So, I was excoriated by some for a piece I did a while back on citiots. It was about the difference between city people who are nice, and citiots, who are not. It was basically an etiquette lesson, meant to educate the unaware as to how they might fit better into their chosen community. Far as I can tell, it went largely unheeded. Natural enough, I suppose — no one likes to be told they have bad manners. I assure you it isn’t lost on me that one could argue I myself showed some bad manners while writing it. Please accept this mea culpa.
Still, it is time for another installment, city people. You picked Kingston for the weekend, season, year or lifetime for a reason. Our architecture is beautiful. We have lots of bookstores. Charming 300-year-old stone houses. Loads of tony bars and restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s our Italian population, our artist contingent or the old IBMers that gave us our stellar restaurant legacy going back generations, but something did.
Need homemade candy? We have it. Free music? It’s everywhere (but throw five or 10 bucks in the tip jar, if you’re able. Being a musician is hard going.). Coffee shops, parks, antique boats, historic ships, Opus 40, farm stands — we have them all. All the towns in Ulster County are wonderful and half of them, it seems, have made national and international lists of best places to live.
But you know one of the greatest assets ‘round these parts? Our local newspapers, including the one you’re currently reading. We’ve all had the conversation; I’m sure you’ve had it yourself. It goes, “Print is dead. Local newspapers are closing by the hundreds.” We say it sadly — we are perfectly aware of what a loss it is. We know what local journalism means to a community. It means our voices are heard, our efforts celebrated, our businesses highlighted.
It means people in our community, our own neighbors, are making a living writing about us. Taking care of their families with their salaries, and taking time away from those families at all times of the week, including nights and weekends, so people can read about the goings-on in our burgs. Sometimes it even means getting accosted by angry readers in the coffee line, but they do it to make sure the community stays aware of what’s going on, here where we live.
All these things bring tourists, a.k.a. business, to business owners from the city. We yokels have taken care of our assets so well that you, and your customers, recognize the magic of our little towns.
It’s time for you to give back. I know — you feel that you do. We pay taxes! you say. We provide this certain service! We give some of you jobs! We have transformed you! you say proudly.
You hear that? That’s the great big buzzer from Family Feud. Meaning no disrespect, but the truth is we transformed you. Kingston (or elsewhere in Ulster County) changed your life, personally, infinitely more than you, personally, have changed Kingston. We would get along if you left, with hardly a hitch — but your quality of life is infinitely improved by living with us. There is no place prettier, more scenic, no place with more art happening (at least not without the backdrop of skyscrapers and all that accompanies them). You have learned what we have known all along — there truly is no place like home.
And now we need your help. I mean to say that we genuinely need it.
We know you give gift certificates to galas and such, and we are grateful. They make a difference, they make us happy. We talk about it, with joy and admiration. “Did you know so and so donated a gift certificate? And they were nice about it, too!”
We notice, we care, we are grateful. But we need you to double and triple those efforts.
But we can’t have such a perfect microcosm of wealth inequality right here on the Hudson. We need you to do a couple things. One is to take out ads in our papers, so they are still here in five years. Maybe it’s not the savviest use of a marketing budget. But … maybe it is. If you keep some lower price points in your place, and you welcome us even if we’re wearing old shoes, we’ll be customers, too. A savvy friend in Hudson kept price points from $5 to $5,000. She did it on purpose. She said, “Someone who comes in every week and spends $5 spends $250 over the year, plus keeps me a little company in slower months.”
But don’t even do it for that. Do it because you believe in your new hometown. Because you’re grateful to us, too, for the pretty and sweet life you have here, with no subways screeching anywhere.
Imagine, the Chronogram, after 30 years, is a little thin. The local papers are pages short for bringing us the news because they don’t have ads to support the extra printing. Though you feel you have changed our economy, this is actually concrete and across-the-board evidence that in a very real and meaningful way, you have damaged it. I don’t want to lose this paper for writing, but far more importantly, for reading. I don’t want this vibrant and amazing way in which Ulster County is unique to go the way of the dodo. So please — advertise.
While you’re at it, realize your presence has other harsh and undeniable side effects for us. Apartments that cost $900 a month three or four years ago now cost $1400 a month. It is killing us. It is breaking us. When you pass us on the street, more of us than you can guess are wondering exactly how much longer we can hold on. So donate to local non-profits, the ones with your town’s zip code. Donate more than you think you comfortably can. We do. When we donate $20, though our electric bill is overdue and car washes are not even on our radar, or when we volunteer though we are tired, and we could use that time to dust, or nap, instead we are helping our neighbors.
It’s what good neighbors do. Come, won’t you be, could you be, please won’t you be our neighbor?
Henry Rosewater is the pen name of a lifelong Kingston resident.