A few weeks back I went up to Wisconsin to visit my mom’s side of the family. The paramount concern when traveling by plane, of course, is the availability of reading materials to pass the time waiting in airports and sitting trapped next to strangers a few thousand feet in the air. Packing clean undies and a toothbrush and remembering to bring along valid ID takes a distant second place to ensuring that suitable reading material will be on hand.
As usual, I packed more books than I could have possibly read in five days, but it was a necessary precaution. What if I’d packed just one book, only to discover a few miles above Ohio that I didn’t like it?
Fortunately I picked wisely with State by State, a marvelous anthology edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. Fifty different writers contributed essays about their states. The book has introduced me to lots of new authors, several of whom I want to explore in more depth. Anthony Bourdain had never intrigued me before– what I don’t know from cooking could fill libraries, very big libraries– but based on his excellent essay on New Jersey, I simply must read his other writings. I mean really, New Jersey: it’s the lousiest place north of the Mason-Dixon, even more wretched than Delaware, which is saying something, and yet Bourdain’s writing kept me riveted.
Other authors were familiar– Dave Eggers did marvelous things for Illinois, a basically useless state (but inoffensive, as compared to, say, New Jersey)– but the real reason for reading the book was to give me a feel for the different regions of my country. I want to live elsewhere, but I don’t have a very precise idea of what “elsewhere” entails, aside from “having mountains and snow, lots of each.”
The great thing about the essays in the anthology is that the authors are not writing tourism pieces. They’re not necessarily telling me the wonderful things about their states; pretty much everyone, for instance, bitches about development. (I am right there bitching with them.) Reading the book seems as good a starting place as any for contemplating places to move.
Current contenders include Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming. This list is subject to change, especially depending on the availability of jobs. Not that I’ll need a job. I expect the royalties from my book (coming out in just a few weeks!) will have me set for life.
To be clear, I’m not planning on moving anywhere anytime soon. Moving is expensive, and job security is a really lovely thing. Also, I don’t know how I would move the cats, who view travel in a motor vehicle with the same enthusiasm as I view abdominal surgery without anaesthesia. (Did I spell that correctly? This thing doesn’t have spell check. I could confirm the spelling in about two seconds, but I think I’ll leave it as is, regardless. It looks very pretty like that, with the E following the A. Don’t see that too often.)
There are other complicating factors, too, none of which I feel inclined to discuss at the moment. Let’s just say that I am thinking about moving in the vague future and leave it at that.
Now everyone please go buy lots of copies of my book so that I’ll be able to afford that move in the vague future.