Sidney NY hospitality

Post-flood building sign in Sidney NY in 2006

We drove out to Masonville, New York, today to visit a friend, Tony, from the days we might have had a chance of being considered interesting or hip.  In the 1980’s Tony and Steve were players in the East Village — as opposed to being players in Upstate New York and Albany, California, respectively.  Tony moved “out to the country” some years ago and then, when his partner passed away, moved even further out.  The directions Steve had were sketchy.  Something like, “pass the blinking red light and make a left on the next block.  Then it’ll be easy to find Tony’s trailer.”  City slickers.  Even I know there is no such thing as a block out in the woods.  There are two-way winding roads, no sidewalks and very little signage.  I ask, “Did he give you an idea of how far we go once we pass the light?  Is it 200 feet or three miles?”  No idea.  After driving around for awhile, finally being accosted by a junkyard dog as we attempted to turn around by some rotting equipment in a clearing, we asked for directions at a gas station and located the correct dirt road.  It was not so easy to find Tony’s trailer, however, because Tony was not the only individual on that road who thought a trailer might make a nice home.  Another irritant was Steve and Matt continuously directing me to really steep and rocky driveways each time they spotted a fifth wheel.  Of course, when Tony said “trailer” to me, I pictured something not quite as nice as a modular home, but something in that line.  Steve and Matt, having never lived in the country, must have been picturing something else.  Once we established what kind of a trailer people live in as opposed to hitch to a car and pull to a campground for the weekend, I no longer had to tempt fate with the rental car.  At long last we knocked on the right fiberglass door.  Tony thought we should make tracks to Sidney, six miles away, and eat.  Sidney, as he explained it, is a real town with a restaurant.  Several, it turns out.  There is a lovely little main street with a number of business establishments and, although Sidney is part of an economically challenged area and was hard hit by the recent flood, it retains all the charm that is so typical of small towns in this part of the country.  Clearly everyone knows everyone in Sidney and no one knew us.  Glen “Whit” Whitaker, president of the local Chevy dealership, saw us walking by his showroom and tracked us down up the street to introduce himself and find out who we were and why we were taking pictures.  We chatted for quite some time and found out that his family started the dealership in 1912 selling buggies.  Nice man.  Lunch was comfort food — good and inexpensive — served up at Trackside Dining.  I had a what was called a cold plate, with ham and turkey slices and chicken and tuna salads over iceberg lettuce.  The sliced meats were real, not processed, and the salads were chunky.  The only downside was the Miracle Whip used in the salads.  I enjoyed the salad plate, and it reminded me of the combo plates I used to have with Mutti and Tante Margaret in the Gertz department store restaurant in Flushing, Queens, when I was just a little chowhound in the 1960’s.  They would give you a scoop each of shrimp, tuna and chicken salads in tomato cups and rim the plate with toast points.  The restaurant was really a glorified lunch counter, and would become almost overcrowded with white-gloved women shoppers by early afternoon.  Chicken salad always makes me remember that.

tony, steve and matt in downtown sidney NY in summer 2006

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