Getting Uppity About ‘Upstate’

Someone in an uppity mood recently posted, on a Peekskill Facebook group I belong to, that she took exception to our little corner of the cosmos being referred to as “upstate.”

She stated her case as follows (verbatim): “We are the Hudson valley! Above us is the capital district. Above that is the Adirondacks which is called the North country/ up state. To our west is CNY central New York and west of that is western NY/ Niagara region. I really wish NYC residents would get out more and learn what’s what in this state.”

I was compelled to reply thusly: “Upstate is a relative term, not a fixed location or a proper name like Hudson Valley or Capital Region [Albany area]. Upstate is ipso facto north of wherever the speaker happens to be.”

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Truth to tell, I was sort of slumming when I wrote that. I pulled it out of my hat, but it sounded plausible and logical enough. (Later, I discovered a Wikipedia entry that mostly agreed with my definition of “upstate.”)

The petulant poster replied to my clarification with a huffy, “you people need to get out more.” I found the poster’s indignation bemusing. After all, the posted article (by that prompted her rant praises Peekskill as one of “Five Arty Upstate New York Towns to Check Out.” Despite the flattery bestowed on her upstate city, she took “upstate” as a put-down aimed our way by those downstate city slickers in The Big Apple.

Judging by her ungenerous view of Gotham, my new BFF (Best Friend For-never) would be even more aghast if I told her that, given my middle-age druthers, I would live in Manhattan right now in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, I haven’t won any billion-dollar lotteries lately, which is the kind of fortune needed to afford today’s sky-high real estate on the island that once was valued at $24—in its entirety. That princely sum will pay for no more than two hours in a midtown parking garage.

If you’re headed to a Broadway show, count on spending at least $40 to park your vehicle for the duration. Having not attended one of those spectacles in a while, my wife Elyse recently suggested we take our daughter Elissa to the never-ending hit musical “Wicked.” She informed me we could get half-price tickets for $80.

I thought I heard wrong. “Didn’t you say half-price?” I replied incredulously. The exchange reminded me why we haven’t been to The Great White Way lately. One seat for $160! Does that include dinner with the cast of the show? Or at least a backstage tour of the stars’ rest rooms?

But as someone who fantasizes about a future acting career, I do get it. As I told cousins in town from Maryland, whose jaws dropped at the startling musical chops of pre-teen performers in the stage version of movie comedy, “School of Rock,” the talent you see on a Broadway stage is the best in the world. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” is more than a memorable song lyric. It’s a fact of show business.

And if you can afford a Broadway show and dinner, you can afford almost anything. Apparently, there’s no shortage of those deep pockets: the 2014-2015 Broadway season was the highest grossing in its history, with more than $1 billion in ticket sales.

Meanwhile, back upstate where we rubes reside, there’s also no shortage of theater talent if you look for it. Luckily for us, ticket prices here in the sticks are comparable to what good ol’ Peter Minuit paid to purchase that downstate 23-square-mile Island of Rock. For you trivia fans, one popular—though contested—historical theory maintains that the original name of “Manahatin” means roughly “island of intoxication.” They got that right.

Ever since I was a Long Island lad, taken in tow by my dad to his office on Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, I’ve been giddily intoxicated by the incandescence of “The City.” From the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s, I had the time of my life living the single life in a spacious one-bedroom on Second Avenue at 23rd Street. Rent: $550 a month. My sources told me the tenant who followed me in Apartment 12D reportedly was one of Andrew Cuomo’s sisters.

I long to one day, whether in this life or another, be a city boy again. For now, though, I am down with fully enjoying my New York upstate of mind.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce the Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Reach him at or 914-275-6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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