One final thought from our recent New York tour…
We spent a couple of days in a town called Ilion, noteworthy for a number of things: It’s the home of Remington Arms (so don’t get into a 2nd Amendment pissing contest with these folks); the site of my high school graduation, now minus the actual school, since it had the poor taste to go up in flames a number of years ago; a stop along the Erie Canal, now re-named the Barge Canal; one-third of a three-town combine with still-existing rivalries, though no-where near as intense as they once were; and has no movie theater, no real main street and a village fountain that according to local history once overran with soap suds.
But ya gotta love it. Some of the best people in the world live there. People, at least in my experience, who take the country as it is and don’t hit you with what’s wrong, salivating with discontent. It’s the kind of town where you can walk right into a friend’s house and pick up a conversation that you may have started years earlier. You simply ask them where the coffee pot is and grab a cup.
And of course, leaves, leaves, leaves. On Tuesday, a steady rain dropped gently on them throughout the night (and disappeared the next morning). There is no counterpart to that in our desert.
What seems to be altogether common to Ilion — named after a Greek city, not unlike nearby Utica and Syracuse — and so many small towns, is the allegiance its people have to the area. I lived there for the three years surrounding my senior year in high school and two years at a local college, then pulled up stakes forever, moving as far west as I could go without getting my feet wet. But many of my old classmates and close friends have stayed for a lifetime.
In a way, I understand that, but in another I don’t. I suppose that the attraction — one of them, certainly — is that your expectations are generally met, day after day. The faces, the places don’t change a whole lot and evolution is slow. (At the moment, the major civic concern seems to be the building of a new jailhouse — replete with a wide variety of opinions — that has gone on for a decade.) And there is little risk of a dramatic upheaval — Oh, I don’t know: maybe like a Wal-Mart moving in. So for the most part, you develop a career or a job skill and raise the kids. Good stuff, that seems to last.
Of course, I had to move to Hollywood and become a star. Still waiting on that one, but the big city life appeals to me, along with the constant change, which includes the ongoing flux in the cast of characters –buttressed by my own long-time pals.
Notwithstanding, there we were for another fix of two-lane roads that you could have to yourself, and not a single police siren all night long, plus doors that did not need to be locked and total strangers who would greet you during a walk down the aforementioned leaf-filled streets.
True, eateries there have never heard of 2% milk and four-star restaurants require significant road time — like to Manhattan — but again, it’s all consistent with the style and culture of a community that’s very confident in what it is and what it wants to be, any number of decades down the line.
All those years ago when my family vacated an even smaller town farther south, I considered Ilion a step up, in both size and opportunity. Not long after my arrival, an old friend down-state sent me a letter that was addressed simply to me, “somewhere in Ilion, New York. ” There was no delay in delivery. It was great to be recognized — there — in such short order.