I’m currently in Utica, New York where I just performed for a group of students at Hamilton College. Utica is one of those upstate New York cities that is exactly what you would imagine it to be, only less. Upstate New York has undergone some difficult times in the last forty or fifty years or so. I’m not sure why. People may have just decided it sucks up here and left. Or, more likely, industry left and the people followed. So what you get is one of those cities that looks like I think all Earth cities will look about a thousand years in the future when we have finally annihilated ourselves and the only evidence left of our existence are the crumbling husks of our former civilization. That’s Utica – the city of a shitty tomorrow, today.
Actually that would be a pretty good way to draw tourists here. Rather than continually attempting to attract new industry to this impoverished area, just repackage its current decomposition as “Future City!” Most Future Cities are sparkling and clean and filled with ultra-modern whirligigs. But that’s only one version of the future. The post-apocalyptic version? The “bird flu killed everybody” version? That’s Utica! I think if you asked a hundred people which version of the future is more likely: shiny, happy people or the radioactive dystopia? Most people probably would say the latter. Because let’s face it, everybody knows our entire species is going to shit. Why not try to make a buck off that fact?
Here’s what you do. You start a whole tourist thing. “Utica: Nightmare City of the Future!!!” People show up. Everybody gets a Haz-Mat suit and a Geiger counter, which never stops pinging. You pile everybody into an old school bus tricked-out like something from “Mad Max.” Right? You put a bunch of burly guards with automatic weaponry on top of the vehicle. Maybe they have crazy tattoos and robotic laser eyes and stuff. You drive through downtown avoiding the bunch of locals you’ve hired to scurry around in the shadows acting like flesh-eating monsters (Think “I Am Legend”) Once in a while, one of the bus guards “shoots” a monster. Green radioactive monster goo splatters all over everything. Everybody screams. Just when they’re screaming, you take their photo, which you sell them to at the end of the tour. Big money maker.
As the idea catches on, you expand it a little. You open restaurants where people forage through an old 7-11. You make giant animatronic mutant worms like from that movie “Tremors.” You open a log flume and a homemade fudge shoppe. Soon, Nightmare City of the Future is a family destination. Maybe there’s a casino. Maybe there’s post-apocalyptic mini-golf. Maybe you get Kenny Loggins to do a show. The possibilities are endless. Soon people are moving here to work the tourist attractions. Soon Utica is a destination again. All because you didn’t try to fight the fact that this town has nothing to offer anybody, but rather you turn that fact to your advantage. The other option is just to blow-up the entire city. Personally, I think it’s a toss-up.