I know I tend to run on a bit about how much I love my newly-adopted city. Ithaca is a good fit for someone like me – it manages to pull off a friendly small-town homey feel with walk-the-walk social consciousness and an unabashedly intellectual core. But the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve come to realize it’s even more complicated than that. Layers upon layers. For instance, you’ve all heard me rave about the abundant natural beauty we’ve got going on:
But then we also have this:
This is the long-defunct Ithaca Gun Company factory. It was empty for years before being condemned in 2006, and after long discussions of how to deal with all the toxic chemicals it’s been leeching into the ground and river, demolition finally began last month.
My friend Justin Souza, one of the Poets Upstairs, has written a poem about the dual nature of our fair city. It’s called “Scenes from Other Summers,” and it was published this month in Oak Bend Review. Here’s how it starts:
When snow slides away into summer
and the buds swell and pop, Ithaca
is every world in bloom. Nebulas
of cottonwood pollen in the breeze,
with errant petals and lightning
The hill is dotted with smokestacks
and sunlight. Gorges
of clear runoff, swimmers
in bright suits here and there in the curves.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the old “Ithaca is Gorges” tourist t-shirts and bumper stickers. There are a few tongue-in-cheek variants to be spotted around town, such as “Ithaca is Cold” (true!) and “Ithaca is Gangsta” (so totally not true!). My favorite, though, is “Ithaca is Weird.” It’s SO true. I mean, Ithaca is a town that churns out Cornell-degreed lawyers and MBAs and Ithaca College-educated actors, dancers and designers alongside homegrown hippies and organic farmers. Indie craft stores thrive alongside Starbucks and Target. This sweet, flower-powered, funky little college town was built on guns.
I think Justin’s poem uses the symbol of the gun factory to great effect to illustrate a few of the dichotomies that keep Ithaca weird.
* A note on the photos: I didn’t take ’em. Click on them to see the source. The gun factory one is part of a great set of photos – I recommend it especially.
Ooh! You guys! Julie Larios is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday round-up at her beautiful blog, The Drift Record. Julie’s quite the poet herself, you know. What am I saying? Of course you know! You’re poetry people! So go check it out!