ROOTS ARISIN': Glens What? is the way most people respond to the name of my upstate New York hometown, where I ran this summer to hide from Tucson's heat.
Twenty years later, Glens Falls looked eerily the same. My next door neighbor, Mr. Bentley, now 84, whose voluptuous striped zucchinis still live in my restless summer dreams, brought me inside to show me off to his wife. I felt like a survivor of some small town secret.
On a corner near Sanford Street School, where Miss Quilty taught me to read, three kids were selling lemonade. If you got the star on the bottom of your cup, you got a free drink. I got the star.
Back in Tucson, sorely smitten, I look over Money Magazine's ranking of the 300 biggest metropolitan areas in the country. Glens Falls showed up at 296.
"We don't look at it as being at the bottom," says Jim Berg, head of the city's Chamber of Commerce. "My angle is we made the top 300."
And the ranking doesn't note the Glens Falls area lost points because they don't have a four-year college or commercial airport. All things not being equal, Berg says, "We're the lobster in with the crabs." Being in the Adirondacks he should have used a fresh water analogy, but he's so keen on the area, I can't call him on that.
Glens Falls has lost 400 jobs in the last couple of years and its population hasn't grown since the 1980s. Super K-Mart is the third biggest employer.
Number one on Money's list is Gainesville, Florida. The magazine quotes a 7-year-old at his lemonade stand: "We're earning more than $4 an hour." I'm not surprised, given his pricey 50-cent drink, twice the Glens Falls rate.
My Tucson-transplanted mother offers, "It was a good place to raise kids."
Aha. Small, safe, heavy on lakes, rivers and streams; maple leaf piles to jump in, toboggans, ice skating in Crandall Park. The kid stuff I had that I want for my kids.
"Move back there? Oh, you're making me ill," says my younger sister now planted in New York City. "The place was a dump. It would be like purgatory to move back there. Call me back when you're over this."
Could I stand the small town suffocation? A shop in Lake George Village displays a blatantly anti-gay T-shirt. Could I shovel the annual 68.3 inches of snow? I'd have to buy socks, closed shoes. "And forget about finding a decent enchilada," says sis.
Good idea. I could open a Mexican restaurant. "Click your sandals together four times and say 'snow tires' and you'll remember there's no place like home--to avoid," is how good witch sister ends our conversation.
Maybe she's right. Did I mention when I showed the Glens Falls entrepreneurs the star on my cup they were all out of lemonade?
Besides, I think I feel a fall breeze, warriors.
--By Hannah Glasston
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