Geographic Inequality

Steve’s folks called with good news over the weekend. His mom’s brother and wife are going to retire just 20 minutes away from them in North Carolina. Steve’s folks retired to the area from Cleveland about ten years ago, and we’ve always been worried about their distance from extended family. Now, they have people to spend holidays with, when they can’t make the trip up to us.

They sent me a link on Zillow to their new house, so I spent a little time checking out the other homes in the area. Those homes — perfectly nice places with a couple of bathrooms and three bedrooms — are a quarter of the price of homes in my neck of the woods. This is why people are leaving the metropolitan regions, like Chicago and New York.

Not really a big deal, I suppose. If North Carolina can offer people a better quality of life than the older cities, then good for them. Families, like mine, that need alternative schooling options for disabled children and have work tied to the big cities can never go there, but there are many families who are more flexible. So, good for them, right?

However, if some areas of the country are homes of the rich and others are homes of the middle class, working class, and retirees, then it does open up some political problems.

Imagine if the representatives from some states become advocates not for the interests of the particular local industries, ie Iowa farmers, West Virginia coal miners, but for entire economic classes, ie New York Rich People and North Carolina Retirees. Then political debates would be less about opposing commercial interests and directly about class. I suppose it is that way now, but those economic tensions could be more obvious and competitive than they are already.

Any discussion about changing the electoral college or representation in Senate would also become strongly charged with these economic tension.

Sidenote — If we limit the voice of small population states in the electoral college and the Senate, it might make affairs more democratic, but it would also mean a massive disinvestment in the entire center of the country. There would be no federal projects for highway construction in Nebraska, say or farm subsidies in Iowa. There might be really cheap homes out there, but there would be no way to drive to those houses.

The growing affluence of big cities is going to have long term political implications.

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Travel: Camping, Outdoorsy Stuff in Roscoe and Livingston Manor, NY (Catskills)

About halfway between the NYC metropolitan area and the upstate New York Colleges is the Roscoe Diner. Now, it’s nothing fancy. You’re safe going for the diner usuals, like the grilled cheese deluxe, pancakes, a burger, but eat at your own risk on the rest of the menu. Still, this joint has always been a ritual pitstop on the way to college with fresh linen and clean notebooks, and on the way back with a killer handover. The Roscoe diner knows its place in the world and is profusely decorated with college pennants from all over the country.

I did my share of hangover pancakes there in the 80s, as my folks drove me back from SUNY Binghamton. Over the years, we’ve camped in the area. So, I can say with confidence that I’ve been visiting Roscoe, NY for thirty years.

It has changed.

Prohibition Distillery, Roscoe, NY

That whole area is infested with Brooklyn and Upper West Side New York people now. In addition to the Roscoe diner, there have a restaurant where you can get brick oven pizza with a ramp pesto. There’s an artisanal gin company. Over priced farmers markets. Ironic furniture stores. The gays moved in and gentrified the place.

Now, I have mixed feelings about all this, because, truth be told, the ramp pizza was excellent. We got loaded at the distillery and bought some excellent gin. But it’s a little annoying to see people on vacation, who probably (let’s just admit it) look a lot like us. Sigh.

And the locals clearly have mixed feelings about the rich folks moving in. On the one hand, they like to sell them overpriced produce and sandwiches. On the other, the new people jacked up property values and have all the wrong bumper stickers.

The locals are Trump voters. Massive banners on the side of barns announce, “Farmers For Trump!” They like their guns up there, too, so they view the gun haters/tourists with major distrust.

Tense politics and questionable fellow vacationers aside, this area of the Catskills is gorgeous. There are a ton of opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing. It’s hard to take a bad photograph there. We had a marvelous time and will probably head back up there in a couple week for an Octoberfest.

Here are the links to things to do:

  • Camping at Russell Brook. Tents and Cabins. Privately owned. Has a game room for kids and hosts events like Bingo on the weekend for regulars in the trailers and the tent people. A general store where you can buy things that you forgot for double the price.
  • Al’s Sports store Fishing licenses, canoe and kayak rentals, organized trips. We canoed down the East Branch Delaware. 3 to 4 hour trip. Al’s wife followed Steve’s car down to Roscoe and then brought him back up to the sports store, so we canoed to our car. Left the canoes down there.
  • Prohibition Distillery in Roscoe. Super nice vodka and gin.
  • Roscoe Beer Company in Roscoe.
  • Kaatskeller, Livingston Manor. Outdoor beer garden and fancy pizza place. Can hang out for long time and use their wifi.
  • Main Street Farm. This place has been around for a while. Nice earthy, crunchy place. Sandwiches and soups.
  • Brandenburg Bakery, Inc. Seriously must go there. We had the donuts and two or three kinds of bread. Got some loaves on the way out of town for home.
  • The Red Rose Motel. I think it’s a boutique hotel right now. We didn’t see the rooms. We went to the tavern. Nice burgers and beer in hipster joint. Played chess and used the wifi for hours.