Bright Lights, Small City (a blog post)

I’m generally the sort of person that likes to have plans, well, planned out well in advance. 

But sometimes a friend drops a link in your chat box and says “do you guys want to go to Binghamton tomorrow?”

And… well.  It looked good  — the link, the hanging out with close friends, the relatively short drive (1-½ hour or so).  And we didn’t have anything urgent to do that Saturday, and…

So we drove to Binghamton. 

Binghamton is… well, let’s start.  NYState is in the Rust Belt, which I’m sure you know if you live around here.  It has a lot of remnants of former glory — for instance, I grew up in (near) Rochester, which is the birthplace of Kodak, Xerox, and Bauch and Lomb (film cameras, photocopiers, and eye care/vision enhancement).  You can see not only, say, the Eastman House (George Eastman founded Kodak) but the old Kodak building, the Xerox tower, the great mausoleums for all these people, then Gleason (works) and Strong… hold on I need to google… oh ha.  Henry Alvah Strong, first president of Kodak. Via Helen Strong Carter, his daughter, First Lady of Hawaii in the early 1900s, go Rochester. 

…Strong Museum of Play, it turns out, is a totally different Strong family.  

Okay, so point being, Rochester has the remnants.  Binghamton… has remnants like old bleached bones. The old painting advertising is still on many of the buildings — a surprising number.  There’s a few blocks where people have been building things up or tearing them down – there’s a speakeasy, which I guess is a thing which is coming back into vogue? As I get older, my tolerance for loud crowds gets smaller and smaller, so I was secretly glad when there was a longer wait than the time we had – but it was really well done, with bookshelves and then this little “Reading room” where the bookshelf swung open into the bar itself – all done in a 20s theme, including the host/hostess and the decor. 

But then you walk one block and everything is just a little too creepy.  Everything’s falling apart and it’s just a little too decrepit, and like suddenly you’re in the sort of neighborhood where you make sure you don’t linger too long. 

And then LIGHTS!

And fair trucks and loud music – I split a fried dough with guy in our friend-couple – and Lights!

The light shows themselves were neat.  They were kind of a mixed bag in message – to – medium – like, you’d have a moment where everything was clearly well designed to be working with the —

Back up, let’s start again

The thing we were going to was Luma, which is a light festival based mainly on projecting light shows onto downtown buildings. 

Buildings with columns and that pseudo-greek architecture you get in a lot of NYS downtowns (don’t know about where all y’all are, but here, NY went through it’s Build Nice Things phase when pseudo-greek was in vogue, so important buildings have columns or faux columns and all the rest). 

So parts of the shows really worked with that, the faux columns overlaid with like brick smokestacks or the whole building seeming to crumble and fall down – but other parts just seemed like, to quote, WinAmp Visualizations. 

It’s a neat form of projected art, and I really wanted to see more of it, but we ended up going to two indoor events which were also totally worth seeing (ticketed, but our friend had gotten tickets and I think they were like $4/head). 

The first was dancers-with-projected light and they were telling this story of – well, when I looked it up, their meaning was a bit different, but to me, it was this guy taming magic. 

He learned about sigils (I DID Have that right, bad spellcheck) and moving the world, he tamed these two fighting with Hiko and Kwxe, I mean lightning and fire, and he looked in the faces of the Gods and defied them. 

It was amazing and it made me want to write everything in Fae Apoc like that, full of magic and flashing lights and bringing it back to its very anime-inspired roots. 

The last display was… well, calming, if not for the drunks.  It was in the basement of a parking garage, a series of lights and sounds made to imitate a rainstorm.  Really well-done, though it made me want to go fix the dripping gutter…

Aah, the dangers of real life sneaking in. 🙂

From there, back to our cars and back home, but it was well worth the drive, and not just because we got to see our friends. 

Oh, and someone had made a dragon over all of their office windows on one floor, out of post-its like giant pixel art.  Absolutely amazing, but way too hard to photograph. 

And does anyone know why the Post Office Depot had mailboxes mounted on jacks?

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