The other day I came up with a new slogan for my hometown.
“Binghamton: Beautiful Deadness”
I have lived here for 28 years and threaten to leave frequently. My husband and I started this whole “simplicity” thing in order to downsize our stuff so someday we can make a quick tidy exit. Alas, my parents live here, moved here on purpose in fact, and it’s difficult to justify leaving them here and moving somewhere beautiful, sunny and warm when they are so generous and involved in my children’s lives. My father refuses to leave the gloom. And the casino. I am praying for him. You never know. Sometimes God answers with a “yes!”
Often when I complain about this area I hear “oh, but’s its so beautiful here.” This is usually from people who don’t mind risking their limbs skiing or who have romantic ideas about living on a mountain. I most certainly don’t ski and I detest cold, bears, coyotes and the smell of cow manure. Binghamton is “beautiful” for about a week each summer and not necessarily 7 consecutive days. I recently saw a cartoon on Facebook that said “It’s so cold my face hurts. Why do I live in a place that makes my face hurt?” Good question.
My very dear friend just wrote a post entitled “7 Good About Binghamton,” our current hometown. Darling woman that she is, she has lived here about 10 years and we met through church 3 years ago when I searching for a church home. My family has attended ever since. But lest you think that since I attend church that I must be a REALLY GOOD PERSON, I would like to debunk that with my responsorial post/list of 7 things about Binghamton:
1. The People: Spend any amount of time working in a medical office and you will learn a few things about people here. First, they’re crazy. Second, they lie. Third, they are ALWAYS late. I’m sure other places have crazy, lying, tardy people, we just seem to have them in abundance. So when someone starts talking to you without provocation while in line at Aldi, be prepared to get their sordid life story and expect that none of it is actually true.
2. Aldi: Admittedly this little gem is hard to dispute. After years of giving my life savings to Wegmans, Aldi has been a breath of fresh air. They even have really good gluten free products and they have saved my bottom line. I feel like a queen each time I walk in because I can put whatever my little heart desires in the cart (7 ginormous dark chocolate hazelnut bars? Of course! They’re $1.99!!!!). I sing Aldi’s praises all the time. But don’t make too much eye contact in here. See #1. It’s concentrated in here…
3. Wegman’s: This blood sucker has been here since I was in high school when we thought it was cool to go ANYWHERE in the middle of the night. But try to get out of this place for less than $100. Good luck. Every food you never needed is here and for the price of your first born you can take it home with you. The other day I bought a bag of vegetables and creamer for $26. It felt like a jailbreak! Exhilarating! But I’m sure I could have gotten it for half at Aldi. Wegmans has free babysitting so it’s worth it for mental health reasons but I suggest you get a cup of coffee and go sit outside and take pictures of the crazy people for an hour. It will make you feel better about yourself. Then go to Aldi.
4. The odd corners: Well, it’s interesting out there. Having been a home care nurse locally, I have seen it all. There is some lovely old architecture, much of it’s elaborate wood work painted over by some numbskull who couldn’t appreciate it and probably shops at Aldi. Then there are the trailers with sticky floors and no running water. And the roaches. God bless the roaches. They are particularly bold here and come out in broad daylight. They have collars with their names on them and have picnics while you check someone’s IV. It’s lovely.
5. The dentist and the doctor: After repeated trips to the dentist to try to get my daughter’s teeth looked at we finally found a pediatric dentist who sedated her to get into her mouth. I now take my little girls there. All children should be sedated on occasion… Unfortunately she only works something like 2 days per week. The cost of dental care will knock your socks off, even with insurance. I know healthcare costs are high everywhere so this isn’t unique but considering the next item, it explains the general lack of teeth in certain areas of Bingoland.
(This part could get me in trouble but here it goes…) There used to be a plethora of great doctors in this area and I knew quite a few of them. But one by one they have left, retired or died. There are precious few left. The exodus from the medical field here in recent years has left my head spinning, however, and getting a new primary doc is like playing Russian roulette. I don’t like when patients ask for a referral because all I can say is call the physician referral line at the hospitals. Good luck. I will pray for you. No insurance? Well, at least there is the free clinic.
6. The poverty: Poverty is only romantic when you are not poor. Picture those poignant black and whites of the Great Depression. That’s Binghamton. If you want a great black and white photo to hang on the wall, come here. Actually, we have a local photographer who kind of does that and his work is incredible. You could buy a picture online or at a gallery and then go somewhere nice.
7. Good Shepherd: This is MY church. A few years ago when our babies were tiny, our church ceased to be. After 2 years of checking out many many many local churches I found this one and it is genuine. The people are real. Not much pretending to be perfect here. A nice blend of folks from all walks of life who worship together and get together for bible study. They feed people and not just donuts. They really care. And they don’t kick me out for writing stuff like this. Our pastor preaches from the bible and doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear to make us feel good about ourselves. I often leave feeling bad but that’s a good thing. I have come to realize that church isn’t supposed to make you feel good. It should leave you miserable for a while so maybe you will actually change or at least reflect on the source of your misery. I’ve learned to embrace miserable. I’m suspicious of happy people. Happy is for heaven. And we are definitely not there yet. We’re in Binghamton. The Great Penance. Now, there’s a slogan.
Have a wonderfully gloomy day