A Place of Yearning (Image: Jessie-#6-Hi C)

In a few days—the day after tomorrow to be exact—Joanie & I will be packing up the car and pointing the front bumper north—then following it all the way to northeastern Pennsylvania. After a few days there visiting her daughter and two grandchildren we’ll drive up to upstate New York.

“Upstate” as most New York State-ers call it, is a little world all its own. It’s not like Western NY or Northern NY or “Downstate” and it absolutely isn’t anything like New York City and environs.

To compare Upstate with the New York City area is about like comparing a country store to Rodeo Drive—two different universes—nothing in common except the words “New” and “York.”

We’ll be making our annual Holiday Season pilgrimage to the great white north. Which means Joanie will have a great time visiting her family—they’re quite close—and I’ll have a great time wandering the back roads, countryside and small towns of a unique and culturally fascinating region. While she basks in the warm embrace of people she grew up with, I’ll be snuggled up to my D-90 lost in that never-ending pursuit of the perfect photograph. While she eats turkey, I’ll be munching on a slice of cheese pizza (I’m a vegetarian) in a faded, nearly empty mom & pop Italian restaurant in some crumbling little burg that was by-passed by the interstate before most of you reading this were born.

Loneliness and human absence are everywhere—stretching for thousands of miles across the prairies, plains, deserts, mountains and forests of this incredible nation. But Upstate loneliness and absence has a special quality—a kind of shabby yearning for something forgotten or something that was never worth having.

When I think of a “typical” upstate-er, I see a man or woman who has grown old and tired in the service of geriatric conservatism and flaccid, un-pursued dreams. These are people mostly of Italian heritage who have waited long and futilely for something to NOT pass them by. They are people who never were children—who were born palsied, enfeebled and wasted—and decade after decade—went downhill from there. They are the forgetters who themselves have been forgotten.

And all that is why I love visiting there.

Joanie and I grew up in that failed and depressing country of failed and depressing people. And once a year we go back. I always come back to our home in central Virginia with a lot of good images. My mentor—Larry Blackwood—master photographer and friend—says it may be that my muse lives in upstate. I believe she does and in a few days I will embrace her.

I plan on researching and photographing some areas I’ve been writing about—Rome, Sylvan Beach, Colgate University. Then I’ll drive to a place I enjoy that isn’t so forgotten and decaying—Bristol Connecticut—to spend a few days with my oldest friend—Dr. Barry McNeil. Barry and I were college roommates our first two years of undergrad. school. He and I were together in another place of notable loneliness—the mountains of Western North Carolina—back during those long-ago Viet-Nam days.

I’ll be away from this computer—and I don’t own a lap-top. But I’ll use public computers in libraries and computers belonging to friends and family to continue these remarks. Those comments will be journal entries—talking about whatever happened that day. I hope some interesting stuff will happen—stuff Joanie and I can enjoy and stuff you—hopefully—will enjoy reading about. We’ll see.

The featured image today is another in the Jessica and Jessie series—it’s Jessie’s turn today. Thanks. I love you all.

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