I had a chance to chat with an old friend of mine earlier this week, one of those who “got away,” if you know what I mean, now residing on the west coast, married, and living the American dream, San Francisco-style.
The first words out of his mouth, once the small talk had wrapped up?
“What the hell is going on in Norwich?”
You see, thanks to The Evening Sun website (evesun.com for those of you still living in the stone age), my friend is able to keep abreast of all things Chenango County, the good and the bad, for better or for worse. In his opinion (he was never one to gloss things over, let me tell you), things are leaning more toward the bad side.
Who am I to argue?
“Golden, what’s the deal with the news, lately? Seems like things have really changed out that way over the past ten years or so.”
Honesty being the best policy, I had to admit he was probably right. All the same, I asked him what, exactly, he was referring to (although I was fairly certain where this was going).
“Drugs, shootings, murder trials, overdoses, burglaries, assaults, fires, death threats, so on, so forth. Don’t you write anything happy any more?”
Which, of course, I do, as I proceeded to relay the news of yet another successful Chenango Blues Fest, last weekend’s Colorscape Chenango, the Norwich Theater Company’s most recent production, “Godspell,” my new beat out New Berlin way (a.k.a. The Gazette), not to mention last month’s Chenango County Fair (OK, maybe I could’ve left that one out) and the start of a new school year.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t impressed.
“Dude, are you near a computer,” he asked.
“Sure, hold on ... laptop’s right here.”
“Do me a favor. Go to the newspaper’s website; scroll down to the bottom of the page. You there? Good. Now, do you see your name down there? Right underneath it, it says ‘story archive.’ Click on it and tell me what you see.”
Humoring him, I did as requested, although I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what his point was; I’m well aware what I’ve written for our hometown daily over the past three years.
“OK, my friend, just what am I looking for here?”
“Well, Brian, let me tell you what I see. Syracuse man facing felony drug charges; two charged with felony possession; Norwich man shot by sheriff’s deputies after stand-off in Pitcher; indictment reveals death threats against judge; grand jury indictments; city police alert residents about new scams; drug busts; accidents; arson; bath salts; heroin; crack.”
“Yeah, so what? What’s your point.”
“My point is ... what the hell is going on in Norwich?”
My lack of understanding, I’ll admit, was a bit disturbing, particularly when I sat down and thought it out after hanging up the phone. Because my friend, of course, was absolutely right. Maybe it’s three years on the job, maybe it’s the past year spent covering the crimes, trials, accidents and emergencies that have occurred here in our little corner of upstate New York. Then again, maybe I’ve simply grown accustomed to the changes that have taken place here in Chenango County since I was a youngster roaming the streets, trading baseball cards, buying candy at the Corner Cigar (and the Copper Kettle before that), and zipping back and forth across town on by bike while chasing imaginary (or were they?) aliens.
My friend, however, did get me to thinking ... are things really worse now than they were then? Or am I more aware of the bad because, quite simply, it’s what I do now? Either way, all it took was that brief reminder of how this all must look to someone who’s been out of the area for more than a decade to really pique my curiosity.
In the end, however, I was left with a number of questions to which I do not have the answers.
Are we a small, rural county with big-city problems? Who’s to blame when it comes to our escalating drug problems, the dealers or the people demanding the drugs? Are kids today less respectful now than we were then, or is that me being old-fashioned? Why do we seem to have so many sex offenders living amongst us, continuing to prey on our youth? Why do we have so many teenage mothers walking the streets? Why so many deadbeat dads?
And while I don’t have the answer to any of those questions – only opinions, really – these are only a few of the issues that need be addressed, the sooner the better. Sadly, these days, people are more accustomed to division, never unity. We gossip, debate, argue and postulate – rarely with the greater good in mind – simply for the sake of it. Perhaps if we spent a little more time considering what we can (and can’t) do to better our community, rather than looking for someone to blame, we’d actually get somewhere.
What was it John F. Kennedy said?
“... ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
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