In the rush of packing up all of my backpacking equipment, extra socks, climbing gear, and case of whiskey, a notebook was the only item that hadn’t made it into my Jeep for the summer. I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Trinidad to buy three notebooks with perforated pages and a spiral-bound pocket book whose spirals would be rendered mostly useless the first time I sat down with it in my back pocket. For good measure, I bought a box of Bic ballpoints and a stack of envelopes.
This was all a part of the promises that had been made – I’d be leaving town for a few months, would you write me? I’ll write back I promise. I had three email accounts, and a cell phone with T9 texting capabilities and the signals of a world hurtling towards everlasting connectivity. The challenge, though, was having the computer to access emails on, the internet to pipe messages from faraway servers to the computer, or the data connection required to send text messages or receive phone calls. In my back pocket, next to debit and credit cards that would go mostly unused for the next several months, was a calling card used to dial collect from any one of the dwindling population of pay phones. I remember this summer well as the period where communications among peers were in flux. Where brave professors were sending syllabi for the next semester through email while I was being sent paper that served as evidence of my peers’ decaying interest in handwriting and writing things out in long hand or even bothering to remember mailing addresses. This was one of the many summers when my cell phone would go unused until it would buzz and come to life with excitement as it finally received notice of dozens of voicemails left by drunken peers in college towns or text messages sent right before the sender realized I was out of range. And so I’d sit on the mountain top, hundreds of miles of landscape that couldn’t be captured in a photograph rolled out ahead of me, and I was tapping out responses on the 9 keys which kept me connected. The lesson, learned years later, is how the silliest thing one can do when elated with a feeling of love and friendship and a sense of identity is to leave town for months on end. Especially without a number to be reached at. If I could do it all again, the rule would be: you can only talk to those you can see.