Monday, January 10, 2011

350 Years Ago...

...a bunch of Dutch, Belgian and French religious zealots...errrm...refugees...petitioned the Council of New Amsterdam for permission to build a new community across the harbor from what would later become known as Sodom-on-the-Hudson upon a swampy little island.

That little village (later known as Oude Dorp, or Old Town) was the first vestige of civilization upon this lovely little green lump that I call home. Before that, the only people to actually come here were savage Indians, and they only came to hunt, shit and bury their dead.

Times have changed.

I live in what later became Nieuwe Dorp (New Town), near the capitol (Richmond Town) of what the English renamed The Borough of Richmond, in honor of the bastard son of Charles II.

There's a lot more to this story, of course, but if I told it historians would be rolling over in their graves. Even the ones who haven't died yet.

Anyways, Staten Island: the Forgotten Borough of New York City (technically NOT true: the rest of the city remembers we're here when it comes to raising taxes and fees, of course) is gearing up for it's 350th birthday celebration. This is a huge event in these parts, on par with the landing of aliens, the return of Jesus, and perhaps the Pope revealing the Third Secret of Fatima.
And naturally, this being Staten Island and New York City, it's not surprising that when the committee charged with constructing a website that should a) give people a sense of history about the place they live in, b) let people know just what a special place it is that they live in, and c) perhaps make an attempt to draw tourists so as to take advantage of such a special event, finally gets around to doing it, they should fail so miserably.

If you visit, the official website of the Anniversary Celebration, you'll immediately be struck by the extremely amateurish nature of the site itself. I'm certain that a shitload of taxpayer and privately-raised funding went into it, and it looks as if done by a recent graduate of one of those technical schools you see advertised inside a matchbook cover. Sadly, even WikiPedia has more, and better, information.

If I were the Borough President, and I paid for this crap with taxpayer money, I'd demand that someone's hide hang on my mantelpiece. That website is about what you'd expect from any official source; poorly done, lacking in basic information, and suitable for cleaning your anal orifice.

If that doesn't turn you off, there's the 5th-grade-book-report quality of the various historical write-ups to be found there, full of the typical, sappy multi-culti pieties one would expect from someone educated in a New York City Public School; they're all pretty badly researched, full of factual errors and gaps, and were published with poor spelling and grammar still extant.

This, as I said, is par for the course: this is Staten Island, and things in these parts are either done half-assed, or full-assed, and there's no in between. Which is a crying shame.

Because this is a wonderful place. Yes, it has it's problems, like anyplace else, but it is still a wondrous thing, our little island. There's history here. There are natural wonders. There are millions of little things, that mostly go unnoticed and remarked, that make it a unique place. The rhythms of the various neighborhoods, the Ferry Culture, the last vestiges of the Old Dutch influence which linger here more than they do almost anywhere else in New York. I could sit here and tell you everything I know about this place (which is a considerable amount, in relation to what most people could), and it would still be inadequate; you have to come here and see it for yourself.

And above all, come on over and see us during this 350th Anniversary year. I promise, you'll like much of what you see, and you might even want to stay. At least come by and party with us!

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