My name is Frank, and I live in New York. Upstate, that is. Yes, believe it or not there is an entire state called New York, of which only a tiny part is New York City.
I'm kidding, of course - I know you already knew that - but with the exception of the unending tire fires that are Buffalo's professional sports teams, the rest of the country gets few reminders that Upstate even exists. I should know, because I once lived on The Outside. I hail from Michigan, originally, although if anyone asks I tell them I'm from Chicago. This is partially true; I had been living there for nearly six years when I met a girl from New York ("upstate," she was quick to point out) and before I knew what had happened I was driving a car crammed with all my worldly possessions, watching the Chicago skyline sink in my rear-view mirror as I headed east. East toward a place called Upstate.
That was nearly three years ago. The girl, whom I shall refer to here as Court, and I settled in Troy, a tired but charming formal industrial powerhouse just across the Hudson river from Albany. A lot has happened since then (Court and I ended up getting married - I'll get to that story in due time), and I spent much of that time in a perpetual state of amazement. The architecture of Troy's Monument Square, the quaint bars and restaurants on Albany's Lark Street, the ornate beauty of Schenectady's Proctor's Theater. The Adirondacks and Catskills in full autumnal color, horses galloping past at Saratoga, pizza at DeFazio's, burritos at Bombers, beer at Brown's.
How could I have not known all of these things existed? How could I have lived my life unaware of the charms tucked into this part of the country? What else have I been missing? I aimed to find out, and three years in I feel as thought I have just scratched the surface.
The area has its drawbacks, as any place does - the long soul-crushing winters, tax bills high enough to make any homeowner's eyes water, and Albany's spectacularly poorly-designed highway system, to name a few.
But I contend that the good far outweighs the bad. I like it here. So much so that Court and I are in the end stages of buying a house in Schenectady to start a family and further ingrain ourselves in this place, seemingly forgotten, but still very much alive. Welcome to Upstate, this is where the story begins.