Outside magazine, July 1999
I found your recent article on dream towns ("Are You Where You Ought to Be?" May) quite interesting and wanted to raise two important issues everyone should consider before moving. First, most malcontents who move will still be malcontent after they do (and the dream town will have to suffer one more fool). Second, many of the towns featured are really cities and already have too many people. In small towns, one can find a good environment in which to raise a family, great recreation, and an incredibly rich quality of community that just doesn't exist in larger places. A test for a real small town: The newspaper is a weekly and it only has local news. You can get the rest from NPR.
Tahoe City, California
As a resident of a small town neighboring Ann Arbor, I was amused to read your description of Ann Arbor as "alarmingly wholesome" and the best place to raise a family. Ironically, I read this the day before hundreds of runners and thousands of spectators took part in the famed Naked Run, a tradition in our wholesome city.
Emmitt Scott Johnson
Three years ago, Terry Freitas approached me at the start of a class I was teaching on environmental law at University of California, Santa Cruz ("Epitaph for a Crusader," May). He volunteered to put together a lesson on the impact of industrial practices and local government on American Indian reservations. With two other students, Terry took the class through an exercise that's since been expanded into a comprehensive environmental justice curriculum and introduced into high schools across California. The tragedy of his death is immeasurable.
San Francisco, California
While I would have liked to read more about the lives of Lahe'ena'e Gay and Ingrid Washinawatok as well as Terry Freitas in Mark Levine's essay about their murders in Colombia, I was grateful that the work and the ultimate tragedy they shared finally received some media attention. Their achievement remains a shining example of tremendous heroism.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Big Hurt
I'm not prepared to say that the ambitious 114-mile race on the Willamette River by Tiff Wood (aka The Hammer) would be a cakewalk ("113 Miles to Go? Pull, Dammit!" Dispatches, May). But calling it "the world's toughest rowing race" might be a stretch. With a stopover for sleep, a nice dinner, maybe some HBO in the hotel, and a bagel in the morning, it's at best a bracing warm-up for the Texas Water Safari, a nonstop, 260-mile breach of sanity from San Marcos to Seadrift, Texas, over rivers and bays. The prize? A souvenir patch, which separates the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the milk, the jackhammers from the Hammers.
Since I have told several people to go to Hell and they have wished me a pleasant journey there also, I enjoyed Mark Jenkins's account of his trip to the mouth of Hades in Greece ("To Hell with Me," Out There, May). I am curious about his Sunday school teacher, however. Is her real name "Teuful?" The German der Teufel means "the devil." This seems too delicious to be a coincidence.
Mark Jenkins replies: I'm pleased to see that somebody caught the allusion. The anecdote is true to the word, but in this case, I changed my Sunday school teacher's name to incriminate the guilty, not to mention withhold her real name.
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