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Please Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

by John Rodat on April 27, 2011

Welcome to our city! Whether you’re a visitor, a recent transplant or a current resident eager to learn more about what “The Little City With the Big Heart Logo Painted on the Trestle” (love those Wilson sisters!)  has to offer, we hope you will find this Neighborhood Guide helpful! As you will see, our hometown may be small in size, population, industry, average skull circumference, social services and size but we’re big, big, BIG on personality!

The Neighborhoods

The Neck-Tattoo District

Bounded by City Hall, the dollar store that used to be Pizza Hut, the Tire Pile and the river.

In a listicle published by Skin Art magazine, this neighborhood was pronounced the eighth-most neck tattooed neighborhood on the East Coast! Pretty impressive—especially considering the magazine counted both state and federal correctional facilities as “neighborhoods.” It’s an unofficial announcement of spring each year when the scarves come off: as the city heats up, the district is a riot of color! And sometimes a riot.

The Black-Light District

Bounded by the community college, 19th street, the bowling alley and the “Flah’s: Coming Soon” sign

Many small, morally upright, working-class cities have racy elements in their histories: Colorful accounts of famous underworld figures of yore drinking in illicit saloons with flamboyant madams have become a kind of cottage industry. And we’re proud to say, we don’t have that. Historians provide differing accounts—citing unusually high civic rectitude or unusually low physical attractiveness—as to why that trade thrived in adjacent communities. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our wild side!  Every weekend, the concentration of community-college students in the Gaye Terrace Apartments transforms the intersection of Hyde Avenue and 19th Street into a totally free, totally unofficial and, we think, therefore legally defensible Pink Floyd and/or Bob Marley light show! Remember, it’s free. Don’t pay anything for it. If the Marley people hear about this, it could be trouble. And don’t buy anymore beer for those kids, OK?

The Nylon-Flag District

South of Enter at Your Own Risk Park

In this idyllic suburban neighborhood, you can set your calendar by the colorful flags adorning the front porches of tidy bungalows! Oh, a smiling rabbit on a field of lavender! Easter’s coming! Hey, leaping reindeer! Do I hear jingling bells? And a bright and beautiful rainbow! Well, that’s actually our deputy mayor’s house; and it’s up year-round. We think it’s got something to do with The Wizard of Oz.

The Charity Road Race District

Downtown, between police headquarters, the burn patch, the river and Bob’s Make-Me-An-Offer

Don’t let the motto mislead you, we’re not only the town with a “big Heart logo,” but a town with a big normal heart. But metaphorically. (Those reports about enlarged hearts were a cruel prank generated by some of the community-college kids after the NIH Skull Circumference debacle.) We’re a caring community. Which is why, most days of most weeks this eight-block area is completely impassable to vehicular traffic due to one of a dozen or more fundraising runs: “The Irritable Bowel Synd-run,” “The Rapture Preparedness Fun Run,” “The Running of the Pit Bulls.” Visitors would be advised to pick up route maps at city hall, where they may also view the gallery of highlights from past events: Remember the “Y25k”?

The Transplanted Entrepreneur District

From Spool Avenue to the trestle, east of the old foosball factory

This former industrial area has in recent years become a haven for our town’s “creative class”—and every year seems to bring more ambitious artist/entrepreneurs to replace the departing ones.  Be sure to stop in at both CoZ, purveyors of 100 percent organic, hand-woven appliance cozies, recently relocated from Coxsackie, and Has Beans Cafe (in the old Coffeeteria building). And, of course—he’d kill me if I didn’t remind you—our own deputy mayor’s architectural salvage/curio shop/karaoke bar, Oz and Ends, is a perennial fave!