24 Hours in the Berkshires-‘Ode to a Pal on the Move

Sep 2011

Anyone who knows me, knows how important my girl time is.  It’s a priority in my life, and something for which I always make room.  Years ago, when my son was in grammar school, I got together with the Mom’s of three of his friends.  A tradition was born, and for the past 15 years, we have celebrated our birthdays 4 times a year with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance. It always takes a bit of ingenuity to find an idea that is original and one that none of us has already done, and then of course, scheduling a date is the biggest challenge!!

girlfriend crop getaway amy hockett
We only had an overnight, so distance was a concern.  A quick trip to the Berkshires seemed like a good solution. It’s about a three hour drive from Boston, perfect for a gab/catch up session in the car, and before we knew it, we arrived in Williamstown ready for lunch.  Papa Charlie’s Deli has a huge chalkboard full of sandwich combos.  Many are vegetarian, all filled with healthy, local ingredients with names like The Politician {ingredients change on your whim} and the Gwyneth Paltrow {eggplant parm/no bread}. My veggie BLT was as tasty as any I’ve ever had.
Then it was off to the Clark Museum , a small gem of a collection with major grounds for walking and a killer gift shop, to see the Pissarro exhibit. Approaching the museum was an outdoor sculpture installation by Micheal Melle form Plainfield, MA.  With their clothes blowing in the wind, his whimsical people were at once charming and startling. His scarecrows were a riff on the  current Pissarro’s People and an indicator of what was to come inside. Below, I’ve included some of Melle’s other work as well; he has a quite spectacular range.  The exhibition was an eye-opening walk thru the influential beginning of the Impressionists.  Pissarro’s interest in the nature of work and the dignity of labor was evident throughout his paintings.

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Refugees by Michael Melle

Equally impressive, and for me quite jaw dropping,  was the upper gallery’s exhibition of El Anatsui’s upcycled metal and bottle cap ‘Quilts’. He hails from Ghana where recycling is a way of life.  The intricate sculptural work is pieced by hand with copper wire forming undulating landscapes that appear to move across the gallery walls. Working with 20 assistants, El Anatsui illustrates the beauty of materials that would normally end up in landfill.

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El Anatusi-Intermittent Signals 2009 {found aluminum and copper wire}

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El Anatsui {top} Strips of Earth’s Skin, close up & Delta

Next stop, The Porches Inn at Mass MoCA.  Located in North Adams, this spot has a hipster vibe with an eco-friendly sensibility.  Former row houses, previously occupied by mill workers have been converted into a charming respite within walking distance from the massive art collection housed across the street.  A heated pool, wireless internet and a groovy lobby bar, combine with a shabby chic decor making it a perfect girlfriends destination.

6Diptic porches
A little R&R,with a spectacular ginger cocktail by the pool.  {I’ll share the recipe just as soon as I get my hands on it!}
girlfriend cocktail collage
Dinner was a short walk across the street to the Gramercy Bistro, inside the gates of Mass MoCA. Supporting local farms, brewery’s and distillers, the menu is upscale and varied depending on the best of the season.  Make sure to leave room for one of their decadent deserts.
girlfriends hike cartoon

Hiking trails are plentiful and varied in the Berkshires.The next morning, after a quick bite at the hotel, we chose to take a short hour walk on The Cascades trail.  Covered with large hemlocks, it was a cool destination, practically in town, with a rewarding waterfall at the end. Then it was time for some contemporary art.

Mass MoCA is housed in 26 former textile-mill buildings whose largesse allow it to exhibit immense works and installations.  All were fantastical; some I loved more that others, but each had its own message and it was an interesting coincidence that both the Clarke and Mass MoCA had much to say about government, capitalism and the plight of the labor worker in light of the current economy.  Below are some of my favorites from the exhibits.

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From Top left Nari Ward-Mango Tourists, Sol Le Witt, Nari Ward-Nu Colossus

The restaurant on site is excellent and offers a pretty wide range along with some yummy local homemade ice cream.  We could have obviously spent many more hours there perusing the town and its galleries and shops of local artists and craftspeople, but time had run out….. {so now I have a good excuse to return}.
This post has taken me quite awhile to write, perhaps because although we’ve had more than a few teary goodbyes, this is the weekend my good friend is truly leaving for Chicago.  It makes this most recent celebration of ours especially bittersweet, as  our foursome is about to be changed forever.  We are convinced we will still rendezvous, and with a little creativity and planning I agree.  Change is never easy, but i’d prefer to look at this as a good excuse to get in some more travel!!