Colorado

Over the past two months, I found myself headed out of Chicago every two weeks, first to see family in Boston, then for a long weekend in Venice Beach, and finally, to visit my brother and his girlfriend at their new place in Colorado, about an hour north of Denver.

It was my first time in the Centennial State, but between the mountains, big open plains and faint smell of cow, it definitely won’t be my last.

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Babson Boulders

BABSON BOULDERS NEVER TRY NEVER WIN

As a native Midwesterner, New England has always seemed full of secrets to me. But none as surreal as the Babson Boulders, a seemingly random collection of massive boulders with inspirational all-caps etchings scattered around the forest of an abandoned inland settlement in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

I first learned about the boulders six or seven years ago, when someone recommended the site to me after hearing about it from someone else who heard about it from someone else. That’s my kind of provenance.

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The Iceland Ring Road: Part II

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I took an eight-day drive with my wife and partner Sarah around Iceland’s famous and rugged Ring Road. In the last post, I explained how we did it. In this one, I explain what we saw and ate along the way.

Against popular currents we took a counterclockwise route around Iceland’s 830-mile Ring Road, starting and ending in Reykjavik. Because we only had eight days and a 2wd car, we limited our exploration to:

  • South Iceland (Day 1-2)
  • East Iceland (Day 3-4)
  • North Iceland (Day 5-6)
  • West Iceland (Day 7-8)

This left out areas like the Westfjords and the Highlands, but those can be for next time. As the Jewish people say, next year in the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

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“I’m tryin’ to backroads it to Walmart!”

After spending two weeks in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for the first half of July, I’m officially back in Chicago. At least, my body is. My psyche is still in the desert somewhere. On one hand, it feels like I was gone for a long time. On the other, it feels like I never left Chicago; this small Edgewater apartment, this noisy block where the cars bottom out on the speed bumps, this stupid cat who recently started snoring for some stupid reason.

I wrote a few extended meditations in the desert, but haven’t logged my various stray observations and favorite pictures and so forth. So, here we are—stray observations and some pictures. Enjoy.

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Natural Theater, or, the Very Large Array

Yesterday I took a few-hour jaunt out of T or C to the Very Large Array, the, uh, very large radio telescope/observatory roughly fifty miles west of Socoro, New Mexico—notable only because once you’re past Socoro, there’s nothing but mountains, fields, and a gradual elevation climb to 7,000 feet above sea level. Every five or ten minutes I’d see another car on the road, but otherwise, the only signs of life are endless acres of shrubby trees tended by sleepy herds of roaming cattle. But even in its seeming remoteness, the landscape is far from bleak. Instead, it emanates an unfamiliar, palatial sentience. Not merely a backdrop, but a conscious presence. Waterlogged storm clouds combed the sky, washing the roads with fat raindrops. Lightning flashed, occasionally scorching the ground just a few car lengths away. But in the distance, the hot, white light of the desert sun pierced through the gray dimness of the squall, as a broad performance of natural theater. And no better stage than the vast plains that once were the floor Lake San Agustin, an ancient, Pleistocene expanse.

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Making Truth in Alaska: The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference

As a native Illinoisian, mine was a childhood of highways, humid summers, and Hardees. So when I learned I’d won a grant from the City of Chicago to visit Alaska I wondered if I’d come back alive.

Alaska would be my first encounter with actual geology, a foreign concept in my home city of Chicago, blue island of glass, steel, and pension crises in a sea of King James red. Topographical lust was partly what attracted me to Alaska, though the real dram came from Alaska’s promise of ‘frontier.’ The most frontiersy Chicago gets is when an armless body washes up on the beach by your apartment, and even that I’ve only seen through hearsay. Alaska’s landmass is equal to 21% of the 48 contiguous US states (‘The Lower 48’ in Alaskan parlance), though the Lower 48’s population is nearly 42,000% greater than Alaska’s. But in place of people, Alaska has bald eagles, bears, and bergschrunds. And according to the CDC, the highest suicide rate of any US state.

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