No Name, Colorado. No, I’m not kidding, Reader’s Digest reported that during the construction of Interstate 70, when “a Colorado Department of Transportation official went out to improve the signs, he wrote ‘No Name’ on Exit 119.” When the state tried to rename the area, “locals wouldn’t allow it.”
I’ll spare you the story of Boring, Oregon.
My favorite town name is Why, Arizona. Why, indeed? “State Routes 85 and 86 formed a Y-intersection near the area. Since Arizona law required city names to have at least three letters, the founders changed the name from ‘Y’ to the existential question ‘Why.’”
(Digression: Talking about existential, Dictionary.com just named that Word of the Year for 2019. Why? [You knew that was coming, didn’t you?] “It captures a sense of grappling with the survival — literally and figuratively — of our planet, our loved ones, our ways of life.”)
I know you’re waiting for me to say it, so here goes:
Why not, Arizona?
Sorry, but that name went to Whynot, North Carolina. If you think only Jews have endless debates, how about this? “When German and English settlers were debating over what to name their new town, one man said, ‘Why not name the town “Whynot” and let’s go home?’”
We could use someone like that in Congress. And in the Knesset.
Mercifully, Waterproof, Louisiana, lived up to its name. Waterproof actually saw little damage during Hurricane Katrina.
But the Sages cautioned, “Al tiftach peh l’Satan”— Don’t open your mouth to the Satan [and provoke him] (Brachos 60a). The Titanic was called “unsinkable” — until it hit an iceberg and sank.
Less tragic, though no less ironic — and a whole lot spookier — is the story of Neversink, New York.
I never would have heard of it had I not been searching for local attractions when my wife and I were in Liberty, New York.
Like the beginning of a horror story, riding along Route 55 to Neversink, you wouldn’t have a clue that anything strange ever happened there. But as we got to the bridge overlooking the Neversink Reservoir, I saw a sign:
FORMER SITE OF NEVERSINK
(Bring up the creepy background music, please.)
Next to that sign was a small yellow one, warning:
CITY OF NEW YORK, Water Supply Property
NO ENTRANCE FOR ANY PURPOSE
THE COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT of WATER RESOURCES OF NEW YORK
Fighting off my natural inclination to treat any barrier as a hurdle to be gone around, under, over or through, something about the starkness of the sign gave me pause.
Before I tell you about Neversink, where history and legend meet, let me remind you of an ancient legend and a more recent fish story.
The jury is still out whether Plato made up or simply retold the legend of Atlantis. But that didn’t stop some explorers from searching for — or even claiming to have found — the mythical island that was swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea.
That story was all wet. But there’s something fishy about New York water. New York City water may win taste tests; however, in 2004, New York City plumbers were flooded with orders from religious Jews for water filters to remove copepods from the drinking water.
Copepods are crustaceans — cousins to shrimp, but shrimpier. Are copepods unkosher? Ask your Rabbi. All I can tell you is I was delighted that I had started filtering my water after I saw the gunk the filters removed. Feh.
But what does this have to do with Neversink?
Don’t look now, but there’s a lot more than crustaceans in New York City’s water supply. There is an underwater ghost town. Atlantis in the Catskills.
In 1941, the NYC Board of Water Supply made the decision to flood the entire town of Neversink. They planned to create a reservoir to provide the growing population of New York City with enough water.
The 2,000 residents of Neversink had to relocate. They left behind homes, the graves of loved ones, and a way of life. Then, in 1953, the entire town was flooded.
So fill a glass of water. No, not bottled water. Fill it with vaunted NYC tap water. But wait … before you drink, look at the water and try to picture a small town.
Picture Johnny riding his bicycle, throwing the morning newspaper onto George and Martha’s lawn. Picture George opening the paper only to find out he has to leave the home he bought with a G.I. Bill mortgage. He fought for freedom overseas. Now his home will go underwater — so city folk can water their lawns.
Now picture Johnny’s Schwinn a rusted shell. Picture George and Martha’s white picket fence turned to driftwood.
Picture a schoolhouse with two rooms, but no students. Only schools of fish.
Picture a covered bridge that once sheltered travelers crossing the Neversink River … swaying in the river’s current.
Now that’s all water under — and 200 feet of water over — the bridge.
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• Unwelcome Sign
• Murphy Was A Shlimazel
• Twixt Me and Thee
• The Electric Chicken Soup Chassid Test
• Dare to Care
• Lies Big and Small
• Shmooze Control
• Rhino Attack
• Word War 3rd
• Brain Juice
• The Art of the Kibitz
• What Color Is English?
• A Waste of Time
• He whose laugh lasts, laughs blessed
• Seeing the Light
• Save the Jews from the 'Days of Awe'
• In the Scheme of Things
• Funny, It's Not
• Ready, Aim, Pray!
• Time Whorf
• Fathers Days
• The Elephant in The Kids' Room
• Beware the Ice of March
• The Theory of Negativity
• Truth Ache
• Holy Humor
• CAUTION: Joking Hazard
• Kludge Fixtures
• Canditedium: Just don't call me disinterested
• In Sanity: How Members of the Tribe do craziness
• You gotta like a guy who can 'feel or act' another's feelings in the mind's muscles --- still …
• The World of Words is Changing --- OY! What's a Jew to do?
• Unruly: Dos, Jews, and don'ts
• 'Noodging' Is Sacred
• Manipulated or Convinced?
• Lost in Translation
• Holy Tongue