I've spent the last three nights in Scotia, New York, a town that I had never stayed in previous to Friday. I came for my friend Jen's wedding, but the wedding itself was an afternoon and evening affair, so I've had a lot of time to kill in between.
I spent some of that time crossing things off on my "going to New York" to-do list, which included things like driving in to Albany to go to my favorite bagel shop and getting an actual New York bagel:
I try to get a bagel at a bagel shop every time I am in New York, because I can't get them at home in Tennessee. Don't get me wrong: we have bagels in Tennessee, and even bagel shops, but something about them just doesn't taste the same. There's something about the consistency of the dough or the cooking process or something that always makes me think of Tennessee bagels as slightly soft, not crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside like a New York bagel. I can't really articulate the difference, but I know it's there, and no one can convince me otherwise.
Another item on my to-do list was to find the replica Statue of Liberty in downtown Schenectady. When I am traveling somewhere and have some control over what I can do there (as opposed to going to a conference, when I'm pretty much locked into that schedule) I look around on the internet to see what I might be missing, and I was delighted to discover that my hotel was just down the street from Schenectady's statue replica:
On looking closely, though, I noticed that the Statue had some rather unorthodox headgear:
Those are panties.
I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but I'm not. From where I stood to take that picture, I counted two people who seemed homeless and a handful of others scattered around the area that could also have been. A number of buildings facing the statue were closed, boarded up, and seemed abandoned, as a number of buildings in Schenectady are. The truth is that Schenectady is a sad, somewhat tragic shell of a city. Despite its somewhat exciting beginnings:
founded by the Dutch and burned to the ground during the French and Indian War, the city now is a crumbling husk. There are areas downtown that have experienced some urban renewal, but for the most part Schenectady is an industrial town whose industries have mostly departed, like a smaller scale version of Detroit, and the image of a disgraced Statue of Liberty seems rather apt for a town where the American dream has not come true.
Rather than dwell on it, though, I tried to look around for something to balance the overwhelming sense of despair that driving down Route 5 causes, and I was fortunate in that my hotel is not actually in Schenectady itself. It's across the Mohawk River in Scotia, and Scotia, though small, at least has some highlights. The river itself is very pretty as it winds alongside the town:
and there are cute restaurants:
and businesses that, while small, seem to be ok:
You even feel safe walking down the sidewalks to get to them. I probably will not visit Scotia again for a while, and hopefully not Schenectady, either, but it was nice to end my stay with a few good pictures rather than just the memory of broken, boarded windows and crumbling brick.