These are my parents, my mother Keitha 18, my father David 20 years old. His brother Bill and her sister Toni Marie. I won’t be born for five years, yet I already know this place very well in my future dreams. The Seneca Inn. It is the restaurant my grandparents own on route 5, before the time of the great atomization, and the construction of the corporate-friendly, human-hating thoroughfare called the New York State Thruway. The bride cleaned rental cottages since she was eleven. The groom would hitchhike across town to visit with her during courtship. She liked courtship. He liked cars and duck’s asses. My grandfather offered to buy Keitha a 1963 Jaguar if she would postpone marriage and go to Cazenovia College where she was accepted earlier in the year. She would take no part in that scheme! After a frozen honeymoon in Gettysburg (the groom’s bad idea), they set up housekeeping in a rented pink trailer a few hundred yards up the road.
I have been gorging myself on their memories my whole life, yet am unable to receive any digestive satisfaction. I am not born. I am only spirit of Christmases yet to come. In this future I have lived there exists a fullness like the unknown memory I have of this restaurant, the patrons, the staff, my grandfather who died before I am born to write this… Aunts and uncles will exodus—the two in the photo would be the first in the history of the world to leave Central New York for private and economic reasons. Before that, beyond the call of war, there was only localism. It was life, c’est la vie, and you made of it what you could where you were born. Family was slow and purposeful. Children met and fell in love in high school, and were married. Each could throw a rock to the family home of the other, and monstrosities like Ted Turner hadn’t a claim to a single living room in the county.
Christmas shopping downtown at the Busy Corner and the Boston Store. Then the settling in of rock n’ roll, the village shoe store moves to the shopping center, and then to the mall. My generation born and raised without knowing the joys of liquid lunch, any sad stories of the traveling salesman, nor even the occasional solace of loneliness bolstered by the rock of community trust that welcomes all travelers back to their sense of place.
I am still a sojourner in life. I am not home even in this town where I have lived for thirty years, 75 miles from the Seneca Inn. I go back to New Hartford and Utica for a visit and wax nostalgic over a time that never was, but will come again, soon after the Industrial Revolution explodes its local Chinese and Vietnamese families into the oblivion of an improving economy. Our generation has been transitional, instructed to follow economy, to look up to it like some admired uncle, and even most diligently, to send the next generation (our children) away to the better paying jobs of our imagination. The best paying jobs will always rob your sons and daughters of a future. College became a hate crime after the existence of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. And the Seneca Inn, of all it represents to me in my mind’s nostalgic lust, died the day Ray Kroc bewitched his first customer with a milkshake machine. I know and feel, most unfortunately, that without the Seneca Inn, over half the population of my town and yours suffer some form of chronic psychosis.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the arms of that waitress serving the cookies. She knows no joy but in the here today, here tomorrow.