I have just spent my first week on assignment in a town in upstate New York called Schenectady. The name sounded vaguely familiar when the company I worked for mentioned it. I wondered briefly was it was near Peekskill New York where Ms. Garrett and the girls spent their time pondering the facts of life. I was struck by something, not literally although by all accounts this would have been possible, when I initially arrived. The streets were gutted from here to hell all in various states of reconstruction a good amount of the damage likely due to that bad bitch Sandy. The buildings though, are gorgeous old, beautiful, and well made. There seemed to be all manner of culture to dig into at the town’s center. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the city even though by broader assessment it seemed to have obvious deeper social issues that no amount of cosmetic repair could fix.
Wanting to know more, I decided to ask the people who lived here. My new co-workers, cab drivers, and pretty much anyone who would talk to me without averting their eye would get my question. “What’s it like here?” The vast majority of the time I’d get a deep sigh or a shake of the head. No one really seemed as taken by the hidden beauty of this joint but me. The concerns were valid and ranged from drugs, crime, and police corruption so bad that the possibility of shutting down their entire department to bring in state police was very real. It made me a little sad for Schenectady a town that seemed, at least from my point of view, to be simmering just under the surface with potential. Then it made me think about the times people come into Charlotte and if I’m having a “fuck Charlotte” kinda day, I do nothing but rumble on and on about how terrible the city is potentially ruining all the newness for the at that point unfettered newcomer.
The truth is I love Charlotte. Its true wealth comes not from its banking core but its human resources. Charlotte is a wellspring of talent and diversity that if tapped into could not only change the way the world views it, but the way Charlotteans view themselves. Maybe this is the case with Schenectady? Maybe if the people here weren’t so bogged down in the problems of the city they could view it through the new eyes. Maybe that view could make Schenectadians (please say this is correct nomenclature cause it’s AWESOME) want to invest in a sociocultural facelift. Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist that is gaining new appreciation for her own city via the examination of another. Either way, I’m here for 6 more weeks, I’ll try the tuna plate and keep exploring!