I stopped off at the Zephyr late one morning last week, grateful for the opportunity to have a place in the hamlet where once again one COULD stop off to just sit, re-plan a morning already gone awry, and just enjoy the pleasant place that Michael and Amelia have fashioned from the dusty memory of the Pine Hill Indian Restaurant (and its other, prior manifestations). Thanks to Florence and Bernie Hamling for their continued attention to keeping a vision in place, and their ability to share this with the rest of us. Sitting at the bar for a coffee and delicious biscuit, Janet, the waitress, handed me the Catskill Mountain News with the lead article about the Crossroads Venture's having cleared another hurdle for their two hotel, golf courses project, now apparently all but finalized.
I am not sure my own thoughts or feelings about it. On the one hand, I treasure the friendships and quiet that being hidden here has been for all of us, the treasures of friendships made all the more prominent by the absence of so many other humans, so many that we might otherwise disappear from each other in our day-to-day going about our business, our reliance on each other, the simple, beautiful clarity that our limited population produces. There is a genuine joy in our interactions, an appreciation for each other's foibles, quirks, and strengths; what the self-reliance of near-isolation has produced in each other, and in how much more sacred ground our community seems to operate.
Somewhere I read that the ideal community structure is 150 individuals. I can attest to that. It seems to be about the number of individuals that I know of and operate with in Pine Hill and the surrounding communities. It seems so right. Others, I think, feel this particular connection, and joyfully operate within it, without bothering to, or being able to verbalize the experience.
I sense it when I go to the Community Center, meet with neighbors, travel up here from NYC, walk down Main Street, wave to neighbors I know well or by sight and others I don't know who may be passing through. It doesn't happen in Phoenicia, or in Woodstock.
These are the things that locals know and understand, these ineffable instances that developers from outside do not grasp, who bring the notions of 'progress', development, and its attendant traffic and clueless crowds. These are the dangers of making 'someplace' like 'everyplace else'. Next in our battles is the parking plan for the hamlet, arrived at by town-folk, not by hamlet-folk.
I have lived in NYC in a loft on the Bowery since 1976. There was a time when the drunks on the street and the artists working away in the lofts above were working out their respective sacred problems; the guys on the street on their personal issues, so severe they actually kept out those humans whose distraction would lessen their, and our, focus, those of us laboring upstairs at our paintings.
It's not like that now.
The Bowery is now a now a non-neighborhood, all up for grabs, and with no identity to speak of, despite anyone's claim to the contrary.
Something got lost in the "improvement" the city needed to realize for itself, sacrilegiously ripped away by the bureaucracies that a city's life is measured by, time frames that do not quite correspond to our human existence.
Having said all this, I must go back to the images I saw in the rendering presented on the newspaper's front page. It appears that the concept is now moved to the back side of Highmount, that it is built into the hillside. These are aspects of the project that came about by hard fighting by the sensitive souls who understand how great a transformation all of this will have on our area. I am certain that they have helped make this project the least offensive it might be. Hotels in the meantime are rethinking how they are selling themselves, creating destinations, and lifestyle settings that lure customers, and keep them fixed in place to maximize financial return. How this is supposed to improve the economic life of the area is dim. Another example of this kind of thinking exists along the Jersey shore, set up several decades back. Those hotels are dying now, and the city that hosted them to great fanfare have a population even more worse off than before.
Stopping any further development down the line, perhaps following enthusiastic hotel clientele seeking a way to have condos available for their use rather than hotel use, will still remain to be fought. Perhaps that's for the next generation. The corporate behemoths that rule (or ignore) our lives and our country are having their way at the moment, but nothing is forever; the pendulum swings. Or is the pendulum's swing in fact a helical path in new space as our universes reel?
We are the new 'native americans'.
Never stop the fight for what you believe in, for what nourishes your soul, and those of the others your life touches. We are the guardians of what is sacred.