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August 23, 2005

Hometown USA

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A pure-self-indulgence posting: a couple of images from a recent visit to the town in western New York state where I grew up -- more a branch of the midwest than a suburb of the northeast.

hometown usa01.jpg

hometown usa02.jpg

Who says smalltown America doesn't really exist?



posted by Michael at August 23, 2005


Who says you can't take pictures?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 23, 2005 1:07 AM

Great photos. For some reason, the ice cream parlor shot really appealed to me. Although I noticed that the main flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and butterscotch. Does this mean that strawberry has been dropped from the "big three" in small town ice cream culture?

Posted by: Neil on August 23, 2005 2:01 AM

Huh, so you don't mind transparency in architecture as long as it's on a small scale and in Smalltown' ice parlor?

Great sense of leisurely afternoon in the pics, btw. At an hour like that, one should rock in the porch chair and contemplate deep questions. Like this one: who is mowing public lawns in Smalltowns? Do they have Dept of Parks? Is it community service small time criminals (from the Smalltown, naturally) provide as part of their sentence? Neighbors chip in and pay some illigals?

Posted by: Tatyana on August 23, 2005 9:00 AM

To answer your question, Tatyana, the same guys who plow the roads and keep the public walks cleared in the winter, mow the lawns and clear the brush from the country roads in the summer.
At least in my small town, that is.

Posted by: Deb on August 23, 2005 11:52 AM

Okay, give awready; what's the name of the town?

Posted by: ricpic on August 23, 2005 2:33 PM

Makes me realize Red/Blue state is too crude a way of divvying America up. That's New York state (blue), but that town looks mighty red to me.

And sweet, too. Second ricpic...what's the name?

Posted by: PatrickH on August 23, 2005 5:55 PM

It's the rural versus urban divide, now with the buffers of suburbia bleeding into exurbia. I love the exurbs. Suburbs are ok, too. Like the city life, as long as we're at it. Oh, the patchy quiltwork of American life.......

Nice picture of the ice-cream parlor, as Neil said. Really nice. Space and pace - that's what changes from city to country. Space and pace :)

Posted by: MD on August 23, 2005 6:12 PM

This shot's a prizewinner. Very artsy, good cropping (or focusing if full frame), colorful and crisp, and has story. Very nice.

Posted by: susan on August 23, 2005 6:58 PM

Deb, but who are these guys? (see options mentioned above)
No doubt they have to be kept busy in winter, too, but by whom? city hall, prvt landscape co, boyscout organization?

We need to invite more neighbors and make another pitcher of ice tea, to discuss it properly.

Posted by: Tatyana on August 23, 2005 8:55 PM

Thanks for the nice photos, from another upstate New Yorker born and bred.

Tatyana clearly knows nothing about upstate New York if she's confused about what public employees do in the winter. No one could drive ten feet during a typical upstate winter without the plow crews on duty 24/7.

The blue state / red state thing totally founders on the urban/rural divide. Northeast Ohio is super blue, the downstate rural areas swing the state. Upstate New York is Republican, but the downstate areas make it blue. Rural Pennsylvania is about as redneck as it gets, more so than New York, but Philadelphia/Pittsburgh carried the state for Kerry. One thing I'll say though -- Hilary Clinton has had surprising success in winning over upstate NY voters. She is rather good at connecting with conservative voters when she can campaign on a more intimate, retail basis, which she has done tirelessly.

Posted by: MQ on August 23, 2005 10:52 PM

Tatyana, out here in the hinterlands of the Midwest, they are either county or city or village employees--winters are brutal and the roads HAVE to be cleared to keep the buses and milk trucks running. And if the roads arent kept brush free in the summer, they have no where to push all that snow in the summer. It's usually a very coveted job.

Posted by: Deb on August 23, 2005 11:07 PM

MD's right on the money: this is where smalltown starts being overrun by random sprawl. Pods of big-barn suburban houses with huge garages march out into the cornfields and apple orchards. the old town streets get widened to four lanes, and then the town vanishes because everyone's just hurrying through it. Sigh. It's hardly a town these days, just kind of a drive-through space with little remnants of town scattered here and there.

Mystery of the ice-cream stand is that it's actually a "frozen custard" stand -- hence (I assume) no strawberry, and lots of emphasis given to butterscotch. Is frozen custard a western NY thing? Nationwide?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 24, 2005 12:13 AM

... no frozen custard here in the South.

Posted by: laurel on August 24, 2005 7:29 AM

If frozen custard is the same as frozen yogurt then we do have it in the South. However, we do have strawberry and I've never even heard of butterscotch until now.

Posted by: nathan on August 24, 2005 8:27 AM

Frozen custard is here in Wisconsin. I try to avoid it since the chain that popularized it has big machines in full view that EXTRUDEs the stuff from the wall--assuming there is some sort of custard maker behind.

However, it still looks like the wall is pooping out chocolate custard. Nasty.

Posted by: Deb on August 24, 2005 9:20 AM

Oh...St. Louis has one of the oldest and most famous frozen custard stands in the country---Ted Drew's. I know they also had frozen custard in Dallas. It's a tourist destination---right on the old Route 66. Actually, it looks quite a bit like your picture, but larger. And frozen custard is yummy.

Posted by: annette on August 24, 2005 10:16 AM

Deb, thanks. The reality is so prozaic! I thought tiny elves (or fairies?) do the job at night, to award the Nice Smalltowns (or, alternatively, don't do it to punish the Naughty).

There are frozen custards? Clearly, I miss out on life's pleasures. I thought "custard" is that vanilla-scented concoction that you get at Wendy's.

MQ, why attempt to read my comment? After all, you already established I and my ilk are American Enemy num.1. Besides, you misunderstood the message.
There is no need, btw, to explain to me what winter is and what it does to the roads, I spent my formative years in steppe city right in the middle of Russia. Ever tried to cross 800m wide river on ice in March? I bit more snow then in upstate NY - no offense meant.
So you're an admirer of Senator Clinton; no surprises there.

Posted by: Tatyana on August 24, 2005 11:23 AM

Who says smalltown America doesn't really exist?

Really. Who says that?

Posted by: Felix on August 24, 2005 12:17 PM

Oh, Felix! Right when I was thinking how much I'd prefer to see your comments here instead of by some, who I'll not name, from the same camp; and right when I was afraid you left for good!

You'll surely get rich and live a long happy life (in addition to burning ears); that is, of course if being rich is not against your religion.

Happy to see you.

Posted by: Tatyana on August 24, 2005 12:34 PM

Thanks, T!

Posted by: Felix on August 24, 2005 4:11 PM

Hey, Tatyana, Hilary's a little too conservative for me, but I respect her.

Don't take it personally, I've known lots of refugees from Russia. Communism leaves permanent scars on them and they are no longer responsible for their crazed political opinions, which swing wildly to the other side of the spectrum and leave them searching for ideological enemies as vociferously as the commissars they left behind.

Posted by: MQ on August 24, 2005 4:22 PM

How can anyone who was awake in the last century not understand why a Russian "refugee" would be sceptical of anyone on the American Left? Seventy years of grandstanding by the left about "moral equivalence" alone should explain why people who suffered under the tyrant's thumb would be wary of anything these popinjays do or say.

Posted by: barney on August 24, 2005 5:12 PM

Michael...still no name! Sad to hear the town's undergone the kind of reduction to drive-through space that Kunstler talks about. Your photos made it seem as though there was something real there.

Oh well.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 24, 2005 5:55 PM

Yes, we have frozen yogurt in the south ... but that's got to be different from custard.

Custard, it doesn't have yogurt cultures does it? I think the big ingredient in custard is eggs. Right?

Posted by: Laurel on August 25, 2005 6:43 AM

YES---yoghurt is different from custard, which is different from ice cream. Sheesh--this is why midwesterners distrust all of you. Who hasn't heard of custard??

Posted by: annette on August 25, 2005 3:30 PM

I haven't.
At least not frozen. But than, I'm from barbarous country, afterall.
Oh, and that stuff they serve you @ Wendy's - my Home Expert corrects me - is called Vanilla Pudding (which, I suspect, bears little resemblance to the real thing). Which gives us another topic for conversation.
And sherbet, don't forget sherbet, too.
[Mango sherbet with raspberry...Must stop.]

Posted by: Tatyana on August 25, 2005 4:59 PM

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