How we amuse ourselves in Western Massachusetts

My Boston friends sometimes wonder aloud, “What do you people do for amusement out there in the Berkshires in the winter?” After all, it’s not like we’ve got cool bars to frequent, venues for live music or any museums to go to. And we’re so far from Boston that no one even blows up random items left on the sidewalk to keep us entertained. (It’s okay – you couldn’t find them in the snow anyway.)

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The answer is pretty simple. We build stuff. Odd stuff. Dysfunctional hot tubs. Mongolian-inspired round houses (gers). Trebuchets. That sort of thing.

The most recent project is the result of a multiple-year conversation between me and one of my favorite conspirators, Daniel Beck. Daniel, his lovely wife and a mutual friend participated in Burning Man a few years back and came back with wonderful photos and great stories. I griped that an event that would require me to take two weeks off from work and rent an RV to bring whatever art we’d built probably wasn’t going to happen. Why didn’t someone start an East Coast alternative for those of us several days away from the playa?

And so we started developing a web joke – Freezing Man, the east coast alternative to Burning Man, held in late February in scenic Savoy Mountain State Forest (an especially cold and snowy corner of rural northwestern MA, which happens to be in Daniel’s back yard.) We’d put up photos of oddly dressed, semi-nude, glowstick-waving revellers standing waist deep in snow and wait to see who showed up for the gathering next February. (Yes, I realize there’s a Burning Man regular who hands out icecream as Freezing Man. And that BoingBoing has posted photos of the playa in the snow today. It’s a coincidence, I promise.)

But first, we needed a Man. The goal was a Burning-Man-like figure shivering in the cold, covered with icicles. We’re partway there, I think. Willy (as I’ve been thinking of him) is living in my back yard, attempting to grow a good coat of ice. Unfortunately, our first attempts to ice him (spraying him with cold water in near-zero weather) didn’t yield the icing we’d like – I’m now patiently waiting for the freezing rain we’re promised on Friday.

Daniel’s got a nice set of photos of the Man posted on his blog, currently dominating his front page. I’m particularly fond of this shot, where Daniel’s trying to anchor our statue firmly in the snow. We built Freezing Man by measuring Daniel and trying to build body parts roughly twice his size. Clearly we’re not very good at math.

Put a 15 foot tall wooden man in your backyard and you’ve got to expect some reaction from your neighbors. But our county houses some notable eccentrics – a neighbor on Green River Road in Williamstown has a 20-foot tall blue chair in his back yard for no discernable reason. Chesire, MA, has as its primary tourist attraction a giant concrete cheese press, a monument to the massive wheel of cheese the town presented to Thomas Jefferson in 1802.

A shopping plaza a few miles south used to feature a massive ship sinking into the parking lot – it was dismantled in 2002, removing one of the more picturesque attractions of that corner of Pittsfield, MA. (The piece was by Dustin Shuler, who’s done some truly amazing things with cars.)

In other words, I don’t really expect anyone to notice. That is, unless masses of glowstick-wielding revellers show up for our festival and start camping out in the ger. After all, we don’t have much tolerance for weirdness out here.

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8 Responses to How we amuse ourselves in Western Massachusetts

  1. Sandy says:

    This just makes me absurdly happy… and a little homesick.

    Also? That’s a lot of snow. :)

  2. Alex Steffen says:

    This is great. It’s kept me smiling all morning.

  3. Daniel says:

    Aw, man, I’d forgotten about that boat… I loved that thing, don’t understand why they took it down. It’s not like there was a desperate need for the handful of parking spaces it was using.

    Also: this is the first — and probably the last — time I’ve ever been happy to see the words “freezing rain” in tomorrow’s weather report.

  4. stephanie says:

    Ah, put me down for another citydweller who misses life in Berkshire County. Didya know, when it rains here (like this morning), it snows in Maine and other parts of New England? *sigh*

  5. Are you going to burn him or freeze him then shatter him into a million pieces like Mr. Freeze on Batman?

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  7. Good says:

    FreezingMan! We do it in rural Colorado, but some punk stole the name and trademarked it, and was gonna have a party in the City!! loser! (hey, I’m from Saratoga, cousin’s in Williamstown…) So now we have HYPOTHERMIA this year on Jan 19. a metal barn, 5 woodstoves, even more bands and djs, fire shows and a gnarly 4wd canyon with a shuttle to get ya there! come out!!
    Good in Glenwood Springs, CO

  8. Ethan says:

    I love it, Good. Sounds like a blast. Not sure I can make this year, but very cool that someone’s doing a proper winterfest…

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