Where are you from?

It’s a simple enough question, and most people have a ready answer. In general, the question could be rephrased “where do you call home?” During my childhood years through college, the answer was Los Alamos, New Mexico. Once I moved out to the west coast, I gradually changed from being from New Mexico to being from California. (This was partly a pragmatic move, as telling people I’m from New Mexico will confuse some folks, and there’s no explaininig it because they don’t even know they’re confused. So, I was from San Diego, unless the person asking also lived there, in which case the question can usually be phrased “where did you live before you moved to California?” In my generation at least, there proportion of native Californians to emmigrants is tiny. Everyone is from somewhere else. The fact I actually was born in California just adds to the ambiguity.

On the homeless tour, as I puttered around the back roads of North America, I usually answered “California” when asked that question, for simplicity’s sake, but as time passed my association of San Diego with home began to fade. Now, I life in Prague, but I am hardly from Prague. Now, when someone asks me where I’m from it can generally be translated to “What part of the US did you come from?” (People can guess my nationality quite easily. Shorts, facial hair, bad at speaking the local tongue: American.) Generally I answer California, because it has a semi-mythic image here, a strange paradise of palm trees, movie stars, beaches, and violent crime. Sometimes I say New Mexico, however, and generally people know where it is, even if they have no image to associate with it. It is a squarish area on the map, and is likely desert because it is next to Arizona, and probably has cowboys because it is next to Texas.

When I got back from Spain I let out a deep sigh and said, “it’s good to be home.” But what did I mean by that?

Trying to come up with non-fiction markets

I’ve been trying to think of ways to sell the sort of writing I do here in the blog (only more polished, of course). I’m not coming up with much. Travel mags in general want articles about fun places, not someone’s experiences in them. They are not looking for what goes by the name “narrative nonfiction”; instead they want descriptions (and photos) of local landmarks and tourist attractions. They don’t care about the pretty bartender in some back alley pub, or my musings on a conversation overheard, or about a man with no nose.

I suppose I could write in a more traditional travel style, but there are lots of people gunning for those gigs (“Paid to travel? Cool!”), and while few of them are very good, that still leaves more than enough to fill the void, people whose style is naturally more matter-of-fact than mine. Articles for those who actually go to the attractions when they visit a place are best written by people who travel the same way, rather than some guy who prefers to hang out in dark and quiet bars and watch the locals.

Magazines and Newspapers often have columnists who are more or less free to ramble, as long as they keep the focus relevant to the readers, which generally means “local”. The only place I’d be able to contribute something like that would be a rag catering to ex-pats in Prague, but in general my “local” is much different than theirs, and when I write about how annoying ex-pats can be, it may not go over very well. Still, it’s something I should look into. Maybe someone’s looking for an irascible voice that will piss people off. The other tricky part about that is that I would have to lead a more interesting life, and write about it with fewer words.

Gonzo Travel Magazine, that’s what I need. Maybe Letters From a Bowling Alley, or perhaps Rock Stacking World. That would be a sweet gig, traveling the world on assignment, hanging out in rocky places, meeting other stackers, and just generally screwing around. Remind me to search Writer’s Market for rock stacking.

Any of you guys have any ideas? Do you know any magazines or newspapers that actually exist that might like this sort of thing?

Meanwhile, one of the waiters here at the Bowling alley is blindfolded. I bet there’s a story there.