Editor's Letter

Having lived and worked in New York City just long enough that I barely even notice
anymore when a giant rat swaggers across the subway platform but totally
freak out when a certain goat cheese isn’t in stock at the farmer’s market, I
find myself less and less in tune with the rest of America with every passing
day. This place does that to people, it seems. But I’ve lived in 12 cities and visited
47 states in my life—Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the holdouts—taken
countless road trips across the country and seen just about every historically
significant landmark on the map. This has always been a great source of pride
for me, a unique experience thanks to parents with a wanderlust not seen
since Genghis Khan. It actually worries me that one day I might wake up and
be nothing but another New Yorker.

Six years ago, I took my last cross-country road trip, from Washington, DC,
to Los Angeles, California. I drove down the southern Atlantic coast, turned in
to Atlanta, went down through New Orleans and San Antonio, then back up
through El Paso, Las Cruces, Flagstaff and the desert, before finally reaching
the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, I met a bunch of gas station attendants,
even more bartenders and one disoriented young couple who’d just rolled
their pickup truck off the side of the highway. I had a long conversation with a
voodoo doll in the French Quarter, talked to myself for several hours in White
Sands and stayed in the Michael J. Fox room at the Hotel Monte Vista. I have
pictures of all this if you want to see them. My dog, Mookie Wilson, was with
me, and because he had his head out the passenger window the whole trip,
we ended up talking to people every time we stopped. Of all those people
along those 3,477 miles, not one told us to get out of town. In fact, I felt like we
could have stayed in any of the hundreds of places we drove through for as
long as we wanted.

Hopefully, reading this issue, you’ll feel the same way. Along with Peter
van Agtmael’s and Victoria Sambunaris’ stunningly disparate portraits of
America, our covers feature stories on two disparate Americans: Justin Vernon
bka Bon Iver, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Dam-Funk, from Los Angeles,
California. Each has a bond with his place of birth that both reflects normal
loyalty and transcends it. Dam never really left LA but is trying to bring its vast
diversity together through time-capsule boogie, and Vernon came back to Eau
Claire to prove its worth to the rest of the country with his particular brand of
indecipherable folk rock. Both are heady aspirations, but wildly inspiring. As
someone who’s never really had a hometown but been all over, they make me
think about the places I’ve been and where I am now, whether I want to ride
for this city or try to reconnect with another one. Maybe the only way to find
out is to grab the dog and some beef jerky and head out on the open road.



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