I arrived home to yellow and red leaves on the trees, and brown, crisp ones on the sidewalk. The air was cold; 40 degrees colder than it had been that morning in Newport Beach. I had been thinking on the airplane, as I tend to do to pass the hours in that buzzing, monotonous in-between, this time about the contrasts between Southern California and a place like Sandpoint. Specifically about why it was so hard for me to visualize myself in So Cal, the miles of concrete and high-end commercialism, plastered veneers and neon signs over more concrete. The traffic, always; the sprawl and the orange-skinned women with stretched faces and coral talons and their dinner salads of iceberg lettuce and American cheese. Although chez Dave, it was a different kind of So Cal, a foodie, meat-eating So Cal in a surprisingly quiet and apparently safe neighborhood, less than an hour from LAX. I imagined, however, that the price tag for such peace would be well beyond my budget.
Of course, networking in North Idaho is next to impossible, or at least it has proven slow since I’ve moved here. However, I couldn’t imagine that I would write the same way, be the same person, if I were to live in So Cal. With so many So Cal-style writers vying for a shrinking amount of printed space — giving their elevator pitches to producers, editors, agents — my selling point, my raison d’être, has to be different. And so my locale keeps me in line. The north — the long stretch of snow and gray punctuated by the fleeting, perfect summer — is melancholy and savage where the south indulges. I hold my essence, my grittiness and my innocence, my crooked teeth, the curiosity in my gaze, close to my heart because without those things I cannot peer into the essence of another thing, another person, with the same abandon. Or at least so I tell myself. And I stay in North Idaho, sometimes venturing outward to other continents and finding that the people there are like the people here, crooked, gritty, innocent.