Upstate New York

Fenster writes:

There’s an old saying to the effect that the little stations are happy because the big trains pass them by.  Something like that is at work in upstate New York, a place that is charming in direct relation to its longstanding bad economics.  The place exports more people than apples.  In New England, where we live, it is common to meet upstate emigres, having moved (often as a result of college) and never returned.

Many would like to.  I recall a professional colleague who waxed eloquently about learning to sail on Irondequoit Bay, and how much she would love to move back.  But the job picture is just not that cooperative.  My wife grew up in upstate and her circle of friends in New England has somehow ended up consisting of other expatriates.  She says she finds them to her liking because of their directness and unpretentiousness.  I agree.  So our summer place is in deep upstate.

There are two kinds of places that don’t support chain restaurants: those that are too wealthy to allow it, and those that are sufficiently. . . umm . . . insufficiently resourced as to remain behind the curve.  Our place is in the latter kind of town.  It is hardly perfect but it beats Southampton, I’ll tell ya, and not just on the issue of home prices, which are ridiculously low by coastal standards.  The people are wonderful and the scenery is at this time of year just about perfect (though that could be because I grew up in a geographically similar environment and find the trees just about right).

Yesterday at the local farmer’s market (excellent produce BTW) they were selling ice cream sodas for a buck.


Then I went over to the library, where the bake sale was running down and a cake had been marked down from $5 to $2 to free.


I’ve never seen a cake so red, and this odd affect no doubt accounts for the drastic markdown.  It was tasty, though.

A few miles from our place I came across this historical marker in village of Port Byron.


Who knew Port Byron was the home of that stuff?  You have to like the sense of humor of the guy who wrote the text for the monument.  It isn’t enough to mention that the factory burned down; he also had to point out that the inventor’s patent was voided.

Well, I guess that says something about the fortunes of upstate.  The Economist predicts that the area is due for a resurgence.  And that makes sense if only because of the principle of buy low sell high.  And it would be churlish of me to prefer the place remain in its current state.  It deserves a comeback.  It would be nice if it were handled well.

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Photography, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Upstate New York

  1. Evocative and smart. I love central-western NY myself. Often-nasty weather and the bugs can be a pain. But pretty, sweet, spacious (and cheap, god knows) … And the people develop some seriously entertaining eccentricities. How fat do people in Sodus tend to be, btw? Many of the natives in the Finger Lakes have grown HUGE in recent decades.


  2. Matt Forney says:

    Syracuse native here, though I’ve also lived in Albany, Plattsburgh and Ithaca. I’m presently living in North Dakota because—you guessed it—the job market back home is horrible. It’s also too expensive relative to quality of life; I spent a fair portion of summer in Madison, WI, which is roughly the same size as Buffalo or Rochester but both far cheaper and nicer to live in. Even here in NW ND, where the cost of living is spiraling upwards, things are still cheaper than the cheapest part of upstate.

    Syracuse isn’t the worst place to grow up, but the city’s provincialism and Debbie Downer attitude really wore on me. I was at the debut of God Bless America at the Palace in Eastwood last May, and Bobcat Goldthwait (himself a ‘Cuse native) joked that the city had a “Droopy Dog” mentality. A lot of the surrounding towns are still pretty pleasant though. I was always partial to the Ithaca area myself. And everyone from New York owes it to themselves to take a drive up the Northway to Montreal; the Lake Placid/Saranac Lake area is absolutely gorgeous.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s