Letter From Westcliffe, Colorado—After a Radio Interview in Denver, With a Shout-out to Richard Brautigan's biography "Jubilee Hitchhiker," Plus a Poke at Nick Reding's "Methland"

So yesterday I was in Denver for a radio interview with Irene Rawlings of the Clear Channel, who couldn’t have been nicer. It was relaxed and easy, and quick. The sound booth/studio (whatever they call that little room) reminded me of episodes of Frasier. I was there promoting my new novel, The Bird Saviors, that debuts next month—which I’m sure I should be hawking and trumpeting even more than I am. I definitely have mixed & queasy feelings about self-promotion. Maybe it’s a Catholic boy thing: I always remember being taught that Pride was the worst of the seven deadly sins. There was a pretty good, if glib, piece about writers being reluctant self-promoters in the NY Times last week. I think it’s certainly true, for some of us. I know certain writers (I won’t name names) who seem to want only to talk about themselves, and I hope never to become that monster. But when you have a book out, you’re supposed to promote it. I mean, obviously I want people to read it. And love it! Still, I feel a bit queasy, urging others to do so. I never want to be the huckster.
But I felt none the huckster when doing the radio interview in Denver, and it was a lovely, pleasant day in the Mile High City, which provided a contrast between where most of the world lives (cities), and where I do, presently (the boonies). Westcliffe, Colorado, should actually be called a “village” or “hamlet’: It’s a ranching town in a valley (now green and pretty, with purple irises just starting to bloom in the hay grass pastures) whose population is only a few thousand souls (around a thousand in the town itself). For four years I lived in Jersey City, NJ, and worked in Manhattan, both places that are ranked as having some of the highest population densities in the nation—Westcliffe is the opposite, one of the lowest. The locals are friendly, the air is clear, & in a given day you often see more animals—deer, elk, antelope, bear—than people. (But who in the world shoots all those holes in the speed limit signs?) Sometimes I feel like Richard Brautigan, who owned a home and wrote in the boonies of Montana, and about whom there is a new biography out right now, Jubilee Hitchhiker, reviewed here. (I’m going to read it soon.) But what strikes me most is the disconnect between how small town America is often perceived and how it actually is. Consider Nick Reding’s book Methland (2009), which I wrote about before, and isn’t a great book or anything, but was interesting for its depiction of small Midwestern towns totally devastated by the meth scourge. That may well be true (I don’t know), but Westcliffe seems more an example of the “bucolic hideout from a chaotic world” than anything else. Last Saturday we attended an Outdoor Buddy event to celebrate Iraq War Vets, with plenty of hunters (I’m not one of them) in attendance, plus a talk from a local rep who saves wolves, and it was way cool. Here’s a photo on that day:

And Mile High City? I’m like, big deal, I live at 9,000 feet, almost two miles high!

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