The cabin in Colorado

Atlas in Rio Grande National Forest, CO

Earlier this week I drove up to Southern Colorado for a day. My old friend Atlas and I met up in the Rio Grande National Forest, which was startlingly pretty with its aspens in early autumn plumage. Atlas lives in Boulder and I live in Albuquerque—we decided t0 meet somewhere halfway between us. We hadn’t seen each other for three years.

Campsites were hard to come by, so I reserved the one spot that was available on such short notice: a small cabin in a mountain valley, just next to the clear and cold Burro Creek. It was a ‘historic cow camp’ according to the NFS sign out front. Built by Simon Off in 1917 and used seasonally on the cattle drive until 1979. ‘Historic’ meant that there was no electricity or running water. No cell reception either. Wood-burning stove. Rickety outhouse. We couldn’t have been happier with it. Continue reading

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Home/less/?: A Parable

I’ve been in Mill Valley for almost two weeks now, and I’m slowly starting to feel a bit settled. My bedroom here is paneled with over-full bookshelves and I share it with a corn snake. Her name is Cornflake. She and I have managed to get along so far. Although it’s a bit of an odd group that I have become a part of here — my friendly boss/landlord Dan and co-worker/friend from Chicago/housemate Michael and I all living under one roof with a gang of ancient, maladied pets — it’s certainly an amiable one. At least one of us is at work listing books to sell online at any given time, and jointly we go through mass quantities of tea and coffee per day. We split up chores and errands evenly. We read a lot. Dan gets a lot of interesting messages left on his landline.

Since I’ve gotten here I’ve begun to think a lot about the word “home,” and what we mean when we say it. A lot of people will think of their hometown, or maybe the house they grew up in, as their home. I certainly have done so for most of my life. Where I’m from has always been an important part of who I am – Houston and Texas are integral parts of the identity I’ve conjured for myself over the years. But now that I seem to have taken up a more nomadic style of life, I don’t want to feel that way anymore – because it means that I’m always feeling not at home, and thus not entirely myself. And nobody wants to feel that.

As if the universe was trying to teach me a lesson by comparison, I heard a story Friday night that made me think about identity and home a little differently. I was at a storytelling event at the library here and the first person to step to the mic was a middle-aged man named Marcus. He began to talk about his struggles with memory loss.

Marcus does not have Alzheimer’s, nor the sort of gradual memory loss that happens to most after a certain age. He has a rare form of epilepsy that, throughout his entire adult life, has been consistently robbing him of his short- and long-term memories in such a subtle way that he only began to notice it in stages. He talked about not knowing what his parents looked like, forgetting where he grew up, and not remembering a dinner he had with his best friend that was just a week ago. He said that every morning when he wakes up, he looks in the mirror and realizes that he shares next to no history with the man looking back at him. He cannot identify with the events and facts of his own past.

Well, as you might be able to imagine, I felt my own identity crisis pale into white when I heard Marcus’ story. Where do I get off being all existentially angsty about my home when this guy literally can’t remember where his home is?

Because of Marcus and his story and because the past year has really been a lesson in getting comfortable with ambiguity for me anyway, I have decided to stop worrying so much. This time of life is supposed to be one of uncertainty and change, one of parting with past identities and forging new ones. Of realizing that you are as much where you are going as where you come from.

End of year adventures

I manage to find myself all over the country these days. It’s a strange process that I have only a notion of control over, but it hasn’t landed me anywhere unsavory yet. Over the holidays, I landed in Dallas, Austin, and Omaha.

Just before Christmas I was in Dallas for a friend’s wedding — the second friend of mine who has gotten married in recent months. I felt the general weirdness that accompanies the marriage of any of one’s contemporaries, and drank large doses of vinegary wine to compensate. My date was very dashing and told me I was prettier than the bride, which was his main function in being there. Later that night I danced in the rain outside of Beauty Bar and got the glorious stench of barbeque soaked into my jacket from the sandwiches that my drunk companions were eating on the curb. I passed out in a too-fancy hotel, and woke up feeling glad that I wasn’t married.

I spent the rest of the long weekend in Austin with a couple of friends. We wore our grown-up dresses and suits out to some Thai restaurant and pretended to be doing something important while we spent all of our money on complicated cocktails. Erick left the key-card to our hotel room in Dallas under the check for the waitress to find as a joke.

I celebrated Christmas at my brother’s and his girlfriend’s house in Austin with our combined families. My brother and I spent most of the time playing Kubb, a delightfully stupid yard game from some Scandinavian country. I got a pocket knife and a ton of books, including S., Athos in America, and Saga, Vol. 1 and 2. We watched Roadhouse, and I was really glad that feathered hair isn’t a thing anymore.

After a few days back home, I flew to Omaha to visit my boyfriend. Once there I proceeded to get devastatingly sick and spend the rest of my money on more books that I swear I’ll actually read at some point. I also watched Joe Versus the Volcano and The Breakfast Club for the first time, which I thought were very weird and overrated, respectively. My flight home got cancelled twice due to what I’m told was an “arctic vortex,” and I ended up getting back to Houston late Tuesday night. Since that time I have been mostly sleeping and recovering from the last vestiges of that nasty cold, reading Oil!, and trying to write sad poetry.

And now, before I can catch my breath too much, I’ll be heading out towards California to my long-anticipated adventure in bookland. A friend of mine who moved out there recently has just reported to me that he has bought a longboard and decided to never leave ever, so I’m pretty optimistic.

Between all the adventures I have found little time to sit and fill pages, but that will likely change once I’ve reached my new abode (and career) in California. The time I spend there I am going to dedicate entirely to reading and writing in an attempt to make a better human of myself, so you should hear plenty about those trails.

For now, read some Anne Sexton and wish that artistic genius wasn’t so frequently accompanied by profound mental loopiness.