Category Archives: Syracuse

A Fair day…

The State Fair has been taking its share of lumps in recent weeks — from investigations of both how Peter Cappuccilli and Dan O’Hara have been running things, to an infestation of Justin Bieber fans. My Fairgoing has become spotty over the last few years, mainly because there always seems to be something crazy happening around this time lately. But I made it there today (and what a beautiful day it was) and thoroughly enjoyed myself, and also got to finally see some of the recent changes in action.

The good:

-It seems as if purveyors of tacky goods and services have been sent packing from many of the main Fair buildings, including the Center of Progress and International Pavilion. I think they’ve been shooed down to tents near Restaurant Row. The Center of Progress building seems easier to navigate now and features more New Yorky type stuff — booths for different counties and communities trying to sell themselves, and more historical societies — not just pols bragging about their good deeds.

-The International Pavilion has gotten a pretty fab interior re-do (shame about the restaurant fire there this year though). I never had a problem with it before, but it was so hard to navigate the food court area and find seating. Now there are attractive round wooden tables with benches, and elevated seating areas including a wine and beer area. This is probably the biggest actual facelift the Fair has seen in quite some time.

-Llamas every day now.

-The horse shows in the Coliseum seem to run better and move along more quickly, with pleasant music to accompany all the cantering and trotting. I don’t know about you, but plopping down in the Coliseum for a midday snack break to watch a random horse show is one of my personal Fair traditions. (I still wish they’d bring back the jumping competitions to the main venue, but possibly there were safety reasons for that.)

-Wine flowing a bit more freely at the restaurants. I didn’t have any today, but bought a bottle like a good patriotic New Yorker.

The bad:

-Chevy Court (I still can’t stop calling it Miller Court, which severely dates me) used to be a pretty laid-back venue, but is now a deadly serious musical happening. That’s not “bad,” but I’m not sure how I feel about all acts only doing one show a day now — the wildly popular Peter Noone could have packed in a second show on Senior Day, for example. I walked through the empty Court this morning and saw crowd control gates. Whoa.

-Centro’s shuttle buses insist on traveling on 690 and slowly plowing their way through main drag traffic when they could just quickly pop over there through Solvay. (I guess Solvay is having none of it.)

-Nobody is stepping up to make the Energy building (or whatever that place is now called – where the big corporations like Time Warner hang out) very interesting. Years ago, Niagara Mohawk packed in the crowds with annual documentary presentations on their weather emergency heroics like the North Country ice storm and the Labor Day Storm. Not any more. Snooze.

-Did I see $10 parking?!?

The Fair has definitely changed since I used to go every year… and I think mostly for the better. It’s a good sign when you can’t get to the main gate at the end of the day because a huge and lively crowd has gathered around a lone juggler.

Maybe the Fair-runners should keep that in mind when they are pondering their million-dollar concert bookings. It really doesn’t take much to amuse most people.

Interview with SyracuseB4

Sean Kirst interviews the enigmatic and exceedingly well-informed SyracuseB4, aka Theresa Rusho. Great stuff, check it out. One quote jumped out at me, however:

There is a tendency to view the destruction of James Street as inevitable civic change. Rusho breaks that idea on the rocks. She’s found clips from the 1950s that establish how James Street was targeted by a municipal plan that today seems absolutely mad. Indeed, even as our great landmarks were being razed, The Post-Standard of 1952 carried an article that mocked these “rambling homes, surrounded by acres of lawn (that) are of another era. People today don’t go in for big, ornate mansions. …”

It’s weird, but that’s pretty much what forward-thinking people say today about McMansions in the burbs! It’s an intriguing quote.

Catching up with Syracuse

A rather good guest editorial from a Syracuse expat in Sunday’s Post-Standard hints that people are starting to come around to my way of thinking on Richard Florida. I’m quite sure it’s not because anyone has read my stuff, but possibly because a prolonged economic slump for everyone tends to relieve one’s thirst for snake oil. The rest of the country is finally catching up economically with Syracuse. The author mentions that many young people are returning home, although if they are, I wonder how many are really in a condition to roll up their sleeves.

It seems to me that many children are unable to leave due to the economy, but I’m not sure how many are returning. Maybe young Mr. Caliva’s message will be best received by people like young Mr. Tryt.

Declining cities, intuition and the scientific method

The NY Times has a lengthy story today about health care, modern medicine and the influence of the scientific method vs. the influence of intuition, which some believe modern-day doctors have started to rely on too heavily in diagnosis and treatment.

Our newly elected mayor has inherited a sick city. It’s been declining in most measures of urban health for a long time. There’s some disagreement as to whether it is really sick, or just old. Over the past few years, my concern about the various plans and pushes to heal Syracuse have had to do with the Richard Florida stuff that is highly theoretical – the whole “creative classism worked in Pittsburgh, so it should work everywhere, except in those cities which ought to go into the dustbin because they don’t respond to our theory.” While some would say that the Richard Florida view is “scientific method” based (hey, they’ve used other cities as laboratories), I wonder if it’s not just a big hunk of intuition that is off the rails, masquerading as scientific urban-renewal practice.

Syracuse stubbornly refuses to respond to grand, intricately and intuitively plotted plans for its recovery. Who could have expected that the new football coach would also suck, and that LeMoyne would beat the Orange basketball team on top of it? Who could have predicted that artists buying rundown houses for $1 in the Near West Side colonization effort would have their doors kicked in by well-meaning policemen with a healthy regard for ferocious Pomeranians? Who could have imagined that every time we resolve to hold a winter festival in the snowiest city in America, it doesn’t actually snow?

Yet we seem surprised by Syracuse’s complexity, every time. (Never mind being surprised by the complexity of the larger world of which it is part. Hoocoodanode that the housing-bubble-fueled economy would someday tank, leaving Citi reluctant to lend more money to a dodgy supermall?)

I am not sure if we need more intuition, or more scientific method, in our treatment of a uniquely sick city.

Odds and ends

As of this writing, it looks like Stephanie Miner is Syracuse’s new mayor. More girl powah in the O.C. (er, Onondaga County). Wondering if any Upstate counties have ever had a female county exec and a female mayor of the major city, at the same time? I probably should know this, but I don’t. It’s a new day.

Also as of this writing, it looks like Republicans are sweeping all those races which are supposed to be a referendum on Barack Obama’s presidency. If Hoffman squeaks out a win in the 23rd district, I do hope NY Democrats are red-faced. I honestly have not been following this race closely and haven’t been reading the national coverage to see if any of the more astute political writers have bothered to study the regional-alienation angle as a factor (homely Upstate voters gladly taking the sweaty GOPcon hand at the big dance).

I was downtown to see the Turner to Cezanne show at the Everson last weekend. I heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone. I like art, but even if you aren’t artsy, you really owe it to yourself to be in the presence of these amazing works – there is something for everyone. You can even see one of Vincent Van Gogh’s final paintings, completed shortly before he tragically killed himself in 1890. I am probably going to even go see it again before it leaves after Christmas. Sean Kirst commented (can’t remember where, either on his blog or Facebook which I don’t think you can link to) that there were all sorts of cool things going on downtown this past weekend – the art exhibit, the horse show, etc. Notice that none of these events were connected to the University in any way. Hmmm.

Sean and Phil bring up Facebook. I still don’t enjoy Facebook as much as my friends and family seem to. I find it constraining and visually dull – no good for personal expression (unless you take those goofy quizzes that Facebook uses to gather data on your likes and dislikes, which they sell to advertisers). I feel like a wild animal not taking well to domestication. I can’t say I’m surprised at my reaction. Maybe this online “schism” says more about who we really are as personalities than we’d care to admit. And as Merlin said in the movie Excalibur, (and I quote),

“The days of our kind are numbered. The one God comes to drive out the many gods. The spirits of wood and stream grow silent. It’s the way of things.”

Facebook is turning into the One God of the Internet. I maintain an outpost there, but it won’t ever be my virtual “home,” I’m afraid. (PS: Unfortunately if anyone tries to contact me via my Facebook inbox, your message is likely to go undiscovered for weeks. Sorry! I will try to do better.)