Down and Out: Adventures in Literature. Landscape. Life.
I thought to name this blog “Down and Out” after reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. I read the book while I was doing some research in Cambridge a few weeks after I had broken my ankle in Chamonix–an event that prompted me to consider what I would do when the $54.26 remaining in my bank account ran dry. In that moment, Orwell’s subject matter felt particularly relevant. I like how Orwell was able to capture in his writing the details of his life. Orwell was smart and resourceful–he wasn’t as down and out as the people he wrote about, and I sometimes wonder, myself, how possible it is to be truly down and out with a few decent job experiences and some master’s degrees. With mounting debt and no plans in the near future to procure a stable job, however, my fear of bottoming out once and for all never feels too far away.
For someone like me–someone who likes to read and write and run around in the outdoors–what does this world have to offer? This blog is an exploration of those things.
Books move me, and one of my favorite questions is: Hey–what have you been reading? The answer can tell a lot about a person. When you go into a bookstore, what section do you visit first? Or if you walk up to a shelf crammed with books, which one will you feel compelled to pull out? I realize that I have some literary tendencies–that I’ll pick up nonfiction before I pick up fiction, that I’ll pick up something written within the last five hundred years before I’ll pick up something written in the last five, that I’ll gravitate towards an author I’ve never read (but always wanted to) before I pick up someone whose work I know and love. No subject gets ruled out, and if the reading list is eclectic, then something on it is bound to be good.
I have a thing for a certain kind of place. If it’s mountainous or snowy or just wide-open, then–yeah–I want to go there. The week before my senior year in college, I drove through the night to Colorado instead of driving back to university. When I called home a few days later to tell my parents that I was staying at a motel in Colorado Springs, my mom started crying and then passed the phone to my dad, who convinced me to meet him in forty-eight hours back in South Bend, Indiana. Two weeks after graduating, I moved to Colorado, and I’ve wondered ever since: How is it that a certain kind of place can pull a person across a country, or over an ocean, when all practical purposes would have us stay put?
In May of 2003, I quit my job as a university writing instructor and bought a 1970 Volkswagen van. I haven’t had a permanent address since, and while I don’t feel particularly proud of my couch-surfing, backpack-toting lifestyle, it has made for some colorful moments. Of the last thirty-six months, I’ve lived seventeen in Antarctica, nine in England, five in France–the remaining spattered across the U.S. and other random places. I’m paying a guy I know to keep the van in his garage in Colorado, and I’d like to return–sometime soon–to see if it will start.