If you had driven from Cooperstown to Franklin late Sunday afternoon, you would have been greeted by one lovely scene after another.
The sun had broken through. The brilliant light green trees promised the leaves that may be out by the time you read this, contrasting with the solemn evergreens. That panorama from the top of that back road leading from Otego’s I-88 exit into Franklin was never more sensational.
It felt great be alive, and to be in Upstate New York.
That evening you may have watched “The Simpsons”, where Homer Simpson, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame two years with laughter and great frivolity, savaged Upstate New York. (See facing page)
How could Homer get it so wrong?
The “D’oh Canada” episode has Homer savaging the Empire (Up)State on a road trip to Niagara Falls. “Along the way,” reporter Geoff Herbert recounted on nyup.com, “Homer and Bart cheered as they drove past sad scenes, including crumbling infrastructure and closed stores like Circuit City and Toys R Us.”
Daughter Lisa asks, ““How can you ‘booyah’ this country’s decline?”
Dad Homer replies, “Cheer up, honey. We’re headed to the one place that can never decline: Upstate New York.”
Herbert continues: “Homer then sings a parody of Frank Sinatra’s famous ‘New York, New York’ as they drive by scenes including an empty Buffalo Bills stadium, Utica’s declining population, Rochester’s Kodak plant killed by smartphone cameras, and even Syracuse University’s Otto the Orange dancing with opioids, lottery tickets and the Lake Placid 1980 Olympics mascot.”
One of the problems of success – and New York was arguably the most successful state in the nation for 200 years – is there’s too much to lose in abandoning the status quo.
In canals, railroads, steel, textiles, dairy farming, and so many other sectors, The Empire State was king. Or rather, emperor.
As has been noted here before, air-conditioning developed in Syracuse opened the Southwest to development. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the non-union South became much more inviting.
New York State’s development industry, labor unions and governmental infrastructure, were expensive.
Jobs – and employees – left in droves.
Take Homer’s cruel digs at Rochester: Kodak was a marvel of the world, but iPhones replaced film. Xerox was replaced by attachments to emails with multiple addresses. With globalization, Bausch & Lomb was bought by a Canadian, and the soft-lens maker moved to Laval, Que. With USA Today, Gannett repositioned itself as a national newspaper company, and moved headquarters to the D.C. suburbs.
That’s an awful lot of reinvention, and it’s going to take a while, (but not forever).
But wait a minute. Sometimes you have to get pretty low before you embrace something really new, and that happened when Albany embraced nanotechnology, the miniaturizing of everything, in medicine, electronics, food, batteries, the list goes on and on.
High-tech prosperity has spread up the Hudson Valley from Wappinger’s Falls, to Saratoga, reviving Kingston, Hudson, Troy and blessed Saratoga.
Support for Nano began during the Mario Cuomo Administration at places like Clarkson University, and was maintained through Republican Pataki and Democrats Spitzer and Paterson through Cuomo II.
It – and other good stuff – is going to happen everywhere else Upstate, too. There too much money, brainpower and love of our great state for it not too. It’s just going to take a little longer.
Meanwhile, who doesn’t love Buffalo hot wings? And for the next six months, we’ll be living in the most beautiful place on earth. (And many of us are entranced even more by winter’s harsh beauty. Just dress for it!)
D’oh, Homer, you got it wrong, pal.