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christmas in july

PC210039
[true story: i took this and posted it to flickr and then a while later it was postedwithout credit to tumblr and it now has more that 12,000 notes. it’s not even a good picture.]
122308 -- l.a. dwp light festival

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fireworks waiting [01072012 #adiml] post-fireworks glow [01072012 #adiml]

 

nodak: one year later

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On the eve of the momentous day that marks exactly one year since we arrived in North Dakota, let me explain you a thing, friends.

North Dakota is very small.

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Physically, this isn’t true. It’s 19th in the country with almost 71,000 square miles. That’s, on a technical level, like, pretty big. I mean, it’s not Alaska or anything, but it’s big. But population wise? It’s a whole other story.

Okay, so this involved a lot of convoluted math and ratios that I’m not TOTALLY sure I didn’t absolutely screw up, but I did it a couple times and I feel pretty solid about the whole deal?* Regardless of its actual accuracy, I think it’s an accurate representation of how genuinely tiny this place is. And it doesn’t even really capture it because even though there are 16,000 people here there aren’t more people nearby. There are almost 50,000 people in my hometown, but the adjacent suburbs have even larger populations — like 50,000 and 100,000 and 149,000 — and then eventually just turn into Los Angeles. Here, we have to drive two hours to reach a city with a greater population than ours and that’s a whopping 40,000 residents. Minot is the fourth largest city in North Dakota.

trinity #northdakota bowl big ass swedish horse

Most of the space between what passes as a city here looks a lot like this:

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Hell, even the area just beyond our neighborhood¤ starts to look like that.

Anyway, what this means is that North Dakota is devoid of things to do. I recognize, accept, and openly admit that I am spoiled to here and back for activities. I grew up in LA; I spent 2009-2012 going to Disneyland at least twice a month; I grew up a half a mile from the largest movie theater in Los Angeles County. I did not want for things to do. We drive those two hours to Minot to go to the movies here and if we’re not seeing something opening week, we’re seeing it in a dumpy closet theater from hell.

There’s nowhere to eat here. Nowhere particularly good at least and there is very, very little variety. There’re steak places and “bar and grill” places, a good fast-ish non-chain burger place, and one decent Chinese place (What up, Rice and Spice!) but even after a year of being here, most of the food options feel like a punishment. And it’s all crazy expensive. Everything is here. The cost of living is bananas and the grocery stores’ idea of fresh chicken is defrosted chicken. It blows. A lot.

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But even without Disneyland and without Thai food (It’s been more than a year since I had Thai food. Or good Mexican. Or decent pizza.) and with little to do here but dick around on the internet and look at clouds. day to day life seems not so bad.

storm wall #northdakota hedderich's #northdakota
unbelievably pretty day #northdakota sorry i love clouds #northdakota

People make do with very little all over the world all the time. And I don’t say that in a “Oh perspective will fix things” kind of way but in a “Humans are amazing” way. And they do more than just make do, they live full, happy lives. And maybe I’m not happy here and can’t wait to get back to California, but I’m okay and for now, okay is, well, it’s okay.

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*: The first two times I did it, I did not account for the translation to a square, so I at least feel okay about this even though I had to do it four more times after I did start accounting for the square. Sorry if it’s wrong. Sorry I’m not sorrier. Sorry I am terrible at math. Sorry it’s what kept me from going into astronomy. Sorry you have to tolerate my second choice.#

#: Writing.

†: This is in theory actually closer to 25,000 currently because of the oil boom, but there are no current, accurate figures on the internet as far as I can tell.

¤: When we tell people where we live — a new development on top of what is considered a “hill” here which is actually, like, a twenty foot rise in elevation just outside of the city limits — they often go, “Oh, you live in The Hills” as though it’s Hills, Beverly or some shit. 9021NODAK.

‡: Williston does, very technically, have a theater. Unfortunately it has not been updated in some time and thus has no moveable armrests. I am not going to jam my fat ass into a seat and be miserable for two hours of the only experience I treat as reverently as faithful people treat church. I’d rather drive two hours. Plus there’s a Target there.

you’re the nearest to my heart

Dear Crystal,

Today is five years since we started dating. Five years. That’s crazy, right? Genuinely unbelievable? Five years since we realized we wanted to hold hands and kiss and stuff and said, “Hey, let’s try this relationship thing” and then you kissed me real aggressively and got a bloody nose all over my chest. Good, memorable, wonderful times.

You’re the best person I know and not just because you not only tolerate, but love and enable me. You are smart and funny and kind and generous and I have never had someone love and support me the way that you do. You believe that I can do anything, even when I am sure than I cannot do anything at all.

You feel so much. It’s one of the best thing about you. You just feel. You feel love and hate and joy and sadness and you feel them all with a depth I cannot begin to imagine being capable of. It’s honestly magical to watch you experience the world because you see things that other people not just don’t, but can’t. You are moved by the world, frightened and delighted by it, and I am so grateful that I get to see that. Through you I see and learn things that I never could on my own.

You are infinitely kind and patient. Mostly. You care immensely about so much. You believe that people can be better and you push them toward it, even when it hurts. The world is lucky to have you.

There is an inherently narcissistic weight to being in a good relationship, but I have never been one to shy away from narcissism. You make me better. You make me smarter and more creative. You give me ideas and tell me to make them stories. You inspire words in me just by being who you are and moving through your life.

You have not taken every moment of our relationship in stride — you are too anxiety-ridden for that — but you have taken every moment anyway. You have rolled with terrifying and miserable changes and you have done so with hope and good humor. You have stood by me at my very, very worst and you have picked me up and cleaned my wounds when I was sure I would never stand again. I am so, so lucky to have you. The luckiest.

heartbeats
You know I don’t like promises and that I always cross my fingers even when I make them, but I’ll make you a few anyway. I promise to pull your eyelashes when they look loose. I promise to yell at you when you let water bottles accumulate on your side of the bed. I promise to think you are weird and wonderful every single day that I am lucky enough to have you in my life. I promise to probably walk out of Target again when you fight with me.

I promise to love you every single day until I can’t anymore.

Thanks for five incredibly lucky years and for the year and a half before that where everyone thought we were already dating anyway.

– Ash

places i’ve been: epping, north dakota

Epping, North Dakota is a really, really small town 20 miles north east of where we are here in Williston. It was founded in 1905 along the Great Northern Railway.

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When I say “small town,” I really, really mean small. Like, unbelievably small. Small like it has a total area of 0.38 square miles. Small like it had a population of exactly 100 in the 2010 census. Small like for the entire twenty minutes we were driving around the whopping three blocks that make up the city, we saw one other human being.

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The Buffalo Trails Museum was closed just like every other business we saw. They’d just had their annual Buffalo Trail Day event which includes a pancake dance and church services and an ice cream social. We figure they must have been recovering.

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There isn’t much here except a grain elevator and oil storage. This is where most of the oil pumped in and around Williston goes to meet the train and head for processing because despite the massive amount of oil coming out of the Bakken formation, it’s all got to be shipped to refineries elsewhere.

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sons of norway

People in North Dakota are very serious about their Scandinavian heritage. I didn’t know the US was so into their viking-ass history until I got here. Seriously. Wait ’til you see the pictures of Minot.

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Epping is weird as hell. The weekend we were there it looked abandoned. It didn’t just look like, you know, people were inside or out of town, it looked like the remains of a city after war.

Western North Dakota is really just like that though, a series of wheat and oil fields dotted with places like Epping, places like Zahl, places like Van Hook. It’s hard to believe there’s somewhere in the United States today with so few humans in it.

North Dakota is the third least populous state in the US and the fourth least in population density. There are more populated areas, even areas that are growing so rapidly that there aren’t enough homes — I know, I live in one — but there are less than ten people for every square mile of North Dakota territory. And trust me, when you live here — even in a place that seems crammed with people — you know it.

welcome to nodak

I live in North Dakota now! It’s weird!

I’ve been here for about a month and a half and it’s starting to feel like “home” even though I’m having a hard time calling it that?! Like, every time we’re out somewhere I say, “Are we heading back to the house now?” or whatever and if I talk about L.A. I say “home” — so that’s a thing.

But regardless of what I call it, the house is very comfortable and we have furniture and stuff put away and we’ve been unpacked for almost a month and just bought the last piece of furniture we needed for our living room, so that’s wonderful. We still need to buy a bed/frame and boxspring, but that’ll happen eventually and until then I guess we’ll continue to survive with a mattress on the floor like some sad college sophomore that lives with eleven other guys. 27 is too old to get up from THE FLOOR every morning! The noises my joints make! YOU WOULD FIND THEM ALARMING.

North Dakota is weird and Williston is very small (comparatively) and there are SO MANY grasshoppers/katydids/cricket creatures EVERYWHERE which are the kind of bug I am the most afraid of so that’s been great. Also, our neighbors are pretty rude?! So that North Dakota nice thing seems like a lie. Although everyone kind of waves at each other when we pass on dirt roads, so… I don’t even know where to go with it. The lesson, I think, is that there are some nice people and some shitheads everywhere, no matter what. People are terrible! Shocker.

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oil #northdakota

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Other Things: no one has backyard fences, construction sites are just littered with totally theftable shit at all hours whether people are there or not and there is never security, oil drilling in the Bakken produces a LARGE byproduct of natural gas, but there’s only so much that can be harvested/contained so all the oil sites have these things called flares which are either large holes in the ground or giant potbelly stove looking things that are just ON FIRE all the time, there are dirt roads that you just have to drive on to get to places sometimes, almost no one is from here and the people who are don’t seem all that enthused about the people who aren’t, food is EXPENSIVE, there are almost no chains whatsoever for anything including food and consumer goods, Hardee’s is NOT like Carl’s Jr. no matter what anyone tells you, Pita Palace is the bomb, milk tastes better here just like it did in Kansas City, most stretches of the “freeway” (it’s… not… a… freeway…) are only 2-4 lanes total, we pick up our mail from one of the local radio stations, Frank’s/3 Amigos is also The Bomb, there is only one theater in town and it’s not a chain, Canada is REALLY close, and nobody can drive worth a shit.

WHEW let me tell you it’s been a weird month. » more: welcome to nodak