Wacky Secessionist Movements And You

Hi, Upstate New York.

It’s me, Molly.

No? Molly D. From third grade. We used to hunt deer together by the cornfield then eat chicken wings? That Molly.

Just kidding. Everyone “upstate” doesn’t know each other, because there are 7 million people up here.  New York would actually rank in the top 15 states for population even if you cut off New York City and the surrounding counties (which … don’t. Okay?).

We also don’t all live in the country. My metro area has a little over a million people in it, about the same as Tucson or Salt Lake City – not huge, but definitely a city. There are other cities of about the same size roughly an hour’s drive away in either direction. I’ve only been lost in a corn field twice, and that was in a corn maze – which is admittedly pretty Upstate, but in a good way? Also, all of the major metropolitan areas up here vote blue, and most of us aren’t gun nuts.

The chicken wings are pretty legit, though. That is true.

Right now, those of us “upstate” (which people here only really use to refer to the far north country) are dealing with a viral news story about a few thousand wackos who want to break free from New York City, rename “upstate” New Amsterdam, and carry guns into grocery stores. Or something.

Needless to say, these dumbos use the WORST fonts.

Anyway, here’s a quick guide to dealing with wacky secessionists before we have to deal with a whole different kind of regional embarrassment and disappointment: the beginning of another Buffalo Bills season (ahem… that’s mostly just Western and Central New York and the Finger Lakes. See? New York’s got regions.).

(1) Don’t Take It Personal

Wacky Secessionist Movements are so embarrassing, even though YOU aren’t really the one behind it. It’s like, you know that one Racist Cousin, Drunk Uncle or Tarot Aunt you have? Yeah, they probably are New Amsterdamists. But also, it’s like if a stranger met one of them then let that color their impression of you. It would be annoying, but youe would be comforted by the fact that their opinion was totally baseless.

Look. There are seven million of us. Are some areas so godforsaken and Deliverence-y that I would be scared to stop in a gas station there alone? Probably. Are there stretches of land so desolate that the grizzly bear and deer population outstrips humans? Yes. Have I seen a camouflage pickup truck? Definitely. Have I witnessed a bride walked down the aisle by someone in a baseball cap? Once. Did any of these things help my case that we’re not all totally bonkers up here? Probably not. I guess my point is that most rational people will realize that in such a large and populous state, there are all kinds of people, from polished professionals to toothless yokels. I should probably also point out that some of those are surely Toothless Yokels with hearts of gold, and that plenty of totally cool, intelligent people live in Toothless Yokel Country for one reason or another, be it work, family, or just personal preference.

Wherever you live, at some point crazies from your state are probably going to start a campaign to secede from the state or repartition the state boundaries. It’s an American tradition. But sensationalist headlines aside, most people WILL realize that this doesn’t represent everyone who lives there. It’s times like this you have to take a cue from Monica: it’s just one of dem days. Don’t take it personal.

(2) Don’t Read The Comments

My first mistake was reading about this in a Gawker article someone linked to. My second, more grievous mistake, was scrolling down to the comments. At least for this article, the commentariat was comprised mainly of people who failed the reading comprehension part of those state tests in fourth grade because they only read the title. If you scroll to the comments, you will see commenter after commenter suggesting that “upstate New York is trying to secede” rather than “3,000 Choice Nutjobs Want To Secede (Because They Want More Guns In School?) (And Probably Also Prayer, While We’re At It) (And Can We Cancel Sex Ed? Thanks.)”  So you get all of these people saying “good, they should do it, everyone up there is worthless and miserable” and you’re reading it thinking “no no no, nobody I know wants this.”

Or, if the commenter is corrected that only 3,000 people want it, they pat themselves on the back for thinking of “jabs” like “they must have counted wrong, that’s more people than live up there.”

Or my personal favorite: “I drove on backroads not going through any major cities on my way to a wedding in Pennsylvania one time, so I know all about how trashy everyone up there is.”

There. I summed up all of the comments for you.

Now don’t read them.

(3) Know That You’re Not Alone

Hey “upstate.” Chin up. Any state worth its weight in Buffalo wings and tomato pie will deal with this at some point or another.

Although most articles refer to these movements as “secession” – and thus I’m using it here – what we’re really talking about is partition: taking an existing state, dividing it into two or more states, but remaining under the U.S. banner. And it happens kind of a lot.

Some folks in Arizona want to create Baja Arizona, which is I guess a state and not a new Taco Bell item.

A few people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan want to partition into Superior. Oregonians from the 1940s formed Jefferson, and some Montana residents in the 1940s tried to make Absaroka happen.

So if you’re an “upstate New Yorker” – or a Western New Yorker, Central New Yorker, Hudson Valley resident, Southern Tier…ist?, or Catskills Guy (not sure) – hold your head high. When was the last time you heard someone scoff at Montanans as “those idiots who tried to form Absaroka?” Sooner or later the crazies will go back to building their underground bunkers before squirrel hunting season starts in earnest, and the whole thing will die down. So order in a Styrofoam container of wings and heat up those chicken riggies, take some Kodak pics of that Fred Jackson jersey you’re trying to sell – it will all be over soon enough.

Camp Cookies + Sangria: This One Time, At College Camp

Here’s the cold hard truth about getting older – you default to lying only because you can’t remember. “Were you the one telling me about all your horrible birthdays? And how you think they’re ‘cursed’?” “Yeah, that was me… No wait, that’s not true. That’s Penny from Happy Endings. My birthdays are fine.”

For our summer series, we’ve talked about how we never got to go to camp as a kid – and that’s a lie. I’ve been to camp. I went to sleepaway camp for exactly one week when I was maybe 12 years old and that was it. Never went to summer camp again. I think the reason I always forget it happened was because the whole thing didn’t feel real and it was just a tiny blip in my life. Like the day I spelled ‘architect’ wrong in my 6th grade spelling bee was more memorable than my entire week at camp. Let me explain.

I went to a camp called Mindstretchers which was located at Keuka College in the tiny hamlet of Keuka Park, New York, right on the Finger Lakes (there are a bunch of lakes that look like fingers from afar, I realize how weird this sounds if you didn’t grow up in upstate NY). It was approximately an hour away from our hometown of Rochester, so it wasn’t too far that I felt like I was going on some big adventure.

I guess I always wanted to go to camp, because that’s what the cool kids did, like Lindsay Lohan on The Parent Trap, but my parents were never into it until the one year I guess they just got sick of me. But like I mentioned, this camp was at a college. I didn’t actually get that Parent Trap or Salute Your Shorts experience I had envisioned. This was like, kind of smart camp? I mean, imagine you’re like 12 years old and you get to spend a week at a sprawling campus – living in DORM ROOMS!! Shared bathrooms! Living the life, y’all.

college camp

i’m not pictured in this photo, fyi

So here we were, just a group of kids between the ages of 10 to 15 at this camp called Mindstretchers, which BTW, according to one internet poster, is described as a “camp for creative thinking and writing”. They’re not too far off. Also of note – I went to this camp so long ago, that there’s BARELY anything on the internet about it, except some dude who created a FortuneCity homepage in like ’98 and posted pix of “me and my friends at Mindstretchers camp”. Basically, I went to a nerdy camp at a college, and it explains a lot about me as an adult.

Prior to attending the camp, we had to sign up for three “classes” we would take throughout each day. One academic, one artistic, and one athletic. Here’s what I chose:

Psychology Class

legit got this from the keuka college website under the pyschology dept page. is freud all they teach there?

It was my first taste of what a real college class would be like, and I’m pretty sure it was taught by one of the poor professors who basically just needed extra money. I’m sure he wanted to take the summer off like a normal teacher. I remember this is where I first learned about Freud and the Id and anal personalities and whatnot. Something I carry with me to this day.

Acting Class

this is NOT from Mindstretchers, nor do I know these kids, so yeah, it’s a little creepy I’m using their pic

Honestly, acting class was the highlight of my day, even though we had to do those stupid circle acting exercises and icebreakers. But I was into it. Our class took place in the college’s gym, and there may or may not have been one of those multi-colored parachutes involved. I’m starting to regret not going to an all out theater camp…


Let’s be real – I am NOT the athletic type. I was forced to pick a sport and I picked the least offensive one, based purely on the fact that one of my best friends at the time was like a superstar soccer player. First day, I was legit the only one not only without shin guards, but without cleats – I HAD PINK AND GREEN ROO SNEAKERS. So embarrassing. To me, it seemed like all the kids were friggin Bend It Like Beckham and I was Posh Spice trying to keep up. The Worst.

We even had all our meals in a dining hall. For some reason, the walk from the dorm to the dining hall always made me feel like I was an adult – an adult in college, and I felt so cool. To clarify – I was not.

Looking back, my experience at summer camp was actually more of  “traditional college” experience than my actual college one. At Mindstretchers, I took a psychology class where I learned about Freud, as opposed to my real college experience, where I wrote an entire final paper about stereotypes found in MTV’s The Real World. But also, the more I think about it, Mindstretchers maybe was just a giant ploy on behalf of the Keuka College Admissions team, attempting to lure impressionable kids with memories of summer camp in order to go to college there for real when the time came. Ugh, adults. This is all to say that it’s not like I didn’t have a good time at the camp, it was just … a thing I did one time that I never did again. That is if I remembered correctly.