Rearranging The Deck Chairs: My Town of Berlin, NY Is Dying

All politics are local.  Instead of watching Obama fidget and fret on the stage as he tries in vain to convince us that he cares about anything, I went to my local town of Berlin’s ‘future planning’ meeting.  This futile meeting was quite revealing because of the level of sheer insanity involved: it was as if nothing was happening.  The refusal to understand that the State of New York is going slowly bankrupt and is cutting funds to our small town plus global free trade has utterly destroyed, one by one, nearly every profitable manufacturing business in town…all of this was studiously ignored.

At first, I was going to just sit and observe but this lasted about 10 minutes before we got entangled in increasingly acrimonious contention.  To wit: the organizers of the meeting were bemoaning the loss of all our industries.  I raised my hand.  ‘Why don’t we all go to DC to complain in the House about free trade?  All our businesses and farms were ruined by imports.  We still run huge import deficits and this is bankrupting not just Berlin and New York but the USA, too.’

‘Well, you can do that.  We have other things to do,’ one of the organizers told me, frowning at my audacity.  She then began to chat about turning Berlin into a MUSEUM.  I got mad again, ‘Museums are for dead things.  We have to revive out town.’  We then discussed other manufacturing towns turned into ‘museums.’

Well, Berlin is a very unfriendly town when it comes to strangers.  This is a classic characteristic of all hoot ‘n holler mountain towns.  Some parts of my town are more like ‘Deliverance (1972)‘.    Why, when I came here, bought some land and prepared to build my house, I was greeted, on several occasions during the first three months by thugs seeking to intimidate or hurt me. I actually had to haul out one of my guns and turn my dog, Duke, loose on these guys.  One local family, I had to use the State Troopers to go after them and put them up at a state institution for the reform of the unreformable.

I thought I would fit in perfectly since I like doing rough stuff but no.  I wasn’t ‘native’ even though my family came from here, long, long ago.  The ‘old’ families in Berlin are very much like similar long-term people in other rural dead ends in America.  Irritable with strangers, sparse with the chat and suspicious.  So, at this planning meeting, they actually talked about having strangers flood into our tiny valley to view us as museum props?  HAHAHA.  Not very likely.

I lived here for 20 years, 10 of which were in a tent and not a soul here has shown even slight curiosity except for the guys with the guns who wanted to find out if l like shooting running targets.  Mainly, I was ignored most of this time and I kind of liked this.  But now, our town is DYING. Rapidly.  I hate this because this is driving up my taxes, big time.  Every time a business goes under, my taxes climb up.  So I have a vested interest in stopping this madness even if no one else has a clue.  So I raised my hand again and suggested our unfriendly town isn’t exactly prime material for attracting tourists.

So I said, ‘You all say this is a beautiful place.  It is.  We should encourage people with money to come here and build beautiful homes like my own, high up in the hills so they can enjoy the beautiful views.  This way, we can have a bigger tax base.’  Well, this revealed the true feelings in my friendly town.  Some recoiled in horror.  ‘What, bring in people from NY city?’ cried one.

‘I came from New York City, of course, who else do you want?’  I shouted back, rather irritated by  now.  ‘But we don’t want second homes here,’ protested another person, aghast.  ‘Why?’ I said heatedly, ‘They will pay taxes but won’t use our schools or demand services!  This is ideal, I would assume!’  Well, it turns out the reason why the people at this meeting were none too friendly to me in the first place was because I took the trouble to build a road up the mountainside which I own 100%, and I built the highest elevation house in the village which meant, I look ‘down’ on them, literally.  They wanted an untroubled view paid for by someone else who would humor them by not living on their own property, higher up.

Of course, many of my neighbors burn wood to heat themselves and the village below, in winter, is engulfed in billowing clouds of smoke. Especially from ‘smoker’s which are wood furnaces that are extremely filthy.  I see this toxic layer of smoke every morning, from above.  I often wonder how long it would take to either sicken or drive out everyone in the valley below.  Eventually, lung disease will do them all great harm but no one can stop this.  Even mentioning the smoke can be dangerous (see ‘Deliverance’).  The main thing is, no sane adult will buy any houses in the village below if they care about staying alive.  The smoke also smells foul and some of my neighbors burn trash wood like soiled plywood from the town dump, for example.

ICK.  Anyway, one wit at the meeting suggested the only thing our village was famous for was a propane truck losing its brakes on Plank Road and flying into the village and blowing it up.  I suggested that even if people came here for a visit, they wouldn’t spend much or any money here.  A frantic member of the public said, ‘They can come to see the fall leaves!’  And I groaned.  The fall leaves here are splendid and quite beautiful but fall is when the smoke from all the furnaces are at their worst since they run half-chocked all the time, creating thick clouds of smoke.  No one is going to come here to stroll about with a handkerchief over the nose!

Of course, suggesting our town bring in the EPA to stop these people from polluting the air is verboten.  On the other hand, being angry at outsiders coming in and building nice houses….I give up. I really think people are insane.  Now that I understood that even though I am one of the top taxpayers in my village, they really don’t like me because I built my home here, I decided to egg everyone on.  So the discussion went to another insane topic: getting money. ‘The state is going bankrupt’, I said loudly.  When Fed money was discussed, I yelled, ‘Obama just announced he is no longer increasing domestic spending.  He is increasing spending in Afghanistan!  Maybe we can move our village there!’

All previous ‘solutions’ (which didn’t work, by the way) were pawed over with me shouting out that this or that was futile or impossible due to the bad finances of our state and nation and our insane government misspending money on wars.  ‘Elaine, many industries left here are war related,’ hissed one of the organizers in exasperation.  ‘And who is paying for this?  We are!  And worse, who is lending us money for this?  China! And who is reaming us out and destroying our domestic industries?  China!’  I rebutted her.

‘We don’t want to talk about international trade, we want to save our village,’ I was told.  Well, I hate to say this, but this is like fixing the hair do and makeup on a woman who bleeding to death.  You first fix the thing that is killing you, before launching grandiose plans for the future.  Our village is rapidly dying and it isn’t the only one doing this: all villages in America that are isolated like my own, are dying from the same causes.  Berlin, when I came here in 1990, had many small farms.  All over the valley and up the mountainsides.  Today, there are virtually none left.  Including mine.

My sheep in 1993, sold at $250 per head.  By 2000, it dropped to under $50 per head.  I made no profit, the costs of winter feed finished me off.  All the dairy farms, every one of them, vanished.  The forces hammering us are hammering all villages which look like Berlin, NY. We are not a singular case, in England, all small villages are dying and their only hope is to become a museum or a vacation home for Londoners and foreign tourists.  Only, few American villages are picturesque  like the primeval English examples.  Besides this, previous attempts at turning a town into a tourist trap usually ends very badly.   Many places finally just give up and turn themselves into miniature Atlantic Cities or Las Vegas: high crime, a blight on the economic landscape and the people who live nearby end up on drugs, bankrupt gambling addicts or in prostitution.  Not a place to raise children.

In despair, I mentioned to the committee that they should petition DC to recognize our contribution to cleaning up CO2 thanks to our vast forests here including the stand on my own mountain.  I suggested we all go to DC and demand the government pay us for keeping our forests and thus, saving all humanity.  Of course, no one really takes this CO2 stuff seriously and as I expected, the people at the meeting could barely figure out what I was talking about.  When I mentioned the Copenhagen meetings, they were mostly puzzled as if I was reporting information from the Andromeda galaxy.

As I suspected, the hysteria about global warming is skin deep.  If that.  People in warm places are having fun in the sun and the villagers in Berlin, meeting in deep cold, were unaware of this whole business about carbon trading even though our extensive forests will be used for this purpose.  As the farms vanish, the forests grow.  I see many fields that once had milk cows now covered by saplings as there is no profit in even haying them and selling the bales of hay, anymore.  This futile meeting that is planning to have no more industry and no more farming, closed with the organizers telling us how the process will work. Now get this: we are in a crisis.  Our whole nation is going under and at every level, everyone is looking down the pits of hell here, there, everywhere.

So….there will be a second meeting to hammer out the details about how to turn our poor, alienated, rough, smokey village into a museum and of course, this won’t happen for three months.  Then, another hearing which takes three months and then the final report…after October!!!!  I said, at this point, ‘My ox team could walk faster than this!  Our town is small.  We have only a few people. We could do all of this on three weeks!  This should be done by June, at the latest.’  Well, that got shot down.  Heh.  No, the slumbering residents of the village will stumble uselessly about and issue a useless report in the future and it will be filled with wishful thinking that has no basis in reality and no possible way of happening.  And no one will go to DC to yell at our rulers about the destruction of free trade and how it must stop.

On the other hand, maybe people will get desperate and do this, in the end.  I stand ready to go and hope someone does so, too.  One person mentioned the Tea Party people and thought maybe I was right.  ‘They got what they wanted (a cut in domestic spending0’ he said, a lightbulb flashing in the head.  DUH.  The Tea Party was just as insane as my village.  That is, they want the past to return, via magic.  They want to have their cake (cheap imported goods) and eat it too (rising incomes).  Well, this ain’t going to happen. Our treasonous President, Obama, like his treasonous predecessors, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, is promising us JOBS.  There are no ‘jobs’ in the future if we continue to spend on wars while going into debt in trade.  There is no future, for that matter.  No one is going to rescue us, either.

One person at this meeting complained about the poor quality of Chinese imports.  I said, ‘We let them export junk to our nation and we buy it.  Why do they have to be nice about this?  They don’t care!  If we care, we can keep it all out, not passively let it in.’  Well, Americans have no idea, what to do.  Mention ‘tariffs’ and it is like talking about selling heroin.  One man, out in the parking lot, after the meeting, groused about how he was unable to tell the truth.  ‘Hell, if we just demand they legalize pot, we could use the abandoned Seagrotte greenhouses to make millions of dollars, growing pot!’  Heh.  True, very true.  We should ask the Afghanis how to do this, their opium and pot business took off after the US invaded.  Maybe we should imitate ‘The Mouse That Roared (1959)‘ and send a delegation to DC to tell Congress, our town is declaring war on them.  Then, the government will spend $14 billion on training cops here.  We have no cops, after all.

We could even imitate the Taliban in other ways, and maybe then, get the money we are being charged with, in the first place.  This may be the only way to get our government to spend a trillion, here at home, not abroad.  Maybe we could start a gnome hunting preserve, too.  Heh.  Invite Geithner to come visit during hunting season.  Anyway, the despair I feel about our village is now overflowing.  And the blissful unawareness here is sad to see.  Our tiny mouse of a town has to scare the giant elephant in DC if we want to survive.  This is life and death, everyone.  And I do mean, all the villages in America (90% of which vote GOP, very foolishly).  Remember: the city slickers in DC of both parties are screwing you guys.  This is why ALL villages in  America are dying.  We have to figure this out, someday.

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Filed under Free Trade, Politics

40 responses to “Rearranging The Deck Chairs: My Town of Berlin, NY Is Dying

  1. PFO

    Hello Elaine,

    Out here on the Northrim of the WAMU Crater, our town of Ever wett used to be a Mill Town too, with blue collar jobs that made the best lumber in the world, all gone by the 1970’s!

    Gotta do sumtin, so the ‘local leaders’ thought up the idea of transforming the waterfront into a Navy Base and after a decade of wrangling the USS Lincoln pulled in and happy days were here again!

    Except Boeing finally got tired of everyone in their pocket and decided to build 787’s in South Carolina too. So no matter where you go, there you are.

    Sooner or later Americans will return to the normal life of ‘A World Made by Hand’ as James Howard Kunsler has titled his latest work.

    That return can be expedited by removing ourselves from the federal plantation, returning to our traditional state citizenship and let those who can’t take care of themselves remain US slaves:


  2. melponeme_k

    Deliverance has to be one of the most terrifying films I ever watched.

    I come from Alaska and many areas are like that film. I’ve also been through remote parts of New York, Vermont, New Mexico, Colorado and various Southern states that look like it as well. There is a lot of poverty in this country. A lot of citizens just being written off because they can no longer pay to keep the overlords in eiderdown.

    I never thought that I would live to see all of this…and I’m in shock. I don’t count myself as an above average person on the intelligence scale. But I don’t like to fool myself about problems right in front of my face either. All around I see a lot of people closing their eyes and its scary.

    Everyone is clinging to this dream of Obama that is now quite obvious never existed in reality.

    I hope your town pulls through, I hope we all do.

  3. Hennes

    Hi Elaine,

    I love the idea of a gnome hunting preserve and the one about using the greenhouses to
    grow weed,but could imagine small legal
    problems.Maybe the plan about a museum is
    worth a second look. Where I live now they have an open air museum dedicated to pre-
    industrial handicraft workshops(google
    Freilichtmuseum Hagen)where you can watch
    and learn old techniques.As it is unique in
    Europe, I would be surprised if there are many similar museums in NY state.Maybe I
    misunderstood the museum-plan,but check it
    out for yourself if this could be a solution for
    Berlin,NY(they even have an english page).
    If you have any questions,I‘d be happy to help.

  4. Frozentundra

    Well, nobody can accuse you of courting local popularity.

  5. emsnews

    I learned long, long ago popularity doesn’t translate into change and action. Every neighborhood I haunt has the same problem with me: I roar along, shifting everything like crazy and then things get much, much better (especially crime problems) and then I leave and everyone wonders why change ceases to happen!


    Museum idea: I used to get the media to come to my mountain when I lived in a tent to talk to Chip and Dale, my huge ox team. I lived a totally off the grid Victorian lifestyle and old, old farmers would stop by to tell me how to do things the old way. THEY ARE NOW ALL DEAD.

    The number of people in Berlin who know how to drive an ox team is now exactly 2: my husband and I now that my son is gone.

    The townsfolk lost most of their old skills and have been decultured greatly. Most of them don’t even know how to grow a garden! The weaving skills, for example, is kept alive here by an immigrant from Holland. Not the ‘natives’. The debasing of the natives here over the last 50 years is nearly complete now. I bet there is less than 5 people here who know how to milk goats, sheep or cows (I being one of these people who knows how).

    Maybe I should be a museum. ‘The last irritating American frontiers woman’ or maybe Annie Oakley.

  6. Hennes

    You sounded so frustrated that I posted the first thing that came to mind.Personally I
    would rather go on a gnome hunting safari,as
    that idea really has potential to be fun as well
    as positive to society in general.


    ELAINE: When we go hunting here, we never come home empty handed. 🙂

  7. larry, dfh

    Back in the hitch-hiking days, I was cautioned not to get stuck in rural New York. A friend from Texas told me after he moved to Rochester: there are more stars’n’bars in the Southern Tier than there are in Texas! And yes, growing pot crossed my mind more than once reading your article. It’s not like it isn’t done outdoors all over your area. Also, a Brothel Museum might be nice; certainly a money-maker.
    But it is sad, really sad. In some areas a barter-type economy takes hold, where your sheep might be worthless on the market, but their wool might get your fields plowed, etc.

  8. charlottemom

    NC has many areas like Berlin. These areas are populated with fiesty and surly clanish scot-irish bunch. I often think that if they knew who to train their sights on (and why), they would be effective demonstrators and activists. Alas they are mostly uneducated. Their fighting always end up as self-defeating “punching pillows” exercises.

    They are stubbornly distrustful of new ideas and new people. I always chuckle when I hear urbanites flirting with the idea of escaping city troubles and moving to the safety of a fortified mountain outpost. We “city slickers” would be sitting ducks in that environment.

    Elaine, do you ever feel your safety in threatened?


    ELAINE: When I was pushing around people in NYC many years ago, there were several assassination attempts on me. At one point, the FBI had my house under watch not to watch me but to stop assassins. I had bullet proof lower story windows. But after I beat a big wharf rat to death in the street while being watched by a large crowd, everyone backed off. Also, one of the politicians who hired a hit man was put in Federal Prison for many years. That gave all the other guys cold, cold feet. I always show up in court to testify and I go after anyone who annoys me too much.

    Here in Berlin, the few violent attacks were dealt with by contacting the State Troopers and myself being armed. Our town has to figure out who the real dangers are coming from and it ain’t me. But rather than shift gears to stay alive, they are going ‘turtle’ while dreaming about becoming a tourist down. Talk about schizoid.

    If they imagine we can just sail through this mess and remain a village and not a ghost town, that is crazy as hell. But as I watch one house after another being abandoned (ONLY IN TOWN, not the better houses in the hills!) I see ‘ghost town’ written large here. Arizona is dotted with ghost towns. They don’t become tourist traps until the natives depart. When the natives remain, they are a pain in the ass for anyone trying to bring in tourists. This is the sad truth about ‘museum towns’: they have to be totally empty, first, in order to be changed into a museum.

  9. PLovering

    @Hennes, “Personally I would rather go on a gnome hunting safari, as that idea really has potential to be fun as well as positive to society in general.”

    Gnome hunting safari is certainly pregnant with possibilities.

    Question: The Lizard Central Bankers are pimping Germany like a $5 whore. When are Germans gonna say “enough already” and return to sanity and national sovereignty?

  10. WNC Observer

    The problem of so many small towns like Berlin is that they don’t have one or more substantial institutions, like a small college or something, to anchor their local economy. These institutions tend to have more staying power and are less subject to cyclical swings in the economy; they are also far less vulnerable to foreign competition. I would go so far as to say that whether or not a small town has a college or other substantial institution will pretty much determine whether or not it is going to be a “winner” or a “loser” in this evolving, declining economy.

    As an added bonus, such institutions tend to have a fair number of highly educated outsiders on their staff. This means that if an “outsider” like yourself, Elaine, moves into town, you aren’t quite so much of a novelty; the locals are more used to outsiders being around, and will take less exception to you. Furthermore, if you have trouble striking up friendly relations with the locals, at least you’ll be able to find other outsiders around, birds of a feather with which you can flock together.

    I don’t know what advice I can give to communities like Berlin that lack such an institution. Most “museums” in small towns end up being little more than updated equivalents of what in my childhood used to be called “tourist traps”. If oil supplies start to decline, there won’t be all that many tourists driving around, so that is unlikely to be a good strategy.


    ELAINE: From 1820-2000, Berlin had a number of profitable industries. Now it is down to about one. It was a main hub in the Albany-Mass. turnpike traffic, my own home was right on this major highway and ‘Plank Road’ was one of the first ‘paved roads’ in America to assist in this traffic. Then, when the US completed all the free trade rounds, all our farms and industries VANISHED in less than 20 years!!!! This is just disgusting.

  11. the fool on the hill

    Anyone that messes with Elaine will get their ass kicked. If she’s not afraid of the CIA I know she is not afraid of some yokels in her home town.

    Anyway, I did watch Bozo the Clown’s speech.

    It sounded like a smoke and mirrors act to me. He touched on a few populist things but of course there was absolutely no mention of the trade deficit.

    The Congress stood up and clapped like a bunch of stupid seals when Bozo announced there would be no spending on social services a year from now but the war in Afghanistan will go chugging merrily along.

  12. WNC Observer

    To elaborate on my previous post, an example from my own community in the Swannanoa Valley of Western NC. We have here:

    Two private colleges: Montreat & Warren Wilson (WWC also has substantial student-run farming operations, meaning that we have a substantial swath of institutionally-owned farmland right in the middle of the valley that won’t be sold off to developers)

    Five large and several smaller camp and conference centers, mostly denominationally owned.

    A fairly large state-operated long-term care facilty for the developmentally disabled, and a smaller one that is private, denominationally affiliated.

    Two state correctional facilities, one for women and one for juveniles.

    One large continuing care retirement community.

    A variety of miscellaneous small offices and centers, some religious and some secular (including Outward Bound), along with the usual assortment of public schools, municipal governments, churches, etc.

    Add to this a very large percentage (about twice the national average) of retirees living here, with a fixed and stable source of income that is not going to fluxuate with the economy or go away because of foreign competition.

    All that explains why the Swannanoa Valley, unline the Berlin community, is not dying, but holding up OK. We have lost manufacturing, too, but it has not been the body blow to us that it has been to your area. We have tons of people making and selling handcrafted items, so we still have manufacturing here, it has just become much smaller scale and low-tech. We get lots of tourism here, too, even though we don’t have any museums to amount to anything. A lot of them do come to shop for and buy the locally produced handcrafts; that seems to me to be a more solid long-term base for our local economy.

    I don’t know how you even begin to replicate this in your area, what I have described has evolved over 120 years. People started coming up here to the mountains when the railroad went in, and they have been coming ever since. That is why I, even though an “outsider”, fit in just fine: most of the people here are either “outsiders” or descended from them.

    I guess the take away here for people is: choose your turf carefully. There are some places that are good choices, and some that are not. It is a lot easier to build on a good pre-existing base than it is to build from scratch.

  13. emsnews

    Nearly everything you describe, WNC Observer, are things that DRAIN WEALTH from the overall system. That is, these are not wealth producing manufacturing/export stuff but SERVICES.

    A prison is a huge financial loss on the entire state, even as it gives ‘jobs’ to the guards, etc. Homes for the elderly and sick are LOSSES not PROFITS. These things suck money out of the public realm via taxes on anyone who is productive.

    This is exactly why the US is going bankrupt.

  14. Hennes


    answer: probably never!


    We seem to be talking about different concepts.
    The open air museum I mentioned in the
    comment above consists of workshops,mills
    and other manufacturing places that were
    originally all over the country.Sometimes
    abandoned,sometimes used for other
    purposes.These buildings were taken apart
    bit by bit ,transported here and reconstructed
    as new.In a valley that was empty before.
    There these assembled buildings form the open air museum. They all function,and the
    products made there are for sale.
    The town doesn‘t need to become a ghost town first but could profit from the tourists
    thru cafes and restaurants.

  15. CK

    And thus is shown the virtue of democracy.
    The useless feed off the useful.
    The useless always outnumber the useful.
    So go on EMS. Tell us again how ALL TAXATION IS GOOD. Now that you are the largest taxpayer in your community how does it feel to be the parasite’s lunch box?
    Still love that old democracy thing?
    Berlin NY looks like a good location for a meth op. No Cops, buyable Smokies, and close enough to the few remaining productive places in NY and Wall Street.
    Hey maybe you will get your wished for Health Insurance Company Aggrandizement Act. I doubt any Insurance companies will set up headquarters there, just collect premiums and refuse treatments as necessary.

  16. Jeremy/Nashville

    Elaine, there is a small town back home that tried the “let’s bring in tourists” thing, trying to fill the old downtown with quaint shops and cafes. This was back in the mid-late 90s. Today, the town is dead. Every cafe that opens only lasts for 6 months. The shops close…or only lasts for 6 months…..and the tourists stopped coming in years ago. It’s a shame. It’s now an old town that is in disrepair.

  17. payAttention

    Supposedly you have interesting and productive skills. However, you have rejected the society of man and guaranteed failure for yourself. Young people are eager for anything that lets them be self sustaining, farming especially. I know several people who worked at a local produce/organic store that followed the organic farming path. There are very few places that can teach those skills while providing the young people with some basic shelter. These are not the crybabies that you mock, in order to make yourself look tough. These are diligent and level headed people who exchanged their labor for an opportunity to learn. You could have a working farm selling organic produce/dairy for premium prices, even meats, that serves as a teaching farm at the same time. You could even run these courses for pay, and advertise at the many sites geared to survivalism/back to nature. If these people learn the skills that you supposedly have, they can cluster around you and people might actually want to come to your town to get fresh produce, meat, dairy, sweetmeats.. Or you can actually have your own division of labor and send the affable ones, those would be the opposite of you, to sell stuff to the wealthier communities around you. Instead you want to talk all about not being able to compete with giant agro-business, since you are fond of the obvious. Of course it is more fun to put down your neighbors for being stupid and harpie on from your eagle’s eyrie, since you reject the society of man. You really think that the villagers are going to like you after you built that eagle’s eyrie to sit on top of them to remind them that you are better than them? Dream on.

  18. emsnews

    Pay Attention, you are talking about ‘tourist farming’. Yes, I could do that but again, it is not the problem. We lost nearly ALL our farms and if ALL of them did the tourist thing, they would still mostly die. One nearby farm tried the ‘tourist’ farming route and ended up getting sued (yes, this is a sue-happy world we live in). No more tourist farm.

  19. payAttention

    That is too bad that they closed. The idea is correct, to bring in city money onto your farm, since that is something agro-business can not do. Why would anyone sue a farm for bringing in hands to work?

  20. John

    A gnome hunting preserve! Now there’s an idea!!

  21. Shockuhzulu

    Talk about ghost towns, Tombstone is about 20 miles from where I live. Berlin’s problem is it didn’t have enough famous outlaws in its’ heyday. If it had, you could line the main street with small shops that all sell the same cheap tourist trinkets (trinkets made in China, of course). It might also help to have a movie made about your little town. Maybe call it “The crazy lady on the hill.”

  22. emsnews

    Yes, more gun fights! I got it. Heh. Maybe we could move in some Taliban to show us how this works…

  23. JSmith

    “Some parts of my town are more like ‘Deliverance (1972)‘. ”

    After that movie came out, no urban white guys went camping for the next 15 years.

    Y’know… this is tough to say since you have so much invested there… but the time has passed for Berlin and a great many towns like it.

    As you so clearly described, places like Berlin just don’t have a lot going on: the people are unfriendly, the remaining industries are smokestack, and there’s nothing to do. Why am I going to go there? Or stay there, if I’m a young person who didn’t get married or knocked up before I turned 20?

    (Some smaller towns do the tourist thing pretty well – Bardstown KY has a Bourbon Festival in September that draws big crowds for a week. But Bardstown is in the middle of distillery country so they have that going for them.)

    There are a couple of trends, one old, one new, that are working against places like Berlin. First: a popular song of the 1920s was called How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?). The fact that some places are more interesting than others has been working against rural America for almost a century now, and the process accelerated after WW II. The interstate highway system, for example, destroyed any number of little burgs that were strung out on highways like Route 66.

    (Kerouac and his buddies detested freeways but I don’t mind ’em, myself – hit the ramp, run it up to 70, set the cruise control, put on some driving music, and wake my wife when we get there. What’s to not like?)

    Second, that rural-to-urban trend is worldwide. Sometime in the middle of 2009, more people were living in cities than in the countryside; this is the first time in human history this has happened.

    So I’m sorry to be so realistic, but realistically… sometime in the next 20-30 years the last Berliner will move away or die and that will close the books. And you’ll still live in beautiful surroundings, but you’ll have a longer hike to the grocery and the post office.

  24. JSmith

    One further thought… that article above made me think of William F. Buckley, jr., “…standing athwart history, yelling Stop…”.

  25. emsnews

    Smith, if you read me carefully, you will notice I talk about global urbanization all the time. I even note that it is greatest in balmy, summery places next to oceans. So everyone migrates there and then whines about global warming and rising oceans. Sheesh.

  26. JSmith

    “I talk about global urbanization all the time.”

    Indeed. Which is why the slow going-away of villages like Berlin isn’t surprising: it’s part of a larger trend.

  27. Down here in Louisiana, my partner and I drove to Bogalousa, LA twice to look at two houses advertised cheap. many parts of the town, even though it had a running paper mill, appeared desolate. And the African-American section looked like Detroit! So I figured, we might as well stay in New Orleans. Besides, the homophobia outside the city is rampant, thanks in no small part to the end-timers who think that Jesus will send all us queers to Hell!

  28. emsnews

    Correct, Ed. They would rather fester away as things collapse rather than embrace ‘alien’ cultures that may save them. This glum attitude is sad and yet rather amusing. I wonder about it. I know people suffering from these phobias are not happy.

    Oh well. Happiness is what you want it to be.

  29. norcalkid

    Gee, I guess I am lucky, sorta. Rather than dying, the local small towns are holding their own (in spite of the town councils). I would say our advantage is being at the far north end of the Wine Country, and having never had any industry. (It is also part of the greater north coast pot growing region…)

    It has always been an agricultural region, and there is now a co-op promoting growing food locally. When TSHTF, we do have the potential to be nearly self-sufficient.

    There never has been much for the 20-35 age group here; they often leave, if they can. We have a large senior/retiree population, because the area is less expensive than most in California. I have no idea what will happen when Social Security/SSI completely unravels. Things will get interesting.

  30. emsnews

    My town produced things which we EXPORTED. We were destroyed. Small towns ‘holding their own’ are not the problem. It is the death of the small towns that made the trade deficit better for us! We threw away (they did NOT move to another American community, they DIED) profitable export industries.

  31. @norcalkid,

    You’re lucky in that you’re in the pot-growing region of northern California: part of ‘blue’ California and reasonably, if not very, gay-friendly. But go further inland and y’alls might as well be in southwest Virginia or rural Alabama. but I’m sure those kinds of places will change as people get tired of worshipping Death Gods.

  32. boy, does this sound familiar

    They’re happy to take your money but don’t want any “interference.”

    All small towns are alike. The local swells sold out to behemoths who then shut down the local mfg. operations and moved jobs offshore. Or – the local mfg. co. filed for bankruptcy and the proprietors walked away, and you (via the feds or the state) get stuck with the decaying building(s), cleaning up the environmental contamination – no liable party if the company is bankrupt – and devising a plan to “revitalize” the un-revitalize-able.

    Eventually, some bigger shot will come along and steal anything worth having for pennies on the dollar and offer minimum wage part time seasonal jobs to a few.

  33. emsnews

    True, Facti (by the way, Fluff is doing well, even though he is now very old).

    Our town will continue to die until it is closer to ‘ghost town’ status and then will be recolonized by ‘despised’ groups who will rebuild it. I hope.

    Or it can become a true ghost town. I have seen this happen all over the place, too.

  34. DRight

    Elaine, I think you might have hit the nail on the head. Why did people from Afghanistan and Pakistan fly planes into the WTC? We abandoned them after the cold war and they needed to make a living. What better way, they had a local town hall meeting and decided much like some of your folks did that they should attack the United States. And the solution is: We are spending billions of dollars again in Afghanistan and Pakistan helping them fight against themselves, quite unsuccessfully I might add.

  35. emsnews

    Not one person from Afghanistan, Pakistan nor Iraq were on any of the planes. The hijackers were all Saudi, Yemeni, Egyptians who met in Germany except for two of them who went to Afghanistan briefly.

  36. tlcs10

    My husband and I purchased our first home here in Berlin nearly two years ago. We were so excited. While searching for a home I fell in love with the views and the idea of country living, we had never experienced. We are good people, hard working and family focused. After living here for two years we need to leave this town. Our children deserve better then what Berlin can offer. There are no opportunities here. This is not a great town to raise children in. Our high school is more concerned about drop outs then college applications. What happened to goals?

  37. emsnews

    The above comment is typical of people who do come to our little town. There is no welcome carpet thrown out to embrace new people. Instead, it is a chilly reception at best.

    And yes, the schools are key which is why I pay so much in school taxes and we are very unhappy with how things are evolving here.

  38. tlcs10

    I feel so sorry for family’s that don’t have options. Nearly 12% of our population is below the poverty line. The “Berliners” that have been here forever will always just be here. They don’t see potential or an opportunity to grow. There are so many homes for sale. I believe on our street alone nearly 6 single family homes. The property prices out here are so low. Lets welcome new home owners, then maybe our little town won’t die.

  39. ladytigger54

    Maybe if you got rid of WJ Cowee and brought in some new company or maybe two hey what a thought, then there would be something to save in your community. When I lived there I couldn’t wait to leave that little Payton Place. I hope you can restore what used to be a pretty little town. Work on getting more people there by industry not tourism. Look what tourism did to Bennington VT, even as big as it is , the place is dieing. Same thing happening here in Michigan where I live. Its a big place but dieing because of industry leaving the US. We have to all get together as a nation and fight to keep our industry in the US not out of the US. We need to close our borders and buy only Made in America. It will be an uphill battle but one we can win if everyone sticks together. We can take out made in china Wally World and that would be the biggest part. I am willing to fight this fight, will you join in?

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