I'm about to get parochial.
Watching Google Trends today, I caught up to Money's Best Places to Live 2009 list, which I hesitate to acknowledge with a link.
First of all, it's all over the map, and I don't mean the map of great places to live. The criteria is wacko: It features "America's best small towns," supposedly (Pop. 8,500 - 50,000) but also includes cities above 90,000. (Why exclude cities of 51,000 - 89,000 if you're including the big guys? There's no apparent explanation.)
But the thing that irks me is this: My home is apparently as barren a Delaware and bleak as South Dakota.
Sorry, Delaware. Sorry, South Dakota - I realize you're probably smarting from the snub, too (as are Alaska, Arizona (Flagstaff!?), the District of Columbia (sorry Founding Fathers), Hawaii (Big Island?!), Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee (Nashville?!), Vermont (Burlington?!), West Virginia and Wyoming).
Seriously? Nothing in all of New York? Fifty-four thousand-plus square miles of wasteland devoid of human worth. (State Song: Taps. State bird: Passenger Pigeon. State fruit: Bitter.)
First off, New York City somehow was overlooked by those compiling the Top 100 Places to Live list. It is the most populous U.S. city, suggesting that roughly 9 million people think otherwise. And it is still the capital of the world, in the estimation of a healthy chunk of world travelers, which would seem to make it worthy of listing. Apparently not.
But wait, there's more: Not one town in New York State is among the top 100 places to live. And not one Hudson Valley town is even a contender. I just finished hosting some friends in the Hudson Valley, where I was born and where I have remained most of my life. Our consensus: A weekend isn't enough time to even start to experience a place so rich in history, culture and natural beauty.
The Hudson River is stunningly beautiful. If the continent had been colonized from West to East, it would be a national park, from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondacks to the tip of Manhattan. That beautiful.
We started the weekend with an unexpected view from the Poughkeepsie train station of the Sloop Clearwater, then spent the following days hiking riverside trails preserved by Scenic Hudson, picking our way through farmers' markets overflowing with local produce, taking in the world-class view from America's oldest vineyard, viewing the sunset from the grounds of the Vanderbilt mansion, touring the awe-inspiring Storm King Sculpture Park and then wining, dining and shopping our way through Beacon ... All accessible after a 90-minute train ride from Manhattan.
I thought I understood why some of my favorite Hudson Valley places didn't make even the list of also-rans: New Paltz, Rhinebeck and Kingston all seem to be too small. But wait, somehow Arlington -- referring not to a city, but to a school district (my alma mater) or possibly a tiny sliver of a neighborhood in Poughkeepsie -- bizarrely makes Money's list of places (if not the Top 100). Arlington is fine. Vassar College is there, and there's a great Vietnamese restaurant. The school district is among the better districts (though not generally considered the best) and you can access all the goodies I mentioned above (as well as the many more we didn't have time to see.)So if Arlington -- too small as a slice of Poughkeepsie, too diffuse as a school district -- can somehow be shaped to appear on Money's list of places worth pitching a tent (if not one of the 100 best), then New Paltz, Beacon (which meets all stated population criteria, and has a world-renowned sculpture museum, Mount Beacon and the Sloop Woody Guthrie to boot), Kingston, Rhinebeck and a dozen other places could squeeze into the list, given their assets. (Not for nothing, 2009 is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage, making this a nice year to recognize a region with more than a little to offer.)
Ok, here's what really gets me. Six of the best places to live in America are in Connecticut? Bumpy, rectangular, rich-as-duck liver pâté Connecticut? And nothing in New York, from the mighty Adirondacks to the Hudson Valley, to the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes to Manhattan island? (Massachusetts and Texas eke out six apiece, too.)
Either I'm the Hudson Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Bureau rolled into one, or Money missed the boat.
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