This week has been better than last. Over the weekend, I drove around town and ended up at Newfound Lake, feeling more like a normal human person. While I’ve still been in the same routine each day, the weather is getting nicer and I look forward to my daily (sometimes twice-daily) walks. Going to the lake made me feel more “summery,” even though I had to wear a hoodie under my down jacket while there. I also set a goal this week of putting on “real pants” every day, rather than leggings, and it’s done wonders for my mindset. Yes, I usually change into leggings or sweatpants around 5pm, but I feel like a human person during working hours, and that’s made a big difference in feeling like weekdays are weekdays. These last few days of school have felt good. I’m so thankful that we still get to “see” each other most days, although I miss them “for real.”
Although I’ve generally been in good spirits this week, my mood took a turn for the …angrier? on Tuesday, when I saw an article in The New York Times by David Gelles, titled “This is Going to Kill Small-Town America” about how COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on small towns. Why did this article have me fuming? It’s about my town: Bristol, New Hampshire.
In this article, Gelles uses Bristol as a model of a failing, rural “everytown” in America. He interviews our town administrator, Nik Coates and a few other locals who discuss how New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order has affected businesses in town. Much of the article is focused on layoffs at Freudenberg-Nok, a globally owned factory in town that had to furlough workers in the midst of the crisis. He comments on impending doom and gloom that these furloughs will have on the community. He also speaks to Mark McDonough, owner of The Homestead restaurant, who spoke about having to close down due to slow business. Many of the locals interviewed state that business has been slow and that they are worried about the future of their shops when our tourism season starts (Gelles). The article is accompanied by gloomy photos, which I’ve used in this post.
We are not a failing, rural town. As someone who lives in Bristol, I can firmly state that this article is sensationalist journalism. First of all, the photos, while beautiful, were taken taken through a dark lens on a cloudy day, at a time of year where there’s not much greenery to be found around town. Many appear to be focused on spots of peeling paint, ignoring the beauty in our town. One photo, taken on my street, of a bridge next to a playset, holds the caption, “‘family-run, still operational, farm.cropped out the beautiful house to the right, located on a
Mark McDonough, the owner of The Homestead and one of those interviewed, owns a franchise of restaurants around the state. He closed his Bristol location, but his other locations are still open and successfully selling take-out. Our locally owned restaurants, breweries, and winery continue to operate on a take-out/pickup only basis, and are supported fully by residents. One local grocery store, The Newfound Country Store, has offered curbside grocery pickup and delivery to locals. Our food pantry is full of donations, and many businesses are donating and raffling off gift cards, with proceeds going to those in the community in need.
In local Facebook groups, some stated that their statements were manipulated into a false narrative, and that if they had known that Gelles were taking this angle in his piece, they never would have agreed to speaking with him. Nik Coates, our town administrator and one of those interviewed for the story, posted a response on the town’s website, detailing all of the wonderful things happening in our town, which directly contradict Gelles’s “observations.” Last night, New Hampshire’s WMUR aired a short feature on Bristol in the news, which focused on how the community has come together during this crisis. These pieces reflect who and what we are as a town.
Shortly after this article went live, it came to light that David Gelles, the author of this article, has a family second home on Newfound Lake and recused there for isolation during the crisis, likely under the guise of writing this story. The idea that he’s hiding from his city in our small town, which he publicly shamed, is truly disgusting. He should be ashamed of himself.
Gelles, David. “’This Is Going to Kill Small-Town America’.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 14 Apr. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/business/coronavirus-small-towns.html?fbclid=IwAR0RA2HHbX4i55Z4eIrtRt-tWNEoa681aQ5lntFnnflnobAPKl3BTrXO9lM.