Ithaca Chapter01 Page17
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O Brother

Fun Fact: Only one person on the set of O Brother Where Art Thou had ever read the actual Odyssey. O Brother came out when I was in college. At the time I delivered pizzas in a Ford Tempo without a muffler or a stereo. I worked nights and the radio was my constant companion. When commercials were on every rock station, I relented and flipped over to country, where I was lucky if I’d hear an old Allman Brothers song or maybe a guilty pleasure from Garth Brooks. Mostly I encountered a miasma of over processed pop hits by Shania Twain and the like. Then came O Brother. Suddenly the country station went back to a time long past when country music was actually good. It was raw and organic and it sounded just like someone singing their heart out into a can for a few dollars. It’s one of my favorite retellings because it’s such a gorgeous tribute to a particular time and place. It breathes the south in the 30’s. It makes pieces of history as large and lush as mythology. Part of the fun of a retelling is finding parallels to all of the major plot points and features. That’s why I decided to write my own. It’s a tribute to a different time and place, and a whole other kind of...

Highway 96

Ithaca is not autobiographical. It’s a tapestry of people I have known, books and songs that have inspired me, and (most of all) the places I love. It is as an ode to the flyover states–the empty spaces, the derelict towns, and the unexpectedly beautiful things that thrive there. Anybody who talks to me about traveling knows my personal meditation spot: Highway 96 from Great Bend, KS to Westcliffe, CO. My mother’s ashes are scattered on a mountaintop overlooking Westcliffe, and I try to visit every few years to pay my respects. I’ve driven 96 alone several times. Its stark beauty and utter solitude are good for thinking and storytelling. I’ve written many stories in my head while staring out my windshield at the vast, flat fields and the tall banks of...