Between the Lines

May 1, 1999
Outside Magazine

"A little madness in the spring is wholesome," according to poet Emily Dickinson, an indoor kind of gal if there ever was one. Still, the recommendation applies to bolder types, too. When the trees are turning green again, and the cold and snow are fading to gray memories, it's time to throw open the windows and have a look at the shorts-and-T-shirt weather stretching out before you--maybe even to examine the very place you occupy on this spinning orb. What you may find, after a long winter of cautious equilibrium, is that spring fever has you in its grip, and that what you need is something much newer and bigger than a mere change of season--that what you need, quite simply, is a change of address.

Well, you've come to the right place. To assemble our dream-stoking pantheon of Best Towns for the Big Move ("Are You Where You Ought to Be?"), reporters Mike Grudowski and Curtis Pesmen scouted the choicest zip codes on the continent (and just beyond), narrowed the field to several dozen highly diverse places boasting both citified assets and accessible adventure, and helped us choose an end-of-the-millennium top ten, along with 24 runners-up. Since no single place will ever ring everyone's chimes, we used a range of criteria (Want to get lost? Raise some kids? Start a business? Become an überjock?) and tried to customize our lineup according to your particular wish-fulfillment scenario.

You may not agree with some of our picks (hey, feel free to argue--isn't that half the fun?), but we're pretty sure we'll succeed in intensifying that intoxicating springtime restlessness you should be feeling right about now. So read on, pack up, and like Emily says, go nuts.


 "Surfing is something you should start at age three," advises contributing editor Tad Friend, who profiles world champion surfer Kelly Slater. Unlike Slater, who got his start as a fearless five-year-old (and now, as a millionaire at 27, is talking about semi-retirement), Friend made his first--and last--foray into the surf during a trip to Australia's Gold Coast a few years back at age 26. "The waves looked enormous," says Friend, "and I barely made it through the first break. The professionals always underplay how big it gets out there."

When we sent Ken Kalfus to report on Argentina's enormously popular open-water swimming marathons, it was his inaugural visit to South America--and his first trip abroad since a four-year sabbatical in Russia. The Philadelphia-based author of the acclaimed short-story collection Thirst was immediately struck by the differences between the two countries. "Argentina was warm and sunny, for one thing," says Kalfus. "And quite civilized."

"The only thing that could possibly prepare you for dirt-biking across Cambodia is, say, two years on the professional motocross circuit," observes Patrick Symmes, who braved barely passable roads--among other perils--during his first trip to this war-tattered pocket of Southeast Asia. "I don't think there's a single bulldozer in the entire country." Symmes's account of a motorbike journey through South America, Ten Thousand Revolutions, will be published by Vintage this September.

 "It seems the kind of volatile place where things can get out of control very quickly," says contributing editor Mark Levine. He is referring to northern Colombia, where three American activists were murdered in March. One of the victims was Terence Freitas, whose help Levine had enlisted last year to research a proposed trip along the very route Freitas was taking when he was killed. "He offered to be my guide and translator," recalls Levine, who is currently teaching poetry at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. "But I never spoke with him again." Levine's essay on the young man's death appears this month.

"Romantic imagery with a wacky depth" is how New York artist Thomas Woodruff, whose illustration accompanies Levine's essay, describes his style. Indeed, Woodruff's work ranges from the moody and stylized--he's illustrated two book jackets for works by Gabriel García Márquez--to the pop-playful: This fall, two Manhattan galleries will showcase his latest project, titled "All Systems Go," paintings of fifties-style rocket ships.

Before moving to the East Bay as an international reporting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, veteran journalist Jeffrey Bartholet was chief of Newsweek's Tokyo, Jerusalem, and Nairobi bureaus. Bartholet's Field Notes column on Japan's Welsh-born environmental iconoclast C.W. Nicol ("He's Big, He's Bad, He's...Japanese?") is his first article for Outside.



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