I know this sounds like lunacy, like a taunt or a petty play for attention. But this is exactly what, in the end, may save me! In this case I am talking about upstate New York, which in the Siena polling for the Republican presidential primary earlier this year had Donald J. Trump -- the Queens native who builds buildings and files for multiple bankruptcies -- ahead of other loser and low-energy GOP candidates by dozens of percentage points in the Empire State.
The bulk of that support for Trump -- the man who must fly home from the campaign trail he each night so he can spend the late hours Tweeting about Joe Scarborough within the gilded confines of his opulent Manhattan penthouse -- comes from the rural counties above Westchester or Dutchess or Sullivan. (Many years ago, when I first moved from DOWNSTATE to UPSTATE, I was made to understand that UPSTATE begins well above Kingston and likely does not begin in earnest until Coxsackie or maybe even Albany. The Catskills and Hudson Valley are bedroom communities for NYC, dating back to when Woodstock and Saugerties drew the likes of Bob Dylan and The Band and David Bowie, to name a few. I digress, but the point is: Just because you are north of the Bronx does not mean you are UPSTATE. To be UPSTATE, you have to earn it. And that means Saratoga or Fulton or Washington counties.)
Which leads me to my personal pivot, the one you have been skeptical I could make, the one that centers of being centered and not reacting to every bit of insane political news, like, for instance, the unending shitshow that has been the dark rise of Donald J. Trump. But there is a monstrous paradox of my pivot. The place I love most in my native state of New York -- a state I have vowed I will never move away from again -- is Trump Country! The lawn signs and ball caps declaring loyalty to Trump all over UPSTATE NY make that as bold and as plain as a gold Trump sign emblazoned on a midtown Manhattan luxury high-rise, the ones now financed with Russian oligarch money.
Upstate New York -- meaning all that land and all those towns and villages and counties that hug the southern Adirondacks -- has been my sanctuary, my spiritual home, since I was a kid. My No. 1 goal in life was to move upstate, to write and to earn just enough money so I could drive around and look at all the land. To my mind, all the acres of farmland and miles of forests and all the low-slung mountains and the string of lakes and all the gritty small towns and hanging-on-by-a-fingernail mill cities combined to make God's country. I moved upstate after college, worked at a newspaper and I lived in Schenectady for eight years before my so-called career took me to Seattle and Baltimore and Pennsylvania. For the next 20-plus years, living in some of the biggest U.S. cities, all I wanted to do was move back! I did not care that everyone said that was a weird yearning because upstate NY is not exactly a hotbed of progressivism, plus jobs are few and the weather is cold in the winter.
This past weekend, my upstate NY-born spouse and I spent a long weekend at the family camp on the Great Sacandaga Lake. For several blissful days of much-needed rest and relaxation, peace and quiet after The Year of Trump, we traveled the roads through Gloversville and Amsterdam, up to the Adirondack Park past lakes like Caroga and Pecks, on windy roads past farms that the Amish have made their own. The corn was high. The signs planted in the ground all throughout my piece of heaven read a word that had, for a year, sent me into a dizzying state of disbelief over how a con man and a fraud who does not even want to be president has become a legitimate choice for millions of Americans. My anger over Trump, though, dissipated under blue skies, traveling through the proverbially verdant Mohawk Valley, knowing the glacial walk of time in the end would see Trump and all of us as an insignificant blip. Plus, there are the reassuring polls that signal our national nightmare will soon be over, save for Trump TV that will take the sociopath to new lows of conspiracy theories.
The anger of these upstate Trumpsters was palpable. We met men who spat out how much they thought Hillary Clinton was "a bitch." They'd never vote for her because of Benghazi. One taxidermist we talked when we stopped to look at his his shop agreed that Trump may be insane, but said it was OK. "Congress will keep him in check."
Everywhere we looked, there was Trump support, Trump signs next to Confederate flags and homemade lawn signs calling for "Revolt." So far from Washington DC, living lives so different from the urban elites, upstate New Yorkers continue to inhabit a different country from downstate New Yorkers. The more of this anger we saw in people up there, the more inured we became to it. The landscape itself seemed an inscrutable oxymoron of beauty amidst such rage, or rage sitting coiled in all that vast beauty. It was impossible to sort it all out anymore, especially in such glorious countryside. It was easy to let it go, too, given the views and the space and the sense of utter freedom. The pivot, for me, was finally coming.