Sunday, August 11, 2013

Who Cares about Character?

A few weeks ago, at a wedding, I got talking with a man from "the country" who said he was thinking about moving. The kids were grown and out of the house, retirement was around the corner, and he was maybe ready to leave the rural life in the rear view. Of course I pitched living in Latham or Clifton Park. He dismissed that idea as “characterless” for someone like him. To which I said, “Who cares about character?”

Who wouldn’t want to live in Clifton Park? You can have any type of house you want, any type of life you want. There’s land if that’s your thing, rural guy. There's even ponds and a lake. There are trails in the woods to run on. But why run on wooded trails when you can hit the million-dollar track at Shen? Anything and everything you could want is at the fingertips. The library, mall, grocery store, Chinese place, Wal-Mart, Target, etc, all less than three minutes from your doorstep. Something goes wrong with the house, BAM, right to Home Depot and back in a flash. “But, Brian, those are chain places. They have no character.” Character? Who cares? My sink is broke. I need it fixed. And I defy you to find something (anything) that Home Depot doesn’t have in stock and doesn’t fully warranty. And if they don’t, go across the street to Lowes. While you’re dealing with Bubba’s Hardware, because Bubba has character, and a two-week wait for that sink piping, I’m home, watching the Giants and using my new sink. You can have your character. Did I mention that CP taxes are the lowest in the area and the schools are the best?

My wife’s parents live in upstate New York, very rural, lots of farms, windmills for wind energy. I love getting away to their place. But after three, four days, I need real life again. Here’s the thing: Up there, going to the movies is an all-day odyssey, an epic. Down here, in good old CP, I leave the house at 8.58 for a 9PM show. Sign me up for the latter. But it’s more than that. My wife’s father is 70 yrs old. If he has a heart attack at home, where 75% of such attacks occur, he’s a goner. No way an ambulance gets to him under an hour. And the weather in rural areas. Next time there’s a snow storm, turn on YNN. I guarantee all the suburban and city schools are running, and the rural schools are shuttered for the next three days. I really hope rural guy doesn’t have “the big one” when that’s going on. But hey, character, baby, character.

Is Suburbia cookie-cutter? Of course it is. But it's more than that. The suburbs have the best and healthiest food choices. Hannaford has a whole section for organic. Across the street, there's a Green Grocer. You don't have to fill the gas tank twice to hit Barnes & Noble for that new Dan Brown book. Have you seen the CP library? It looks like a state building. I know there's more snowmobile riding options and better landscapes in the country, I get that, but come on, it's the everyday things like going to the store or renting a Red Box that matters most in modern life, right?

What’s my point? Simple. It’s 2013. Virtually any luxury you want is for the taking, with minimal work. So why would someone choose to live where all the easiness of today is not accessible? It's like camping in the rain when the Marriot has vacant rooms. Why? I just don’t understand living in the country vs. Latham because the country has more character. What does that mean? You might say I don’t "get" small-town living, and maybe you’re right, but I did grow up in Averill Park when guys were driving pickups with confederate flags in the window, so I have some idea. For the kids and teenagers, small town is awesome. For instance, if you play QB for a C or D school you're also the town mayor, your money's no good here, kid. But rural kid often can't cut it on the big stage. Why? You hear your whole life you're a star then hit the real world, and guess what? You're not a star. Suburban kid, who has to deal with a graduating class of 400, knows exactly where he ranks when college and the work force come calling. Nobody blows smoke at Shen. You are or you aren't.

As I type this sentence, my wife is walking in with a cup of Starbuck’s coffee. I know, I know, how suburban and characterless does it get? But Starbuck’s makes a better cup of Joe than anybody going, I’m sure, so again, who cares about character? Just give me the best product. I’ll tell you I came up with this idea while sitting in Olive Garden the other night, that's right, Olive Garden. It’s a total chain, but the food was descent, and the price was right. And I remembered asking my friend about the restaurant selection where he lived. He said, “not much, nothing really." Ouch. Then I asked him if he’d ever been to D’Raymond’s. He’d never heard of it. Character.

Brian Huba

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