THE OSTERHOUT NARRATIVE
I've barely taken my boots off, haven't cleaned my guns, skinned out one doe, hung her in the gallery....and Obama opened up diplomatic relations with Cuba, NY Gov. Cuomo banned hydro-fracking and plopped a casino down between me and the liquor store. I bet you can guess which issue is concerning me most. I love Cuba and am very happy the US is taking steps towards lifting the blockade. I worried that NY would follow PA towards the idiotic drilling in our beautiful county. And, although I feared a casino was coming, I prayed it wouldn't. My prayers were not answered.
My kin have been trudging these hills (shoed and shoeless) since the 1600s. We were the Dutch hillbillies that the French and the English would hire as "civilian contractors" to fight the American Indians and later we would turn on the powers that be, becoming early Americans. I'ved been coming up the mountain since I was a tiny baby. In the 50's there was a lonely b&w sign nailed to a tree out in the Bashakill. It read: WELCOME CASINOS. I asked my father "What's a casino?" I was that young.
It's been going on that long. Way before Vegas there were unofficial casinos in the Catskills. The Italian and Jewish mob, bootleggers, and all the hotel owners worked together to make Sullivan County a nice, quiet little playground for those wishing to drink and gamble (illegally). Money poured in. Bodies were quietly dumped in the lakes or buried in the woods. By the 50's the writing was on the wall for the hotels. Bring in gambling or die. Air conditioning, cheap air fare and crumbling, cheezy infrastructure ended the Borsht Belt. WOODSTOCK put the nail in the coffin.
I moved here from the Lower East Side in 1995. The first thing I heard was "Casinos are coming!". I was freaked. RNButch's and GNJohn's farms were both owned by Robert Parker- owner of the Concord Hotel. He had bought up everything in the valley, gambling that casinos were coming. I looked at the beautiful swamps, tumble down fence lines and herds of deer across the road and worried. A casino could be plopped down on this mountain and there would be nothing I could do about it. But then, as always before, the threat went away. i breathed a sigh of relief.
I've been here 20 years and now I am a member of a very small minority here in the county that aren't thrilled that casinos are coming. But I am resigned to it. I won't be protesting or kicking up shit. But neither will I be celebrating. This Casino (on the old Concord site) will impact our little slice of paradise in ways we can predict. Traffic will increase. "Jersey Shore" knuckleheads will be back in the woods. Buses from the city will join the Hassidic caravans in the summer and the culture clash that already exists will escalate. Yes, there will be jobs. The question is will these jobs go to county residents who are in dire need of them?
What is unpredictable is how this will positively impact any of us. Casino culture is sad, desperate, and ultimately a bait and switch scam. Look at any advertisement for Vegas or Atlantic City, filled with lithe models and bubbling champagne....and then visit any casino. What you will find is a lot of senior citizens in walkers and wheel chairs, rough looking hillbillies (both black and white), cigar smoking frat boys, pastey bizznessmen, and a few well dressed players. Where's the head tossed back, laughing models? I'm in it for the long game. I'm not going anywhere. So it is my hope to help direct the money into the pockets of those who need it here in this backwater. It'll be a challenge. I may ruffle some feathers. I'm sure somebody is mixing cement as I write this. Bring it on boys. The Osterhouts will be here long after you've gone belly up. Good Luck!