This February, The New York Times published two of the more discouraging articles that’ll likely be printed in 2024.

Each dealt with working people. These days, there isn’t enough reportage regarding hourly workers. Those news holes must be crowding space breathlessly tracing the trajectories of celebrities, ideologues, and ephemeral topics.

The first story reported the closing of the Remington Arms plant in Ilion, New York. Remington Arms manufactures weapons. I can only imagine how some of the less attentive reading this confused a gun factory with the artist and sculptor Frederic Remington. Although it does tickle to think of an assembly line dedicated to fabricating Old West portraits and statues of cowboys saddled upon horses in full gallop.

The second article told the travails of a Hudson Valley couple who shares a dilemma with an ever-increasing number of Americans – affordable housing. Though both are employed, apartment and house rents make finding living space arduous on the way to impossible. The particularly galling aspect, though, is the area of contention.

When I was growing up, the settlements cited in the article, among them Hudson and Newburgh, had fallen into genteel decay. Okay. At least Hudson. Newburgh had a spell of disrepair that could’ve made it a backdrop for dystopian movies.

Hudson’s colorful past included Prohibition Era roadhouses and brothels. While long gone by the time of my adolescence, the jazz baby ghosts of these establishments still fueled winking sniggering chatter among longtime locals and older visitors “in the know.” Further south across the Hudson River west from Poughkeepsie, then as today a major site for International Business Machines, Newburgh’s seemingly sole purpose was to provide cheap housing for employees engaged in east bank enterprises.

Poughkeepsie, or as known colloquially, “Po-town,” could’ve epitomized tight-assed rectitude. Later in life I met plenty of contemporaneous former Poughkeepsie residents. Upon discovering this writer a son of Quarropas, they loved regaling me about sojourns out of their smothering straitlaced city for my hometown. There, they could act like imbeciles as well as buy smut.

Oh. Just like Quarropas residents.

The closure of Remington Arms somehow felt poignant. Ilion sits Upstate in the Mohawk Valley. It has nothing in common with Downstate, the Metropolitan Area. Appleknockers and big city folks. Two different worlds, attitudes, manners in New York.

During World War II, an uncle assembled weapons at a Remington Arms factory. Not in Ilion. At some nearby manufacturer whose original purpose war’s exigencies converted into making guns, a la auto plants that built and delivered aircraft for the duration.

World War II was very good to this particular uncle. Not only did age and children exempt him from service, he was also employed in an essential war production industry. Through it he earned hand over fist money. Instead of socking it in war bonds or a saving account yielding paltry interest, he invested in stocks. By the time he exhaled his last in 2003, this part of his bequeath reached somewhere into seven figures.

And like most wealthy people from that era, he was discreet. He was circumspect. He wasn’t flashy. The purpose behind what he’d amassed was to live comfortably, yes, but also pass it along to inheritors.

The poignancy felt emerged from how his wishes sidetracked from their expected designs. Perhaps if he’d had visions of the true future, the uncle might’ve been far more profligate and far less frugal.

But that will be subsequent post’s topic. This one will commiserate with working people buffeted by conditions beyond their control.

Remington Arms started manufacturing firearms in New York during the Revolutionary War. In a way, longevity froze its fate in the Northeast. For whatever reasons, the company’s various owners saw no need to modernize much. It’s not exaggerating by any great deal saying should a Colonial who’d toiled in Ilion assembling muskets and cap-ball pistols for the Continentals have reappeared on the present work floor, he might’ve recognized little had changed in the intervening centuries.

Forget automation. Forget even assembly lines. Some processes of Remington Arms 21st century armaments assembly still required employees to carry components to their next station toward completion.

Of course, it doesn’t help any at all weapons are being produced in the Northeast. New York especially. The state has stringent gun laws. A point of pride, certainly, but one states drawling about sanctity of life prefer characterizing as a detriment.

As a former New York resident, let me attest it felt safer living in the Empire State among the vastly unarmed than around the West’s and South’s profusion of open carriers and concealed wannabe pistol wavers. New York’s conscientious advocates and legislators have kept legions of residents from menaced by many fools brandishing guns. In fact, that’s why gunfire in New York remains newsworthy.

News- and noteworthy because despite a greater population density one is less likely to get shot in New York. Say, unlike Phoenix whose population is smaller and where guns proliferate.

Let’s face it, in Gunsmoke America whizzing lead is just another day at the O.K. Corral. What’s casually accepted as part and parcel of nearly unfettered gun possession in regions beyond the urban Northeast and Midwest isn’t a leap of faith. It is the embrace of fatalism.

New York State gun laws were not affecting Remington Arms’ bottom line. Bad business practices and fickle consumer tastes were. A bit of modernization, some prudent streamlining, and Remington Arms remains in the Mohawk Valley. Were the aforementioned measures taken, the armaments maker isn’t a target of asset-stripping opportunists as it has become over these last few decades.

Anyway, another venerable label forsakes industrial America. In Georgia where the arms manufacturer will relocate into a taxpayer subsidized modern facility, new employees lacking historical background and continuity will earn less and receive stinting benefits compared to the caring well-compensated craftsmen of Ilion.

Hmmm. They do have a different way of defining “incentive” in Dixie.

Might be prudent to purchase a Remington now. That way an owner needn’t speculate about his or her implement’s quality.

It’s likely those Remington Arms employees made redundant in Ilion are of an age where they won’t bother seeking further employment either in or around town. We’ll assume a high percentage of those residents own their homes outright. They won’t have to scavenge for accommodations as must the subjects of The Times’ other article.

Common a national lament as it’s become to find affordable housing, what surprised me about the story was its setting. Above the Metropolitan Area’s recognized suburbs, into exurbia.

During my adolescence into young adulthood, the article’s towns referenced on either side of the Hudson River’s banks had been refuges from urban hustle-bustle. Burghs set back from the river among forests or farmland were small, quiet, and best of all, affordable. Naturally, none offered the excitements and cultural attractions of the Metropolitan Area. Yet after a day of toiling shoulder to wheel, what better reward than relaxing at an address whose cost didn’t cripple the budget?

These days, such housing expenditures stress what had been considered away from it all, somewhat bucolic New York.

The couple in the second story worked. Together their earnings totaled above the regional median. Though not on easy street, they ought have secured a budget manageable apartment or house. Nonetheless, rents where they lived had steadily obliged them to dedicate increasing percentages of wages to housing expenses. In almost no time these rents closed in on what tony Downstate towns asked.

It’s becoming a challenge. The push-pull is this: either pay more for a rental or be priced out of them. And that possibly means moving farther from employment.

About the first, wages are climbing. But landlords and property management companies are making sure leases offered remain ahead of them.

Second, how far must the quest extend for less expensive apartments and houses until commutes between home and work become treks? Then don’t those savings evaporate when weighed against more time spent behind the wheel, additional fuel pump stops and vehicle maintenance costs?

However the salami is sliced, it ultimately means dwindling personal hours and diminishing dollars for pleasurable discretionary pursuits. Or as more Americans are coming to know and accept it, normal living.