I grabbed a slice of pizza Uptown and went for a stroll with Kingston’s own Steve Rodriguez for this week’s Faces of Kingston. Rodriguez is an affable, funny and insightful dude who can often be seen on the social scene or working hard to help people have an enjoyable time. Let’s get to know him a little better.
Morgan Y. Evans: Here we go. Thanks for doing this today.
Steve Rodriguez: Of course. No holds barred.
How old are you?
MYE: Sweet. Patrick Ewing, haha.
Did you grow up in Kingston?
I was born in White Plains and moved up to West Hurley when I was 13. Right about 9/11. It was October 2001.
So almost 20 years.
(slow whistle) Wow. Honestly, it feels like I’ve lived here my whole life. White Plains was a weird point in time for me. The cliché word, “dark.” Coming up here was a literal life changer. So I usually just tell people I’m from here.
So much can happen in even a single year up here. But that still feels like yesterday. I remember exactly where I was at a greyhound rest stop in Oregon when I found out about the Towers.
It really does. When I lived in White Plains I remember my routine was I’d get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth and all that turn on the AM/FM radio for whatever the morning programming was. But all the stuff was all blocked because news about it was playing and people asking for help and money. My uncle worked in the city doing elevator maintenance and he worked in the city and came back in one piece, thankfully. Around that time my family was already discussing getting me out even before 9/11. That sucks and shouldn’t happen to people obviously, but I already had the plans to move.
You have an interesting perspective because you’ve seen some of where Kingston was and what it is becoming. You’ve been here a while now.
(Owner walks by with a fat dog begging for pizza crust)
Who wants pizza crust?
I was so bad, I always gave in to my dog’s begging. They are just trying to stay alive, right?
(laughing) That dog looked plenty alive.
(laughing) He’s fine. What was your first impression of here?
Everyone was super friendly! In the city, I mean … this hasn’t changed but nobody wants to fuckin’ talk to you, man (laughing). I never really hung out in the city. I was kind of unpopular in middle and early high school. That’s what a lot of my friends would do, though. They’d go to New York and hang out at big clubs. The Palladium. I lived with my grandmother and we were raised poor. I couldn’t go, “All right, I’m gonna go hang out with my friends in Manhattan and see you the next day.” Wasn’t like that. So that probably played some influence. Coming up here, my cousins lived up here. I noticed people would try to talk to me here rather than me trying to talk to them. People would be like, “Yo. What’s up?” Woodstock in particular, if a new face rolls up they know it’s a new face. That friendly aspect though made me real happy.
Do you feel like it is still like that here?
I mean, getting older has pros and cons. That being said I still find it easier to get along with people in this environment. I think it’s a less-stress thing. If you ever walk in the city everyone is walking at a really fast pace. Even if you have a question and are lost, you’re lucky if you can stop someone. I miss conveniences like getting up at 4 a.m. and being able to go get pizza. Someone is awake. Here though at three in the morning you can go to Snappers if you want and maybe QuickChek. And maybe you’re getting pulled over.
(laughing) What do you do for fun here?
I do enjoy bike riding. I want to explore the rail trail more. Even though I’ve been full time in Kingston now about two years I have no idea what’s in East Kingston. There’s still a lot of landmarks I don’t know about. For the longest time I thought Ulster Landing and Kingston Point Beach were the same thing. I found out the hard way. I went to meet someone and they went to Beach and I went to Landing. I was like, “I’ve been here for 20 minutes. Where you at?” They were like, “I’m at the beach.” I took a picture of the water and Googled Ulster Landing and I said, “Isn’t this the same thing as Kingston Point” and they were like, “No!” (laughing)
Besides that I like to relax and have a drink. I’m in the industry. I like when I have off for people to serve me (laughs). I’m serving and food vending now. No more bartending. This area is a big industry town. If you took a handful of people off the street there’s a good chance they are in the restaurant business. We have a lot of restaurants and a symbiotic relationship. If someplace fails, people come running and say, “I heard this place might be looking or Lis Bar might be hiring.” We have all been there. Immediately people have a little support group fail-safe.
What do you think is good about how things currently are here? How are we heading in the right direction?
The reason why I have stayed for now is that rent is fair if you have a roommate. Hopefully it stays where we can save money instead of living paycheck to paycheck in a cycle. The community is very accepting. I’m happy to see (gestures at Black Lives Matter and Gay Pride flags flying outside The Old Dutch Church under Old Glory) acceptance. I’m glad people don’t have to feel as afraid. It’s a safer area for people who haven’t felt accepted in a long time, especially now also that we are trying to protect immigrants.
Thanks for your time.
Thanks, man. Thanks for the slice.