There's a little mini brouhaha going on in NY right now. Last weeks' SNL Weekend Update included an "interview" with Fred Armisen playing Gov. David Paterson. When asked about his plans now that he's not going to run in the next election, he said, "Well I'm gonna do a farewell tour of upstate New York -- Hellholes like Plattsburgh and Peekskill." He went on to say, "I'm going to give those rock eaters something to cheer about. Those freaks love me up there."
The Mayor of Plattsburgh seems to have taken the whole thing with a sense of humor and even costars in a video inviting the SNL cast to come visit and see such sights as their sewage treatment plant. There's also a welcome package that includes some of their tastiest rocks.
The Mayor of Peekskill isn't taking it as well. Here's Channel Seven's report about it. (I apologize for the commercial at the start.)
If I've got any problem with the joke, it's that they called Peekskill "Upstate". Peekskill is less than 50 miles from NYC while Plattsburgh sits huddling up there in the northeast corner of the state...poised to defect to Vermont or Canada at a moment's notice. That's Upstate!
Anyway, this got me thinking about a burning question: Why the hell do most states have their Capitals in such crappy places?
For the sake of fairness, let's start with New York. Our capital is up there in Albany. When Albany first became the capital, travel being what it was, it would have taken you about two years to get there from New York City. And we liked it that way. Our forebears had no interest in speedy government taking place in New York State. Also, Albany was something of a backwater and they figured it might keep our politicians out of trouble. With the onset of air travel and on-line hookers, our politicians have figured out how to get into trouble no matter where we keep them. Thankfully, in addition to situating our capital as far away as possible, they also had the foresight to come up with one of the most convoluted forms of State Government in the Union so speedy government continues to be stymied here. (I think they're still arguing over the state budget for 2004.)
Some states somehow ended up with their capitals in sensible places. Massachusetts put theirs in Boston. Colorado's capital is Denver, strategically placed on the high ground to keep an eye on the rest of the state. Georgia put their capital in Atlanta. It's fairly central and it's not Macon.
In some other states, it really didn't matter where the capital ended up. Hawaii, for example has its capital in Honolulu. Big Whoop! No matter where you are in Hawaii, YOU'RE IN HAWAII. There's a tradition there of waking up every morning, facing east toward the Continental U.S. and giggling while chanting, "I'm in Hawaii and you're not!" Louisiana basically flipped a coin to choose between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. They didn't especially care which place won, but when Baton Rouge got the nod, the prevailing attitude was, "Hey, maybe they'll show up sober a few days every week." North Dakota went with Bismark. It's North Friggin Dakota; could it possibly make any difference?
Tallahassee has to be one of the crapiest places in Florida...yet it's the capital. There were two thoughts that went into this choice. 1.) They weren't really sure that the rest of the state wasn't going to fall off at some point, and 2.) Tallahassee is perfectly situated to keep an eye on Georgia and Alabama...in case they try to steal any pine trees or sand.
Some state capitals are like popular girls forced to go to a nerdy school dance by their parents. Juneau, Alaska, for one, hides in the furthest corner of the state possible, lest she risk being seen with anybody else in the state.
I don't understand California's choice of Sacramento at all! They could have chosen Los Angeles or San Francisco if they'd wanted a truly cosmopolitan home base. If they were trying to go the other way, why not Fresno or Bakersfield. Or even Needles ferchrissakes!
And Michigan has me really scratching my head. Let's face it...Michigan doesn't have a lot going for it right now. Times are tough in Michigan. But THEY'VE GOT A TOWN CALLED BAD AXE! Now tell me, if you ever had to get into a bout of state one-upsmanship, wouldn't you want your capital to be in Bad Axe?