Posted tagged ‘Upstate New York’

Small-town bars

March 5, 2011


When I was living in a country town in upstate New York, there were many of those bars where everyone knows your name. You walk into the establishment, and nearly everyone looks straight up and says “Hey Christine!” (or whatever your name may be).

You walk around, saying “hi” to everyone; hoping you’ll avoid that one guy who gives you a hard time each time you come in (you know, he tries to hug you when you don’t want a hug or asks why you don’t want to go hunting with him). You buy a drink for an incredibly cheap price (or someone buys it for you), and then shoot the breeze with the regulars.

In my upstate New York town, there were a couple of these establishments I’d frequent more than others. I remember going to the first one; being marked by the frequency with which country music was played. Single men in their 40s and 50s would be listening to a sad country tune about an unrequited love while practically crying into their Bud or Michelob lights.

I made the mistake of playing a techno song on the jukebox one evening. “What the H#@& is this?!?!?” several Carhartt-clad men shouted in unison. I looked up, realizing the error of my ways. This was NOT the place to get my techno music fix. We let the song play, however, as several regulars lined up to play their next sappy country ballad.

One night at this bar I had some especially great conversations. I don’t remember what was said exactly, but I do remember one boat salesman saying he had to play me a couple of his favorite songs. This first one will always remind me of my time in this insular yet charmingly simple country town.

I remember that whenever the chorus played, this guy would close his eyes, groove his head to the beat, and belt out the words. He’d passionately utter:

I wake up and tear drops
They fall down like rain
I put on that old song we danced to and then
I head off to my job
Guess not much has changed

Punch the clock
Head for home
Check the phone, just in case
Go to bed
Dream of you
That’s what I’m doing these days

The other song was a little gentler/more meaningful in my opinion. I’m unable to post the YouTube video to this page, so I’ll just link to it. I remember thinking it was nice that this rustic outdoorsman enjoyed such a sweet song (it’s about a love between a father and son).

At the other bar, you’d run into all sort of important people in town: police officers, lawyers, town board members, etc. Initially they knew you (well me and some of my friends at least) as the journalists who interviewed them from time to time. But then, after seeing them there a few times, you were more like a friend. Eventually you barely talked about what you did for a career. Instead, you’d join them in cheering for the Green Bay Packers, playing some darts, or discussing the upcoming dairy parade.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/3841713630

Hi blog!

October 15, 2010

Just wanted to let you know I haven’t abandoned you. I’ve been pretty busy the last week with work, visiting my parents, etc. Anyway, I’m off to Vermont today but I’m sure I’ll have pictures/entries to post when I get back.

I do have a minute, however, so I will just a noteĀ  a few observations I’ve made over the last week:

  • The political ads being shown on Syracuse (NY) television are quite hostile.
  • Refrigerated chicken sandwiches from rest stop mini marts aren’t good.
  • Babies sleep through anything (I guess they don’t need rapid eye movement sleep like we do).
  • Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham is a great interviewee (heard him on the radio).
  • The Syracuse newspaper has become very locally focused.
  • You can get a great meal at the Little Falls (NY) Veterans of Foreign Wars post (the squash soup, salad, roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots with cauliflower and broccoli, cherry cake, coffee and wine were to die for!).
  • Some people never age (what’s their secret??).
  • The Olive Garden’s bottomless salad doesn’t taste quite as good as it used to.
  • The Manlius Art Cinema (independent movie theater in Manlius, NY) may have uncomfortable seats but the hospitality is second-to-none.
  • Opening an old box of photos, letters and knickknacks can be quite an emotional experience.
  • One of the best places to shop for household items is the LaFayette Apple Festival (in LaFayette, NY).
  • Homemade apple donuts are fabulous.
  • Some people I saw at church 15 years ago still stand in the same pew.
  • You can rent a large four-bedroom house in East Rochester (NY) for $1,800 a month.
  • You can rent a charming two-bedroom apartment overlooking the beauteous Cazenovia (NY) landscape for $800 a month.
  • New York State is still talking a lot about government “consolidation.”
  • The Shoppingtown Mall (DeWitt, NY) still has a lot of jewelry stores.
  • Those Chilean miners looked awesome coming out of that mine (I’m sure many other people noticed this, too).

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/mattcarman/218943199

Sometimes I miss living in a small town

February 9, 2010

At an antique car show in the small town.

Up until a couple of years ago I lived in a small “town” in upstate New York. Although I technically lived in a city, it had fewer than 19,000 people. It was immediately surrounded by miles of farmland.

I was often lonely there. I would go for a walk on a dreery weekend day, only to pass by crows, an occasional senior citizen on a power wheelchair, and a few townies taking a cigarette break outside a bar.

There weren’t many people my age there, and the ones I met weren’t always my type of people. They were authentic alright, but they didn’t have much to talk about. They had lived in this city their whole lives, taken very few trips outside of upstate New York, and would likely be spending the rest of their lives in the same place. (more…)


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