Archive for December, 2011

Future Dwellers

not so different from the banner photo, eh?

Dear Future Tenants of  _____  N Hodgeman, Apartment # 1,

You’ll have to excuse me. I’ve been packing all evening, dispersing my twenty-pound literature and art history texts among boxes containing lighter objects, such as artificial flowers and a gold-fleck motorcycle helmet and various wooden candle-holders made by my beloved, who has already found us a swell little condo in the town he’s living in now. While I pack, I watch episodes of Trailer Park Boys and drink a kind of wine that I forgot gives me headaches. My mind’s a little foggy. My ferret, Squizzy, dives in and out of boxes in the grip of a pure mustelid joy.

First of all, welcome to your new shack. It looks a lot worse from the outside. It’s the drooping power-lines converging at a point above your driveway, like “X Marks the Hovel,” right? They’re kind of festive, once you get used to them. You get used to all of it. The shackiness of it. But maybe that’s part of its appeal—the uneven logs bulging, the cracked paint, the wide dirt lot rolled out like a welcome mat to poverty. That, and it’s under a bridge. Whenever you need a vantage point, just walk a few yards and climb the steps, and survey your kingdom. From the railing, all of Laramie stretches out before you, intersected by the railyard beneath you, spanning out north and south. To the east—the church, the Connor hotel, beyond these, the unseen university (yours is a land of campers and graffiti, and you’re all the better for it, believe me). You live in West Laramie, just across the tracks, although some will dispute this, saying West Laramie begins past the Historic Territorial Prison. Which makes your community Central Laramie. There are those who would dispute this, as well.

There’s a little platform halfway up the bridge if you don’t feel like standing on the crumbling concrete walking path with cars and semis whizzing right by you. From the platform you may enjoy an unprecedented view of the Union Pacific smokestack. In your kingdom, that’s like the tower in which a dark wizard plans the magical corruption of your world, or holds prisoner a princess who will restore peace to the world.

If you’re moving to Laramie from elsewhere, even from another town in Wyoming, you should know that there are a few things you’ll need here that you won’t necessarily need in other places. Funny—as I write, my phone says it’s -17. Anyway. If it’s not already becoming obvious, you’ll need the following:

A space heater.

A humidifier.

High-calorie foods to get you through the winter–you burn more calories when it’s cold, and it gets real cold, like, thirty-below cold.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s not as bad as it sounds. Thirty Below. It’s just a number. It’s kind of romantic. I bet you’re not thinking about the wind, though. That wind is 2 Legit 2 Quit. Don’t worry. You’ll have from February to June to get used to it. The other months, it just blows hard every other week or so.

The wind plays a slightly more prominent role in your life than in some, since you’ll be walking/biking over the bridge from time to time (pretty much everything you need is on the other side of the tracks—school, grocery stores … that’s about it, I guess, but that’s everything). If you think it’s bad at ground-level, see what it’s like suspended several feet in the air. Let me try to illustrate it real quick:

PEDESTRIAN: Wow, isn’t it great! I’m on this bridge, I can see everything from up here – why, just look at the cement factory in the distance, and the —


PEDESTRIAN: Hey, could you maybe relax for a second? Just while I’m crossing this? ‘Cause there’s, like, a narrow thing I’m walking on here, and there’s the train tracks —


PEDESTRIAN: And the semis on the other side —

WIND: YES, YES, HOW RUDE OF ME! AHEM … Is this better?

PEDESTRIAN: Yeah. That’s great.

WIND: Oh, good, ’cause I can see you’re looking a little precarious on that – HEY, GET AWAY FROM HERE, PIGEONS! HOW DARE YOU FLY JAUNTILY ABOUT WITH YOUR SHINY LITTLE FEATHERS! Oh, I’m so sorry. Thank goodness there’s a rail for you to hang on to, right? It’s just the birds. They’re filthy. Flying around. I’m glad you’re okay. That could have been – HEY PLANE! HEY! WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING, WITH YOUR FLIMSY WINGS ALL A-QUIVER! HEY! PLASTIC SACK, GET OUT OF THAT TREE! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!

Also, there is a pond that develops in your driveway in the spring, or after heavy moisture. A better way to put it might be, your driveway becomes a pond. Ducks land in it. You have to arrange large stones to create a walkway to your car, which swims in the middle of it. I forgot to add the following to the listing of necessary items for your survival in your new home:

Serious waterproof/duckproof boots


Dear Future Tenants of the Historic Hodgeman Shack,

I apologize again. I moved out before I could finish your first letter. As I start this one, I’m sipping one of my dad’s ice-cold Coors at my parents’ house in Crowheart, getting ready for Phase 2 of the move tomorrow, which will finally bring all my stuff, and all of Ryan’s grandma’s stuff (which was being stored here in Crowheart) to the place I’ll soon be living in. My belongings fill an entire horse trailer. This is not so much a source of pride as one of horror and disgust. My personal sprawl. I have a lot of crap, and that crap all needed to be wrapped in newspaper, packed in boxes, carried, and stacked in a careful, logical kind of way, which only reminded me how unnecessary most of it is. Oh, well. At least I don’t have a TV. I’ve been clinging to that fact more and more.

I have to say. I’m thrilled to be moving. But maybe you moved to the HHS (Historic Hodgeman Shack shares an acronym with Health and Human Services – and the latter is just the place you’ll need once you complete your blood-lead test while living in the former), for different reasons and certainly under different circumstances. I moved there because I really wanted to go to school (I still am going to school—just mainly online), but I soon discovered that Laramie wasn’t the place for me, for a number of reasons, the main one being that my boyfriend wasn’t there. But also for some of the conditions mentioned in the first portion of this letter, or the combination thereof. Things compound. I wonder why anyone ever wanted to live in Laramie. But they did. And now, so do you. And maybe you’ll love it. I hope you will.

I’m sure, after spending some time rent-shopping around Laramie, you’re quite appreciative of this places’ price. In the warmer (but not super-warm) months, with almost no utility payments, you got it made, man. You’ll see. More importantly, you’ve got great stars. I used to drag a camping chair out and watch them from the driveway, during the non-puddle months.

I’m on the road early tomorrow, so I’ve got to be wrapping this up.

Besides, I don’t want to haunt.


by my parents' house. also in wyoming, but some 20 degrees warmer than laramie at all times. but 100% more mountain lion-y.

Greetings from Up North,

I made it.

The air is fragrant with processed sugar beets from the factory down by the tracks. Remember Furbies? Processed sugar beets smell like a million burning Furbies.

My dresser’s from the 60s, and as I was sliding the drawers back in, I found a little piece of folded paper in the bottom, at the very back. It was a page torn from a very old magazine, depicting something called a “Bare-beque.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Bare-chested women hold barbecue grills against their nipples; they bend to heft bags of charcoal. They have short-cropped hair and large breasts, and smile like mothers. Their pubic hair is dark and expansive. On the other side of the page, a family is sprawled out on a picnic blanket – a man, boy, and woman – shooting the breeze sans garments. Nothing sexy about it. Perhaps this is the nudist colony issue of National Geographic?

I folded up the page and respectfully returned it to the inky depths of the dresser. Then slid the drawer in over it.

It helps to remember, while I hunt that for a job that will allow me plenty of writing time/brain-space, when I stop by the convenience store for coffee (to enhance writing-time), when the guy comes by to hook up my internet smelling like a gin-soaked olive (internet has nothing to do with writing-time, except that watching good Netflix movies is as important to me as reading good books), that in my new town, as much as in Laramie, everyone wants to be happy, and everyone’s doing whatever they can think of and taking all kinds of measures to get there – feeding the sparrows, getting the good beer, buying time, as much as it takes, ’til death do we part, we go broke, or we get what we want, finally and forever and always.

Staging Bare-beques.

Listening to Bob Dylan – I am – at this very moment.

I’ve been 10 thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard.

It’s as important as ever, in a new place, with new people, that I remember that no one thinks they’re just never going to be happy (yet, when I bought my coffee today, the clerk’s sleeve, as she passed me my change, lifted to reveal a set of pale track marks), and that, as young as I still am, as fundamentally money-less as I’ll probably always be, when it comes to happiness, I don’t have to try as hard as some (because things have been easier for me, because I’m getting better at my own life, because so far there’s always a horse running outside the howling train car), and as difficult as the next year may be, and how, at any time, I’m months away from being homeless, last night I bought a bottle of Andre and a $5 eight-piece fried chicken basket to christen my new place. And it was perfect.

This morning I signed the lease. Pages were held out to me and explained. Mold disclaimer. Lead paint brochure.

I don’t have a job.

I don’t have health insurance.

I don’t have the time to worry. Scared people don’t write. Which is not to say that I won’t soon be (ideally) pouring beers at the brewpub – part-time.

It makes it easier to know what it takes. Right now, it’s a few days alone in a place I share with somebody I love. Half a day unpacking. Half a day writing. It’s another dry winter, and after all this cardboard, my hands are raw. The writing’s not going especially well, but I’m grateful to be able to do it, so much so, that instead of going out to buy lotion and bread, I’m here, eating eggs on beans with the skin of my knuckles cracking. Writing a story. Trying to find the world it began in, and failing, for now.

I’m glad to be perpetually almost there – that “there” is always shifting.

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a HAAARD

It’s a hard rain that’s gonna fall

I’m glad for Bob Dylan right about now.

I hope N. Hodgeman give you peace. I wish I would have thought to leave some interesting porn tucked away somewhere. I’m missing a few pairs of my favorite underwear, so maybe you’ll find those …

And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

… If you do find anything of mine, you’re free to sell it on the internet, or simply put it back where you found it.

I’m goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin.

– t

See my letter to the future tenants of the last place I lived in for a reference to the owl pictured above.


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