On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration, Americans brace themselves for a future that no one can predict.
The morning I sit down to write this, Mr Trump's approval rating is the lowest of any incoming US President ever.
Well, "hey shucks", as they say in some parts here, tell me something new. Because he's always been the brashest, the lowest, the loudest, the most disliked, the whatever – and he doesn't care. Neither do those who voted him in – and in this crazy, muddled-up mixed-up Washington world, some of those who put him in The White House will be some of those who now don't approve. Try to make sense of that. Easy – none of it makes sense.
That's some of what I have found in moving from Washington to Chicago to Florida, this last week, talking to small town mayors, environmentalists, and wannabe comedy stars. They know this is about the unknown. Not Donald Rumsfeld's "known unknowns" or "unknown knowns", but the real thing – a future that no one can predict – where nobody knows.
This country has changed a great deal since I came to live here in the late 80s. Then it was proper Establishment in the sense that there were Right ways of doing Things, and Things didn't change. The capital letters mattered because they'd been passed down through the generations.
Even later as Bill Clinton was bringing in a new era for youth and hopefulness and I moved home to the UK, it was still a place where politics moved in straight lines. Sometimes they shifted – a little – but looking down those lines you could see where you would end up. You may not have liked the view, but at least there was a horizon.
I missed the George W years but I was back in 2007 to see the first stirrings of real change. Some wobbles in those lines. They were becoming a little wavy.
Then 2008 and it seemed unstoppable...
(OFFSTAGE THE SOUND OF SCREECHING BRAKES)
...now 180 degrees, 100 miles per hour in the opposite direction. And yet, the people we met, I felt, had got over the surprise and were ready to see where the whirlwind would take them.
The mayor of a small town in West Virginia that had depended on mining for centuries until recently was intuitively Democrat but knew his folk wanted jobs and therefore needed Trump – hadn't the 45th President said he'd put us back to work? There's coal there and we just need to change those darned environment laws. Let's see where the ride ends.
The young comics in Chicago saw plenty of potential material when it came to Trump's hypocrisy. Maybe not good for us, but probably good for business. Can't stand him, but let's see where it goes. The environmentalist just saw the need to shout louder against Trump, the climate change denier - and so on.
It's not that they are pliant. They aren't. It's that the people of the USA are brought up to take on challenges. It's why their forbears came here. And the next four years will be challenging.
I would guess that many who are not natural Trump bedfellows will sit back and to some extent revel in the fact that the complacent, smug Establishment is taking a kicking. That those old straight lines have morphed into unpredictable lightning bolts.
I didn't find the polarisation I had been led to believe was here. I think that is perhaps because Trump not only appeals to the disenchanted who have lost jobs, it's also because he's right when he said this week that the Iraq war was the biggest mistake modern America has made. It didn't matter that he had previously said he supported the war. These are the winds of change.
He's right when he says it's time to end the entitlement that lawmakers and their cronies have come to believe is theirs. He's right to articulate what a great many here have felt they were unable to voice. It's just that nobody knows where the next sentence will end, or where it might begin, or indeed what's in the middle.
Unpredictable will be exciting. It is coming, and it is also worrying.
There are checks and balances here. Trump won't get it all his own way. But he has a loudspeaker. In fact he is a national loud-speaker, in more ways than one.
And so, if like those we met, you believe there's little you can do, perhaps it's time to buckle up for the ride and see where it ends. It will be fast and furious.
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