Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Re-Utica: Orin Domenico's Passionate Essay

And now that I've alerted you to a new literary magazine in our fair city, I want to share part of an essay from the first issue of Doubly Mad.

The title is "Prayer for the Resurrection of Utica." The author is Orin Domenico, part owner of Cafe Domenico and The Other Side, and sponsor of many events and efforts to bring life back to our city, including the new magazine:

   "….One step to redeeming and rebuilding our cities is to re-imagine them as what American historian and social philosopher, Lewis Mumford, called them: “the greatest of all human works of art.” Cities are products first of human imagination and creativity. I return to James Hillman, who suggested that the “flowing imagination which founded the city in the first place can be re-found. It is planted in our midst always ready to flower—if we begin, not with the ‘problem’ of what needs to be changed, or moved, or built, or demolished, but begin with what already is here, still stands and sings of its soul, still holds the spark of the mind that initiated it.”

Kim Domenico, Wm. Welch & Orin Domenico
Kim and I didn’t move to Utica 22 years ago to address the city as a problem. Our approach in building the CafĂ© Domenico and The Other Side has always been to celebrate Utica as the cool place that it already is; to sing of and embrace the preservation of its great architecture and parks, its neighborhoods and small businesses, its bars, cafes and restaurants, its vibrant music and arts, its exotic mix of ethnic cultures, cuisines and people.

  A second step to redeeming Utica is to recognize that to love the soul of the city we must also come to know and love better the land on which it was built, this dark, damp, soulful river valley. The geography of Utica is not a “geography of nowhere,” such as Commercial Drive, with nothing to distinguish it from similar non-places across the continent. Cities—like cultures—arise in relation to particular places; they are unique expressions of the climate, the landscape, the soil from which they spring. Rejecting the sameness of globalization, we must remake Utica in the image of this place, build a local economy in relation to this land.

  Finally, we must ever recall that the driving force of redemption is sacrifice. If we would redeem Utica we must be willing to give our lives to it, to a future here for its children, without thought of personal return beyond the joy of living as if love matters. I finish with a few more words from James Hillman, who said, “I don’t believe love interferes with business or efficiency or the tax base or retail sales or any of the rest—at all. I think the city is built on human relations, of people coming together, and love would increase, if anything, the very things that are desirable in a city.”

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