I arrived Thursday eve, traveling LGA>DFW>AMA and a two hour drive north across the Oklahoma border and up to Boise City. I heard that a local gas station/convenience store was a good spot to spend the mornings as a variety of people stop in for a bit to have coffee and chat. Jamie (who is on the first leg of the trip with me) and I went there about 8am Friday and within seconds of asking the clerk at the counter rattled off every person or family who would be in and what time they show up. She was right, and within minutes people began to arrive like clockwork before heading off to their jobs.
The community is a mix of farmers, ranchers, business owners, and people working in service jobs that one might find in any community. Within the first 12 hours a few different folks we hadn't met walked up, knew my name, and introduced themselves. As one person joked, "You're pretty sure if you don't recognize someone they're not from here. If three locals get together and don't recognize someone you know they're not from here."
I'll certainly have lots to share when I come home from my travels but it seems worth saying right away that, as one might imagine, no place is all one thing. In the two days so far I've met with, shared a meal with, or spent time with five people. Their histories and lives and political perspectives and experience of their community and the world is as varied as you can imagine.
I'm not a fan of think pieces written before the author has had real time to think, so I have nothing profound to offer at the moment. That said, I'm already incredibly glad I'm doing this. It is scary to call or walk up to total strangers far from home and who you worry you have very little in common with. It is moving to discover connections and share our stories. It is impossible to walk away from an hour or many hours sharing space with a person and listening to one another and not feel like you are closer. Sometimes even friends. I'm happy to piercing my bubble and grateful for the chance to share a bit about my life in New York that pierces some in return.
Photo taken sitting on post marking where Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico meet.
Scott Illingworth is an Assistant Arts Professor in the Graduate Acting Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a freelance theatre director.