Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Are Upstate Americans (A T-Shirt, then My 2 Cents on the Storm)

Recently, you may have noticed that I have been using the term "Upstate American" to describe the inhabitants of our wonderful homeland. I can't claim responsibility for coining this term, I originally came across it on the Times Union's CapCon blog and promptly co-opted it for my own uses. Anyhow, some friends of mine have taken the concept of Upstate America and ran with it and created a downright schnazzy logo (above). Should you want to broadcast your (very deserving) Upstate pride, you can purchase a shirt at this link. **Edit** I originally forgot to mention that the proceeds from this T-Shirt venture will go to aid in the recovery effort here in the affected counties, probably should have mentioned that. Ahem, ahem...**Edit**

In any event, this concept is much wittier than my "Capital Region: We Have 3" Wieners" t-shirt idea that I floated down the river a few months ago.

On a more serious note, I won't get into too many details here, (maybe I will post about it some other time) but I think it is a great time to inculcate some regional pride in Upstate New York. For reasons related to my professional life over the course of the last week or two, I have had cause to be present in some areas that were affected by Hurricane Irene.

From Sunday night during the height of the storm, through the following days of reckoning and recovery I was present to observe everything I admire about my fellow Upstate Americans- from the stiff-upper-lippedness and grim self reliance, to the genuine compassion and caring for one's neighbor in the face of devastation (I use the word without hyperbole).

To bring everything around to food (as I am wont to do), it would have warmed your heart last Monday afternoon, to view in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the parade of fine country ladies heading to the local firehouses with potholders and Corningware in hand to feed the fire folks, police, soldiers, and volunteers helping with the recovery. Simple dishes (stews, hot dogs on white bread, egg noodles) meant to fill bellies... To me this scene was a living picture that captured the soul of Upstate New York. In any event, I thought it was something to see.

I viewed the destruction wrought on our local farming communities and it left me with a heavy heart. Homes, farms, dairies, schools, businesses destroyed. My only solace was the relatively low (with tragic exceptions) loss of life. Arriving where I did, in the middle of a major State Route and seeing raging water as far as the eye could see with silos and barn roofs peeking out, I feared the worst. So my point is that we need to support our local farms and businesses now more than ever. Remove all the hipster cliche from the concept of buying local and see if you can work a way to keep your money in our communities to help with all of the recovery to come.

I know this is a large block of text to sift through, and many of you prob. would like a TLDR. But I have said my piece.

A Proud Upstate American


  1. "Upstate" makes me irritable. The WHOLE STATE is "Upstate," except for one teeny part at the bottom! Why do we all have to be labeled in relation to one teeny-tiny little area (geographically)? "Upstate" pretty much just means "New York," really. It's a vague, useless, NYC-centric term. Grrr.

  2. I am going to go ahead and disagree with your entire statement.

    We live in a state where half the population has a way of life drastically different from the other half.

    The "Teeny Part at the Bottom" is a world city with over 8 million people in it (not to mention the Island and the metro area). Then there are the rest of us in a state that is bigger than many countries.

    Would a country Irishman agree that the distinction between his home county and Belfast is meaningless because Belfast is just a teeny bit at the top? I don't think this would be the case.

    Most socio-cultural regions are vaguely defined. Go argue with a Lancashire-man about where Northern England starts. Go argue with an Appalachian about where Appalachia ends.

    I define Upstate as northish of Westchester/Putnam, southish of the Adirondacks, and eastish of Utica. I most definitely do not include the rest of New York. I don't know where you have been getting your info on what constitutes "Upstate."

    If you are denying that there aren't cultural similarities between the residents of the area I describe (which transcend city/rural bounds) then I would sit down and have a very subjective and esoteric argument with you.

    Finally, if you don't see reason to have pride in your home I don't know what to tell you. We have different hearts. My dad, and my dad's dad, and his dad's dad, and shortly my son will all have been born within about 10 miles of each other (3 of us in the same hospital). We have worked this land, worked in these businesses, and been members of a community in which we share a sense of pride.

    I will not get into a political discussion here, but I think there are issues unique to "Upstate" New Yorkers that should have a collective voice behind them. I vehemently reject the hegemony of New York City and Long Island in intrastate politics.

    Again, I am sorry but I just can't emphasize how much I disagree with your statement.

  3. I have to agree with KB. I almost never use the term "Upstate," no offense to this blog. But I grew up in Western NY and now I live in the Capital District. "Upstate" is a term used by people from the New York City-area and Long Island.

  4. Mr Dave,

    I think you really overreacted there. To me, the only thing KB was trying to say was that the common definition of Upstate means "Not NYC". I've never heard your definition, which is basically "a circle around Albany". Then again, I don't live in that circle so that is probably why. Those of us that are outside of your defined "Upstate" would call that area specifically the Capital Region.

    You can't claim that upstate encompasses the other half of NY's population and then proceed to draw a narrow definition of upstate that leaves out quite a bit of that population. Never mind that you're going to use Corningware as a symbol of the area and then leave out the city where it is made (which also happens to be my home)

  5. Corning? That is the Southern Tier, maybe even Appalachia... You get to decide if you want to consider yourself "Upstate" or not and what constitutes it for you, you don't have to listen to me.

    This stupid blog or otherwise, I am not presenting myself as an authority. But to me, the traditional "Upstate New York" narrowly defined is the following counties: orange, ulster, sullivan, dutchess, columbia, greene, delaware, schoharie, albany, rennsselaer, washington, saratoga, fulton, and montgomery.

    This is a little more than a "circle around albany" or "the capital district. Also, I am sure some people in these counties would tell you otherwise. In any event, don't let me tell you what to call yourself.

  6. I would purchase a shirt! Your link doesn't work - is the shirt thing over?
    -An UpstateNYer living in Minnesota

  7. Hi! Check out my "UPSTATE PRIDE" shirts on my Café Press site:

  8. Folks, we who reside in this state at any point North or West of Westchester County may define ourselves in different terms, for example, I grew up in the Corning area, which as Mr. Dave pointed out is "Southern Tier, maybe even Appalachia" and some classify as Western New York. At any rate it's on the "Pop" side of the Soda-Pop line (aka Route 81). Now I reside in Oneida Co. which is classified as "Central New York". But just remember, the rest of the country, if they are aware of our existence at all (and in most casese they are NOT) thinks of us ALL as "upstate". I lived in New Jersey for 5 years, and they had no idea what I was talking about when I tried to explain this to them, and they BORDER on us!


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