Great Barrington

Melville and Hawthorne on Monument Mountain

Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s historic house in Pittsfield, will lead a marathon reading of Moby-Dick through this Sunday, and the annual hike up Monument Mountain in Great Barrington — to commemorate Herman Melville’s meeting with Nathaniel Hawthorne — will set out on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. I have walked the loop on the mountain on…

Paintings set in Song

Blues and Middle Eastern scales blend into children’s voices holding a line as simple as a Shaker tune, with low notes below. A man and a woman stand by their sleeping son and daughter, holding a newspaper with a headline from the blitz. American music of all kinds embraces well-known images in “Norman Rockwell: Paintings…

Pleasant and Main brightens a winter day

My first impression was that you couldn’t get more essentially New England than this. My second was that I didn’t know anyone in New England could make this cup of coffee.

I first came to Pleasant and Main in Housatonic on a winter evening after a snowfall. It was tea-time and dusk, and the café door held a paper sign: Am splitting wood in the garden out back …

Out back holds a cabin just large enough for a stove, bookshelves and a chair. When I called in December, looking for real, thick hot chocolate, the owner, Craig Pero, told me he had just heated a cup on his wood stove while late oak leaves were falling and blowing past. Now I knew where he sat to drink it.

When I came back (coincidentally) on a morning soon after, he recommended a caffe latte. It came in a glass cup with steamed milk as rich as cream, and it tasted like dark chocolate, rich and warm. It reminded me of the South of France on a trip long ago, sitting at an outdoor table in the sun and stirring an oblong sugar cube into a palm-sized cup.

But here I sat at a table by a window, waiting for a friend. Inside, the place is half restaurant and half antique shop — one large, open room with long wooden tables, shelves of old glass behind the bar and a canoe in the rafters. With the coffee I sampled a croissant, soft and buttery and, most memorably, spread with a golden marmalade, lightly sweet and intensely flavored.

When breakfast came, the two of us began to laugh spontaneously at the generosity of it. Eggs Florentine with spinach and a deep yellow cheese sauce. Pancakes with cherries — heated to a deep red, not too sweet, gently thickened — and real maple syrup. Friends of mine have joked about carrying a hip flask to bring maple syrup to restaurants that only serve that flavored table syrup at brunch, and the real thing always warms me.

We tried a sweet crepe with lemon curd, a thick, tangy custard filling, and I asked for a second cup of coffee, something I almost never do. But this morning had become a festival without my noticing. An ordinary meeting over coffee had become sparkling clear, as though the sun had come out.

Standing Together podcast with the Greylock Glass

In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. I’ve written about that feeling here. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed…

Selected Shorts — stories live

She has worked for 17 years at a small manufacturing firm in Manhattan, and the story begins on the day she is laid off. Her husband is transferred, and the family arrive, dazed, in a small Southern town that seems to have grown out of plastic and asphalt. “People ended up in New Brunswick, North…