Category Archives: Hometown

Outside Looking In

So, New Year’s Eve. Like with all holidays, there are expectations. I hardly ever meet expectations.

Image darkened building of streetlight with cheery lights glowing in the apartment window

Outside looking in

Like most evenings when I want to go out, there’s a part of me that really hates the idea. And so I procrastinated til the last minute. I had to finish crocheting these legwarmers, you see! They were essential for my outfit!

At about 20 of midnight, I finally got in my truck and cruised over to this tiny little bar. It’s pretty bougie and lefty so I figured I’d see a couple people I know there. Nope. Oh well. I ordered a dirty martini, since the idea of getting one was the main reason I left the house in the first place, grabbed a teeny plastic glass of cheap champagne, and settled in at the bar.

It was perfectly enjoyable. I suppose it says something about me that I’m equally comfortable–or uncomfortable, really–interacting with a bunch of strangers as I am with a bunch of friends on New Year’s Eve.

There was one cute short stocky Asian guy that I was flirting with, but he got a little too drunk.

I bummed a cigarette and made friends with the white woman who gave it to me, once she finished escorting her cute friend back to his apartment.

And that was it. My New Year’s Eve. I feel a little defensive that I didn’t hang out with friends. Most of the people I would hang out with were in NYC anyway, an expensive 3-hour journey from Binghamton. I suppose it is nice to toast your past experiences and imagine what the next year may bring together. But I can do that anytime. Point is, I enjoyed myself. I was on the outside looking in, as I am anyway when hanging out with groups of people I call friends. I’m growing more and more comfortable with this, but I get twinges of insecurity about it anyway. I believe the cultural narrative that someone who has no friends but goes out anyway to party with strangers is, like, desperate or something? Anyway, it’s not good.

I don’t do resolutions. They contradict my philosophy of laziness. I might blog more in 2014, or I might not. I’m not saying one way or another. I hate it when people put expectations on me, so I’m hardly about to invite you to do it.

Happy New Year, fellow weirdos!

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I Was Wrong

Rod SerlingAlphas is not Binghamton’s sole pop culture referent. Apparently Rod Serling lived in upstate NY or maintained strong ties throughout his life, and Twilight Zone is scattered with references to it, including Binghamton, but also Syracuse, Ithaca, and even dear old Tully. I didn’t know this until I mentioned my blog post to a friend and he told me about it. I definitely feel like this is a major piece of supporting evidence for my thesis that Binghamton NY is an extremely weird place.

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Watch Out Or We’ll Send You To Binghamton!

Binghamton 021

Binghamton. It’s a weird, lonely place.

I started watching the TV show “Alphas” recently. It’s a Skiffy series, another X-Men ripoff like “Heroes.” I’m a sucker for anything remotely sci-fi. I enjoy the escapism of getting into alternate worlds. Which is why I appreciate convincing, realistic world-building. In the series, our heroes operate out of their office in NYC most of the time. But of course there are other people with superpowers, who aren’t interested in using them for good, and what happens to them? They get sent to Binghamton. So, most episodes contain a derogatory reference to the city I’m living in now. “You better shape up or we’re going to send you do Binghamton!” There was even a moment in one episode where one of the non-superpowered government agents complains that he was led to believe that accepting this assignment would lead to a cushy job and a nice house in the suburbs of DC, but nooo. He’s still stuck in upstate New York.

Well, it’s appropriate. Some quick googling reveals that the show’s pilot was filmed in Toronto, New York’s most popular understudy, so I would be surprised if a film crew actually made it out to Binghamton. Not only that, but I mentioned it to a few people who have been living here longer than I have and they hadn’t heard of it, and a film crew for a TV show in a tiny city like this one would definitely be remembered. But they really ought to. As the photo above reveals, Binghamton is a spooky place. Full of abandoned buildings, overgrown railroads, defunct factories, and empty warehouses with smashed-in and boarded-up windows (though, give credit where it’s due, the City’s housing and planning staff have actually been making a dent in the neighborhood blight around here).

From a Seriable interview that predates the second season, producer Zak Penn explains how he and Ira Steven Behr arrived at the decision.

“Both Ira and I grew up in New York, and we didn’t want the location of this facility to be somewhere that seemed obvious or nefarious, We wanted to avoid the traditional tropes of the underground lair or being housed on a prison barge in New York Harbor.
I don’t know if it’s clear in the mythology of the show, but there’s a whole research and scientific aspect to the facility up there, so Binghamton was partly chosen because it’s connected to the university. I can’t tell you it was years of research for why it was Binghamton and not SUNY Purchase or somewhere else.”

Ah, so, it’s Binghamton University’s fault! Actually, BU is one of the better SUNY schools, or so I hear, so many that’s why it’s not SUNY Purchase.

I appreciate the producers’ cleverness in substituting “remote, economically depressed upstate city no one has heard of” for the more typical secret government facility in the tunnels under Manhattan. Having people threaten each other with being sent to Binghamton–having characters try desperately to escape Binghamton–it rings all too true to me. At least I can be sure that if/when I do get out of here, no superpowered government agents will be tracking me down.

Mr. Penn promised to “destroy all of Binghamton” in the following season, which just concluded, without the total destruction of Binghamton, but a girl can always hope.

Hey, I kid, I kid. I don’t actually want to see Binghamton destroyed. Transformed? Yes, definitely. And do I want to stay here forever? Not hardly, but it’s not really Binghamton’s fault–I’m a traveler at heart. But the fact that the only major pop culture reference to the city I’m living in is a top-secret prison for freaks and weirdos does capture a small piece of what it’s like to grow up in New York’s rust belt, in the rural boondocks just a couple hours away from the Greatest City in the World.

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