Archives for category: Tivoli NY

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After the misery of the first day and the badly attended inauguration our lives in Trumptopia cheered up somewhat.  Saturday’s Women’s March was far bigger than the inauguration, bigger by several million people… causing Trump’s press secretary to spring out of his lair, into a press conference frantically denying the facts of the inauguration and present other facts, alternative facts hastily conjured up to satisfy his gilded boss.  There were NOT 250,000 people at the event, he squealed… there were 2 million people.

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

Groucho Marx, Duck Soup 1933

The weather was glorious in Tivoli today.  Full on climate change.  55 degrees.  Mid January.  The lilac is already budding.  The poor plants are so confused.  If this warm weather continues we won’t have stone fruit in the region again this year.  My friend, farmer Mr. Migerelli lost $850,000 worth of peaches last year.  The trees blossomed in January then a deep frost burned the blossoms on February 14th.  He called it the St Valentine’s Day massacre.

Because of the wonderful weather everyone seemed extra jolly.  The village is full of returning Bard students.  The coffee shop has reopened after the winter break.  I spent too much time in bed perusing social media and not enough time walking the dog.  Director Amy Berg posted a virulent anti Trump post on twitter and I thought… you know it’s not good enough to sit on your butt in some swanky Venice coffee shop stating the obvious.  Take some action, Amy.  Earlier in the day I advised my weekender friends how they might do a little more than post caustic Facebook notes and start thinking about strategy.   For a start, they could transfer their safe city vote upstate.

My friend Natalie who owns the Tivoli General store was crying the day of the inauguration but after yesterdays Women’s March she seemed a lot happier.  I think the march affected everyone.  Sending a really positive message after the horror of President Trump sank in.

In LA 750,000 people turned out and there were no arrests.

I started wondering, if life gets too bad in the USA, maybe society breaks down, where would I like to live?   All over the world ordinary healthy people are falling for a debilitating bout of nationalism.  This terrible and often fatal disease is currently sweeping one continent after another. Even though the disease of nationalism can be arrested with common sense… some victims never recover.  Symptoms include: intolerance, flag waving and micro-aggression.  Australia, France and the UK (where this stinking thinking originated) have all been badly affected. Also known as Zombie Fascism; this progressive disease leads to dogma, intransigence and intolerance.  It is extremely contagious.  I’m trying my hardest to avoid it by ignoring news channels, web sites and twitter. I’m praying I won’t be touched, moved or fascinated by the ease with which fascism falsely promises to solve all my problems. I’m hoping fascism won’t get me, or those I love. My family in England… they are already afflicted.  How quickly I’ve seen my people fall, developing very ugly symptoms then… boom: full-blown fascism.

Theresa May, caught Zombie Fascism a very long time ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Americans don’t recognize her name. Theresa May is the UK’s St Trinian’s style gym mistress (Prime Minister) who scored a ‘diplomatic coup’ as the first world leader to meet President Trump.  She is so very proud of herself.

Words fail me. They may fail her when she meets Donald and realizes he’s full of shit and any ‘deal’ she hopes to make with him will heavily favor the USA. Like many other leaders across the world she should have waited and kept her dignity.  Let’s remember, she’s only the prime minister because nobody else wanted the job of leaving the EU. At that very crucial moment after the Brexit vote… the men were nowhere to be found.

Seriously, part of me cruelly believes Americans deserve President Trump. All their bleating and moaning must sound like sweet music to the ears of those who have been fucked over this past 200 years by the USA.  South Americans, Iranians, Iraqis, Cubans, across the world Americans have interfered in the lives and democratic process of millions of people.

Trump is uniquely American. He is their goddamned president whether they like it or not. Most… don’t like it.  Yet, for decades Americans have been crippled by inertia and complacency. They don’t vote, they feel powerless or encouraged to feel their vote is worthless.  The Trump clown car did not arrive by accident. However distasteful he may be, he is here for good reason. To energize, radicalize and motivate the people back into the democratic process.  Evidence of which we saw yesterday.

Governments loathe the people marching on the streets, they hate the sound of breaking windows.  Governments are afraid of the people.  When the people rise up government is forced to admit its vulnerability, frailty and uselessness.

Today we must all fight, where ever we live, with the impulse to accept things as they are now.  There is a new order… but it has nothing to do with Trump.  It is about you and me finally standing up and not taking it anymore.

This is a crucial moment for all the people of the world. One we would be foolish to ignore.

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I fell down the stairs.  My teeth are falling out.  I want a glass of red wine.

Ask me why I’m here in Tivoli.  Everyone asks.  They never asked how I made Malibu my home.  It never occurs to ask why they are here… or there.  People wash up where they wash up.  They stick where they get stuck.  I’ll tell you again, when I drove over the little bridge, I saw the Bard students on their stoops playing guitars and smoking.  When we sat in the sun on the terrace at The Hotel Tivoli that first afternoon eating almond cookies and cappuccino, I thought… I could live here.  It’s a long way from Malibu.

My neighbours invite me into their homes.  I’m not shy, I know all of my neighbours on North Road.  Some of them are difficult, most of them are not.  There’s the cantankerous woman with the Indian husband who said she would never allow me to build my house.  She lives in an elegant, converted church with a pretty campanile and an obelisk dedicated to those who lost their lives during the slave holders rebellion.  Her gang of Mexican gardeners work all year maintaining the blue stone paths, an avenue of oak trees and perfect lawns.  Number 14, to my right, the considerate garden designer and her good husband, they were first… inviting me to crawl into their Japanese tea house for a formal Japanese tea ceremony.  She whisks the hot green tea.  We admire the satsuma ware.

An older gay couple live opposite my ramshackle house.  They collect classic cars.  Last summer one of them told me quietly and sadly about his lover of many years who died in his arms just here on the drive.  We looked silently into the inky black tar as he remembered his dearly beloved.  The neighbours don’t know the gay men who live opposite my house or what tragedy happened there.  They were very discreet… until the Trump/Pence yard sign appeared.

Lydia and the ex-mayor Tom, shortly after I moved to the village, invited me to walk the coppice, to a brook at the end of the property.  Tom must be 80 years old but climbs all over his painted lady like a monkey.  They spend the winter in Florida.  Their dog Charlie escapes every night to ransack my trash.  Tom and Lydia share Charlie with Marion, a friendly Tivolian who lives immediately to my right.  She smokes as much as I want to and calls me Pumpkin, she tends 20 house cats and an elderly relative.

Bob the artist, whose work I’ve never seen, cycles two blocks into the village to buy beer.  His slim wife looks overwhelmed, fragile.  One house North.  Occasionally I hear her delicate laugh drifting over the lawn.  The cook, the thief his wife and their lover, the grumpy deaf man who valiantly scoops his disabled girlfriend in and out of their car.

Then, in the last of the Victorian houses on our side of the street, there’s Phyllis and Lee.  She paints huge canvases of naked men and women.  We went to Rhinecliff library on Saturday night and she told us the story of her life. She’s not scared of desire or her sexuality.  She celebrates love and lust.

The current mayor, Joel wonders what I’m doing in Phyllis’s house eating noodles.  He wonders why I’m here in Tivoli.  I bake Phyllis and Lee a banana loaf.  Joel looks at me suspiciously, we have no reason to be friends.  I see him often at the pub, he hugged me there the night Trump was elected.  He sat with us briefly at the Tivoli summer party and ate the free hot dogs.  He and the Deputy Mayor Emily have a plan for Tivoli that won’t include Bard students or noisy pubs or late night buses.  Even though Joel was a Bard student… once.

There are sober people in the village.  I mean… AA people.  The disgraced doctor, the chef and the celebrity bar man.  There’s the obese sex pest who I see at AA meetings but never admits he drinks every day.  He poked me in the chest outside The Lost Sock laundromat and told me I was the devil.

There are people in Tivoli who should be sober:  the newly married couple with rosy cheeks and big breasts who excel at the pub quiz.  They aren’t dangerous.  The woman who knocked over the fire hydrant is very dangerous, the same woman… the same night, she took the wing off another car before driving into the side of the pub… escaping without charge and boasting about it the following day.

There are a couple of women in the village who might do well to forgo alcohol.   Swollen faces, bruised and bloodied.  Small town drunks.

I’ve devoted 20 years of my life to AA.  I am writing about the quasi-religious cult I’ve devoted my life to, again.  The people I’ve met there are, on the whole, totally insane.  I’m very attracted in an Almodovar kind of way to the crazy house wives, the heroin addicted aristocrats, the failed pop stars and grateful accountants who kneel every morning and thank God for another day.   I love their stories, listening to the moment when they were born again.

Tonight as I sit nursing my damaged ankle I thought I might write about how much I would like a large glass of red wine.  Montepulciano.  I wonder what it would do to me or who I would become.  I wonder if I could forget sobriety for just one goddamned moment, take a day off.   Will everything I learned in AA just vanish the moment I drink?  Will God forsake me?  Of course not.  Why do I have to be an expert in abstinence?  What’s that all about?  Why is my success, my only real success measured in days sober?

A woman I know just drowned herself in a bottle of wine.  She’d been lying to everyone about not drinking and I thought to myself… so what.  Have a drink.  Have a fucking drink.  And then I listened to Sade and she was singing ‘Sweetest Taboo’ and I remember laying on Whitstable beach with Matt and we were in love and drinking white wine.  I felt nostalgic for something I had given up and replaced in equal measure with a bunch of crazy… sad people and their sad and crazy stories all because I thought I was going to die.

I have things to tell you, but those stories can wait.  Tales of obsession and ordinary madness.  Tales of greed and random cruelty.  I could tell you about the interior decorator who visited last weekend and his dull, rich white friend I endured lunch with.  I could tell you more about the woman who fell in love with me and couldn’t and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I could tell you about rotting jaws, falling down the stairs and handcuffs.

I’ll tell you next time.

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It’s the morning after the Golden Globe awards.  I don’t have a hangover but I do have a severe headache.  Ahead of my rant, the first order of the day?  Congratulate Barry Jenkins who brilliantly won the best drama golden globe for his exquisite film, Moonlight.  By awarding this black/queer film best drama the HFPA have thrown down a gauntlet to Hollywood.  They are daring The Academy to address its crippling lack of diversity.  I predict that Moonlight will go on collecting nominations and awards (will win SAG, Spirit Awards) but can it win Academy Awards?  Here lies the rub.  The only two bankable commodities in this little film are Jenkins and Harris who are both Hollywood gold.

The liberal, Hollywood talent elite are trilling about Meryl Streep.  They forget the less liberal Hollywood majority booed Michael Moore after receiving his Bowling for Columbine Oscar and using the academy podium to remind us of President Bush’s fictitious reasons for invading Iraq in his brilliant and oft quoted ‘fictitious times’ speech.  President Obama of course, perpetuated those fictions but did it by stamping out dissent and whistle blowing within the United States.  Snowden, Assange, Manning.  My heroes.

The real money in Hollywood is behind Trump… the power.  The talent can make art out of outrage and in turn make billions of $ for the white Hollywood establishment.   I can’t imagine former friend and UTA boss Jeremy Zimmer is anything other than thrilled by the prospect of a Trump presidency, salivating over the kind of big money he’s going to make these next four to eight years.

I wonder who reps Barry Jenkins?  I can tell you one thing.  He won’t have a black agent or manager at one of the leading agencies or management companies… because there aren’t any.  Until there are black faces repping big money at the agencies, black faces producing movies or living on Carbon Beach in Malibu or heading up the teamsters union…  Hollywood will be as is it always has: racist.  A white industry where predominantly white men control the money.  It is not a place where your dreams will come true, it is a place where old white men will decide which of their dreams will come true using your talent.

It’s simply not good enough to call Trump names at award shows. Yeah he’s a prick, yeah he’s hollow, yes he’s predictable. Are we gonna repeat ourselves every day? Expecting a different outcome? Let’s call him what he is: Donald Trump is the most powerful white supremacist in the world. Riding an international wave of fascism. Your president is a white supremacist.

As I’ve asked a million times before, are you willing to put your life on the line to fight fascism? Are you willing to demonstrate, be interned or tortured or imprisoned? Sooner or later Facebook rants and memes just won’t cut it. History proves that when things get nasty the people do as they are told. However brave they say they are before the black shirts arrive. It’s my guess that you’ll put up with it too. You’ll go on the one million woman march… then they’ll round-up the South Americans in California and what will you do?  Then they’ll go after lgbt rights… and what will you do? They’ll outlaw abortion. What will you do? They’ll shoot to kill and fill the prisons with any and every black man who looks scary and what will you do? Tweet?

You’ll tweet about it.

2.

I’m very slowly going blind.  Foolishly, after many years of  not looking carefully at my plate, I started wearing my glasses when I eat.  Oh My God, revolting!  Gelatinous sauces oozing from the edge of beef and chicken.  Seeds baked into bread.  Glazes and jus and creamed potato sprinkled with chives.  I want to vomit, overwhelmed by the detail, the slightest movement as you press down onto the burger and my lunch becomes a suppurating sore discharging blood, guacamole and mayonnaise.  I am captivated by gravy as it seeps under and drips around roast pork.   Nauseated, I have to take my glasses off.  On Saturday night we had pasta with sea urchin butter and caviar at Fish and Game in Hudson.  Although delicious, I couldn’t fully enjoy it until it was just a blur on my plate otherwise, it was a mesmerizing… awful experience.

3.

The dogs know it is bitterly cold this morning.  Minus 13.  They are under the covers.  Hidden away.  Unlike England which is cold, wet, dark and raw thankfully it is bright and cold here upstate making the day less of a chore.  Our store, Tivoli General is open and there are AA meetings in Hudson.

I stayed in bed, too distracted by pain.  The infection in my jaw getting worse.

The third Monday of January is notorious for suicide.  This third Monday in January will be no different.  A mass suicide event will take place in the USA and nobody will say a word.

Did you know I fell out with Stephen Fry a year or so ago?   I had the audacity to mention the freedoms and privilege a celebrity enjoys.  Celebrities HATE when you discuss their fame.  Or in his case… his twitter feed.  We then had an email fight about God and the existence of God.   I asked him if he realised almost all of his sober friends have a god in their life.  He reluctantly accepted that spirituality may be very loosely beneficial for some people but that’s that.  There’s a connection (if you can be bothered to work it out) between his reluctance to discuss celebrity and his eagerness to dismiss a certain kind of God.   “Stephen, you don’t have to believe in God,”  I said.  “As long as you know you’re not God.”

He said rather ominously, “Be very careful.”

Not being very careful, I asked, “So if you don’t belive in God… who do you cry out to every time you try killing yourself?”

That was it.  No more Stephen Fry.

 

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The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County Fair Ground,  Rhinebeck NY is one of the last remaining countryside traditions in New York State.  Unlike the bawdy Duchess County Fair (started in 1842) the Sheep and Wool Festival (started in 1980) is very genteel.  Affluent white people, mostly women (with compliant bearded husbands) and gay 30 something men pet Vicuna and jostle for home spun, naturally dyed, two ply.

In England we regularly honor the land and our relationship with it.  Many of our country festivals have pagan origins.  The Harvest Moon, St Michael’s Mass, Lammas Day, country fairs and garden festivals.  When we celebrate May Day in my home town of Whitstable at the very edge of ‘The Garden of England’ on the North East Kent coast bordering the shallow, oyster clogged Swale, we revive a 16th century English tradition. Local people garland spring flowers and weave twigs of new leaves.  Pussy willow, catkins and briar. With these we entirely cover a grown man.  With his head dressed in topiary he often stands over nine feet tall.  This walking bush became known as Jack ‘o the Green.  The Jack is central to the Whitstable May Day celebration and leads a parade of Morris Dancers and mythical characters to the town square.

We celebrate our medieval past without too much shame.  The colonial atrocities we care to admit, were committed elsewhere.  We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land… and thank God for reminding us how lucky we are not to have seen the Boer War or Partition with our own eyes.  In the USA, however, the recent past is not so easily side-stepped.  The terrible ghosts white folk see:  the ghosts of slaughtered First Nation people whose land they stole and the million or more slaves who made this land what it is today.  In the North East embarrassed white people do not necessarily want to be reminded of their slave-owning ancestors or those who killed the thriving Algonquian people of the Hudson Valley.

7-14 million people lived in North America before the white man arrived.  Today, little evidence survives of the people who lived here.  Anyway, who visits North America (unlike Greece or Mexico) and thinks to see the First Nation pyramids of Louisiana or the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in Colorado?  The Greek government loves to invest in the Parthenon and Greeks love to visit it.  But First Nation sites are more likely to remind Americans of the Trail of Tears and treaty violations than appeal to their nationalism. 

Dr. Adrienne Keene, a First Nation scholar and activist. “We are taught nothing was here, so Native people deserved to have their land taken away: that’s how white supremacy and colonialism work.”

What of the thousands of slaves brought to the Hudson Valley?  Walk into the country side, look at the derelict shack, the rickety chicken coop.  People once lived in those… shivering as the bitter wind and snow tore over the fields, daring not to faint as the scorching summer sun beat down on thousands of enslaved men, women and their children who cleared and farmed these lands.  Driving from Red Hook to Tivoli the bucolic landscape of The Hudson Valley looks less benign.

Josiah Henson wrote, “Wooden floors were an unknown luxury. In a single room we huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. We had neither bedsteads, nor furniture of any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.”

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On North Road, Tivoli NY opposite my Victorian home stands an elegant, marble obelisk erected in 1866 commemorating lives lost fighting the ‘Slave Holders Rebellion’.  When I first read the crumbling text I was taken aback.  What was the Slave Holders Rebellion? What did this inscription mean?  Was it some local event?  Nobody seemed to know.  White people didn’t know. Black people didn’t know.

The Slave Holders Rebellion is how the Civil War was contemporaneously described.   The meaning of the Civil War, the point of it…

Slavery is New York’s dirty little secret.  Many people are shocked to learn that slavery existed in the North East. Yet, as on the cotton fields of the southern states, people as property were considered essential to further settlements and do profitable business. By reducing labor costs to the care and maintenance of their human chattel, settlers turned a huge profit on a relatively small investment.

In New York State, owning 10 slaves at the turn of the 18th century was considered a large holding.  Michael Groth, in his article, “The African-American Struggle against Slavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley 1785-1827,” estimated that one in 10 households included slaves. All persons of consequence were expected to be in possession of slaves, but not every slave owner was wealthy.  People of modest means owned slaves. The purchase of a slave was a worthwhile investment for a farmer with moderate income.

“Those that could afford it kept slaves, and each owner put a mark upon his black servants, and registered the same with the town clerk, in order that runaways might be more easily traced. For instance the mark of Mathew Wygant was ‘a square notch of ha’penny on the upper sie of the left ear’.”

For 200 years, from 1624 to 1824, the first Dutch territories were sparsely settled with white people. Enslaved Africans were a major portion of those first wave of immigrants, estimated in some areas at between one-fifth and one-third.  In Ulster County, in 1746, slaves numbered 1,100 with the white population at about 4,100.  It is unknown how many First Nation people they lived along side.  The Dutch West Indies Company brought the first slaves to New York territories in 1626 to work on farms, roads and forts.  The Dutch were frustrated at their inability to profit from lumber, fur and agriculture.

In 1644 the Dutch West Indies Company brought in 6,900 men, women and children from the African coast.

It was company-owned slave labor that laid the foundations of modern New York, built its fortifications and made agriculture flourish in the colony so that later white immigrants had an incentive to turn from fur trapping to farming.

Between 1600 and 1860, the transatlantic slave trade brought 9 to 11 million enslaved Africans to the USA.  In 1820, about 10 percent of the population of the Town of Kingston NY consisted of black slaves.  By the end of the 18th century, New York held the dubious distinction of being the state with the largest slave population in the North.  Ironically, the streets of Kingston and Rhinebeck NY were more diverse than they are today.

Slaves were sold in Kingston and New Paltz at public auction.  Terms were made easy so people of modest means could afford them. A commodity bought and sold, used to settle debts and bequeathed to heirs.  Slave sale notices were common in daily newspapers, next to advertisements for land and farm equipment. They described these men, women and children as “healthy” and “stout”,  the same language used to sell livestock. It is clear from the advertisements that infants or children could be sold at the “purchaser’s option,” separating a mother and child with the stroke of a pen.

The cost of a slave today would be around $30,000.

Not everyone acquiesced.  Reported slave rebellions and insurrections took place all over North America. More than 250 uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves.  I’m sure many more went unreported.  Tiny acts of attrition.

18th century slave owners bragged how well treated and content their slaves were, but life for the enslaved African living in the North was cruel and un-rewarding.  New York State’s slave laws were harsh and even small transgressions punished by public flogging.  The hope of freedom inspired hundreds to risk absconding.  If caught, a fugitive slave could expect punishments including amputation of limbs or death.

Runaway slave notices published in newspapers recount in detail the outer wear worn by slaves. The clothing described in these notices reflect the deprived existences they led. Style, color and material, hairstyle and type of headwear are recounted in great detail by slave masters. Most fugitive slaves ran away with only one set of clothes.  “Young mulatto girl, wearing red calico, with blue petticoat.”  Scars, missing ears, skills, behavior – insolent, plausible, bright… were all listed.

Most slaves ran away to be with their families. Some just fled, others planned carefully.  A young man from Rochester NY took off with two sheep and a beehive.  Many fugitive slaves found refuge in the woods of upstate New York. The woods not only provided cover and protection but a chance to seek Native Americans inhabiting the region. Many found shelter and safety with Native Americans and were welcomed into their tribes. Large rewards and treaty offerings for the return of runaways did not dissuade Native nations from harboring slaves.

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In July 1799 the NY State Legislature enacted a partial emancipation. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after at least two decades of forced indenture. Boys became free at age 28 and females at age 25. Until then, they were tied to the service of the mother’s master.  Children remained enslaved because slave owners were confident that parents would remain with their children. Unrestricted freedom did not come to New York’s slaves until a new emancipation law took effect 28 years later, on July 4, 1827.

The freeing, in 1827, of adult slaves led to economic havoc in the North East. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 compounded the issue and destroyed the economy of the Hudson Valley.  Meanwhile, freed slaves were left to fend for themselves.  Those with good skills were undercut by white, cheap immigrant labor beginning to flood the Hudson Valley from New York City.  The white immigrants were paid for their time and did not need to be fed, clothed and sheltered.   Some freed slaves remained as tenant farmers. Up and down the Hudson River you’ll still find names like Africa Street where freed slaves formed their own small communities.

New York City was a reluctant supporter of the Slave Holders Rebellion.  Its trading economy was heavily invested in the slave-based production of cotton.  After the Slave Holders Rebellion, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery.  Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed.  As New York moved to abolish slavery, amongst the counties most vociferous in their opposition and who voted, “nay” were Dutchess County.

There is white marble obelisk in Tivoli, Dutchess County at the edge of North Road. It commemorates the lives lost of local people fighting the Slave Holders Rebellion.  There is something heroic and magnificent about the title: Slave Holders Rebellion.  It perfectly articulates the ambition of that war.  And how it latterly became… the Civil War is testament to how black and brown people have had their history reframed by generations of white revisionists.  Like the First Nation people before them the domestic history of enslaved men, women, children and their brutal slave owners has been wiped away by white folk, cruel, embarrassed and afraid in equal measure.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Star Spangled Banner by Slave Owner Francis Scott Key

Slavery remains the dirty little secret of New York State.  Shared by almost every other northern state.  In the south, for good or ill, white people upholding their racism and white supremacy, proud of their slave-owning past have inadvertently kept black history alive.  The ancestors of northern slave owners do not celebrate the traditions of the land… for few white people ever worked it.  Whilst english people were ploughing and scattering black slaves were violently forced to do the same.  The history of this bucolic place, this upstate paradise, white folk keep silent… vanishing into the corn.

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It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog.  I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again.   But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally.   Not a great year to ignore.   The most important reason for not blogging?

Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend.  He has become one of those closest to me.  In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations.  Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.

The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity.  I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety.   I stopped writing.  This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again.  He was very supportive.

2.

I am an oaf.  The older I get the more clumsy I become.  Some people become physically inept.  I’ve become mentally less agile.  Tripping over myself when I get excited.  Wading through molasses when I get tired.   Writing this blog every day kept me alert.

There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree.  He’s not at all like a British red squirrel.  He’s more like a stoat.  He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging.   He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him.   When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch.  His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.

The Little Dog is getting old.  He sleeps more.  His soft jowl is grey.  He has fatty lumps forming on his chest.  He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude.  He must be 12-year-old.  Maybe.  I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.

I don’t have a TV.  It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle.  Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date.  The second screen.  Bloody hell.  I’m addicted to that thing.  I’ve tried hard to not look.  Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it.  Shocking.  My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.

3.

Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie.  They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do.  We went for long walks.  Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president?  He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion.  My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly.  Crazy Dennis Kucinich.  They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him.  A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right.  President Trump was inevitable.

There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year.  It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency.  “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said.  They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.

They think I am an angry white man.

Trump won the primary.  The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.

I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion.  How could I be so sure?  “Do you have a degree in political science?”   I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously.  “No, I listen.”  I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber.  I sit with AA people.  Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage.  They love Trump.”

The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed.  The double-digit Clinton lead.  The hyperbole.  In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.

On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared.  Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy.  They did not care about pussy grabbing.  Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.”  They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism.  The language Trump used… they could understand.  I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.

My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility.  They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.

Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump.  My nice white friends scoffed.  “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.

“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.”  I replied.

Consternation at the dinner table.  “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said.  “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others.  The choice was obvious:  It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s.  Revolution was what the people craved.

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination.  They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him.  Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.

The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation.  Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams.  They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men.  Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative.  A black president honoring the trans community…  I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting.   They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.

Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny.  It was a catastrophic decision.  Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber.  The same hall of whispers I am privy to.  They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown.  I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump.  Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion.  I was listening to my AA friends.  I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.

The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton.  The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy.  The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.

I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’  gay pool party.  The hosts and guests were short, buff and white.   In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time.  The short white host saw me out.  I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me.  “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.”   I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.  

The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests.  They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own.  They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream.  Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion.  The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause.  They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.

Where was the change they could believe in?  Where was the change we could all believe in?

In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY.  There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap.  She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping.  Her face wet with tears.  The conductor asked if she was ok.  She railed against Trump.  The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her.  Trump supporters.  She sobbed inconsolably.  The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him.  They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.

Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.

In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016.  My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU.  Leave won the popular vote.  Hate crimes became a daily occurrence.  I felt sad and shocked.  England shrank before my eyes.  The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision.  Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.

All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.

Ori posted a picture on Instagram.   A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election.  10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating.  ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’  He blocked me.  Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem. 

In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua.  The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right.  But what of it?   Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks,  they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton.   Their fury is palpable.  Their distress acute.

We wait for January 20th.

 


Carol, the well written, well designed, well shot, well acted but ultimately turgid new movie by avant garde industry darling Todd Haynes has a fan base… an angry, indignant fan base.

Many beyond the film industry feel this mostly second rate film should have earned a place in the best film and best director categories at this years academy awards.

The vociferous fans feel the film has been ‘snubbed’.

There are blogs and op eds and blazing Facebook posts about this apparent injuctice. The fans blame homophobia, misandry, misogyny and fear of women’s sexuality.

Even though Carol has in fact been nominated in 6 categories including the prestigious written adaptation category this is not enough for many disgruntled Carol fans.

There’s plenty to complain about this award season.  People of colour are vanished from the awards. Female directors?  None.  The roles women are asked to play:

Best Actor jobs: Screenwriter, astronaut, trapper, inventor, artist.

Best Actress jobs: Mommy, lady, inventor, girl, wife.

I’m wondering if, after this so called scandal, members of the academy will bother voting for this slight film at all.

Wether they are directed by white men or not (Carol was directed by a white man, a man… why?) most of the other nominated films are simply more engaging and well directed.

Personally, I’m rooting for The Big Short. There, I said it.

2.

Tivoli is under siege this afternoon,  gangs of identically dressed gay men.  Fur trimmed Parkers and skinny jeans.

Identical white gay boys.  Vile.

They stare at me dressed in my tweeds and hunters like I’m a fucking circus freak.

Fuck off.