Driving along Route 79 in the Southern Tier of New York State, between Watkins Glen and Ithaca, one can witness the complete socioeconomic spectrum of the United States.  From mobile homes, to double-wide trailers, modular houses, purpose built apartments and town houses, new constructions and detached single family homes, all of these line the winding two lane road.  Sprinkled among the varied residences are an equally eclectic collection of businesses.  Garden centers, gas stations, farms, quarries, gentleman’s clubs, scrap yards and mechanic’s garages, these businesses, like the homes, dot the landscape and define the region.

Since I began driving Route 79 between Syracuse and Watkins in the early nineties, I developed a quick habit of ignoring every one of those houses and businesses.  They disappeared into the countryside, whizzing by my window in a blur.  One such business, was a used trailer and mobile home lot.  Normally, I could care less which repossessed ‘land yacht’ was on offer, but in August of 2000, the glint of a polished Airstream caught my eye.  Out of curiosity, I pulled in.  I walked around the trailer for a couple of minutes, waiting for a sales person to come out and attempt to sell it to me.  No one came.  For a reason I still can not explain, instead of returning to my car, I knocked on the aluminum door of the large, green, corrugated steel building dominating the lot.

A suppressed acknowledgment beckoned me inside.  The sun-filled sky was immediately muffled upon entering the wide hanger-like building.  Multiple trailers in various states of repair dotted the interior.  Off to the right, in an even darker corner, was a wood paneled office straight out of the 1970’s.

Behind the desk sat ‘Tinker’.  A wiry man in his mid-forties, who looked closer to sixty, Tinker did not look up from his pre-printed carbon paper invoices.

I inquired about the price of the Airstream.  He told me.  I forget how much.  Too much, anyway.  As I turned to leave, my eyes landed on a small framed picture hanging on the wall behind the desk.  It was a Habitrail.  Tinker did not know much about it, as the business and the picture was inherited from his father. I pressed his patience as far as I dared with my questions.

I had a three megapixel camera with me and convinced him to let me snap a shot.