A quintessentially American photograph
I was looking through the photos stored on my IPad to delete some because of memory when I ran across this one, from I think April of 2019. I had an errand to run in Binghamton, NY involving a dry cleaner and I took this picture through my windshield at an intersection.
It’s ordinary. So ordinary. Kind of tired-looking. These days there’s something American about that, but that’s not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was the names of the businesses: one Irish, one Caribbean, one Indian.
What’s so American about that is precisely that it’s ordinary. It’s in a small out of the way city that used to be heavily industrial, not anywhere near a major metropolitan area. If I want to go to a decent department store, because the Macy’s at the mall closed, it’s more than an hour away. There’s nothing all that close. South is Scranton, bigger than here but not very big; at least that has a Krispy Kreme. North is Syracuse, where there’s Stuff. Between Binghamton and Syracuse is almost entirely rural. East is nothing close, eventually the Catskills. West is Metropolitan Elmira, followed closely by Metropolitan Corning. Nothing is close and most of the nearest places don’t matter.
The closest thing of note to these stores is something that’s not there anymore: not far was a street that at one time had the greatest concentration of bars in America. There are very few left. When we’re not stuck in an epidemic, I play music in one of them some Tuesday nights. The building is over a century old. It’s probably been a bar for a century. The grandfather of one of the guys I play with used to drink here, an Italian guy. Lots of Italians here. Add that to the Irish, Caribbean, Indian.
For a while we’ve had a President who wants to screw with immigration. Who the Hell does he think we are?
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