Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 30, 2006: Sunday in NY

What always strikes me most about being in upstate New York is how little things change here. Stereotypes dictate that back home in Blount County, Tennessee, you'd find a slow-paced life. Rural. Appalachain. Folks up here think that Southerners are hillbillies. When I went away to college in TN, my NY friends joked about me going to a place without electricity.

Truth is, hardly a thing has changed since I left for college 22 years ago. In my hometown, there is a new hotel and two new subdivisions. (Back in Blount County, subdivisions go up faster than I can read a book.) A new middle school has been built. Downtown looks cleaner and nicer, but that clean-up was already in progress back when I was a kid. Most of my friends' parents still live in the same houses, and most of my high-school friends still live within 25 miles of Geneva.

This morning's drive to church is one I've made hundreds of times in my life. My parents go to church in Ithaca now, where my oldest brother has lived for over 30 years. We made that hour drive weekly for years. I know every house, every curve in the road. And nothing has changed. Every little town along the way has its picturesque streetfronts of huge Victorian houses, with 3-side front porches and widow's watches on the roof, facing out to the lake. There are no fast-food restaurants in the 60 miles between here and there. Never have been. No new subdivisions, although an old Victorian or two have been converted into B&Bs. Still the same cornfields and soybeans, and even a few Amish in horse-and-buggies coming home from Sunday services.

In Blount County, Tennessee, we're struggling to keep the rural feeling of the area--to preserve the unbelievable natural beauty--while "progress" proceeds at breakneck speed. And here in New York, a state with a reputation of being cutting-edge and first in everything, nothing's changed at all. I don't know what it all means. I'll take the gentleness of the South over the raw edges of New York anyday. But I could stand one less Walmart, one less subdivision with monstrous houses, and a day in the mountains.

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