Thanks Jess, for stepping up to the plate. What a great piece! A tannery, huh? Only in CNY. I'll be excited to see (hint hint) if anybody else steps up to the plate. Remember my pieces are all unfinished, but I'm putting up what I have as soon as somebody else puts something up. And my goal is to write more description, so every piece will at least begin with description before I launch into my usual self centered narrative. So here's my next installment:
McCall: McCall, Idaho sits at the top of the world, or so it seems sometimes. At over 5,500 ft. elevation, it’s not a place where too many summer gardens grow. Once I sat in my brother’s friend’s living room and listened to “the boys” talk about how once they saw snow on June 23rd. I didn’t know then how much a place could do to you. The Tamaracks that grow so straight because there’s really not enough room for them, the jumping into Payette Lake on May Day even though the water was not too long ago ice.
I suppose McCall is where I grew up, after running away from New Jersey and all my teenage angst. It seemed at first like time had not, would not, touch the place. In high school the kids couldn’t understand my accent; fresh from Bergenfield I probably sounded like I was talking under water to them. In McCall I learned to call a bag a sack, a potato a spud. I learned about isolation and that people in small towns can think enormously wrong things of you – until they get to know you.
1977: at my high school graduation party I look over to see my family standing, mouths agape, around my school principal who has just told them all how proud everybody is that I graduated with my class after dropping out of high school in my junior year. Quite a frozen-in-time moment, considering that my mother, father and sister where the only ones who knew until that moment that I had left school, that I had been a rudderless, woebegone kid who didn’t know what to do because nobody liked her, and who had walked away from school and spent a year working at a fish hatchery waiting to get on with it.
You can’t imagine what the air felt like to me when I first moved to McCall. I came from 80 ft. above sea level, from a place where on certain days you could smell ocean brine. The air in McCall was a sword at first, jousting with my poor asthmatic lungs. I felt like it dared me to breath. I couldn’t walk ten feet without the eerie feeling of needing something that wasn’t there. But somewhere along the way that gave way to the feeling that this was right, this living so high and close to such clear blue sky.
When you see the tips of Ponderosa pines look like they’re trying to make a mark on a big sky you know why people can love a place, really love a place in a way that almost hurts sometimes. The East was worn out I thought, had been used up by its own excess. In my high school journalism class I wrote an impassioned plea, a manifesto of sorts to what my homeland could have been. It was intended as some clarion call, a sort of “don’t let this happen to THE WEST” tirade against sitting idly by while the place you love goes to hell in a hand basket .