A VISITOR’S GUIDE TO GREENFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS
Some of you may be unpacking now your RAGNAROK SURVIVAL KIT, which includes, among other THINGS, an extended edition of my apocalyptic special from almost exactly one year ago, JOHN HODGMAN: RAGNAROK.
And in this extended cut you will hear me make a comment about the town of GREENFIELD, MA that I should like to clarify.
As you know, Greenfield, incorporated 1753, is the county seat of Franklin County, Massachusetts. And as a part time resident of that county (and a proud son of the Commonwealth as a whole), I wish now to speak plainly: GREENFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS IS NOT ACTUALLY A SHIT-HOLE.
It is true that Greenfield has faced challenges: the collapse of the region’s manufacturing base, the erosion of middle class wages, and the encroachment of big retail chains—all helped to hollow out Greenfield’s picturesque downtown in the 80s and 90s and drape the town with a queasy air of edgy desperation.
But these are the apocalypses that confront most small American cities these days. And while my joke might still ring with some familiarity and mordant truth among residents of the hill towns of Western Massachusetts, outside of those hills, it does not do justice to the long history of the town, or the more recent successes as Greenfield has indeed greened again through the hard work of resilient long-timers and energetic newcomers.
And so I wish to apologize, and to bring to your attention some of the highlights of this town.
The Connecticut River valley is New England’s fertile crescent, and the burgeoning local food movement feeds brilliant new restaurants like Hope and Olive and Magpie, while the stalwart Greenfields Market food co-op continues to sell the best in local blueberries (Spatcher Farm), lettuces (Red Fire Farms), and grass fed beef (Wheel View Farms) from the people who are my neighbors.
Meanwhile, Foster’s Market is one of the only places in Massachusetts where I can buy Scrapple. And the People’s Pint serves amazing beer. I don’t drink beer, but I bet you do.
Wilson’s is one of the great small city department stores of the kind you barely see anymore—MONTE BELMONTE of local radio and Judge John Hodgman fame calls it “The Plimouth Plantation of retailing,” with a hair salon, and incredible cookware department, and mid-century strollers of the kind Sally Draper might have ridden in as a toddler.
The Green River Festival is held every on the grounds of Greenfield Community College, welcoming an incredibly diverse array of incredible musicians like Neko Case and The Carolina Chocolate Drops and also BALLOON RIDES.
Plus history: The site of Poet’s Seat Tower! Hometown of Penn Jillette! Recuperation point for Tiny Tim after his second-to-final heart attack!
Oh, and the pork and kimchi tacos at the Brass Buckle! And Ryan and Casey’s Liquors, which insanely stocks both Plymouth Gin and Fernet Branca, like it has invaded my dreams!
And Federal Street Books where I found a complete run of Alan Moore’s Miracleman for less than ten dollars, as well as an original copy of The People’s Almanac, whence I drew first inspiration for my books and almost all of my COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE.
I could go on. In fact, I have to, because Sarah Reid of www.smallvictories.us has already mapped out a bunch of new places for me to check out, like a new bar called Seymour and a mid-century modern furniture shop called DEN.
In 2012, as part of a large revitalization of the Bank Row area of downtown, The John W. Olver Transportation Center opened. It’s the first zero net energy transit facility in the US. And unless fate conspires to break Greenfield’s heart, it will soon become a stop on the re-routed AMTRAK Vermonter line, for the first time connecting Greenfield by rail directly to Vermont, New York, and DC.
But even if the train never makes it to Greenfield (and it is possible; like most cities these days that are not global hubs of exotic finance, Greenfield is not getting any special favors, and is not done fighting yet), you should still go there. Enjoy the region. Spend some of your money. And if you see me there, say hello. And if you see me there being attacked by angry Greenfielders, come to my aid. Tell them I am sorry. Because that is true.
That is all.
IMAGE COURTESY JASPERDO
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