Monday, July 13, 2015

On The Importance of Windows

It occurs to me that I have not written since February.

This has not been for any particular reason. It's difficult to do things, really anything, when living in an underground room with no windows. This is something that should seem obvious, but doesn't. You don't think about your lack of productivity in windowless spaces until you happen to occupy a windowless space.

As it happens, I'm currently in a library.

When I was a teenager, keeping this Blog up as a way to have a diary without having to admit to having a diary, I wrote a lot of my entries in libraries. I say "libraries" but it was really just one library. They were usually written during Honors Choir - a class that, for reasons I can't entirely remember, I tended to end up in the library for. I wrote, as you tend to in high school, with desperate fear that whoever was next to me would read what I was writing.

The library at Exeter High School had many windows. At least, the second one did. The old high school library at the iteration of Exeter High School I attended my freshman year, was, in fact, located in a basement.

It's funny how things work out, sometimes. Often.

The library I currently occupy is the Uniondale Public Library. I had not heard of this library in high school. I had not heard of Uniondale in high school. Were I to, somehow, hold a conversation with myself in high school specifically on the trajectory of my life, it would go something like this:


NELLY and TEEN NELLY sit at a table in the back of the library. It's fourth period. Besides the two of them, it is deserted. The sun cascades in from the large, luxurious window. 

Enjoy windows. 

That's it? 

Also, you're going to move to New York, change your major, dye your hair, meet two different incarnations of the Doctor, travel to South America, get tear gassed, win a screenwriting award, study religion, work for the Girl Scouts, and somehow end up narrating audiobooks.


Right? Take advantage of windows.  


Also, you're going to stop updating your Blog for long periods of time every once in a while. This is usually meaningful. Sometimes, it's not. 

That's vague. 

Most things are. Windows aren't. Make sure you have windows. 

And so on.

It is entirely possible this would go on for several hours - my past self never fully grasping the importance of windows, even as I attempted to drill the concept into my own mind with maddening enthusiasm. Some things are not meant to be understood until they are experienced.

I should also note that I graduated from college this past May, and have since been focused on the process of forcing my somewhat ill-fitting self into the guise of an adult. It's a bit like trying on pants.

Eventually,  just as in high school, I will pack up my things, and leave the library. I will end this Blog entry, and allow its contents to fade away, like a strange dream. My day will continue. I will be presented with problems I will wish I had addressed earlier - possibly, when I was younger. I will look at my life and wonder why it isn't somehow different.

I will wish I was an adult.

And of course, eventually - though there is no telling how long that eventually will extend - I will find a place with windows. I will look out at the sky and be reminded that there is a world out there, that life is inherently more complicated and more exciting than the walls of my room and my head. I will realize that this exact moment is not as absolute as it seems. And then, most likely, I will forget that.

But I will have a window. And, as lost as I might feel, at least I will know what is around me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Grandfather's Picture

I have a picture of my grandfather on my desk.

It's on the left.

I've had a number of desks over the years. Desks are my base of operations. When I move, it's the first piece of furniture I think about, and the first thing I settle into. Even in Peru - during that period I moved just about every week - it was always nice to find a hostel with a desk.

I've had this picture on my desk, every desk, since I've had desks.

Or, at least, I think I have. I realized today, about ten minutes ago, that I don't actually remember how or when I received this picture.

The picture of my little sister, across the desk on the right, is easy to date. I took it with me when I left for New York, five years ago. I was eighteen then, she was ten. She looks ten. Round glasses that are too large for her, a smile that is at once unsure but just a bit too young to be self-conscious, some sort of plaid shirt I know she doesn't own as a teenager, a natural hair color - and of course, no make up. Looking at it reminds me that I need to get a new picture. This one says nothing but "2009".

Next to that is a picture of David Bowie with a large dog. It rests on my microphone, waiting to be tacked onto the wall. I got that in New Paltz. Where else?

Returning to the left, I have a picture of myself and two of my friends posing at mini golf course in elementary school. It is not an old picture. In the grand scheme of my relatively short life, you could say it is. But, it isn't. My friends and I are probably around the same age my sister is in her picture. As old as the picture feels, thirteen years is not that long. Or, near thirteen years, rather.

I remember the picture being taken. I remember three copies of it being framed. I remember all of this taking place, but not exactly when. It's in that strange, foggy period of "childhood" that after a while seems to blend together into a soup of experiences - the exact chronology of which is confusing, and mostly irrelevant.

And then there's my grandfather.

It is, technically, a picture of both my grandfather and grandmother - back when they were a unit of "Grammy and Poppa." They are sitting together on a red bench, with water as a backdrop. I have no idea where they are, or why they are there. It's most likely Maine, as the picture is dated "1985" but it could just as easily be New York.

I was not alive in 1985, but I remember when they looked like this. I remember when my grandfather was alive and they lived together on Reg Rock Road in a cavernous house made for a large family with a large history. I remember it, but I know that my sister does not. I remember playing in the basement, and the attic, and at Poppa's thoroughly modern desk.

And now, here I am, at my thoroughly modern desk. My macbook pro sits in the center beside my USB condenser mic. The drawers hold external hard drives and digital camera chargers. Knick knacks I pick up as I go litter the edges, and a clock appropriately looms above it all.

In five years, how will this desk have changed? How antiquated will today's "thoroughly modern" be, and what pictures will go with it?

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Venezuela Out There

I have this habit of writing when I'm anxious or overwhelmed.

I used to do this a lot in high school. I'd flunk a test and come back the next day with a thirty page radio script. I am not an unintelligent person, but I'm often flustered by academics. The constant barrage of Things I Have To Do makes me nervous. Sometimes the only way I can feel like I have control over the things around me is to waste valuable time throwing all my energy into something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with anything.

Case in point, the following:

I was in the library with my friend, Jackie. The two of us met last year when I moved into the dorm room next to hers. I once woke her up at two in the morning to ask her to name a fake game show. At the time, she barely knew my name. Somehow, we became close.

Anyway. We were there. She was working diligently on something computer science related that I am, in no way, qualified to describe. I had several thousand things due in a variety of subjects including Spanish, mysticism, and science fiction, and was steadfastly refusing to do any of them. I was bored. I tapped my pen restlessly on the desk. I fiddled with my hair. I tried to summon from deep within me the motivation to be productive. I pulled out a notebook.

I sighed.

"What should I write about?" I asked.

Jackie looked up. She raised an eyebrow. I braced myself for a "don't you have work to do?" response. I should have known better. Jackie, being Jackie, did not question my intent. She thought for a moment, half her mind still clearly swimming in numbers, and eventually, delivered the following prompt:

A conflict between two female characters - JEAN-BOB and MRS. DARCY - containing the following things: 

1.) A used tampon. 
2.) A slug.
3.) Prune juice with hibiscus. 
4.) Venezuela 
5.) King penguins.

In addition, someone must say the following phrases: 

1.) "You resemble a beluga whale." 
2.) "Oh, whoa is me!" 
3.) "Why is that chair on the table?" 
4.) "That chair is sexy." 

I have been told that, were I to peek into Jackie's mind at the exact moment of this discussion, all of these things would make complete sense in relation to each other. I have concluded that studying computer science does strange things to one's mind. 

Regardless, by the end of the evening, I had, in fact, complete the prompt.  

And so, I give you, A Thing I Wrote While I Should Have Been Doing Other Things. 


JEAN-BOB, 19, is working the register alone at an otherwise empty shop. She is preoccupied, staring into the distance in a way that suggest this is her default state of being. 

The door opens. In walks MRS. DARCY, 50's, in a rush. She hands over her credit card immediately. 

Caramel machiado. Large. 

That chair is so sexy. 

I'm sorry? 

That chair. The one over in the corner by the ironic, but stylish picture of a slug. In comparison to the slug, it's the most attractive thing in the room. 

Why is it on the table? 

The slug? 

The chair. Why is the chair on the table? You're open, aren't you? 

That depends on your definition of "open". 

Should I go somewhere else - 

If you define "open" as "We have a great abundance of prune juice with a vague hint of hibiscus" then no, we are not, in fact, open. 

I see - 

But, if you define "open" as "We are currently operating and are thus ready to accept your order of a highly caffeinated, most likely unhealthy beverage" then yes, we are open. 

What is your name? 




I see. Jean-Bob, if you would like to continue to be employed, I suggest you turn around and begin making a large caramel machiado, which, if you'll recall, is what I ordered when I came in. 

You know, you resemble a beluga whale. 

Excuse me? 

Or, at least, you would, if you accepted the world around you. 


I'm troubled. 

So am I. 

I'm starting to think that reality, as we know it, is a dying construct. 

Can it be a construct with coffee? 

Have you ever considered it...Mrs. Darcy? 

How did you know my name? 

It's on your credit card. 


But, have you ever considered it? Have you ever stopped and stared at the reality that we inhabit and imagined it crumbling to the ground that only may or may not exist? 

If I say yes, will you get me my coffee? 

We are human. Theoretically. We know that we are human only because we are not any other species on Earth, like beluga whales or king penguins, and human is simply the only option left. We, in particular, Mrs. Darcy, are women. Made of X chromosomes and used tampons. 

I don't need this. 

But I am troubled by the deep, ever present knowledge that at any moment, these facts might cease to be facts, and we may find ourselves adrift in a desert of nonsense and chaos. 

Oh, woe is you. 

Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe are us. We. You and I, and this cafe that is not a cafe. Woe to those who are secure with what they believe to be their permanent location in space!  

I'm leaving. 

But where are you leaving from? 


But what is "here"?

I don't care. 

That's good! 

I'm going to Starbucks. 

The door opens. She exits. A moment passes. The door opens again, and Mrs. Darcy re-enters. Jean-Bob just smiles. 


Hello, again. 

It's Venezuela out there. 

Indeed, it is. 

But, we're in New York. 

We're not anymore. 

But...will we go back? 


I have to go to work. 

You don't have to do anything. There is no permanent reality. 


Caramel machiado? 

Uh, yes. Large. 

Coming right up. 

Thank you. 

She sits down at the counter. She glances around. 

You know something? 


That chair is sexy. 

I know, right? 

Jean-Bob gives her a coffee. They smile, content, and glance out the window at the Venezuelan street outside. 


So, were those two hours productive? Not really. Were they fun? Yes. Does that make it worth it? I don't know. But, here it is. 

I think I might go grab some coffee. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

An Open Letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

I generally assume we're on pretty good terms. I am a born and raised Unitarian Universalist, after all, universe is in the name. Sometimes I stare, wild eyed, into the void and wonder what it is that you require of us, but for the most part, I tend to just take things as you throw them.

Recently, you've thrown quite a lot at me. Moving, classes, running a club, working for the girl scouts, bed bugs, infections, an inability to find a job that pays more than $100 a week, constantly washing and re-washing every article of clothing I have while wrapping everything else up in insect-proof plastic...but, you know all this. You gave me all of this. And I'm sure that, somewhere down the line, I will learn a tremendously valuable life lesson from all of it. I'm not here to ask you to change your MO. I would just like to ask for a simple amendment, to whatever cosmic plan you may have in place for me.

Have you ever listened to Janelle Monae? Her talent as a musician is such that I am skeptical that she originates from this universe to begin with. So, I thought I'd ask. If you, in fact, have not, take a look.

Did you see that? That is a life changing experience in three minutes and forty-four seconds. That is the face of the woman currently occupying a significant chunk of my ipod; the song I have sung so many times in the shower that I'm surprised even the bedbugs are willing to live with me. This is a performer who wrote an album so good that I once spent three days trying to download it from a mountain in Peru. Her lack of a grammy nomination makes me physically angry.

What I'm saying is, her music is important to my life.

And you know that, as the universe.

And yet, for reasons I'm fairly certain I'm not supposed to be able to fathom, you have yet to give me the opportunity to see her live.

Now, I understand that you are an ever changing force. I currently inhabit a world where pictures and videos are often more important than the experience itself. I get that. And, I understand that you have provided me with a wealth of such things to keep me going through the good times, the bad times, and those times I hear that she's going to be in New York when I'm with my family/in another country/at a wedding/showing turtle skulls to girl scouts. You know I'm grateful for this.

But, I suppose I'm somewhat old fashioned. I am rarely of the opinion that the "good old days" were actually as good as people say they were, but I do find myself with a distinct attachment to live performance. I like the thrill of standing in front of a stage, the feel of over-amplified music aggressively chipping away at my sense of hearing - I'm even a fan of that strange, awkward moment when you accidentally lock eyes with a random stranger beside you and you realize that he has no idea what's going on. You can't get these things from YouTube. Not without expensive sound equipment. And kidnapping. Probably.

Tomorrow, sometime after two, Janelle Monae will be performing at my school. This is the one time I have ever had any real interest in a visiting musical guest. It is my senior year. There are many, many reason why I should be in attendance. But, of course, I understand. I understand that, especially recently, you've had a lot for me to do. I understand that there is purpose in seemingly random things. I understand that I am supposed to be learning.

But given that you have been interacting with me quite a bit recently, and I have, in fact, been doing the best I can to carry out the things that I am supposed to carry out, I would like to - with great courtesy and respect, of course - ask for Saturday evening to myself.

You can have the morning. You already have the morning. But once the exterminator leaves, and I'm finished with the three hours of Spanish homework, and I've washed everything own for the third time in a week, is it at all possible that you could just give me those last few hours? Just those. Just while Janelle Monae is onstage. I don't need the rest of the concert.

Thank you, Universe, for taking the time to read through this. Should you need me, I have a feeling you know where I live. I have not enclosed a resume since, again, I'm fairly certain you know all that, and most of it isn't really relevant.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Nelly Nickerson

Friday, September 12, 2014

Time Is Kind of An Illusion, Sometimes.

I may or may not have become unstuck in time.

Granted, I live in an apartment where, if not for the use of clocks, it is impossible to tell whether it is night, day, or anything in between. Clocks are, of course, imperfect - with the very distinct exception of that atomic clock my grandfather once showed my mother that one time when she was five and having a brief crisis over the existence of measurable time. Sometimes, it seems, PM can be accidentally switched with AM, and you find yourself awake several minutes after your class started, but with the space around you looking, for all the world, like it was the middle of the night.

Admittedly, this environment does make it easier to deal with the ensuing panic.

I threw on some clothes. Once outside, confronted with the somewhat later than midday sun, it became apparent that I was late. I had not, in fact, been dreaming when my alarm failed to go off and I wandered my bedroom in a haze looking for socks. The real world is alarmingly real when you can feel its breeze and see its clouds and hear its too-fast New York cars in the distance.

The walk to class is a short one. It's about the length of "Way Down Hadestown". Sometimes, if I'm walking towards that other part of campus where the language and science classes are, I can get through "Hey, Little Songbird". On days when I'm distracted and I've been known to stop and contemplate the colors of a leaf, or an abandoned piece of paper on the ground, I get all the way to "When The Chips Are Down".

These are from Hadestown, by the way. It's a concept album by Anais Mitchell, and you should definitely look it up.


I climbed the steps of Breslin Hall, frantic and sweaty, still trying to shake the dreamlike feeling from my surroundings. At this point, I had only been to this class once. I knew where to go purely from muscle memory, as it was in the same room as the Nerd Club I had been attending for four years. Consciously, there was a good chance I was completely unaware of what I was doing or where I was going. I opened the door. I was expecting a classroom of people. I expected to find myself on the wrong side of a room full of eyes - interrupted, and perplexed.

Instead, the room was empty.

I closed the door. I took a step back. I took a deep breath, shook my head, and opened it again.

Still empty. Still strange.

There are several steps that must be taken when arriving at an empty classroom that should not be empty.


Or, alternatively, the blackboard. Often, an empty classroom just means that class is being held outside. In this case, the board revealed only the details of a class on marketing. Or economics. Or, possibly, existential terror. I've never been very good at business.


There is a good chance you have missed a sign on the door saying that class has been cancelled or moved. These signs are usually small, half-unintelligible, and complicated. The only thing on the door of 211 Breslin was a spider - small, white, and quick moving.


This is when it get truly complex. Both the general step, and in the context of my story.

Professors like to e-mail you during those moments you are least likely to check your e-mail. It's different for everyone. If you check your e-mail before bed, they will write in the morning. If you check your e-mail right before class, they will have e-mailed you last night, and the message will be lost. All of these e-mails will be to the school address you never use. They will then complain that students never check their e-mail.

If you have a smart phone, this step may or may not be easier. If you have an old, fairly temperamental smart phone, this step will only be slightly easier. In my case, I spent a good twenty minutes standing awkwardly in the wide, cavernous hallway of Breslin, desperately trying to convince my four-year-old iPhone 4 that it would be a good idea to log into my portal. It was only after this task was completed that I noticed a poster on the wall announcing that the Hofstra smartphone app had finally been rebooted and updated.

The poster was literally at eye level. An impressive feat, considering I'm only just under six feet tall.

My inbox contained three new e-mails. Out of the three, only one of them said "I am sick, and therefore will not be able to teach class today." It was from my Eastern Philosophy professor.

The Eastern Philosophy professor I had three years ago.

I opened the e-mail.

Sure enough, it explained, apologetically, that my professor would not be in class today, and that we would continue our discussion of Taoism on Tuesday. I remember this discussion on Taoism. I remember jumping back and forth between note taking and a film pitch about trailer parks and Freddie Mercury. I remember it being moved from a Thursday to a Tuesday. I remember being a sophomore with cherry red hair and pants that were too big for me.

I checked the date. It had been sent today.

I looked around me. The hallway was empty. Faintly, I could hear other professors giving lectures on things I couldn't make out. I heard the sound of an elevator. I heard someone order coffee from the coffee stand downstairs. There was nothing strange about this space. There was everything strange about this space.

I sighed. I put in my earbuds, and returned to Hadestown. I walked back to my timeless apartment. I tried to watch The Daily Show, but the only full episode that would load was one from a week ago. I contemplated the past. I ate breakfast at two in the afternoon. I wished, not for the first time, that my grandfather was still alive to take me to his atomic clock, and reassure me that time was, in fact, real.

The next time I left my apartment, it was dark. I hadn't noticed it change. I sighed again, itched a bed bug bite, and went to class.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bedbugs or Vampires? Is There Really a Difference?

There are a number of similarities that can be made between bedbugs and vampires.

The obvious one is, of course, the fact that they are both active only at night. As the sun sets and you slip into a deep, dreamless sleep, a vampire emerges from the shadows and stands silently at your helpless, unconscious form. You cannot see the vampire. Even if you were awake, the vampire would not want you to. Similarly, and simultaneously, a bed bug emerges from the dark folds of your used mattress. It ponders your skin. It creeps soundlessly around you, until it stops.

Both the bedbug and the vampire see you as their prey. Their perception is accurate.

In the case of both creatures, the lore that is associated with them is often difficult and contradictory. Can a vampire be killed with a wooden stake, or do you have to set it on fire? Can you use a bug bomb to save yourself, or do you have to call a professional fumigator? Is it possible to sleep with your mattress encased in plastic while you wear a chain of garlic around your neck - and will either of these things actually protect you?

The short answer is that there is no answer. The only answer is possibly. Rituals, in their many and complex variations, are never guaranteed to be successful. This is as true in black magic as it is in insect extermination.

Returning to your bed, both the bedbug and the vampire are feeding. Blood is, of course, life. Your life. And at present, it is being drained from your body to feed the life of another.

Routine is important. The vampire drinks from the same place on your body it always has. It will return to this place - your neck - over, and over, and over again, never straying from this fixed place. It is both practical and a compulsion. Vampires are, by nature, compulsive beings. They have a long, ancient history with obsession - obsession with numbers, with counting, with practice.

Bedbugs are similar. In the morning you will wake up covered in red marks. You will notice that these marks tend to cluster. There is never only one. Once the bedbugs have learned how your blood travels through your body, they will find a place and feed again, and again, and again. The marks they leave will pile onto you, change you - the layers of enflamed sores distorting the familiar topography of your skin.

What happens next varies in both cases. The sun will rise. The bedbugs and the vampire will retreat into the shadows, quenched. You will wake up and somehow things will be different. You may itch in places you did not itch before. You may be lightheaded, pale, with a thirst for something you can't entirely put into words. You may not even be human. Or, at the very least, you may not feel like you are.

I should mention that I have it under relatively good authority that my apartment is, in fact, infested with bedbugs and not vampires. But you can never really be sure, can you? Tomorrow I could begin the last year of my undergraduate education as an entirely different being. Either way, I will certainly be an itchier one.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trails Without End

The other day I walked twelve straight miles without stopping, and didn't realize it. I began at the edge of a dark, seemingly endless trail - the entrance of which can only be found by those who accidentally stumble upon it while wandering "Historic Huguenot Street" in a fit of profound unemployment. I had heard legends, myths even, about the so-called "Rail Trail" that extended from Gardiner to "just South of Kingston". With my starting location of New Paltz, I assumed I would, eventually, find the end.

I did not.

I walked for six hours. In the beginning, I passed joggers and bike riders. Locals walked their dogs. Children sat bored in strollers as their mothers power walked. People cut across to get to the strangely Lynchian pizza place down by the Salvation Army. No one seemed to think it was odd. No one seemed distressed or disturbed. I was reminded of walking through Swazey Parkway in my hometown of Exeter, New Hampshire. As I became more comfortable, lulled into a sense of familiar small town security, I resolved to walk the whole trail. It was well maintained, and clearly frequently used. The sun wouldn't set until 8:30, so I assumed I had plenty of time.

Then I looked down. Not at my watch, of course. Who wears watches these days? I looked down at my phone which was, at this point, busy trying to keep Spotify running in the middle of the woods, and it was then that I realized, I had been walking for two hours.

Now, that doesn't seem like too dramatic a realization. But, to keep the tension up, I will here add that I had not eaten anything, and had only packed one small, store bought water bottle.

I looked the trail up and down. Behind me, I could no longer see where I had begun. Before me, there seemed to be no end in sight. Around me, there was a suspicious lack of people or animals.

But, as has been made abundantly clear to me over the course of this summer, I am a girl scout. I do not get intimidated by the idea of an endless trail, nor do I, apparently, feel physical exertion while hiking one. The trail had been laid out online, so it obviously had an end. I took a deep breath - taking care to remind myself how lucky I was to have oxygen in this air - and strode onward.

It should be noted that it is not uncommon for me to go for a walk in the woods and end up gone longer than anticipated. In New Hampshire, I had a habit of wandering off into the woods, getting lost, and having to call someone to pick me up by the side of some highway far away from where I had started. But the thing about trails in New Hampshire is that they have endings. If you walk too far in any direction, you'll end up in another state, which will inevitably bring you to some semblance of civilization. This is one of the side effects of being from a small state. You may feel trapped, and claustrophobic, but at least you know where you are.

New York, as I am constantly discovering, is a different beast. Aside from a few driving habits, I have basically acclimatized to metropolitan New York. I understand the mentality of Long Island. I can generally figure out how to get places in the city without having to check a subway map. I know who to ask about what and what to never mention to others. In a way, my Long Island/New York City experience has been somewhat similar to my New Hampshire upbringing, in that I always know where I am. Walk too far on the island, and you'll hit a beach. Walk too far in the city, and you'll hit the suburbs. It's easy.

But upstate, even somewhere only ninety minutes North, like New Paltz, is not the city. It is beautiful, like New Hampshire, but unpredictable, like New York. Walk too far in any direction and you...will still be walking. Forever.

As I kept hiking, the trail seemed to extend. I walked across bridges, through bogs, past rivers, through horse farms, past secluded houses, and empty baseball fields. There were moments when the trail seemed to be raised, at the top of an incline, only to suddenly be below the ground beside it. There were pieces of it that seemed to go straight through people's private properties, and then I would walk for an hour never passing a single building.

It was somewhere around hour five when I started to realize that I no longer had the physical stamina to keep going. Well, that's not true. I could have kept going. I wanted to keep going. But my stomach was clawing at me to feed it and my throat was beginning to feel like Spongebob in that episode where he dries out in Sandy's house. I wanted to keel over, or at the very least, sit down, but there was nowhere to do so. I passed a sign that, I assumed, would signal the end of the trail, but instead simply told me that from that point onward, the trail hadn't been properly "maintained" as if the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association had, themselves, simply given up trying to understand the length and whims of the trail.

Bizarrely, turning around and walking to a part of the trail I recognized as being close to my house seemed to only take me about an hour. This is most likely due to my actually paying attention to the passage of time, and to my house being slightly closer than my original chosen trail entrance...but it was still strange. I wasn't walking faster, if anything, I was moving slower due to the increased presence of hunger and thirst.

For a road that goes straight for miles and miles, it is surprisingly maze-like.

Upon finally arriving home, eating something, and mindlessly staring at the television for a bit, I did a bit of research. The Rail Trail, as the name suggests, used to be a railroad that ferried produce from Ulster County into New York City. By 1977, the barely used railroad closed, and naturally, lay abandoned until 1985, when the various towns it ran through started buying it up. It didn't open as a recreation trail until 1991, when the town and village of New Paltz (which are, apparently, two different things. Who knew?) managed to purchase about 12 miles of it. The website claims that the trail today is "24 miles of Linear Park from Gardiner to just south of Kingston" and much discussion is had about Gardiner and the south side of the trail, but of the north side - the side I eventually discovered was the side I hiked - not much is spoken of.

Railroads, and by extension, their remains, are man made creations. In the late 19th century we decided we needed a rail road, so we built one. In 1985 we decided we needed a hiking trail instead, and so we changed it and built that. Now we're left with a road that seems to lack purpose - eternally going somewhere, but never quite seeming to begin or end. There is a sense, when walking down the trail for hours at a time, without a local's sense of location, that the trail exists independently of us. What would that space have been had someone not decided to build a railroad? Who knows? But, for some reason, I can't help but feel that people would still walk up and down it, blazed or not, trying to find the end of something, and inevitably fail to do so. Something about the path wants you to keep walking forward, to lose track of time, to think you understand it only so that it can prove that you do not.

It's been a strange summer. But, all things considered, it's been a pretty great one. At the very least, my leg muscles seem to have developed super-human strength. Any previous summer, I would have decidedly noticed that I had walked twelve straight miles without stopping before reading about it hours later on the internet.