Wyoming Stories Installment 1 

 This is the beginning of a series of short stories I’ve been writing while I’ve been out West. 

Does it begin with people or place? The Platte Valley lies quiet in Wyoming’s southeastern corner, between the Sierra Madre and Snowy mountains. The land tends to be yellowish and rough, without the dramatic peaks that bring in visitors. Five hours up is Jackson but that may as well be called Hollywood. Down here is where the hills roll on, at peace with their fainter beauty, with their unstylishness from the rest of the world. What the rest of the world did not see was how the rising and setting sun transformed the colors of the rocks from black to lead to lavender, how the deer still get scared when you catch them drinking from the rivers, how the roads are more free than any other American highway these days. The rest of the world does not know how the dew drops to your face from the pine trees on a rare warm morning. This was a hard beauty that tourists’ eyes glazed over; after all, the Platte Valley is difficult to capture with one dramatic photograph that people would click on.

It’s here that the seasons spill into each other and act as rebellious teenagers without any conception of mortality. Winter wins always. The snow can sweep the valley regardless of season, can shiver itself white until we’re all the same. If a major storm hits early, late September or so, all of the ranchers can lose their cattle and horses. Imagine finding a drowned horse with its eyes popping out, a hoof sticking out of eight feet of new snow. Everyone here has seen that. It’s a different kind of awe when you look out at a white valley, gleaming like a tooth in sunshine, and you breathe in and out and you appreciate it and you think about God, but you also think about that horse. You think about the fear in its swollen eyeballs, and you think about yourself being stuck upside down in eight feet of snow, and how maybe next time that storm hits you won’t be inside.

The rest of the seasons are born of what happens in the winter. Autumn is when the tourists would most likely come. The leaves here twist a lovely shade of citrus, then a rich wine. The air is just cold enough that it makes you feel healthy, not yet crazy. Still, most tourists do not come because the small window of colors is unpredictable. If a quick snow comes in all of the leaves can die within a matter of a few days. No matter how long you have lived here you don’t know what spring is. It can be just another winter or a fickle mix, and either way there’s lots of mud. During the summers the valley can dry up yellow like an old sponge but can certainly be pleasant if you have access to water. Wyoming should never be described as lush but can be verdant depending on how much snow there was the previous winter.

The largest lives belong to those whose best moments are the smallest: the successful flick of a fly rod, the chance encounter of meeting the sunset at the elusive apex of its brilliance, the sublimity of jumping into a cool lake on a hot day, the taste of a freshly picked berry. You’ll find that Wyomingites, particularly those of the 21st century, have a particular talent for living this sort of life. No one goes to Wyoming to get famous. No one goes to Wyoming to meet a lot of people; after all, it’s the least populated state in the continental US. You either live in Wyoming because you were born here or because inherent in you is the ability to recognize the largeness of these slight moments, so much that you would sacrifice the people and the power and the comforts of everywhere else so that you can truly make those moments a part of your consciousness. The non-Wyomingite reader will ask, “But I can live my life that way anywhere. It’s just a mindset.” That is where your understanding lies flat. In order to fully submerge yourself in this smallness you must be lonely and you must live and know the land, and the only land that has the power to stir this loneliness in people, even the people with a hundred loved ones, the only land able to do that is Wyoming.

This story will show you why. 

A Poem

Thought I would share a recent poem I wrote since it’s about the Brush Creek. I will begin to start blogging more now that The Day That Shall Not Be Named (Graduation) is coming up. I will be moving out West for the next year, beginning in August. 

This is a poem I wrote in my creative writing sequence at Northwestern. 

The Courtship of Wyoming and I 

I 

It isn’t easy to get here.

Annie Proulx said to the reporter,

you may as well not even try.

Medicine Bow Pass is closed,

snow climbing so high

you can hear the trees screaming

for air.  I’ll just pick you up

in the town square, it’s Saratoga

Wyoming.

That’s on the map.

II

Tetons mean big tits for a reason.

The Hollywood of Wyoming

y’all don’t want to go up there,

just a bunch of rich people

taking pictures with bears.

Tetons are where my father went

as child, where he decided that

someday, he wanted a ranch,

somewhere wild to pass.

These mountains sing with something we don’t know

drawn up high, heavy, like milk—sustaining,

we work with weeds, pulling up, with bare faces

and sleep under stars, wondering why we

hadn’t lived here before.

In 2009 13,000 acres were ours

by paper.

The Brush Creek Ranch began

to sell its water rights in 1881,

marking maiden land for profit.

And here we were.

III

Nature for me was ski resorts.

Vail, where I grew up, happy

families in log homes and snow

that gets groomed all day long.

Elk moved in dark packs across

golf courses and teachers called

in sick on powder days. Everyone

was healthy and the mountains

obeyed us, until you drove further

North.

IV

Annie Proulx lives on a ranch

next to us called Bird Cloud.

Can I work with her? I love her stories.

There’s a reason she lives here.

She’s not one for socializing.

She prefers the dangerous ground,

snow that snakes around you

like a leather whip, mean as

heartbreak. Animals are cute

here too, until they’re killed.

One of Annie’s characters said

bull riding made him feel like

euphoria ran through him

like blood. Being at 8,000 feet

makes me throb so violently

blood spurts out my nose, not

from dryness but from purpose.

I’m much more pleasant than Annie, though,

at least at this age.

V

I first visited the Brush Creek Ranch

as a senior in high school. The past

owners were forced to sell from bankruptcy.

Kinta came outside and gave us dead fish

handshakes. She knows how to clean one.

Her cabin felt like a crazy person

was in a corner muttering, but only

her five year old sat on a torn chair

watching cartoons, bloodless. We

weren’t there to him. She offered water

out of a sticky, half-washed cup.

Y’all don’t know this land.

My family’s ghosts will haunt you.

VI

Diamond Felts rides bucking broncos

in Annie’s story. Addicted to the

swoop through the chute,

“paroxysm of twists and bucking”

to reach a high delicious as buttermilk

pie. After the barn dance we go outside

to look at the moon, that particular moon

hanging, an iris, lit up by 4th of July

fireworks, this moon brings us to

an empty barn. He bites my lip

so hard that I have to lie about it

the next day, “a dogbite.” We go

to the rodeo and I’m as flushed

as a hummingbird’s throat.

I bite his and watch the broncos buck.

VII

If only earth and sky matter, what happens to us?

Kinta’s brother owned a place

down the road, the Nephew’s Cabin

circled with railroad tracks rusting

in the cold ground. The door creaks

to reveal empty vodka bottles, plastic

and sun-faded littered across the wooden

floor, dead mice lying like war victims

their heads swollen with poison and

a twin bed in the corner, unmade.

We will restore this one, my father says.

We will bring this ranch back to life.

How does dread begin

with a field full of

horses outside your

window?

VIII

In 1925 the Brush Creek Ranch

was purchased by Edgar Uihlein,

the owner of Schlitz Brewing Company

(I drank their beer in high school

at Schuba’s Tavern on Southport)

who used German prisoners of war

to build a vegetable garden and

a buck and pole fence, the same one

I took down last summer. Too old.

Its wires wrapped itself in and out

of trees, like they needed each other

to survive the past half century of

Wyoming winters.

I would understand soon enough,

thorns fooling around with thorns

if only to escape the milky toughness.

IX

My brothers and I have friends out

to work. They fly in from Chicago.

City slickers. They haven’t seen

that movie, but they wish they had.

A weight moves in on their shoulders

as they struggle to dig out fence holes

in the midday July sun. Working hard

on your ACT score is different than

whatever this is. We move around

the ranch in red trucks and yell

that there’s nothing like the

hot metal of a pick up on your ass. 

We used to hate country music

but something loosens as it

makes the workday go faster.

A wrangler helps with a pack trip.

She drinks her water from the creek

and sneers at our purification tablets.

Just listen to it: purification tablets.

It doesn’t sound poetic, or even

Western. Too clean. Too quick.

Y’all are some city slickers.

Your daddy bought you this ranch

and you don’t even know how

to ride a horse. You’re no more

a cowboy than you are a little leather-winged

bat. Annie said that. Blushing, I say

I’m a quick learner.

X

A local girl sings Patsy Cline

at the Whistle Pig, where we go

after work. She is beautiful.

I dream that I sing Patsy Cline

but I have to learn the words first.

XI

Utes, Sioux, Cheyenne, Snake, Crow, Arapahoe.

These Native Americans lived here until 1954.

The hot springs of Saratoga were magical

until a group of smallpox victims came.

Please, use our waters. They will cure you.

You think you know this land? See our sores,

still here, and know your whole world is untrue.

Announce to the tribes:

the springs are now dangerous.

Here are the effects of a strange newcomer.

XII

What did you just say to me?

We are at The Bear Trap when

my brother tells a local boy,

I can ride a bull better than you.

The boy starts to move in

for the punch and my brother’s

blue eyes grow large like

a flower blooming in fast-time.

Hey,

one of our wranglers is here.

He’s from two towns over.

He’s just kidding. He doesn’t mean it.

The boy retreats and shakes his head,

and I tell my brother to buy him a beer.

The boy plays a Shania Twain song

from the jukebox—Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

and dedicates it to my brother.

XIII

Drought. A thunderstorm moves in,

black as the tar we laid that morning.

I hear the land open its mouth, bless us

O Lord, and these thy gifts, and the

horses start galloping, as the winds

pick up. The earth listens like an old friend.

We all gather on the covered porch,

watching in silence as the first drop hits,

taps the dirt into something first born.

The inhabitants of the Earth are scorched.

XIV

Today we bundle willows to plant by the

river, so the fish don’t overheat and die.

You’re not married.

You’re not married.

Work makes you hot,

dirties my pants with

fence stain and perhaps

something else, hard

and steady like rock,

pleading as if a fire

may start, the right

kind that cleanses.

He maneuvers himself

into the inside of the tree

and wrestles with it until

the live branches are cut off

for us to clean, cut, and bundle.

I bend over to tie the willows,

ten logs to tie, up to the truck,

ten logs to tie, up to the truck,

                                  over      and       over     and     over     and     over

until we stop, 4 o’clock.

XV

Wyoming has the smallest population of any state.

Annie talks about the signs of misadventure.

We drive through a snowstorm.

We are moving through milk,

ready to join the other plastic

vases of roadside flowers.

A rancher next door is sent away

for alcoholism. I saw him

drink straight from the bottle

every day after work, yelling to us

how beautiful is this sunset?

The landscapers say that they

woke up in the dead of the night

in the Nephew’s Cabin to a man

standing over their bed, asking for help.

They all had the same dream.

A woman drives up the pass

with her lover, after midnight and

hits an unseen elk on the road.

They both die. This is how her

husband discovers her affair.

These are my stories.

 

XVI

 

To reach the ranch you must fly

to Laramie on what I named the

death plane. Teenage pilots hope

for the best with a single engine.

 

Folks, it gets bumpy over these

mountains. We apologize. It’s

this damn wind. Never eases

up, but please don’t be alarmed.

 

It’s an hour drive to the ranch,

if the pass is open. June through

September, before the snow swallows

it up into an unreachable pearly

riddle. The road today almost seems

kind. I pretend to know these towns,

through Centennial and its grey

schoolhouse tucked into peak’s

flank, a quiet trailer without a sign.

If you want groceries I’ll take you

to the store in Saratoga. Don’t let

the taxidermy scare you, bears

roar over the baked goods aisle.

We can take the back road if

you don’t mind more bumps.

 

We’ve gone up and over

Medicine Bow through the

lakes and peaks that make us

think about God, past the moose that

we should get chased by to start

a pulse. Past that I drive home,

 to the Brush Creek Ranch, where

I do and complete my work.

 

Every night at dusk the sky

cracks open like an egg and

slides all over our tired skin,

            hot to touch but nourishing, forever, until it sets.

 

 

 

 

The Soul of NOLS (And The Near Hole On My Skull)

I recently went on—or rather attempted to go on—a National Outdoor Leadership School (commonly referred to as NOLS) Outdoor Educator Course. The course took place in Wyoming’s beautiful Wind River Range (the jagged peaks of which I already find myself sorely missing everyday). After about a week on the trip (it was supposed to be 22 days altogether, with a rock climbing camp at the end), I fell while descending Texas Pass (near Cirque of the Towers) and slammed my head on a boulder.

Below are selected excerpts of that experience (copied from the notebook I kept). I edited out all details of the people on my trip. 


August 31

On a schoolbus to our first campsite. I felt great at our 6 AM breakfast and through rations distribution. Incredible system for rations. There is a massive room called “The Gulch” with huge garbage cans lining the walls with signs above them: “POTATO PEARLS” and “YELLOW CAKE” and “SPICY CHICKEN” filled with freeze-dried goodness of whatever the sign indicates and big scoopers. Mmmmm…this will be quite the culinary experience. Speaking of which, just had my bus dinner of two slices of wheat bread with one slice of warm cheddar cheese in the middle.

Things went downhill when we started packing our packs. My pack is 42 pounds without water. The big burly military guys have packs that same size and I am half their weight. It’s a bit terrifying. We are driving into the Winds now though, and it’s absolutely beautiful. “First there is a gravel road…then there’s a dirt road…then there is NO ROAD,” my new friend Isaac just said. He’s right. I can’t believe they get this huge schoolbus over these “roads.”

September 1

Today we had a pooping class in the pouring rain. You could see it in people’s eyes—“oh God, what did I get myself into?” The storm moved in around 8 AM, just while we were finishing our breakfast of cheesy bagels. We still went through with our bear and pooping class. That’s two separate classes. I already knew everything from the bear class, but we did simulations of pulling our bear sprays out of our hip straps which was helpful. I don’t think we’ll encounter that many bears in the Winds, but I’m guessing they have to get all of this out the way after what happened last summer. (Note: A NOLS course in Alaska was attacked by a grizzly bear last year and several students were seriously injured. NOLS has therefore increased strictness on its bear practices.) It was pouring cold rain when we had our pooping class, but spirits stayed up since it was a pooping class. I learned the human feces takes 200 years to decompose completely in the woods.

We had a long hike today, all on-trail. I’m doing well cardio-wise but struggle with strength. Energy was low as we set up camp; we had arrived later than we expected (6:30 PM), Kaylee was vomiting from altitude sickness, and a pretty significant lightning storm moved in during the last half hour of hiking. We had to separate 15 yards from each other when left the treeline. “What does that do?” Someone asked Chad. “Well,” he said, “if someone gets struck, then they only get struck instead of all of us.” Comforting, we said. We made it to camp without any damage. I felt fantastic physical-wise and went to scout campsites while even some the boys rested.

September 2

Easier day of hiking and better weather. We have a fantastic view of South Fork Lake. The Winds are about as classic as a Wyoming range can get—blue lakes, jagged peaks amidst rolling plains, winds that knock you over, and no other people.

Tonight we made backcountry pizza—something I will definitely be creating again on my next personal trip. You make a dough baby using flour, yeast and water then put it inside your fleece and let your skin act as a natural oven. You knead and spread it around right in the Frybake. My cook group made one plain (no veggies, meat, or spice). “Tastes like Brooklyn!” I said. Tasted better than Brooklyn, actually, despite the too-doughy thickness and pasty tomato sauce.

September 3

Rest day today. Woke up to quite the view. We’re doing a lot of classes today—one on “PLE,” or Positive Learning Environments (in the bus? RESPECT! Out of the bus? COMPLAINING!) (the instructors made this as least hokey as possible) and the other on fly-fishing. No one was successful fishing but it was too damn beautiful to matter.

Tonight after our couscous dinner I was craving vanilla ice cream. A handful of granola and a blue raspberry jolly rancher had to suffice.

September 4

Nice, mild hiking day. They finally acknowledged that 100 lb. Hailey and 105 lb. me were carrying almost ½ of our total body weight whereas the 200+ lb. ex-army guys were carrying the same weight. I’m not sure if they are just trying to be gender-neutral (which they put a big emphasis on) or what but I could give a damn about political correctness in this situation. A guy that’s double my size should be carrying more weight than me.

I have been having incredibly vivid dreams and all of them involve loved ones. Except for one where I dreamt that I was dancing to “N***** in Paris” with Jay-Z while going up Centennial. He snowboarded and I made fun of him for it. “How can you be the biggest boss in the world and then give it all up by SNOWBOARDING,” I asked him, tapping my skis together. He ignored me.

September 5

Tough, tough day. I fell. We had a big climb up to Texas Pass, where the off-trail vegetation turned into straight boulder-hopping for nearly 5 hours. I can’t believe the face we climbed. On our descent, I fell (I don’t know how; my instructors think it was because I wasn’t eating enough. I said that could have contributed but it was probably more so that it was gusting wind like a tornado at 12,000 feet and I was wearing a pack that was half my weight). All of the fall’s weight landed on my left temple; I had only minor scratches on my hands and legs. I was in shock when I realized what had happened. It was dark in between the boulder hole I was in, and I remember thinking, “Oh God, what just happened. This could be really bad. We are in the middle of nowhere.” I remember Chad checking my pupils. I didn’t cry. I don’t even remember trying not to cry. I think I was too out of it. We sat there for 15 minutes or so while I collected myself, then started hiking again.  

The bros named me “CC” for “Concussed Corinne.” My instructors think I’m okay. I have a pretty gnarly headache but I s’pose that’s to be expected. It’s shocking, though, how quickly something terrible can happen out here and how long it would take to get help if you needed it.

September 6

Started seeing “floaters” and stars in my vision and then started puking once we got to our next campsite. They’re talking about evacuating me. I told them that I didn’t think I needed to be evacuated.

September 7

3:00 PM

Sitting by myself somewhere in the Winds waiting for the other horses to come back so that I can be evacuated. After I threw up more and headaches worsened I realized I needed to get out of there. Cried a bit when I said goodbye to the rest of the group; it was pretty devastating to have to leave them. I had a 3 mile hike with Chad and Derek. I felt so weak while hiking, but made it to the re-ration site. That’s how I’m being evacuated—we get our 9-day reration today, so I hiked to the other section’s site and am going to go back on horseback with the re-ration people. I’m so woozy and out of it that this all feels like a dream. We had to cross a river to get here so I’m sitting here with wet boots and an aching head, but still find it hard to be scared or upset when I have this view right in front me. Talk about Stegner’s “sound of mountain water.” The aspens are changing and things couldn’t be more peaceful.

The section I’m waiting here with is the all-male section of our same course. There’s 10 of them. Just talked to a slow-talkin’ blue-eyed kid who lives in Vail. Works at some new fancy Asian restaurant. He lives in the same section of Eagle-Vail condos we used to live in, right next to the public pool. He gave me his email address and keeps checking up on me to see if I need water. Another guy cut into our conversation—he’s from the military and now does public speaking for them. “The President has told my story on national television six times.” Pretty sweet but sure likes to talk about himself. These guys are the sweetest though and are clearly quite desperate for some female attention. Heck, they haven’t seen one in over a week.

I AM SEEING SO MANY STARS I FEEL LIKE A LOONEY TOON. GET ME OUT OF HERE.

?:00…nighttime

And the adventure thickens. Just spent four straight hours on a horse, “Texas,” which was gorgeous and cool for the first hour or so then grew comically random, strange, and tiring for the next few. Bumping up and down on a horse is not conducive to improving raging headaches.

To make matters even more interesting, the re-ration cowboy who came to pick me up looks like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. I promise my confused head is not making this hyperbole; he is truly the studliest cowboy I have ever seen and should be acting or modeling instead of dropping off big bags of rice and beans for NOLS students. Of course, the fact that he does this instead of being a model makes him even more attractive and mysterious.  “Wow,” Chad said as he trotted in to the campsite, “You’ve got quite the knight-in-shining-armor to rescue you.” We’re talking so attractive that even heterosexual men comment on his studliness. His name is Patrick. I nicknamed him Sex Cowboy Patrick. Sex Cowboy Patrick was joined by wrangler Christie, a 30-year-old local Wyomingite who was born and raised on a nearby ranch.

After the long and painful horseback ride, we finally arrived at the trailhead (named “Big Sandy Opening,” Patrick told me), where I finally looked in the mirror for the first time in over a week. The mirror was the rearview mirror of this Ford truck that I’m currently in. Guess what? I am bedraggled mess (expected) whose eyes are PUFFY AND PURPLE. Know what those are? RACCOON EYES. I don’t really know what those are but I know that they are “really bad” for people with head injuries. Back at camp, John looked at me and said “I’ve just got to watch you for raccoon eyes—that’s when you know it’s REALLY BAD!” I didn’t think anything of it after that because I didn’t have a mirror. Well now I have a mirror and I know that I have these damn raccoon eyes and it’s scary.

But for now I figure I will have a sense of humor about it. If I have internal bleeding, I can’t do anything about it now! It is not a hot mountain woman look. It is a “HELP ME” look. I look like a homeless person who just got out of a barfight. I look like a dirty grape. The first thing I thought when I saw myself in the mirror was, “Wow. I should marry that Ben from Vail back at the campsite who was in love with me, because he clearly loves me for my sweet personality and not my “looks” which are nonexistent right now. I gave up on any chance of Sex Cowboy Patrick falling in love with me. Sexy Cowboys don’t fall in love with dirty grapes.

Christie just started telling Patrick about how the all-male Educator group was fawning over me while we waited for him. “You’re real pretty,” she said. “It’s not surprising.” ARE YOU LISTENING, SEX COWBOY PATRICK?! EVEN THOUGH I LOOK LIKE A HOMELESS PERSON CHRISTY AND THOSE BOYS CAN STILL MAKE OUT MY PRETTINESS. CAN YOU DO THAT FOR ME?

Anyway, to be honest the raging sexiness of Sex Cowboy Patrick isn’t even fazing me because I’m simply too tired and confused and hurting to care.

September 8

Finally on the road to Lander and a hospital. 2 hour drive from Three Peaks Ranch, the NOLS ranch where I ended up spending the night last night.

Last night I eventually fell half-asleep in the back of the truck while Patrick and Christy gossiped about their horses. We got to the NOLS ranch around 10:00 PM (exact location unknown but close to Farson because I saw a sign for it) where I was introduced to Howard, a pot-bellied, pack-a-day hacking, gruff but nice old man who showed me around the ranch (the little of it we could see in the dark). He opened the door to the schoolhouse, a big one-room building filled haphazardly with maps, VHS tapes, skis, framed articles about NOLS, buckets filled with unused bags of trail food (CAN’T. ESCAPE. POTATO PEARLS. I thought), an old dusty computer, and a few whiteboards. “There’s where you can sleep,” Howard coughed, pointing to two ratty couches in the center of the room, slipcovers patterned with 80’s floral and stuffing spilling out every which way. These couches looked like a Ritz Carlton to me. “Now let’s get ya somethin to eat.”

The only thing I had eaten all day was a Clif bar, so I was glad when he suggested dinner, even though it was late. The cookhouse was charming; everything is communal, and one of the female wranglers usually cooks. They have an old potbelly stove that they still use in the winter. “Emily’s the best cook,” Howard told me. “I tell ya I’ve had some darn good meals in here.” There were two huge foil pans of lasagne—“still hot,” Howard said as he felt the bottom—plus a bowl of apples and a Tupperware of carrot cake. After bidding Howard goodnight, I went to my “room” and discovered that all of my luggage was there: suitcase full of clean clothes, shower stuff, cell phone, wallet, books. Up until then I thought I just had my pack. I opened the suitcase and buried my head in the clean clothes (probably not a good idea in hindsight, just a few seconds of contact with my greasy head and those clothes probably needed to be washed again) and pulled out my phone to call my parents.

Turns out they were out of town at a farm in Tennessee and did not have any phone service. I was too tired for this to even matter but had no idea if they knew where I was or if I had been injured. I called James afterwards, who was out at a bar in New York City. “What day is it?” I asked him. I had forgotten days of the week existed. It was a Friday night.

After speaking with him, I trekked over to the showerhourse and soaped off what I could of the grime and oil and dirt that coated my body. I unpacked my sleeping bag and immediately went to sleep.

Now we’re on the road, and I’m anxious to get to a hospital. Still have a bad headache and these raccoon eyes are freaking me out. Howard just stopped in Farson for “coffee” (read: CIGARETTE). I have been to Farson before. Mom, Dad, Conner and I stopped here on our drive up to Tetons last summer. I took a picture of Conner in front of the ice cream shop sign that read, “HOME OF THE BIG CONE.”

Finally got in touch with Mom and Dad. They are pretty concerned and are flying out to Lander now.

4:00 PM

CT scan came back NORMAL! I am okay. The doctor said I was incredibly lucky that nothing serious happened with that hard of a forward fall with a 45 pound back on. I feel like I am on a constant drug-high. Everything—every little moment—feels like I’m on top of the world, just the luckiest girl. I don’t think I’ve felt an appreciation for life so deeply. It’s that appreciation you get post-backpacking, then multiplied by ten because of the fall.

It’s going to be a weird adjustment getting used to the “normal” world again, especially since I miss my group so much. I’m going to send them a big fat letter that they’ll get when they’re back from the field. Isn’t it funny how we call modern society the “normal” one? After only a week in the wild I can tell you that the world we choose to live in is not the “normal” one.

Goals Post NOLS

-Minimize technology and social networking sites as much as possible. One of my favorite, most treasured parts about being on the field was living just to live—not to post it—and letting everyone else live their own lives, with neither of us knowing about the other.

-minimize WASTE. Incredible to see how little trash our cook group generated over the course of a week. It was a small plastic bag’s worth of mostly granola bar wrappers. The amount of trash the average American creates DAILY is absurd and I will make an effort to decrease my output.

-camp more and share the experience with other now that I can lead a basic trip.

-deepen experience of and appreciation for nature; recognize that my relationship with it is weaker than I thought. Day hike then home to a hot shower and full kitchen is much different than actually LIVING IN nature’s true rhythms. It’s not so easy to blindly love it when it’s 40 degrees and pouring rain while you’re trying to set up camp; however, if you choose to accept this discomfort, it will deepen and make your relationship with nature more true and meaningful.

-be more open to befriending different walks of life; keep heart open, supple, free. 

Texas Pass and Shadow Lake, Wind River Range Wyoming

Can’t Get No Satisfaction in New York City

But above all, talented people seek cities for fame. They can’t get famous in the fucking village…That’s what’s driving me. That’s the awful fact… a city, by the sheer concentration of people, provides the most amazing opportunity to get that affirmation—which is what it’s about. The reason that so many ideas are produced in cities is not just that people are cross-fertilizing; it’s because they want to beat each other. They want to become more famous than the other person. 

I was reading the latest New York magazine a few days and happened upon this quote from their interview with London mayor Boris Johnson. Boris! I thought. Boris, my man. You just articulated what I’ve been feeling for the past couple months of New York City living.

There is, unquestionably, a great deal of pressure for the ambitious college graduate to move to New York to, well, see how famous they can get, as Boris says. It’s true, when it comes down to it. No one is moving to New York because it’s cheap, or because it’s pretty, or because of its outdoor opportunities, or because they want to keep their mental health in good shape. 

We move to New York to see if we can get rich and famous, and to make sure we’re keeping up with everyone else who is, even if—or especially if—those other people are our friends.

Sure, you can tell me you live in New York for the culture. But unless you are true music or food or art FANATIC, I don’t buy it. Yes, all that stuff contributes to the appeal of New York, but you don’t move somewhere just so that you can have Ray’s Pizza or Absolute Bagels whenever you feel like it. Great music, great food, and great cultural events happen in any other top American city—Chicago, Boston, Denver, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, you could go on and on. 

Moving to New York to get famous isn’t a bad thing. I have a lot of very ambitious, very talented friends who have their heart set on living here and I have no doubt that they will indeed get famous here—a lot faster than they would living anywhere else. 

All I have to say is: New York City is not the center of the world. 

There’s a moment in Lena Dunham’s Girls (a show that is said to define the current postgraduate New York experience, at least for a privileged few) where she tells herself in the mirror, nervous before a date with a guy from her hometown in Michigan: “You are from New York, therefore you are just naturally interesting.” I think you can here Dunham laughing here. I think you can hear her saying while she writes that line, “FALSE FALSE FALSE!”

I have done a decent job of getting out and exploring the city. And judging by the people I’ve met since I’ve been here, I can tell you that New York City’s population is just like any other, whether it’s Valparaiso Indiana or Hanover New Hampshire or Edwards Colorado: some friendly, some nasty, some interesting, some dull, some good-looking, some homely, some rich, some poor, some in love, and some lonely.

What distinguishes the person that has a burning demand to be in New York is this: fame. And I’m not talking Kim Kardashian, US Weely fame (though that could be included). I’m talking fame in whatever floats your Amibition boat. You could be a cellist and want to move to New York to be in the New York Symphony. You could be a writer and want to move to New York to be in the heart of the publishing world. You could be a socialite and want to move to New York for obvious reasons. Whatever it is, the point is this: New York is the (alleged) location to be the best amongst the best. It’s the place where you make your mark on the world—or at least try to.

This thinking is bullshit.

It’s only true for a small sliver of the population who genuinely have that New York “I need to be in the center of it all” chip hardwired into their veins (God Bless them). These people will thrive in New York and likely (depending on their professions) create and produce great things that the rest of us non-New Yorkers will use and benefit from. This summer, though, I have discovered that I am not (or not really) a member of that sliver. 

I am, mostly, a lover of the smaller things in life—except when it comes to mountains…I like those bigger. And that brings me to my next point why I can’t be fulfilled in New York: I need nature. I need it like New Yorkers need their flashing lights. I need dirt, I need altitude, I need grass and sky and I need the earth to smell like rain when it’s about to rain (when it’s about to rain in New York, it still smells like sewage, like it normally does, just sewage that’s a bit damper). And ultimately, I don’t want to be famous. I’m ambitious, and I want to make a mark in some capacity, but I believe that you can make a mark in some very real and meaningful ways without living in—and being famous in—New York City. 

Wendell Berry, a man whose character and writing I very much admire, talks about New York City in his collection The Art of the Commonplace. He lived in New York for two years, while teaching English at NYU. He felt the pressure to be in the hub of everything as a burgeoning writer. Shortly after, he went back to his home state of Kentucky and bought a farm. He had to go back to the land, go back to a place where simplicity, discipline, and quiet are valued, not shunned. If that meant sacrificing part of his career as a writer, so be it (of course, this didn’t happen at all; his move to Kentucky solidified his values and sparked his creativity). Wendell realized that New York City wasn’t a requirement for a meaningful life. It isn’t for everyone. It’s for the distinctively ambitious. And those who care passionately for really good pizza. 

The Rory Gilmore Reading List

My first book-loving female idol was Daria. For those of you who are not familiar, Daria Morgendorffer was the combat boot wearing, monotone, sarcastic protagonist of the cult favorite MTV cartoon “Daria” (see clip here). My Daria worship was unsurprisingly not one of my most popular phases. It’s the one time my mother asked me if I thought I needed therapy. 

Come freshman year of high school, I began to understand that maybe a caustically sarcastic and condescending disposition wasn’t the best route to go in life. Thankfully, at this same time, I discovered the show “Gilmore Girls” and was immediately entranced by Rory Gilmore. She was a bookworm who could probably hold her own against Daria, but was a lot cuter and friendlier. This worked for me (and my mother). I watched “Gilmore Girls” from the first episode of the first season to the ending episode of the last, and got my first case of being starstruck when I sat across from Alexis Bledel at fashion show last summer (I asked her to take a picture with me at the end—something I truly avoid doing—but I couldn’t help myself. And of course, I stumbled over all of my words and accidentally took a video of us instead of a picture). 

Anyway, while perusing some book blogs the other I happened across this list: The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. I scanned the list and immediately decided to do it. There are 341 books and I’ve already read—well, 105 of them when I found the list of Tuesday, but now I’m up to 107 (I read “Bel Canto” on Tuesday and “The Year of Magical Thinking” today). I know—out of all the book lists I could use, why would I use a character’s from a sitcom? The list defends itself. Just scan it. 

I bolded the ones I have already read and asterisked the ones I own, but haven’t read. I’ll write another post about it when I’m finished, which I’m aiming to be by next summer. Who wants to join me! (Crickets, I know) 

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon*
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali*
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire 
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger 
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess*
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber 
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown 
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen 
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien 
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling 
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry (TBR)
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III (Lpr)
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inferno by Dante
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare 
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville*
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
Myra Waldo’s Travel and Motoring Guide to Europe, 1978 by Myra Waldo
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare 
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby 
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen*
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers 
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier*
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant*
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien (TBR) 
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Holiday by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The Rough Guide to Europe, 2003 Edition
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller by Henry James
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand*
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Hotels of Europe
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen*
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy 
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers 
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger 
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom 
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy*
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee 
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire*
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole*

Brooklyn Bound

If (and that’s a large if) I happen to move to New York at some point post-graduation, the only way I would be able to tolerate it is by living in Brooklyn. It feels more like Chicago (if Chicago had an overly hip stick up its ass) and is more open (if your definition of “open” is just “no buildings over 20 feet.”) 

I’m just hating—I enjoyed Brooklyn, and I can’t judge it that much, because I only saw the heart of Williamsburg. I walked around Bedford, stopped in some shops, and had the privilege of going to the food festival Smorgasbord with a new friend who works for the Food Network. She was really able to show me what’s up (which included basil-mint lemonade, fried chicken, and ginger cookies). 

James skipping rocks at Manhattan.

I can’t help but hate: when I saw the little kids next to us playing in the water—that smoggy, slimy water—I couldn’t help but think of my siblings and I playing in the creek at Nottingham Park in Avon, Colorado. Now THAT was a creek, I thought. Crystal clear and freshly melted off the Rockies. I wanted to lift these kids out of the murkiness and transport them to the cold, clear goodness of Nottingham. 

There’s a picture of Avon. That lake is Nottingham Lake. The creek we played in fed into it. Now there’s a place to play in the water. 

Earwax Records. A painful place to be in when you have no money. 

Wilco and Young: the two sections I most wanted to be spending my nonexistent cash.

Spoonbill and Sugartown bookstore

Typical Williamsburg front-counter selection: Anal Pleasure and Health, a book about community living, and females of the punk era. We get it, you’re not Barnes and Noble. You don’t have to put Anal Pleasure and Health on the first table to make that point.
Eliza and Priya with Manhattan and the smoke from the ferry. 
The lively scene at Smorgasbord. 
And finally, the best doughnut I have ever had in my life (and I’m not one to hyperbolize): Dough. The one in the picture is lemon-poppyseed, but I actually liked the plain glazed better. But you can’t go wrong. DOUGH for it (maybe I should give up books and work in advertising). 

The Shop Around The Corner

When I was in 5th grade, my mother brought me a special treat home from her grocery trip to Wal-Mart: a VHS tape of the 1995 Nora Ephron-directed romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” I put it into our VCR and was immediately entranced, from the opening credits up until the very last verse of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” Sure, I’m your regular rom-com loving romantic, but this one was about bookstores. Give me a standard romantic comedy and I’ll be mildly entertained, but give me a bookstore and I’ll be enchanted. I’m admitting here the excessive importance that a fictional Meg Ryan character had on my life. What awkward, brace-faced, Colorado-living, book-obsessed 12-year-old wouldn’t want to be Kathleen Kelly, the enchanting owner of a successful Manhattan children’s bookstore (and the love of the charming Tom Hanks, to boot). Let’s face it: I still think of her when I think about what I want to do, even as a slightly less awkward looking 22-year-old (still just as book-obsessed, though it might be a little less intense since I now have more friends). 

Nora Ephron passed away a couple of weeks ago. As a fellow female writer who admires much of her work, it was a sad and shocking moment, and I spent some time reading the many articles detailing her life and career. One tribute I read about her mentioned how “You’ve Got Mail” was not a movie about bookstores, but rather a love letter to the Upper West Side.  

The 100+ times I had watched “You’ve Got Mail” in my life, it simply took place “in New York.” I didn’t know the neighborhoods. I didn’t know the streets they talked about. I didn’t know why moving “to Brooklyn” was such a bad thing for the out-of-work “Shop Around the Corner” employees. But now, I live on the Upper West Side—so I rented “You’ve Got Mail” the other night to see if my old favorite would now take on a new meaning. 

"Do you want to get off at 72nd and Broadway and not even know you’re in New York City?" Meg Ryan yells at the anti-Fox Books protestors. That’s the stop I get off at regularly to go to Trader Joe’s. Or Josie’s restaurant. Or the Barnes Noble on Broadway and 83rd. Which, I found out, was the very Barnes & Noble that "You’ve Got Mail" is based off. It opened in the early 90’s, and local Upper West Siders were outraged with it, suspecting it would drive local Shakespeare Books out of business (which it did). When Kathleen and Joe visit that ridiculously busy urban grocery store on Thanksgiving (remember: "Happy Thanksgiving Back" in the cash-only line) I now noticed that it was Zabar’s, the UWS grocery staple, that I now go to regularly. I know "Oceans," the restaurant Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks go to in one the last scenes (it’s at 79th and Columbus. I’ve never eaten there. I can’t afford it. But I’ve been to the Shake Shack right next door). I know the spot in Riverside Park and 91st street where the park path curves. 

I’ve been “hating” on New York lately, and this little discovery was the juice I needed to keep an open mind (to which I tell myself I’m just romanticizing New York in order to like it, which most everyone else does anyway…and what’s wrong with a little romanticizing?). I went to the Books of Wonder children’s bookstore that IMDB told me was the shop that The Shop Around the Corner was based off of (and where Meg Ryan worked the counter to study for her role). The bookstore is actually in Chelsea, not the Upper West Side (there’s a Barnes and Noble right around the corner from it, and it’s actually been able to survive).  

It’s a lovely store with kids running all over the place—and reading. I bought a blueberry scone from their cafe and sat there watching them all, happy as Kathleen Kelly during storytime. 

Jump Around

I use this House of Pain/90s one hit wonder to start this post because all I want to do at my desk is get up and do just that: JUMP, JUMP, Jump around! (Preferably with Robin Williams and a donkey. What’s up Mrs. Doubtfire fans) I really like my job so far, but it’s been an adjustment to cubicle life in general, particularly the sedentary nature of it. Today I got caught doing lunges while waiting for an elevator. I left my desk to go to lunch, and no one else was waiting for an elevator so…I started doing lunges. So sue me if my last job was constant physical activity and now I sit for 8 hours! The lunacy this creates in me manifests itself in doing lunges while waiting for (and once I get in) elevators. Of course, right after my third one or so, I hear a voice behind me say, “You’re already in shape, you know.” The mail guy. Right behind me. I laughed and mumbled something. I’ll probably stop doing lunges while I wait for the elevator and just settle for running after work. 

This weekend was thankfully less embarrassing. I went to Long Island to visit James and his family. It was a great visit! We went to a waterpark which I WISH I could’ve taken pictures of. Or I guess not, since those pictures would’ve been filled with lots of cellulite and tramp stamps, and you probably don’t want to see those. We also took a trip to the Huntington village, where I found this AWESOME BOOKSTORE:

Apparently it’s very famous. It was painful to be in there with no money. It felt like having a root canal. Flannery O’Connor Complete Short Stories for $4.98! AND I COULDN’T EVEN BUY IT AT THAT PRICE! My fingers are starting to shake just thinking about it. 

This is me at the Huntington harbor. And I didn’t take a picture of lunch, but if you’re ever in Huntington, eat at the diner Munday’s. It’s wonderful. 

Today after work we did a really tourist-y thing: ate at Carnegie Deli. Eliza was my hot date. She got matzo ball soup. 

They bring pickles to your table as an appetizer. It’s awesome. Even though I hate pickles.

I have a 3 day work week because I leave for the ranch this Thursday. I got a 7 AM flight out of New York that will get me to DIA by 9. The voluntary redeye shows how excited I am. While I was talking to Kelsey on the phone just a minute ago, I was looking at this view from my door stoop:

Scurrying rats not shown. Right after I took this picture, my mom sent me this one:

I just had to laugh. And it was easy to do so, because I’ll be there in a mere 2 days! With that, I’ll leave you some more pictures that my mom has so kindly sent me throughout the past few days. 

We had some younger guests last week, and my mom was telling me that Moose will just lie there while they jump all over him. 

Biggie dropping by to say hello to the folks at the Homestead. 

Hot Fun in the Summertime

In my book you cannot say anything bad about Sly and the Family Stone. But I think that with this song title they needed a clarifying parenthetical: “Hot Fun in the Summertime (Until It Gets Too Hot).” 

As anyone in New York reading this now knows, it’s HOT. I feel like Ham at 20 seconds. Something I read today said the city smelled, and felt, like the inside of Patrick Ewing’s sweaty sock after a particularly intense game. An upside to the heat is that all you feel like eating is ice cream. 

By the time I was halfway done with that the rest of it was already soup.

When I was in air conditioning, I managed to stomach some New York pizza.

This is from Apertivo, in Midtown East. Too business-y an atmosphere for me, but the pizza was pretty good. 

Last night I met Rachel and her Brown friends in Central Park for a Daily Show/Comedy Central free stand up event. It was packed, and with good reason—John Oliver, Kristin Schaal, and Adam Lowitt all performed. 

This is a screenshot from Instagram of Colby, Rachel and I. Yes we are sweaty. We can’t help it. 

Our picnic.

Central Park in the evening was wonderful. It’s not exactly hiking in the buffalo pasture after work, but you know, it’s…green. There’s some trees. It really is pretty when the sun is setting. 

Also, check out my first published blog entry for the Travel and Leisure blog—http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-blog/carry-on/2012/6/20/editor-finds-for-your-summer-reading-list

A sampling of what I’ve been up to at work. I’m afraid to write candidly about work because I’m afraid they’ll read it. 

Something I can write candidly about? The man picking his nose on the subway today. This was an older man in a gray suit. I was looking around at people—it was a very crowded train—and there is a man, perfectly normal looking otherwise, holding onto a pole with one hand and truly working at his nose with the other. For at least 60 full seconds, with no shame or any attempts to hide it. It was one of the more shocking things I’ve ever seen here so far. He got off at Lincoln Center and I wondered if he was going to the ballet. I wanted to stop him and say, “If you’re going to the Paris Opera Ballet, you should give me your ticket. You can’t go to the Paris ballet and pick your nose like that. You just can’t.” 

Zig Zag Wanderer

I use this Captain Beefheart song for a title because I was zig-zag wandering my way through New York all weekend. 

I don’t have any pictures from Friday night, but that’s only because I couldn’t take a phone picture at the jazz bar at the Carlyle. It’s just too classy. 

On Saturday I woke up and decided to take a tour of St. John the Divine on a whim. It’s only 5 blocks away from us!

They have the best courtyard right next to it. If you want a great undercover reading/picnic spot, this is it. 112th and Amsterdam. 

During the day James came in and I forgot to take pictures. We ate dinner at V & T Pizza (http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/05/pizza_map.php - see #10). I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of this pizza. It was huge, hot, greasy, and delicious.

Some Northwestern friends had a party in the East Village, which was great. I can’t believe how many people are living here. 

Here’s some of the gals.

The next morning a group of us attempted to go to a New York brunch. I time out’d and yelp’d “CHEAP Brunch Places” to no avail. The place we were going to go—Bubby’s—would’ve been $18 for a plate of blueberry pancakes. I love pancakes. Not for $18. So after some searching we found Craftbar, and had the best french toast ever.

We passed a Ray’s pizza on the way over and each of the boys had a pre-brunch slice. The male stomach never ceases to amaze me. It made me miss my brothers. After brunch we went to the Chelsea Market for a Rag & Bone sample sale (no purchases of course but interesting anyway) and the Highline park, which was unbelievable. It was a great weekend! Even when James was complaining about the stench of those steaming cesspools of slime that collect in the potholes of New York, I found myself saying, “Oh, come on! They’re like little brush creeks of New York, just dirtier!” 

Speaking of Brush Creek, I thought I’d share an update from there, photos courtesy of my family.

Smalls killin’ it as always.

When I called my Dad on Father’s Day, he said that he was sad I wasn’t there but still a very happy man. He was shooting prairie dogs that day and eating steak for dinner. Caution: graphic dead prairie dogs ahead…

Mmmm. Good thing he didn’t send those to me when I was eating my V & T pizza.

The Rancher’s Daughter’s dad. I guess that makes him THE Rancher. He’s one great guy, and I thank my lucky stars that I have such an amazing father who inspires me to live a honest and meaningful life everyday…even if he shoots innocent prairie dogs. 

While the family was prairie dog hunting, Conner was passed out and hungover in the truck. Apparently the Bear Trap and Frontier Days is giving the Chicago social scene a run for its money.

I’m telling you. When I was at the NYU party, I wanted to say: people move to New York to have a good time? Y’all need to get out of these uncomfortable shoes, put on some boots, and go to a rodeo, where the beers aren’t $11 each, and the music doesn’t come from a computer. These people were wound up. They needed a ride on a buckin’ bronco to let loose.

SIDE NOTE: This is a book recommendation. Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams  will probably be one of my favorite books of this summer. I recommend it to all. It’s a short one that packs a large punch. It’s especially poignant with the fires happening out west right now, as it details the life of a western logger in the early 1990’s and how a devastating fire affects his life. (http://www.amazon.com/Train-Dreams-Novella-Denis-Johnson/dp/1250007658/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340072745&sr=1-1&keywords=train+dreams)

I was born a ramblin' woman. Northwestern student who spends a lot of time out on a special ranch in Wyoming (brushcreekranch.com). Contact at corinne-white@u.northwestern.edu

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