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Summer 2001

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Privileges of citizenship

     The first morning I ever woke up in Saratoga Springs, I started to love the place. In town for two days to find an apartment, I went out in search of breakfast and happened upon the Country Corner Café just off Broadway. After a simple, affordable meal featuring fragrant, home-made raspberry jam on toasted home-made wheat bread, I felt surer and surer that Skidmore and Saratoga were smart moves for me. The café is still one of my favorite spots, along with the Saratoga Diner, which (caution: stunning news to follow) recently replaced the dreadful old Spa City Diner. (Fear not: its eternal totem, a rooftop horse statue, remains.)

     I also love Sperry’s, and I’m sure I’d like all the other fine and finer restaurants too. But what makes this resort town so livable is the mix of schmancy stores and restaurants for window-shopping along with good, practical ones for everyday use.

     Speaking of which, if the Four Seasons health-food store ever closed shop, I’d have to pack up and follow. In its tiny quarters on Phila Street, it offers a decent array of organic produce, plenty of packaged foods and potions and supplements, and a great little buffet restaurant. And since it’s just a few doors from the Lyrical Ballad, the best small-town used-book shop in my experience, I often have a good book to read over my Thai salad and tofu. I sometimes drive to Albany’s huge food co-op to stock up on oats and beans, but the Four Seasons is my primary food market day in and day out. Except in high summer, when I always stop first at the farmers’ market. The market is only a small gathering twice a week, but it’s right here, right in town—another perk of Saratoga citizenship.

     When I bought a house here, I settled in what realty-speak would call the not-so-desirable West Side. Phooey. It’s everything I desire. My neighborhood, near the stalwart old Dehn’s Flowers, includes elements that some Saratogians might consider déclassé, like subsidized housing for low-income residents, the municipal salt truck and snowplow garage, a group home for retarded adults, and the sprawling sheds and barns and fences of the Allerdice hardware and building supply store. Personally, I rather like the unvarnished side of community living: there’s a certain comfort in the candor and humility and perseverance of ordinary people going about everyday life. But even better, my neighborhood is one of the few racially mixed areas in Saratoga, it’s friendly and easy-going, there’s not much traffic even in racing season, and it’s being gently gentrified, not least by increasing numbers of Skidmore faculty and staff.

     To top it off, my inner-city home is just minutes from half a dozen delightful woods, ponds, and other nature spots. With and without a varying retinue of canine companions, I regularly watch birds and wildflowers around the old reservoir just this side of Ballston Spa, at Moreau Lake State Park just this side of Glens Falls, at Butler Pond a little past Glens Falls, at Lake Lonely not far from Saratoga’s harness-racing track, and along Bog Meadow nature trail east of town. These aren’t day trips; they’re easy little midday breaks or after-work outings. And of course I walk almost every morning in some tract or other of Skidmore’s rich, remarkable North Woods— talk about perks.

     The only areas I haven’t explored much, because there’s so much that satisfies me right around town, are the wooded and historic Saratoga battlefield and the vast Adirondacks. I’ll get there sooner or later. In these long summer days, the only limitation is my own ambition and energy—that and my tolerance for multiple bug bites. But that’s another disquisition: the voracious, blood-sucking creepy-crawlies who truly believe the catch-phrase “Saratoga: the summer place to be.” —SR


© 2001 Skidmore College