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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Paradise Lost and Found

That Chinese man who - many centuries or millennia ago-  coined the phrase to 'pray that you live an interesting life' would be proud of me.  Life really doesn't get a whole lot more interesting, a least for a small-town guy.

First, there was a first, which is rare after 20 years in the business - a woman who was in labor was negotiating to secure the rental of my home past.   She wrote, 'I'm in labor, but we will take it, and we are such a nice family, etc..., just give me a day or two!".  It's a tough market out there, and you have to act in order to secure.  Nothing lasts.  That heroic effort pushed her to the front of the line.

I have a few rentals and it appears I'm using them to find good families in need of good shelter, and giving them first dibs.  Last year, continuing to the present, was a West Point family of 5 plus dog from the South.  I agreed to a reasonable rent, and then extended the term in a flexible way.  This year, a neat family who is fleeing NYC and sending their child to the Homestead.  It's cool to be able to help - it's not charity by any means, but it is a thoughtful prioritizing of applicants - starting with renting for longer-term in a market that is full of short term rentals but light on longer terms.

Then, the Rev. Laurie Stuart, publisher of the River Reporter, agreed to a 'mea culpa', pretty high profile 'editorial apology' for letting some mean letters to the editor about me be published.  The paper is and has been anti-anything Petersheim for a decade, 1, because I'm progressive, politically engaged articulate and not prone to bandwagens, 2, call out their foolishness (while still believing local newspapers are the life-blood a healthy community) on probably more occasions than is polite, 3, I think the old editor was just plain jealous of how his life stacked up to mine, especially since his probably had a headstart and he toed the line of community homogeneousness, while I moved fast and broke everything in sight.  The mean letters detailed my 'behavior in the community', like a guy who starts with a penny and ends up investing over $100m in a community is mis-behaved.  Hopeful (and vocal) that a rising tide may lift many boats, but misbehaved?  Ridiculous.  It was one of those 'qualified' reversals that get mocked in when someone does it on the big stage, but it was a start and I appreciated it.  Baby steps.

Granted, maybe some mis-steps but who's perfect?!?!  Although being outspoken does put an easy target on your back, especially in when you add in social media.  It takes a real willingness to be blooded and punched and kicked and ostracized and mis-interpreted.  I know enough about history to know that the way forward is not for the meek or gun shy.

As Senator Tammy Duckworth recently wrote  -"In a nation born out of an act of protest, there is nothing more patriotic than standing up for what you believe in, even if it goes against those in power."

Interestingly, all the current meany pants letters started when I wrote one criticizing a school board member Kristin Smith for thinking she needed to use her platform to chime in on a debate on whether some local moron had the right to fly a gigantic confederate flag in a high profile location.  My point was simple and sweet - the rights you have that you refrain from using are as important as the rights you have that you choose to use, - in fact, this may actually define the fabric of the community in which you live.  My point was also pretty simple - if she thought reminding people that you have the right to fly a confederate flag was somehow an impressive display of constitutional knowledge, she was mistaken.  We all learned that in 1st grade.  And you wouldn't believe all the panties that got tied in a knot after I said that.

But, to be honest, I am an alien in the community in which I live.  With generations of economic decline all around me - with the decline of the borscht belt and the related real estate and hospitality industry, which started in earnest in the mid-1970's - I plopped out nowhere and sort of built a small scale empire, an affront to all those wading in the 'can't be helped, can't be improved' swamp of rural America for the last 40 years.

It's tough to really explain what economic decline does to the soul of a community.  It grows unambitious, it grows complacent at the lowest common denominator, it grows physically unhealthy, it begins not to hope or help the next generation, academics slide, culture slides, people grow fat; improvement is a foreign, frightening and threatening word.

Which got me thinking about community.  Most people who can choose their communities carefully.  It's where their family is, it's where their job is, it's where the good schools are.  As you slide up the income scale, it's where the day to day interactions are invigorating, the opportunities varied, and manners are acknowledged.

Personally, I got caught in no mans land.  I wasn't from Eldred NY (pop 1500)  I didn't really know anyone, I had nothing in common with the local community, and my life experiences, built-in ambition and eager to always improve left me nearly at polar opposites to the priorities of my community.  But I had a business niche of building and selling homes to new yorkers (who liked the ruralness and had plenty of life-blood action back in the city) that kept me there for 15 years, raging against the inanity of 'spiteing ones nose off your face on a daily basis', having my soul unwatered by a sort of community cultural or educational ambivalence, a mean-spiritedness borne of failure, or at least borne of lack of improvement.

Seriously, the mismatch was insane - you have a tireless entrepreneur building one of the most dynamic companies in the Hudson Valley- every day waking up with people to pay, problems to solve, ventures to start- juxtaposed against a spiritless ooze of rusted complacency.  It's one thing to motivate when you are motivated and inspired by those around you, it's another to motivate in a vacuum, to have to draw it all from within. 

One easy measure of what I'm talking about is our local school, pop. 400.  Eldred's schools have declined over the last decade from neat little rural school to a place that underachieves on every State metric, be it academics, athletics, preparation for college, attendance to college, culture.  My efforts and others have dumped tax revenue into this school for decade-plus and all we have to show for it is a bloated pay, benefit and retirement package for the teachers who are leaving the kids short.  It's frustrating.  It doesn't improve, in fact, it's sort of anti-improvement.  It's also very unhealthy for me - you can starve your mental well-being if you are not careful and dollars in your pocket does very little to alleviate being surrounded by blah.

That said, and I doubt I'm done with that, on a biz front, just a ton going on.

I accepted offer on these three little guys this week.  2 with multiple bids.  2 in Saugerties, 1 in Callicoon NY.

This one in Milan in NY is fully reserved.

And 4 more in Saugerties, and another in Kerhonkson, and another in Olivebridge and the phone doesn't stop ringing, though I stopped picking it up weeks ago.

I'm starting to see something very clearly in my future - a Pool.

Image result for top 5 most awesome pools

or maybe -

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