Saturday, August 3, 2013

Adirondackers: My Experience of Local Residents

If you walk that way for 463 miles you'll come to a road... I think....My series on the McIntyre Mines and the Deserted Village is not yet complete but Amy and I have just returned from nearly a month in the Adirondacks and there are a number of topics about which I urgently wish to write, none more so than today’s Dispatch.  So the conclusion of that series will have to wait.

Those of you readers who are particularly stalwart – that is, those of you who actually read my nonsense regularly – know that I can occasionally allow a little sarcasm to color my writings or that I can choose to be a provocateur.  Just be be sure no one misses my point this week, let me assure you the following is entirely sincere.  I’m not kidding or meaning to be cute.

Amy and I are busily working on the many things in our lives we need to accomplish in order to be able to do what we so anxiously want to do: move to the Adirondack region.  With hard work and a little luck we’ll be full time residents within two or three years.  We used to be able to give our Wisconsin-based doubters one good reason for our drive to relocate: the place itself.  In pictures and lore the Adirondacks make their own singular argument.  But as we have deepened our connections to the park and its people we no longer have one big reason to want to live out the rest of our lives there: we have two.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.  I come not to bury Adirondackers, but to praise them.

Before commencing what is sure to be an extended rant, let me offer a clarifying definition for the term “Adirondacker.”  By that label I mean any reasonably long-term permanent resident of the park.  I don’t care whether someone is “native” – born in the park – or not.  In my experience the differentiator that matters is whether or not someone actually lives and works in the region.  Oh yes, with apologies to the sin of generalization and with all stereotypes accounted for, Adirondackers are different than your average Americans.  As far as I am concerned they’re better.

What are these stereotypes?  We know them well.  Adirondackers are people of few words, taciturn, even anti-social.  They value privacy and liberty.  They don’t tell other people their business and they don’t want anyone telling them their business, especially the government, outsiders or the APA.  “Don’t tread on me” is their call.  Adirondackers are hardy, coarse.  They cope with the cold and the black flies and the short growing seasons and the spring mud and the bad economy.  They are not impressed by appearances (or appearance, for that matter).  They are not without wit but their sense of humor is so dry it could start a forest fire.

It is my experience in life that stereotypes are never as true as their power and thus are inherently prejudicial and unfair.  At the same time they are likely rooted in real qualities.   My experience of Adirondackers bears only passing reference to the above tropes but I recognize certain qualities in people and certain realities of living in the Adirondacks that lie beneath the clichés.  These qualities, quite frankly, have Amy and me almost desperate to move there.

My thesis about these qualities is actually quite simple: living in a harder, more authentic environment makes for more authentic people.  In an America that elsewhere is plunging headlong into a morass of self-indulgent phoniness and flash-quick material distraction, the Adirondack region, uncompromising as it is, constitutes both a throwback to a simpler time and a bastion of authenticity, integrity and plainly demonstrated human values.

Now of course there are a wide range of human values demonstrated in the Adirondacks, some good, some bad, just like anywhere.  I don’t share all of the values I find to be more or less common to the region.  I certainly don’t see that Adirondackers get more of a pass on selfishness, pettiness or bigotry than any other class of people.    Nonetheless I’m here to tell you that the difference between a set of Adirondack residents taken at random and a set of residents of, say, Wisconsin taken at random is eye-opening.

If you are an Adirondack resident and you don’t travel much you would be appalled at the shallowness and narcissistic pageantry proliferating throughout much of the rest of America.  You might get some of that vibe from tourists (more I’m sure than from second-home or seasonal folks who are more likely to share Adirondack ways) but only so much.  The only way to really understand the upper Midwest for example, where I spend most of my time and through which I travel widely, is the spend some time there.  Drive around an area, stay a few nights, shop, walk, talk to people, you get a pretty good idea of a place, just like we do in the Adirondacks.

This claim of a big difference is no mere talk – it’s measurable.  In fact it’s painfully measurable.  Naturally the following contains lots of generalizations, but allow me to give you some evidence.

Our hometown of Madison is a remarkable city.  For its size its cultural amenities are without peer.  Its population is highly educated.  Its natural assets and environment are as impressive as any city you will ever visit.  While Adirondack residents debate bike trails Madison has figured them out, along with plenty of other smart urban planning and design strategies; as a result it is by any measure a wonderfully livable city.  The surrounding Wisconsin countryside is quite rural, peppered with farms that inhabit the beautiful moraines and drift-less areas that characterize the southern part of the state.  Amy and I spend a lot of time in Wisconsin’s countryside and small towns along with our residence in Madison so we know the entire area well.

Wisconsin is one of the better states in which I have lived and Madison borders on idyllic.  Yet in our three weeks in the park this July Amy and I had more friendly chats with supposedly taciturn Adirondack strangers, more hospitality and more interesting, relevant and important conversations than in three months in Wisconsin.  In Wisconsin it seems every other person is buried in a smart phone.  We hardly saw that at all in the Adirondacks, even in areas with good coverage.

In Wisconsin shopping at a grocery store is often excruciating: so many of the people block aisles with their carts, meander like grazing animals without regard to anyone else or fuss with their electronic accoutrements at checkout.  In the Adirondacks we don’t even think about those kinds of annoyances when we shop.  People are more aware of their surroundings, more considerate. There is a certain dullness, a certain lack of alertness that one experiences in a grocery crowd  – and lots of other places -in Wisconsin.   It’s palpable.  It is not present in anything like the same proportion in any store I’ve shopped at in the park.

The reason Amy and I get around Wisconsin’s small towns and rural areas so much – and Illinois’ too – is that we are professional stilt walkers who perform in numerous little parades and festivals.  Our car is often quite a sight: stilt walking signage on the side, stilts in the back or on the roof, colorful costumes choking the back seat, plainly visible through the window.  Because of the timing of gigs just before and after our visit to the Adirondacks, this summer we were in the park with our car in stilt mode, signs costumes and all.  Time after time heads swiveled as other drivers or pedestrians took note of our unusual vehicle.  When we parked in downtown Lake Placid for a meal many passersby noted the car, stopped and stared and even peered in the windows.

Amy and I took note of all this with bemusement but also with a sense of great relief and hope.  Seriously.  You see, in the Midwest we routinely experience a complete lack of attention whatsoever.  We might drive two hundred miles in a day and not have one person look over at us. This is depressing, not because we crave attention – we get that enough when we’re up performing (although in the Midwest you’d be surprised how many “parade-watchers” are buried in their phones); it’s because of what it says about people’s values and dispositions.   Drivers in the Midwest generally stare straight ahead, as though they are staring into a computer screen, absorbed by their own little world.  They camp in the left lane, they show no regard for other drivers and they drive me absolutely crazy with their unawareness.

This dull, self-indulgent malaise is reaching epidemic levels in many places.  A few years ago I was in Chicago, just hitting the road to return home after a business trip.  The trip had been a whirlwind (which is par for the course for me) so I was wolfing down a helping of pasta-to-go in the car.  On this occasion I got careless and the whole watery bowl spilled into my lap, making an awful mess.  I was on the Kennedy expressway at the time and traffic was slow.  Having a pair of shorts somewhere in the car I decided to change.  I wiggled out of my clothes, hoping I would not cause a scandal in the next car over or in some SUV that was taller than me thus affording a good look at my briefs.  Of course I wasn’t too worried; after all on Midwest highways people don’t look at anything except their phones or the road ahead, and that only in sort of an abstract video-game way.  Indeed, no one noticed.  This actually made me mad.  Chicago was a regular trip in those days so during my next return I drove home almost entirely naked as sort of a defiant experiment.  Save for a few truckers, they of course being professional drivers who do actually notice things, not one single person looked over, much less noticed my condition, in a hundred-and-fifty miles.  I don’t want to say I’m better than my fellow human being, but for god’s sake I would have noticed.

There is some of that easy dullness in the Adirondacks but not much.  Adirondackers are generally in less of a hurry to get where they’re going than are people in my part of the world, but I had slower drivers pull to the right and ease my passing several times in three weeks.  Ask me how long it has been since that happened in the Midwest.   I’m guessing years.

Amy and I spent a lot of time with Adirondackers on this trip as I had meetings, presentations and business with various initiatives (many of them about which I have written columns).  We were universally treated with generosity and wonderful hospitality by friends and new acquaintances alike (thank you notes are coming).  We experienced friendliness and lovely little exchanges with storekeepers, workers and random strangers everywhere we went.

I just asked Amy how many of the dozens of Adirondackers we met struck her as posers, trying to impress or be someone they’re not or make some sort of statement with their clothes or car or attitude.  She says zero.  Me too.  The percentage of posers at your average Midwestern shopping mall would pitch you into a profound depression.

Now of course the Adirondacks are not the only place where Amy and I find relief from the self-indulgent malaise.  I have a very urban background, including some time living on the South Side of Chicago.  This June Amy and I were in residency there for a week as she attended a graduate school class.  For me it was a return to past life for a while and it was wonderful.  We spent five days immersed in urban Chicago, surrounded by people of color and a vibrancy, friendliness and authenticity all but absent in white Midwestern society.  It felt much much more like being in the Adirondacks than in Wisconsin.

This is no surprise to me.  I teach and work with a diverse crowd of college and adult students in Madison.  With one final apology to generalization, I can easily tell the students who have lived a little hardness, a little struggle, a little adversity  – mostly students of color – from those who haven’t.  Once they get a feel that my class is going to be a place where they can be themselves and bring their street smarts and experience to bear, these students generally excel, outperforming their peers, despite often having significant personal challenges to regular attendance.

Our society is enabling us to live such easy, distracted, facile entertainments and stimulations these days that we can conduct the affairs of our lives without really being who we are, by being instead some self-absorbed Facebook-promoted caricature of the people we see on TV.  But in the inner city of Chicago or the hard winter-laden streets of Saranac Lake, working two jobs and helping neighbors who have three trees down from the latest storm… well, as they say, that dog don’t hunt.  When you have to be real you are real.  Trails and mountains and long winters and hardscrabble lives do that to people.

Amy’s parents are considering a move to the Adirondacks just as we are.  They too are finding the people of the Adirondacks to be a reason to relocate.  Just the other day Amy’s mother Jo Ann, who generously involves herself in her surroundings whether theater or charity or whatnot, was describing the refreshing sense of community she was getting in the Keene area.  I have felt a similar sense of community in the Blue Mountain and Indian lake areas for decades.  While that sense fades elsewhere in America it remains alive and well here.

“Why would you move here?” Adirondackers have more than once asked Jo Ann.  “Don’t you know the winters?  Don’t you know how hard things can be here?”

Yeah, we know.  Bring it on, and bring on the people who live their lives fully in it.

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Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.

When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.

Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.




19 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:

    It sounds to me you are a misplaced Adirondacker. Home is where the heart is.

  2. Stilt walking is a profession? Who knew.

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Well, since you commented…

      Indeed stilt walking can be a profession, just as many things can be either a lark, a casual avocation or a profession, depending upon one’s commitment and the volume and level of the work. In our case we do as many as 70 events per year, in all kinds of conditions and with a variety of demands. Yesterday I did Green Bay Packer training camp, 8 hours, entertaining several tens of thousand of people. That’s a hard one, but really rewarding. In addition we send as many as six other teams out on a busy weekend, all of which we manage.

      The variety is fun. You’d probably think of a stilt walker as some local with a costume who does the small town parade. We do too, and love the small town parades, like the Sauk City Cow Chip Festival Parade west of Madison. But for every couple of those we have the NFL or the Republican National Convention or the Indianapolis 500 or even a Hollywood film set.

      The entertainment business is demanding, especially when you work at a more elite level. Contracts must be met to exactitude and you have to hit your marks or you won’t work an event again. You would no doubt be surprised to know that one of the larger Las Vegas conventions every year, attended by state and local government employees and private corporation marketing/public relations people from around the nation is the one that showcases entertainers/circus arts people. Those who are really good at what they do and also good as businesspeople make a lot of money. Just take state fairs: It’s not easy to break into state fairs; they are a big big business, very serious enterprises. The pros who have made it and do the state fair circuit regularly can rotate to fairs throughout the year and pull in six figure incomes.

      Amy and I are teachers and love that work, so we will never do the circus arts stuff exclusively. But it’s still a huge part of our lives. Knowing that the standard approach for making ends meet in the Adks is to have multiple jobs, we’re a perfect fit for that model. You can be sure we’ll be doing our thing on stilts in the park before too long.

  3. Timt says:

    In the almost 4 years since we moved to the Adirondacks full time, I have not been honked at once! The minute I get to Long Island (fortunately, a rare event) I get blasted for not driving 80 on the LIE or flooring it 0 to 60 in 3 seconds when a light turns green.

  4. Big Burly says:

    Pete,
    Always knew you’d fit in. You’ll be welcome. Being earnest is a laid back state of being here.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Pete, I would endorse most of what you say but would add the following.
    I feel comfortable living here, minus some of the so called advantages of living elsewhere but I always feel comfortable when in NYC too.
    I think if you are open to the ebb and flow of a place, you can usually fit in and enjoy the place.
    What I believe NYC and the Adirondacks have in common is a respect for privacy and individualism. You can be yourself to the extent you let others be their self.

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Pete:

      You are right to a point, but the social trends I describe are unmistakable to my eyes. There are exceptions and NYC – or at least parts of it – is one of them. But NYC is hard core place and uncompromising in its own way, so same thing. It keeps people honest.

  6. John Ann Norlund says:

    We share your dream. Best of luck in achieving it!

  7. Joe Libera says:

    I loved this article and was a little disheartened by it at the same time. I haven’t had the privilege of living in ADK, but spent many weeks visiting and hiking up there. I was raised in Solvay and lived in the Bronx, and rural and urban NC. My experience is that people always find what they are looking for.
    White midwesterners are posers, and superficial, and also hard-working, earnest, and genuinely honest folk – no more or less than mid-westerners of color. They and we are ADKers at heart minus the scotch pine tar on their boots. We all have much more in common. We all want something more – whether it is more bandwidth and greater transmissions speeds, or open space, green vistas, and a cool breeze on our face.

    Let’s live fully where we are right now with those we share the space with.

    I sincerely wish Amy and Pete all the best in their quest to get to the Adirondacks!

  8. Randy says:

    Good article, Pete. My roots go back to Franklin County via Mass, and NH (and further on to PA and OH as more sons were born and farm land and trees become fewer). I’ve lived in a lot of areas and some of my best memories are of the midwest (Go Mizzou!). The folks are open, warm and friendly there, but can be as taciturn as any backwoods folks I’ve met in Santa Clara, Brushton, etc. It all depends on a lot of things, not the least of which turn on economics. Folks just getting by or worse, can be trapped in a desperation that’s unfathomable to those of us who have jobs, pensions, etc. And this can just as much a part of living in the Adirondacks as it can be in Detroit, etc. I love the Adirondacks and feel blessed to have such a great place in my backyard. But I also know it can be a hard, unforgiving place that can break your heart and your spirit, too.

  9. Bob Meyer says:

    Pete,
    So much truth, but also so much idealization & naivete.
    No matter how much you visit a place, things change when you live there. It’s different.
    Please know that i love your posts and am supportive of your stewardship of the land [yours and ours] and am greatly appreciative of both your personal and educational sharing.
    I’ve traveled world wide as a professional musician and also lived in Saranac Lk. & Lk. Placid [both of which i love] as i do anywhere in the Adirondacks. My family has had camp in the Park since 1938.
    My experience is that people are basically the same everywhere; some are posers, some are genuine. Most are complicated combinations of lots of things with both consistencies and inconsistencies of behavior.
    To be sure, if i could live in the Adirondacks and earn a living playing jazz anywhere, i’d be there in a heart beat, but it’s too far from the world class musicians i am fortunate enough to work with.
    Much of what you say about the essential Adirondack character is true, but i must challenge you. The “good and the bad” is everywhere. The Park folks are not immune from the ills of society. i used to have the same idea about the “superiority” of cold climate culture, but 68 years of life experience had taught me otherwise… and i hate hot climates! Forgive me, but I feel you are being presumptuous from a white Anglo perspective. Try being a Jew and hearing veiled or not so veiled anti-Semetic remarks, let alone being black, Latino, Muslim.. you name it…I know you cannot, but that is precisely what is naive about this post.
    Sincerely, Bob meyer
    Cortlandt manor and Pottersville, NY

  10. Matt says:

    Pete

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, until now that is. Why the need to paint with such a broad brush? I’m a life long adirondacker. I live just north of Utica, ny but have spent a lifetime in the park. I’ve met all types in the park. Friendly, not so friendly. People on phones, people not on phones. Considerate people, inconsiderate people. I’ve traveled all over the world and have not been able to connect a group of people, their behavoir abd their personal place in life. This is regardless of their skin color, state they live, size of their mortgage payment or car they drive. In my opinion, your remarks propagate the concept of generalization. This of course is a euphemism for judging a book by the cover. I have come to expect more from you. By the way, would you share this story with your neighbors in wisconsin ?

  11. Curt Austin says:

    I used to think of the Adirondacks as an out-of-the-mainstream place with rural qualities and values, but with a population that nevertheless was highly diverse and … interesting, colorful. Like you, I spent time in the Midwest, where there are other qualities, let’s say. In that sense, you’ll fit in well here as a math-speaking trumpet player on stilts.

    But you are glossing over the big native-resident distinction. It’s not that there’s hostility, it’s just a serious difference in perspective. In my town, at least, it means natives seek out town board positions, but avoid the zoning board. There are no natives on the library board at all, just residents. Though natives are often opposed to the “preservationist” sort of environmental policies, they are fierce advocates for the preservation of native cultural values. The right to have a burn barrel was a hot topic in recent years (in obvious anguish, the board did relent). I’m sympathetic to this perspective myself, although at times I’d prefer that they’d try to anticipate trends rather than futilely resist them.

    My late father-in-law (whose grandfather moved here from Scotland to work in the tannery) told me once that while some natives did not appreciate all the tourists and summer people, he really enjoyed experiencing their differences. Long before TV and the internet, he found non-natives entertaining and educational. Great attitude, shared by many natives.

    I hope you consider moving so you’ll be within range of the Lake George Community Band.

  12. Paul says:

    This “native concept” is an interesting one. My mother was born and raised in Saranac Lake. Her parents both came there from Ireland via Ellis Island and Montreal. My father was born in Jamaica Queens and raised in NJ and Westchester county NY. He met my mother in Saranac Lake (he was working and living there after college and before going onto more school). My parents raised our family in Saranac Lake but perhaps I was never really an Adirondack local for all those years (I was not born in the Adirondacks)? Same goes for one of my sisters who is now raising her family in Saranac Lake. I assume you have to be a descendant of Nessmunk to be a “native”?

    Pete, the folks checking out the stilts in LP were probably from out of town wouldn’t you guess? I think there is a good chance.

    I have always found folks around where I grew up to be very friendly to locals and anyone else. It helps if you leave your own baggage aside. You can also always find a jerk anywhere. I have also been impressed with the people who I lived around when I was in Colorado. My guess is that even in the Midwest you will find differences. For example I just got back from Michigan, the folks I met from Lansing and that area are not quite the same as the folks I met from Northern Michigan when we were up there. Neither was unfriendly just had a different perspective.

    Pete have you had a chance to spend some time in some of the less traveled parts of the park? Perhaps Blue Mt. Lake counts but that is also frequented by many seasonal residents. For example I find the folks living in places like St. Regis falls to have a different perspective on things than the folks 15 miles away in Saranac Lake.

  13. Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

    Dear readers:

    Thanks for the excellent and challenging comments, one and all. Allow me to make a few responses.

    The most common objections are that I am generalizing and idealizing. To these charges I plead guilty. That is the weakness of this post; whatever truths (if any) that I have described, they are painted with too broad a brush. Indeed I myself wrote of the “sin of generalization” early on. However with that said, the experiences I live are vividly different depending upon place and for me there is no whitewashing it away, generalizations or not. This weekend I paid particular attention to our journeys (stilt gigs) and our experiences of people and they did nothing but reinforce for me what I wrote in this column.

    My primary response to those of you who are saying that people are basically the same the world over is that itself is an idealization. As an ideal it is nothing but laudable; I think we should all strive to accept every individual for who they are, as equals, with equal decency and forbearance offered. Further I take it as an inarguable truth that at base we are essentially the same: we all share the same DNA, we all love, hurt, struggle and act in sometimes noble and sometimes ignoble ways.

    But human beings as social animals are far more complicated than this baseline and while I could not take any single person and know for certain from their behavior where they lived, it does not change the fact that there are significant qualitative differences between people of different areas and cultures. For me these differences are not all at equal value. For me some of these differences invite – or require, if I am to be an ethical person – value judgments, these being things by which we all operate as human beings to better ourselves and our world, to develop and preserve culture and art, to strive for justice and integrity.

    One commenter said the post was naïve. This may or may not be a fair criticism but it was directed at the post, not me. I appreciate that difference because I may be many things but naïve would not be a common adjective applied to me by those who know me. I have lived or spent significant time in a very diverse a set of communities, both here in America and internationally. It is my life experience that, simply put, once you get past the baseline people are in fact NOT the same the world over.

    I stand by my primary claim which I will restate this way: life in more challenging and uncompromising circumstances, where it is harder to game the social conditions of one’s existence, whether that be the Adirondacks, the urban zones of Chicago and New York or the post-civil-war streets of Tbilisi Georgia, cultivates from our common human baseline people who are in general more aware, authentic, and vital.

    Is that a generalization? Of course it is. Is it sufficient to judge any one person? Of course not. But it’s still true. In fact, in my experience all this verbiage obscures just how simply true it is. The Adirondacks are not an easy place to live. They are uncompromising. Nature and the economy make it so (to me the former more than the latter). As a general class of people do residents of the Adirondacks reflect that fact? Absolutely, in my experience.

    A few comments to specific readers…

    Matt:

    I know you from your comments and I always appreciate them. I already pleaded guilty to the sin of generalization, so I’ll leave your critique of that alone. But you asked a very good question: would I share my post and/or thoughts with the people of Wisconsin? The answer is yes, in fact I do (another adjective rarely applied to me is “shy”). People who know me here know my thoughts on these and many things. Lots of people who don’t know me personally do as well because I’m active in politics and various social phenomena and I do not hesitate to get into the fray because I think it is critical to do so.

    Here is a very important thing to say: I never think I’m better than someone because of any of the values I might talk about. What I think is that certain values themselves are better than others and as an activist I will argue and debate and cajole to advocate for or defend culture, integrity, minority rights and achievement and so on. To me, to say that we are all the same is a nice ideal but as a call to activism it is poor. The differences between people are incredibly important and they are by no means equal – for example racism, which in no calculus is equal in all directions. I harbor a profound belief that if we cannot and do not make value judgments about these things we are lost as creatures of meaning.

    This column was not really meant to open a debate on such a large canvass; it was a personal response to our sense of gratitude for the kinds of people we have met in the park. But there you have it.

    Curt and Paul:

    The question of resident versus native is fascinating to me and I hardly feel equipped to speak with any authority on the subject, despite experience in the Adirondacks over fifty years. I simply note that whatever differences are propagated, the operative power of Adirondack living on the character of the human baseline cannot recognize the difference between “born here” and “lived here thirty years.” Hard winters are hard winters.

    Paul:

    Good question on the stilt staring. It is impossible to distinguish the tourist from the resident with anything near 100% accuracy. But the very thing you ask about was part of what was most fascinating to me. In general obvious tourists paid much less attention than obvious residents, and this difference was marked.

    Bob:

    Your comment is quite wonderful.

    I have already said enough with regard to my opinion about whether people are or are not the same everywhere. However I think your claim that “no matter how much you visit a place, things change when you live there” is only so true. It depends on what you are doing and how much you are doing it. Lots of second-home people have spent enough significant time toughing it out in the Adirondacks that I do not question how well they know the place and its people. I was never a permanent resident of NYC but I worked there for months and have spent a great deal of time there over forty years. I have the feel of the Upper West Side, the East Village, Flatbush. It’s not the same as living there but in terms of the experience of people it’s not nothing either.

    My main problem with you is that all I really want to do with you is talk about jazz. I never developed my craft to the level of a world class professional as you have (I went and listened) and never became a great musician but I played jazz for many years and immediately looked up your background to find that we have some harmony. I’m going to guess you know saxophonist Mike Lee, with whom I played in a fantastic high school band. Joe Lovano is one of the great largely unheralded musicians of our time. I love great drummers and played with one for almost twelve years, Clyde Stubblefield. I completely sympathize with your inability to make your living from within the park. I’d love to hear you some time and will make a point of it. Best, Pete

    • Paul says:

      From my experience living in the Adirondacks is not “hard” at all. Quite easy actually!

    • Paul says:

      “obvious tourists”

      What is this a guy with a “I heart Lake Placid” tee shirt and a camera around his neck?

      Pete, we should go on a tour of Lake Placid together and you point out the obvious tourists and I will tell you if they are “locals”. I bet you would have some trouble.

  14. Mike says:

    Been visiting the central adirondacks for 20 plus years, and though I can’t make a comparison to residents of the mid-west, thought I’d share my perspective on this compared to the two areas I have lived in during my life. Having grown up in Vermont my impression of the Adirondack residents (natives included) is that they are by and large more friendly then those folks from the nearby Green Mtn State. Still reserved initially in the Yankee way, but once you start talking with them most will certainly open up a bit. As seasonal residents we’ve been able to make lasting friendships with Adirondack residents. Native Vermonters’ on the other hand will almost never forge a friendship with the flatlanders as my father likes to call them. In terms of willing to help out their neighbor etc, they are on par. Compared to where I reside now in Connecticut, there is no question much of Pete’s commentary rings true—materialism, obsession with keeping up with the jones’, smart phones etc, downright rudeness in stores, driving being commonplace.

    My wife and I would also like to live there full time, as we find the prospect of raising our kids in a more down to earth environment very attractive, but find the employment prospects rather daunting. So we visit as often as we can, to a great little town in the central adirondacks(nameless cause we don’t want it to get too crowded!) where we get to enjoy a beautiful natural environment and pleasant decent people.

  15. John says:

    With all due respect Pete, this was the most pretentious, condescending treatise I’ve seen in a long time. I get it that you want to ingratiate yourself with the ‘locals’, but why tear down all the decent people in the rest of the country to do that. There are good people everywhere…..period. Generalizations…you bet. Stereotypes….yup. You said it.