(Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1996) Like some giant, mutant plant burst full-blown overnight, Altresco dominates the newspaper, as it does the Allendale neighborhood of Pittsfield. Now that its foreboding ugliness is plain to see, the people are saying they’ve seen enough; thye want it stopped before it becomes something they can see smell and hear as well.
What happened to the people’s watchdogs, those elected and those appointed by the elected to guard what’s left of our environment against such monstrosities? Did someone throw them a hindquarter of meat while the burglar snuck in? The littlest dog is yelping now, calling for the big dog, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act unit, to come back and do what it pretended to do two years ago.
Since GE has had the run of that yard for so long, it wouldn’t seem the residents have much hope in their attempt ro reclaim their turf. Especially since the damn thing;s nearly finished. Remember Pyramid. These big guys build first and beg for permission later – and they get it.
All of which was on my mind as I drove through Lenox the other day. I went past Canyon Ranch and then the Kripalu Center, down by Tanglewood. It occured to me that those outfits represent a new kind of industry, one that already has a strong foothold in this part of the county. I guess you could call it the Lifestyle Repair Industry.
Approaching the ranch, I was made to move into the eastbound lane to avoid hitting four chubby folks in fur parkas. They were walking side-by-side, taking up as much of the road as a Range Rover would, glaring at me as if I were a trespasser. Maybe they think their grand-a-week de-fatting fee entitles them…
It was such a different scene down by Kripalu. I encountered walkers there too, but they were strung out along the shoulder, wearing smiles and natural fibers.
Canyon Ranch and Kripalu Center are like great service stations – one promises to rid its customers of adipose tissue, the other specializes in exorcising bad karma.
The question is: Are these industries environmentally sound? I’m not sure they are, and I wonder if we need to deputize a new watchdog to protect us. Obviously all that fat has got to go somewhere. Not onto the water table, I hope. And what safeguards can be set to ensure that all those exorcised karmas aren’t left to haunt the area, ready to possess some unsuspecting soul after a visit to Tanglewood?
After all, it’s not unusual for one to experience an unpleasant feeling, a tinge of sadness, when a concert’s over. Next time you’re driving away from Tanglewood, on one of those lovely moonlit evenings, there may be another factor, not post-concert blues, not the crowd shouldering its way onto Rt. 183, but something more eerie. Maybe it’s time to bring your karma in for a check-up.