It Takes a Village Idiot

‎”But there is one travel destination that you will never, never, never, ever, ever, ever read about in the Travel Section of the New York Times. It is a place so remote, so uncivilized, so unknown, so dangerous that even their most adventurous travel writers avoid it. That place is upstate New York.”

I just finished a book called It Takes a Village Idiot by Jim Mullen.  It is a memoir about a man and his wife who live and work in New York City, but after a weekend visit to the Hamptons, his wife decides that they, too, need a weekend home.  She decides to buy a home over 3 hours away from the city, in the Catskills.  Now, while Mullen describes “fictional” places and people, everything that he writes about holds very true for the area in which I grew up.  The stereotypes of the farmers and other small town folks are there and so very accurate that it’s almost scary.  It was a hilarious book because it’s so spot on.  The whole book is about the adjustment necessary to move from Manhattan to the middle-of-nowhere Upstate New York.  And trust me, it’s quite an adjustment, especially for a man who wanted nothing to do with weekend homes.  While he tries to ignore the fact that his wife is making him drive hours every week to reach this weekend home, he does end up becoming attached to it.  It takes a few years, but he somehow ends up enjoying his life there.  This, despite the problems with the septic tank, the farmer neighbor who spreads manure across his fields every day (resulting in a foul odor permeating all nearby areas), and the complete lack of culture.  Manhattan life includes restaurants, plays, musicals, parties.  Upstate New York life means diners that almost only serve various pork products and bedtimes before midnight.

Despite using a fictional name for the county in which they purchase the house, based on the other location names that he uses (Sidney, Oneonta, Bovina, Trout Creek, etc.), I accurately placed him somewhere in Delaware County.  My mother says originally he lived near Meredith, and currently resides outside of Franklin.  While I live in Rochester now, I grew up almost on the border of Otsego and Delaware Counties.  So his book hit very close to home (literally) for me.

If you are from a small town (especially one that still relies heavily on a farm economy), you will find this book hysterical because of Mullen’s description of all the characters and his accuracy.  If you are from a city, you will be able to laugh with Mullen at the small town people and crazy farmers.  Both types of people will enjoy his inner commentary on how he thinks city and country living should work.

You are literally staring at the border of Otsego and Delaware Counties.

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