simply trying to deflect criticism? Only time will tell.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
  The Panty Sniffers are Back
Not this crap again. Oy. The general public as a whole may care who Britney Spears is screwing (I don't), but in general, we don't give a damn about the dalliances of public figures unless illegality or hypocrisy is involved.
Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
There are only two ways to interpret the Second Amendment: Either the founders were speaking of a trained civilian-based militia (the current interpretation)or they were saying that everyone should be allowed to keep the arms required for warfare in their home. There is no other valid interpretation.

For the gun rights crowd to argue, as they did today before the Supreme Court, that machine guns and other arms of war can be banned but not handguns is pure malarkey.

If the SCOTUS rules that handguns cannot be banned, I think I'm gonna try to buy a bazooka and sue.
Monday, March 17, 2008
  Bear (Stearns) Market
It is hard to understate the absolutely remarkable turn of events in the last 24 hours regarding the sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan. The sale amounts to about $2 per share. Depending on when you take your valuation, that amounts to *less* than pennies on the dollar. What JP Morgan's $270 million bought barely covers the cost of Bear Stearn's Manhattan real estate. The Bear business was worth less than nothing.

In other word, Bear Stearns absolutely failed. It imploded in a matter of days. There is no question. Saying they were "bought" or "sold" rather than "liquidated" is only a matter of semantics because the Federal Reserve is in full blown panic mode.

I would like to formally welcome the investor class to the recession the rest of us have been experiencing for the past couple of years.

I have only a second-hand passing knowledge of Bear Stearns and their culture, but of the people I know who deal with them, Bear are was roundly regarded as the arrogant asses of the street. Karma is a bitch. It's too bad that many innocent bystanders are going to get hurt too.
Friday, March 14, 2008
  I like him already
Soon to be guv of NY, David Patterson:
Asked at a news conference if he had ever patronized a prostitute, Lt. Gov. David Paterson feigned a look of concern and responded, "Only the lobbyists."
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
  Linsdsay Lohan in 20 years
You can't imitate an icon and expect to walk away unscathed.

(If you're wondering what the heck I am talking about click here, unless you are at work. NOT A WORK-SAFE LINK!)
Monday, March 10, 2008
  Spitzer = Moron
You blew it, pal.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
  Where's Pinky?
Many of us mountain town yokels have been following Wes Flinn's blog, Walk In Brain, even though he abandoned us for the glittering lights of cosmopolitan Cincinnati. Somehow he hit the delete button at just the wrong time and had to start his blog over again a few weeks back. Here's his new URL:
As I have noted in the update below, Steeples was NOT raided by the FBI, nor was the owner arrested. However, as The Transcript has confirmed, the state Attorney General's office has been in town investigating the deals surrounding various investment properties.

What I do know from personal sources is that at least some of Steeples employees were being paid in cash because there was no money in the bank account. More than a couple food suppliers had long ago cut off selling to Steeples because of unpaid bills. And no knowing business in town would even think about taking their checks.

There is also a well sourced report that Steeples, either as part of the lease agreement or in lieu of rent, signed over the equipment within the restaurant to the Holiday Inn. If true, this is best news in the whole scenario. It will allow the Holiday Inn to simply unlock the doors and reopen quickly. Rumor has it that the management of the Holiday Inn became weary of Steeples viability and has contingency plans in place for food, etc...

The death of Sanford Plumb last month will certainly complicate things, but for the Borers to be blaming their problems on the current managerial team at the Holiday Inn is an absolute joke. I have it from a very reliable source the Mr. Plumb had, himself, begun arranging contingency plans for the restaurant before his death. Obviously he had doubts about the Borers' viability.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, it is true that I had informally inquired about purchasing Steeples last year when the deal between Ed Bassi and the Borers was being delayed from closing. But the deal did close and my interest never went any further. For the record, I am VERY happy at my current employer, Wild Oats Community Market. We've just started selling hot food for lunch and dinner. Come check us out.

UPDATE: If rumor is correct, the Holiday Inn should have a restaurant up in and running in a month or so.
Friday, March 07, 2008
  My wife would kill me.
But after 50,000 beers, would I care?
From 1968 until his death 20 years later, Mr. Milkovisch, an upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, not only emptied 50,000 cans or more of his favorite beverage but also put the containers to good use, cladding his house and workshop with thousands of maintenance-free flattened beer cans (Falstaff was a favorite) and shading the sun with garlands of tinkling beer can tops and tabs.

Known to generations of sidewalk gawkers as the Beer Can House, the folk art monument was dedicated Thursday and will open to the public on Saturday for the first time since its purchase from the Milkovisch family and a seven-year restoration project totaling $400,000.
A long time reader emails to tell me that a local landlord, restaurateur and scofflaw was hauled away by the feds yesterday for various financial crimes. I can't confirm it right now, but if it's not in The Transcript later today, I'll do some digging this afternoon. More details tonight......

Let's just say that lot's of people saw this coming.

UPDATE: OK, the rumor was overblown. It wasn't the Feds. It was the state AG's office, and there was no arrest. But as Glenn has confirmed the restaurant is closed, and lots of people are owed lots of money. We have not heard the end of this.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
  No need for sheep's clothing
From today's Transcript:
HELBURNE, Mass. - Wildlife officials say an animal killed in Shelburne last fall was an endangered eastern gray wolf, a species long extinct in the region.

An official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says DNA tests and other examinations of the 85-pound animal confirmed it was a gray wolf.

Gray wolves became locally extinct in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s, with the closest known population in Canada. However, evidence has been mounting that the wolves have been migrating south into parts of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

The federal wildlife official says they found nothing to indicate the wolf was held in captivity, and do not know how it reached western Massachusetts.

A Shelburne farmer killed the animal last October because it was killing lambs on his property.
Having lived in Minnesota, where a healthy contingent of timber wolves live in the back country, I can say that the return of a top-of-the foodchain predator is a very positive indicator for the health of the forests and eco-systems of New England. While wolves are scary for many, attacks on humans are incredibly rare. They tend to keep to their own business.

I think my favorite quote on the subject of wolves returning to eco-systems, (which, of course, I can't find right now) was one from a field biologist who said that 'the elk in Yellowstone had to learn how to run again.' What an great metaphor!
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

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greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

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Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

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