December 19th, 2001


I wanna ride to the ridge where the west commences...

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
Dooon't fence me in...

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by The West. I guess it makes a certain amount of sense, given that I was born and raised within spitting distance of Washington, D.C., and once you've been here a while, anything not-here seems wonderful.

I was particularly enamored of this song, "Don't Fence Me In." In a lot of ways, it captured a central part of my personality when I was a kid ... a loner, prone to wandering about in the woods, having great disdain for other people's rules and schedules. I'm not a rebel, exactly -- I don't fight authority figures for its own sake -- really I'd rather just ignore them all together, but they won't leave me alone.

Anyway, I've finally _been_ out west, now, and I was a bit dismayed to discover that it wasn't that different than where I am now, with the possible exception that most folks were a bit more outgoing. Around here, nobody dares catch your eye or smile -- even though most people here are very friendly, generous people who desperately crave pleasant social contact. At least in California and Nevada, people would open conversations with a smile.

My most pleasant experience out west was in a small town way up in the California rockies. Snow was blowing like nobody's business, the roads were blocked, and dinky little motel I stayed at had a problem maintaining a consistent water temperature. (You got hot water in the shower ... then HOT water ... then third degree burns ... then freezing rain...) But everybody from the motel owners to the pizza delivery guy who braved three feet of snow to feed us was just super-friendly. It was beautiful country, too ... canyons of snow and coniferous trees, sheer rock walls, slow-winding rivers with railroad trestles going over them. It was really something. And everyone I met was very open-minded and friendly, which took me a little by surprise given the situation I was traveling in.

Right now, I'd love to be back in that little town. Months of long-dragging, soul-sucking unemployment have left me staring at the same four walls and going nuts ... lack of funds killed my trip to MFF ... it's only the hope of getting out to San Mateo in January for Further Confustion that's keeping me going at this stage.

And I wonder, sometimes, if I actually lived out there for a while, if I wouldn't eventually find myself pining to come back east. I think I'm just going to have to learn to deal with the fact that I've got wanderlust. I'm a cat, after all, and cats hate closed doors.

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in...

-The Gneech
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