Hipsters of The Lost Kingdom

photo (2)At the top of the Catskill Mountains is a plateau of sorts, the steep mountain roads climb up to a landscape that opens up to rolling hills. One may not even know, if dropped to this soil that one was atop the mountains… mountains we are often reminded are themselves but an ancient plateau that has eroded. And while not as high as other ranges in these United States and Territories, there are clefts in the rock, cloves, and sudden elevations in keeping with the sharper, higher, younger brethren. On top of these mountains are several far-flung villages with names like Delhi (pronounced by the locals Dell-high), Acra (pronounced Ack-rah), Cairo (pronounced Kay-row), and Phoenicia (pronounced Phone-a-kai-a/ or Fo Knee Ku-wa). Along with these curious accents that seem almost Appalachian, strange towns and hidden clusters of houses, trailers, and forever falling apart structures crop up around each winding turn each one completely different in design, history, and income of the occupant. American Peasants with their rotting car collections in the yard are neighbors to trendy retirees who dress only in black. This is a kingdom of sorts with its own ways and means and while a short drive from the river towns, these hill towns are comprised of far different people and have a nature all to their own than those villages in the Valley that remain wealthy and do not so suffer the seasonal crowd and the inconsistent economy built on vacationing masses and tree removal.
Perhaps we can call the mountain tops The Lost Kingdom, so named after the many abandoned houses, torn down mountain houses, failed motels, forgotten gardens, and farm tools and implements both piled up and scattered about, the new roads build right next to the old abandoned road, the chimneys of vanished factories and sawmills, the dams and waterways scattered with works both Public and some private scheme. As close as this region is to one of the largest cities in these United States, you can still find quiet and private places, even if this quiet may be that not of peace and stillness, but of things hidden that for a moment, have stopped moving or uttering their usual sounds. The Lost Kingdom is a place of unusual weekends and quite a few campfires that end in unremembered relations.
The town has washed away few times, most recently just a few years ago. Every time it is rebuilt there are a few more hipsters. Perhaps a conceit, a little modicum of hyperbole, this blogger should perhaps say the village was inundated with dirty pestilent muddy water and silt. The buildings are still there, and they have cleared away all the muck, the junk that washed into town from beyond and restored the usual collection of structures to rotting perfection since to be Upstate is to maintain a certain level of dilapidation. However, I am serious about the hipsters. There is more and more of them after every heavy rain.
I used to work up by way off that region, up there, in the woods, a long drive from my intended home at a position of employment that may be far too scandalous for the confines of this blog. While the area was indeed pushed away from the city it is yet connected since this is Second Home territory, the Upper Upper Upper West Side of Gothem and in those woods are ridge line glamboxes filled with aged rockers and Captains of Industry who exchanged the boozie buzz of the city for thirty meetings in thirty days and the esthetics of a new life in the hills, but a two hour drive in their BMWs to the city in the event that someone there had A Show or there was some important meeting or other glamorous and well-paid happening that needed attending in order to keep the financial pipeline flowing, since, it is well known, there are few if any jobs in those there woods. The woods, however, have been inexplicably connected to Gothem for well over centuries. Since time began actually. Theater troupes, Weekenders, painters, poets, a few random cults, artists of all stripe and musical talent and those wanabe writers, poets, and songstresses best forgotten have all made their way to the Lost Kingdom in order to work, pretend to work or be out of the city long enough to be able to re-enter the city saying, “I have been away.”
When I worked in the region, the bridge in this particular village washed out, again. When it was rebuilt, an art gallery opened up. Nothing usual about that since the region has many art galleries in the woods inexplicably placed. There were some events, but the culture of the village appeared to be an occasional thing. Then the bridge washed out again.
It has since washed out so many times there is actually a sign reminding people that the bridge is open. Again the town has been fixed up and it is back to its almost charming nature, albeit with fewer poor people. That is unintentionally and not creatively poor…. like starting artists…
photo (1)There is something strange about the mountain towns of the Catskills and Phone-a-kai-a is no different from most of the villages of the Lost Kingdom. These places aren’t very quaint. Some are downright Fugly. Others are just moments, clusters of what once was at the crossroads where people used to stop, a place where 55 MPH becomes for a time 35 MPH…. The gas stations sits all plop in the middle of most villages in the Lost Kingdom and since more than likely this gas station is a Stewart’s, it forms a new village center of town since where else are you going to have the Milk Club and get beer for your under-aged 24 rack party? For those dear readers reaching this blog from far off corners of the Interwebs, let us take a moment to explain a Stewart’s. It is a place of ice cream and air fresheners. Open later than most establishments in the upper woods and for those of us who hail from those regions, we have so created a soft spot for this gas station that cannot be fully explained other than it was our first and to some of us, only place to congregate in groups and clusters. It cannot be anything else but a Stewart’s. A beacon of hope to the traveler, and a comforting sight as any to the traveled Upstater who longs for a riotous youth, carefree childhood, and 99 cent hotdogs and knows when they see that Milk Club sign, they are home.
With climate change and increasing violent storms, there has been some changes in the Lost Kingdom. More bridges are missing, more houses in the creek, more elder barns collapsed under snow, rain, hail, developers. I fear that again the area is becoming popular. Many have, including the Gray Lady, compared the Lost Kingdom to Brooklyn, and while there is a certain level of redunk in that proposal, with the advent to increasing numbers of trucker hats and beards, it is increasingly looking like that Brooklyn we know, perhaps even a little Portland. It is hard, and this is an unsubstantiated statement with no proof, not even a wiki entry, that women cannot be identified as hipsters as simply as men …. that is, boys… can. The hipster female, and here I may lose a few readers, may appear as dressed no more unusual than her sisters. Unless she too, dons a fetching mesh trucker hat and jeans with rips just so… of course, the carbine clip and keys… well, use The Googles to see what that may portend and flip a coin for yourself.
The village of Phoenicia has been growing in the creative community for several years. In the olden days that I remember the principality of Woodstock sucked up all the creative artie-farty types leaving scant little for the other jurisdictions that were generally populated by angry former-woodsmen, former-trappers- former-quarymen, all of whom were large, strapping, and unemployed. Considering the increasing numbers of essays about Why I Am Leaving New York City by the Creative Classes, Innovator Class, and Knowing Ones, it perhaps stands that these freedom seeking creatives will come in increasing droves, and those who would normally fight to get in to the city, the younger ones, will be content either never going or after a scant few years, not landing a trendy loft or exciting career in arts and entertainment, may yearn to voyage north to open a taco hut, recycled building materials depot, or cafe beside a waterfalls. And why shouldn’t they?
After the last traumatic spring where the waters ran dirty and hard, a certain diner on a certain route was closed down. Rather than join the parade of abandoned spaces in the Kingdom, this place reopened looking more like a diner than the original diner. Rather than the locals and another attempt at a “country kitchen” this new establishment has a menu right out of old Gothem itself and if the brunch this author attended, the crowd of beards, ironic shirts, and clusters of young creatives, it seems that perhaps the woods are again to experience a resurgence, art camps, writer retreats, and organic food collectives can only follow.
We will look to see what the rains bring this year.

2 thoughts on “Hipsters of The Lost Kingdom

  1. Sounds like the hills and valleys of West Virginny…only without the money people moving in save for the energy people from the Southwest. This is not a land of beautiful people as ugliness breeds more ugliness – no real new blood coming in..Seems like mountain people all over have this problem. Enjoy your blogs of your travels across this vast junkyard – keep up the good work..

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