The Catskills are not just a storybook illustration.
Forgive this rant. I’m not trying to call out, just maybe get some of you to think about something you may not have thought much about.
I grew up in Roxbury, NY and it took me a long time to notice how lucky I was. That section of the Catskills is startlingly remote and breathtakingly gorgeous. There is an eerie magic that lingers, no matter the season. I am so glad for the area’s resurgence of tourism, however I now have a tiny taste of what people who grew up in touristy areas have always known.
Places like The Roxbury Motel in my hometown and The Phonecia Diner about 40 minutes east from there are really super cool. I celebrate their unique appeal and continue to support their success. This seems so painfully obvious, but they are not the only side to that region. It’s an old place with a long history. There have been families living there for impressive numbers of generations. Think about how few jobs there must be. You’re right. There aren’t many at all. The working class are the roots of the Catskills. My father was a garbage man that threw trash bags by hand into a small pickup truck with wooden fencing on the sides. Many work on farms. A lot of people travel a hefty distance to work construction or do other manual labor. These woman, men, teenagers and children rarely, if ever, eat at nearby places with “farm to table ingredients”. They can only afford to take a monthly hour long drive to the nearest Walmart and stock up on cheap, crappy food. They can’t shop at rustic “general stores” with handcrafted consignment goods. They don’t go to Brooklyn-ized “country weddings” with charming candlelit paths.
So what’s my point? I don’t wish for these new businesses and attractions to go away. They bring a lot of nice people who just want to explore an area they’ve never really seen before. I’m just asking you nice people that come to stay the boutique motels to maybe grab a bite at an older local restaurant (despite all the recent rise in tourism, the lone pizza place in Roxbury closed because they weren’t doing well). If you’re brave, sit in a gas station up there and ask people if they’re from those parts. If they are… ask them about it. Listen.
I’m just one 29 year old white guy that grew up in Delaware County, so I don’t represent everyone. I even turned out to be a lot more like the stereotypical Brooklynite in some ways. I just want my home to do well in a REAL way that actually helps the people who’ve lived there most, if not all of their lives.