That Thing You Do in Syracuse

“Syracuse. Do Your Thing”? Since when did Syracuse become Santa Cruz?

Before I critique the new Visit Syracuse (formerly Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau) slogan, let me acknowledge how difficult it must be to come up with a catchphrase that captures everything our city offers. Left to my own devices, I’d probably uncork something idiotic like “Gateway to Turning Stone” or “Syracuse. So Much More than Syphilis.”

But come on, guys! You’re supposed to be the pros here. Are you seriously telling me you couldn’t come up with anything better than, “Syracuse. Do Your Thing”? Since when did Syracuse become Santa Cruz?

Consider what happened when local eateries tried to do their thing by offering discounts for Downtown Dining Week. On Friday night — Friday nights being kind of big in the restaurant biz — the city unleashed an Armory Square snow removal offensive that would have made Patton proud. Would-be diners scattered to the ’burbs, seeking shelter at Panera and Applebee’s. Those were the lucky ones. The others had their cars towed.

Do Your Thing? In Syracuse? Really? Remember when the production company filming Irrefutable Proof tried to do its thing back in January: film a crash scene in Armory Square? The Syracuse Central Permit Office demanded $20,000 from the crew one business day before the scheduled shoot — all because the film company committed the high crime of neglecting to pay a $50 application fee for a liability waiver.

“No one had brought up money like this before,” the film’s production manager, Jason Torres, told the semidaily. “We had everything all planned.” He politely suggested that Syracuse “has no idea what it’s doing.” The crew evacuated to Utica, which approved the shoot in an hour.

Red Tape Gives You Wings.

Even if Syracuse were a carefree place — or at least if it didn’t have a giant Brannock foot measuring device shoved up its rear end — the virtue of doing your own thing still depends on who is doing what to whom, right? To illustrate, I paid a visit last week to Syracuse Criminal Court. What, I wondered, does “Do Your Thing” mean to the townsfolk appearing before the Honorable Judge James Cecile?

On the full-disclosure front, this was not my first visit to Judge Cecile’s court. A few years ago, my dog Larry was doing his thing — chasing a deer in Oakwood Cemetery — when, to the horror of myself and approximately eight government agencies, he actually caught one. I was charged with using a dog to hunt deer. Cecile dismissed the charge, and Larry has since turned his life around. He spends hours each day on a Stickley sofa meditating on the sanctity of local wildlife.

But getting back to the more current proceedings. There were a lot of people accused of doing a lot of things. In fact, as the wheels of justice spun, the tourism bureau’s explanation of the slogan began to make some sense.

“Reconnect the dots with the things that truly matter and make memories on historic streets,” the bureau’s press release urges. “Do what makes you happy.”

Wanna know what made a drug defendant named Calvin happy? He was released from jail during the holidays to visit his ailing grandmother, which is really sweet. Alas, his release came with a warning from Judge Cecile: Don’t get re-arrested, which meant, of course, that Calvin was re-arrested — this time on a more serious robbery charge.

This past Thursday, Calvin demanded that the judge release him from jail again. “Anybody can be arrested,” he reasoned. “I haven’t been indicted or been found guilty of anything.”

Well-played, Mr. Dershowitz.

Responding to the powerful legal argument, Judge Cecile did his thing, which was to look mildly annoyed and order Calvin held in jail pending a March 9 hearing on the robbery charge.

Then there was a guy whose name I’m omitting because he frightens me. His thing was to get in a fight in rehab. Now he gets to make himself happy in a county correctional facility for 18 months.

Another defendant — whose name I’m omitting because she frightens me — pleaded guilty to a drug charge in exchange for the prostitution charge getting dismissed. If that isn’t making memories on the historic streets of Syracuse, what is?



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