Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The middle of the USA

In the last ten days I have sold all of my belongings (besides my clothes), packed my car and driven to from Colorado to Memphis (parents' house), and arrived in Maine to see my family before I leave the country. To get from Boulder to Memphis I drove via highway 36 along northern Kansas, the alternative to I-70. I convinced my boyfriend, Pat, to agree on this route because it passes the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states, and I really wanted to stand on this point and see what it felt like. We had been in eastern Colorado for a while and things leveled out considerably since leaving the front range of the Rockies. We drove by Beecher Island in Yuma County, Colorado. Beecher is a sandbar on the Arikaree River and it's the site of an historic battle during the American Indian war. We drove by the Prairie Dog State Park of Kansas and then got dinner in St. Francis, whose welcome sign proudly read, "The Home of the Indians."

Several abandoned barns and silos littered the pastures or were accompanied by larger, newer, more productive farms. I love the way old barns with red roofs caving in look against the bright green grass. The scenery looks so unchanged and still, it reminds me of this photograph by Dorthea Lange, "Cotton picker." They both have such a desperate and quiet look to them, like they've been working away and devoting their lives to their land without much return.

So after about seven hours of driving, Pat and I finally arrived in Lebanon, Kansas. We drove a mile off the highway and turned left onto a small road to the plaque in the middle of a random field which denotes the geographical center of the continental United States. A giant American flag was silhouetted on one side of the street and a stark white sign said "Welcome to the center of the USA" on the other. The landmark is so funny to me - a cement rectangle and a bronze plaque plopped in the middle of a cow pasture. I'm sure hundreds of people choose to take highway 36 every year to be able to visit the center of the continental USA. But why? It's surrounded by the same treeless rolling landscape that the rest of the Midwest is made of, and because some officials decided to measure where the center of the US is, it has become a destination and something interesting to people like me. There is no real use for it, but it's fun to go and find out for yourself what it's like to be in the middle of American, literally. It's not so much the geographic spot, but the chance to veer off the monotonous highway and constant landscape passing you by at 75 mph. We turned the engine off, walked outside, heard nothing but crickets, and got to see the land of Kansas, completely still and and calm. That by itself was enough of a reason to get off the highway.
I've spent the last week in Maine with family reaping the benefits of Hurricane Bill's enormous surf on my boogie board.
Now I have less than a week left until I leave for Sydney and Melbourne, Australia - the beginning of my next five months traveling. I'll post when I finally get there.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Colorado Statesman

This photo is of Nancy Pelosi's Thursday visit to Denver to talk about public health care reform (taken by my co-worker, Jason). I have the blonde ponytail standing behind the row of tapers. This summer I interned as a writer and reporter for The Colorado Statesman, a weekly nonpartisan newspaper in Denver. The legislature ended May 7, exactly five days before I started working. So instead of covering the assembly, I covered things like announcements and signings of laws, speeches at the Capitol, conference calls from Sen. Udall, and protests for or against Obama-care. I learned a lot from this experience about writing for politics and how to interview people confidently.

I enjoy learning about politics and understanding them better. The summer after I graduated from high school (2005) I interned for then U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass of the 2nd district of New Hampshire. I took his constituents on tours of the U.S. Capitol, wrote letters to the constituents on Bass's behalf, answered phones and sorted mail. I loved being in the center of all the action. I really love seeing how our democracy works and watching elected politicians try and represent their districts. So my next step, after figuring out that I liked politics, was figuring out how to make sure people had access to the correct information in order to come up with accurate opinions about their issues. I decided that what I wanted to do was study the ways of the media and learn how to help make its political message as clear and honest as possible.

Working for The Statesman was a perfect opportunity to do that. I learned how to be as objective as I can be, take myself out of the article, and write an article that's relevant, interesting and informative. It's disheartening to see newspapers dying all over the country. Online news is a different breed. But what will never change is the requirement of honest news to be a watchdog on the government and a service to the citizens.

On the side bar are links to some of the articles I wrote this summer for The Statesman. Check 'em out.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


Gumboots, golashes, mackintoshes, topboots, gummies, wellies and "me topboots," are some of the nicknames that Wellingtons have acquired since their beginning -- 1815.

Their regal name is in reverence to the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, who had them custom made with calf skin interior to walk through the muddy spring wetness. He liked them because they sufficed for the hard-wearing battle against Napoleon, and also were comfortable enough to wear while sitting at home. His nickname was "Old Nosey," for his large hook-of-a nose.

People in Ireland call them "me topboots." Kiwis in New Zealand call them "footrot flats." North Island NZ town, Taihape, claims being the gumboot capital of the world -- they have their own Gumboot Day where they throw gumboots into the air.

In Russia, gumboots became fashionable because they became socialist style while leather boots were capitalist.

In South Africa, miners danced in their gumboots to stay alert. The squishy sound that it made moved its way into becoming a genre of music, "gumboot music."

And the Brits play a game called wellie wanging, which is just throwing your boots as far as possible!

One of my favorite albums is Paul Simon's Graceland. The fourth track on the ablum is "Gumboots," a song taken from the instrumental version of the Boyoyo boys, a Mbaqanga-style South African group.

"I was walking down the street
When I thought I heard this voice say,
Say ain't we walking down the same street together
On the very same day,
I said hey Senorita that's astute
I said, why don't we get together
And call ourselves an institute?"

So I named my blog lucygumboots. I like wearing gumboots. As the Duke said, they're practical and comfortable. They're also fun to wear -- they make me feel like I'm a little girl, sloshing around through puddles and mud, almost invincible.

I'm going on a 5-month journey across the world starting on August 31. I am not taking gumboots because they are too bulky, and I will be in warm places for a majority of the time. lucygumboots will be my record of myself walking down streets, through mud, and in new places around the globe. I'll probably have Graceland stuck in my head.

I am going to update this more frequently when I start traveling. For now, I am going to update occasionally. I want to make the blog a working resume also. I graduated from the journalism school at the University of Colorado at Boulder 3 months ago and I plan to work in the journalism/media industry. I originally wanted to work for newspapers, unfortunately that doesn't seem like such a good idea any more. We'll see where this takes me!