The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Upstate, or Concerto Grosso in A Flat, not by George Frederick Handel

Upstate. What is Upstate? Why is Upstate such an important concept for those of us who live here in the Vampire State? And, most importantly, where is Upstate?  This last is a very important question, as many people in the Vampire State would rather have a body part removed without the benefit of anesthesia then have anyone they know think that they live or know anyone Upstate, and there are others who think wistfully that maybe they would be better off if somehow or other they could just get out of the New York City rat race and move Upstate, where the grass is always greener and the picket fences are always whiter and life is just easier somehow.  Sometimes, the same person can have both of these ideas about Upstate on the same day, but not usually at the same time. An event that cognitively dissonant will often cause apoplexy in laboratory rats, although whether it would have the same result with New Yorkers is unknown. Ingesting large amounts of caffeine is supposed to protect against such things, and if there is anything New Yorkers do better than almost anyone else is ingest caffeine. All right, maybe people in Seattle ingest more caffeine on a per capita basis, but there is no Upstate in Washington, so they’re not probably not the best people to ask about something like this.

Before we start defining Upstate, let’s define what Upstate isn’t.  The people in Buffalo, for example, do not consider themselves Upstaters; they live in Western New York, thank you very much, and they will have nothing to do with a faux geographical controversy that takes time away from them stuffing their pie-holes with spicy chicken wings at every opportunity. Similarly, the people of the Southern Tier don’t really consider themselves Upstaters either, given that they aren’t upstate from anything; you can’t really be an Upstater if the downstate involved is Pennsylvania. On the other hand, the people in Malone do consider themselves Upstaters, a choice forced on them by geography; you can’t go any further upstate than Malone without actually being in Canada.  People who live in Lawn Guyland are definitely not Upstaters and whether or not Westchester County is Upstate seems to be a matter of some debate, especially if you live in New York City; for Upstaters, on the other hand, Westchester and most of Rockland County are Downstate. Given that no one seems to know just where Upstate is, what is this upstate place that you hear New Yorkers go on and on about?

First, you must remember that Upstate is a state of mind. If you live in Greenwich Village, then everything above Fourteenth Street is Upstate. If you live on 125th Street, then the Bronx is probably Upstate, even if your cousin Rosie lives there. Your cousin Rosie, of course, will argue that no way does she live Upstate and the people on the Upper West Side would probably agree with her; living in the Bronx makes you one of the bridge and tunnel crowd, which is the New York equivalent of the flyover people the coastal elites in this country don’t like to think about. Your cousin will think that the people in Westchester are upstate, largely because they don’t live in New York City, an entity that includes all of the five boroughs, as opposed to The City, which everyone knows means Manhattan. If you don’t know that The City means Manhattan, then very clearly you are from somewhere not only west of the Hudson River, but west of New Jersey as well, if such a thing is possible. But your cousin Rosie would be wrong about Westchester. The people there consider themselves Downstaters; Westchester and most of Rockland County are the city’s suburbs, filled with people who come from New York City and / or work in New York City and therefore cannot believe that they could be Upstaters themselves, not after spending their lives hearing that the people Upstate routinely hunt deer and rub deer dung on themselves to make it easier for them to hunt deer. They are commuters, after all, and not at all the sort of people who would gun down Bambi without so much as a second thought, even if Bambi is eating their hedges and their flower gardens and defecating all over their front lawns while knocking over their garbage cans. You know you’re an Upstater when you regard Bambi and his friends as a bunch of oversized hoofed rats and you have the will and the means [i.e. at least two hunting rifles, one for you and the other for the missus, or one carbon fiber hunting bow] of turning Bambi and his friends into venison meatballs, which are delicious with your spaghetti and a nice home-made tomato sauce. Yes they are.

After many a long year trying to figure this stuff out, the consensus of opinion among moderate people of all races and creeds hereabouts is that Upstate either begins north of Interstate 84 or north of Poughkeepsie and that we should all learn to live together despite where we believe Upstate begins. Unfortunately, the debate between the fanatical adherents of each point of view tends to be loud and vicious in the extreme, with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police often called in to quell the violence with truncheons, water cannon, and tear gas. The conflict arises because Poughkeepsie and the other towns along the river have many people who work in The City and so don’t really think of themselves as Upstaters, whereas almost everyone who doesn’t work in The City thinks of themselves as Upstaters. This is a very tricky situation for our local political class; they don’t want to alienate the commuter vote, who tend to have some money in their pockets, but on the other hand do not want to alienate the non-commuter population because they know that no Upstate politician has ever lost an election by running against The City. This is because all true Upstaters believe, in their heart of hearts, that New York State would be a much better place if someone in Albany could just figure out how to get rid of The City altogether.  This is economic nonsense, of course; the state would collapse completely without The City to prop up its finances; but many people believe economic nonsense; how do you explain the persistence of Marxism otherwise?

For my part, I think Upstate starts north of Poughkeepsie. I believe this for a number of reasons, none of which makes sense to the I-84 believers. First, the people in southern Dutchess County watch the New York City television stations. We are familiar with what goes on in The City whether we want to be or not. Second, Poughkeepsie is the northernmost station on the Hudson Line; if you want to go further north than Poughkeepsie, you have to take Amtrak. Third, the increasing suburbanization of southern Dutchess tells me that this area will be as firmly Downstate as Rockland County in a few years and we all may as well face that reality now. The idea will stick in the collective craw for a long while, no two ways about it, but some things, like death and sweaty underwear, are inevitable whether you like them or not. And so it goes.

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  • At 12:24 AM, Blogger Dick Stanley said…

    Poor Happy Little Burg, so far from God, so close to Upstate.

    Where, as you told me once, "the trees grow without permission of the Parks Department."

    Such chaos. Although I have to like a place where they are able to punish the damn deer eating the flower beds with guns or bows.

  • At 11:17 AM, Blogger Akaky said…

    Dick, a fanatical adherence to the concept of absolute gun control does not stop the authorities in the Vampire State from making a fortune in hunting license fees every year. Deer season, duck season, turkey season, bear season, you want it, the state has an expensive license that will let you go out and kill it, no questions asked, unless, of course, your hunting blind is your kitchen. For some reason or other, the state objects to people shooting at deer from inside their own homes, which I don't understand at all, given that your home is the best place to shoot deer from, what with them using your front yard as a buffet. If Bambi wants to make a hunter's life that much easier, then I say let Bambi have at the azaleas.

  • At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The hateful injustice of the phrase "he lives Upstate" is comparable only with "she is from the boroughs".

    The worse luck, though, have people near the top state border: there is no "Up" from where they are! Practically rats in the corner (or deer in suburban patio). On the other hand, we all collectively are subject of derision by our dear Canadian co-Americans; they call us "South of the Border" and simultaneously roll their wandering eyes. There is no rest in this vale of tears...

    Happy New Year, AA - and give me a smoke signal when you come to the City to shoot some slow tourists on our sidewalks.


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