What It's Like When You're From the Catskills

  Noah Kalina

 Noah Kalina

What It’s Like When You’re from the Catskills

I grew up in the Catskill Mountains. The Mountains. The Borscht Belt. The Country. The Boondocks. What have you. When meeting people over the years, the reactions have varied:

2017 at a bar in Bushwick

Some hipster girl

Where are you from?

Me

The Catskills.

Some hipster girl

That’s so cool. The Catskills are so cool. Your parents must be really into nature and stuff?

Me

No, they just like to isolate. We don’t even have a garden.

2003 at Tyler Hill Camp

Cool 11-year-old boy

Where are you from?

Me

Near Monticello.

Cool 11-year-old boy

Oh, by all the cows? She’s a hick! Jill’s a hick!

(Nudges another boy and starts laughing)

Me

*11-year-old Jillian walks away and dreams of one day living in the Five Towns* 

2009 at George Washington University

Some dude at the club

Where are you from?

Me

The Catskills. In Upstate New York.

Some dude at the club

Oh, like near Albany?

Me

Sort of, like, two hours northwest of the city. Have you ever been to Woodbury Commons?

Some dude at the club

Oh yeah, my mom loves that place!

Me

(to self)

Another Jewish dude who is obsessed with his mother and neglected by his father. Sign me up! (For therapy).

As you can see, depending on the time and place, I’ve either been designated a trailblazer, a hillbilly, or a long-winded geography freak. My parents moved up here in the late 1980s when the area couldn’t be more economically devitalized, yet more ripe for progress. My dad, a sensitive, intellectual Brooklynite, grew up with a glamorous, sulky mother and a fabric-store-owner father, who, when he wasn’t working, was sucking on a cigar, playing cards, and painting. My mom, a sweet balaboosta with the world's most giving soul, is the product of a salt-of-the-earth father who loved baseball and gin and tonics and a wildfire of a mother with whom I share many Gemini traits. Both of my parents spent their summers, like most New York Jews, coming to the Mountains with their parents and siblings to stay in the area's many bungalow colonies, hotels, and sleep away camps. My maternal grandma still goes to a bungalow colony every summer! The 'rents decided to move up here for good around the time I was born, joining my two sisters in the world as the sole "hick" of the family (seriously, my oldest sister taunted me for weeks when I lost my two front teeth at age 5). I've never been anywhere like it. And by it, I mean Sullivan County, specifically. From the diverse demographic (think every ethnicity and socio-economic background possible- which is surprising for a rural area) to the inveterate, at times uncomfortable small town politics, to the dramatic country landscape and jaded narrative of its past downfalls, it's a fucking doozy of a place. 

And now, as it happens in cycles, the area is once again going through a revival. Artsy types, foodie restaurants, galleries, things to do on Sundays, coffee shops, clothing stores, even its own publication. But luckily, it's still country as fuck. Oh, there's also a casino that has now become a legitimate hangout place for locals and friends, groups of grizzly men from Queens, Hasidim, old people in fanny packs, ladies who wear sparkly tops, and people who generally seem to enjoy smoking cigarettes inside. There is also a stage for live music and something about it all feels very Lionel Richie in the '80s. It's actually awesome in the worst way! My friend Ilana wants to get married there. She went once and said hot guys were present, but I swear she's lying. Although, you can probably find yourself a coke daddy who winters in Miami, if that's your thing.

So, I have a front row seat for all of this growth and craziness and I love seeing my hometown evolve. Y'all know I'll bring the Skinny Pop (and the shade, as always).