April 3, 2013


So I’m at Panera this evening for supper. Earl is out of town on business until late tonight, Jamie off being a Cub photographer and quite frankly I didn’t feel like cooking tonight nor did I feel like sitting in a sit-down restaurant alone, so I decided on Panera. These are the types of actions that are packed to living here.

This Panera isn’t like others in surrounding cities; it was built in a shopping center in a long and narrow space. It doesn’t have the little nooks or cozy fireplaces or anything like that. At times it has the ambience of a school cafeteria except generally without the food fights. The high top tables that were here when the location was first built are long gone because people had a habit of falling of them and flailing in the walkway. I wish I was kidding about these things.

Just a few moments ago when I walked into Panera I noticed an older man and woman sitting and presumably enjoying a meal together. I locked eyes with the woman whilst I was walking by. In response she returned my gaze, stood up and pointed at me. I have no idea what was that was about as there were no words were exchanged. I cocked my eyebrow in a quizzical fashion (I feel very Spock-like when I do that, but not Dr. Spock-like, more Mr. Spock-like, because after all, I know little about babies outside of the fact that they’re small and sneeze things like popsicle juice.) I felt her eyes on me as I made my way to the cafeteria line but I never bothered to ask her why she was standing and pointing at me. Perhaps it had something to do with gay marriage. On the other hand, maybe one of my antennae was peeking out of my disguise or perhaps I left the lights on on the saucer that I had parallel parked between a Fiat and a beat up Buick.

In all reality, she stood and pointed at me because I am one fine look piece of human male. There’s really no denying it. The distinguished gray in the beard, while dressed to look stylish yet not too stuffy and carrying an assortment of Apple products, what person could resist me? I guess I’m fortunate that she didn’t rip my clothes off right there.

Coming to this Panera is always an adventure. I am thankful that no one in line ahead of me was asking for fries with their meal. I look forward to the day that I can sit down at a Panera without being recognized by the unknown masses.

Being a famous blogger is such hard work.


Business Insider recently published their list of the Top 11 Most Miserable Places to Live In America. The data is based on a recent Gallup poll. I’ll set aside the title of the article, which should say the “Top 11 Most Miserable Places to Live in The United States”, because Gallup didn’t poll anyone outside of the U.S. But that’s just me being nitpicky.

I’m kind of surprised at the placing of our area on this list as I thought it would be up in the Top 5 or so. I’m curious as to why they listed the “Top 11” instead of the Top 10; was it just to get the Utica-Rome area onto the list to begin with? Were people going to be crankier if Utica-Rome wasn’t included on the list? Perhaps the author of the article wanted to make this area feel special.

And speaking of this area, I always feel bad for Rome. This area is constantly referred to as “Utica-Rome”. It’s not like “Minneapolis-St. Paul” or “Dallas-Ft. Worth”; there are four villages, a couple of townships and 15 miles or so between the downtowns (and I use that term loosely) of Utica and Rome. Rome always gets the short end of the stick, “You don’t need a Home Depot since there’s one in Utica.” That’s not nice. I think the populations differ considerably in ethnic make up.

I don’t like living here. I moved here over 20 years ago because the same job here paid almost double what I was making in the tiny city of Jamestown. It was also closer to my family (no offense, but people ask ‘how close’ and I say ‘close enough’.) I don’t find the weather particularly enjoyable nor are we really active with the scant amount of gay community here. That last point is by our own choosing. They built an impressive road for the new microchip plant that they’re suppose to be building nearby, but word on the street is that deal fell through and their going to build a Pringles factory instead. There are even signs pointing to the exit that hasn’t been built for the chip plant that doesn’t exist.

We have an international airport on the old Air Force base. The government is shutting down the tower and there hasn’t ever been a commercial flight in or out of this airport. The last commercial flight was to the old airport and that was a decade or so ago. But we still have a customs’ officer.

Some positives of the area include there’s no traffic and if you look outside the city limits of Utica, it’s quite beautiful in the autumn. Oh, on a warm summer night you can take old fluorescent bulbs out and stand under any one of the many high-voltage power lines that criss cross the area and watch the bulbs glow in your hand.

The latest endeavor to spruce this place up is the construction of a monstrous neon sign (125 ft high!) along the Thruway with the words “Utica” on top. Apparently it was too expensive to tack on “Rome”. Perhaps the “-” put them over the budget.

I will admit that the cool thing about living here is that you can easily go somewhere interesting for the weekend. There are a bunch of major cities within a five hour radius of this place. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto; all cities that are not that far from here if you don’t mind the drive. It’s a good thing that we love to travel.

What’s really a shame is that there are some quaint towns in the surrounding areas. They’re kind of small but they’re fun to walk around in once a season or so so there’s that.

But cranky people? Yeah, we have a lot of those. Most interactions with the retailing folks is a triad of experience: hostility, futility and stupidity.

So yes, here we are, living in one of the Top 11 most miserable places in the world and my two reactions are one of a lack of surprise and feeling bad for Rome having to be tacked onto Utica again.

I’m looking forward to my travels this weekend.