I’m a glass-half-full guy. I admire and trust our civic leaders. For the most part, I believe that our community is headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, that mindset took a hit the other night when I attended what I was told was a local government convention at the New York State Fairgrounds titled: Finding Real Initiatives Generating Hope Today (F.R.I.G.H.T.) Night.
Good grief. While I accept that Syracuse will never be as polished as, say, Paris or Barcelona, the program made me realize that we still have a long way to go in terms of marketing ourselves as the wonderful community we know this to be.
The first seminar, “The Fallen Giant,” was an obvious reference to the area’s proud manufacturing tradition. It was held in a series of tunnels, some of which were pitch black while others were lit by bothersome strobes.
I noticed that many of the presenters had terrible rashes, wounds and other facial deformities. I don’t mean to judge based on appearance, but first impressions count. Why not subtly underscore the beauty of our region by adding one or two more physically attractive speakers, even if we have to import them? It also struck me that we are a really bad hair town.
Another concern was the message itself. At one point, an overzealous planner type — I had a suspicion it was one of the Driscolls — got up in my face and hissed, “Tell me you’re scared! Tell me you’re scared.” Again, I don’t mean to nitpick, but we need to be more upbeat if we hope to attract the investment dollars that fuel progress.
The next seminar, “Clown Prison,” was meant to showcase Central New York’s innovative approach to criminal justice. But instead of seeing prisoners working on their college degrees and writing poetry, most were rotting away — quite literally.
“Why the long face?” I asked a miscreant who resembled a decomposing horse’s head. He lowered his gaze and said nothing, and so an opportunity to promote local agribusiness was squandered. Visitors should have been allowed to feed him a delicious locally grown apple to cheer him up.
Somewhere in the chaos I got lost in passage of dangling tendrils and a female clown offender, who turned out to be a man, barked at me. I’m all for creative sentencing options, but this seminar raised more questions than it answered. Why do we lock some clowns behind bars while others roam free? Why do we mix male and female clown populations? And is the bulb-headed freak at the door pregnant or just in need of Upstate Medical University’s excellent bariatric surgery program?
“The Haunted Mansion” seminar troubled me even more. This was a well-intended effort to encourage restoration of our area’s many beautiful old homes, but here’s one thought: If you’re going to serve food at an open house, why not promote regional specialties such as chicken spiedies and salt potatoes?
Instead, a disheveled caterer led me to a pan on a stove and asked if I was hungry. When I inquired as to what was in the pan, he replied, “Someone’s back.” Come on, organizers! Human back is an acquired taste, at best. At least offer extra Wango Tango sauce.
I will say the young lady rising out of the coffin exuded a perky professionalism that made me proud to be a Central New Yorker.
But at “Chainsaw Massacre,” a symposium on regional land management, it was back to the same old negativity, starting with the mission statement: “He’s gonna get you.” Who needs to hear that?
Nor do attendees need to hear power saws, mad laughter or some cretin banging on a truck. I get it: Syracuse is a city that likes to roll up its sleeves and get to work. But can’t we tone it down to a dull roar when we’re hosting a major event?
Maybe the worse moment was when I became ensnared in a hall of hanging bodies, and suddenly a barely living one appeared. “Get away from me, Hillary!” I screamed.
As for the Flying Monkeys of Grroz, I’m all for promoting Syracuse Hancock International Airport. But nothing takes the fun out of air travel quicker than being reminded that furious, green-faced monkeys who fly really exist. And they hate you.
Syracuse, we can and must do better.