On Leaving New York

Yesterday, I packed up two bags for the summer in North Dakota, and put the rest of my belongings in storage. I don’t know when I’ll come back to New York or if I’ll live there again. Now that I don’t have a full-time job, life could go many directions from here.

New York is a hard place to leave. I came here six and a half years ago from California when I was 22 years old. I had no connections, no friends and no job in this city, but knew there were great opportunities in journalism here, so I took a leap of faith and bought a one-way ticket to LaGuardia Airport. I still remember the cab drive from the airport and the giddiness I felt seeing the Manhattan skyline.

My life here has not always been easy. At times, the city feels like it’s beaten you down and you’ve lost – it’s usually after you’ve worked a 10 hour day, then the subway breaks down, it’s pouring rain, you have no umbrella, you’re lugging three bags of groceries and a laptop, your squishy wet shoes have given you blisters, the sidewalks are shoulder to shoulder with sweaty humans and a man, probably equally as stressed, yells at you to go f*** yourself. I’ve hated the city in these moments and longed for the mountains and calm smiles of where I grew up in Northern California.

But other times, when the sun hits the skyscrapers just right, and the New York Times editor you’ve been pitching calls you back, and at 2 a.m. the twists and turns of the endless night lead you to a rooftop house party with fireworks in the distance, and actor Benjamin Bratt in the corner, you want to open up your arms and let all the smells and crowds and grime and car alarms surround you as you breathe it in. I’ve experienced some of the highest and lowest points of my life here, and I wouldn’t give it back for anything.

Goodbye for now, New York, until we meet again one day.

New York sunset

The sunset from my rooftop in Brooklyn

 

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A Team Grows in Brooklyn

I want to introduce a few new members of the growing Oil Men team. The two main members are Brad DeCecco and Ashley Panzera, who will be coming out to North Dakota for a couple weeks to help me cover what’s going on there. But there are a few others who have signed up to help. Here’s the whole crew:

Photographer/videographer: Brad DeCecco
Brad has been part of the project since the beginning and was the first person I told about my crazy idea to live in North Dakota to cover the oil boom. He also helped introduce me to the incredible FairStreet team who led our crowdfunding effort. Brad is one of the most talented photographers I know and has a whole host of awards and clients: he was awarded the PDN 30 Best Emerging Photographers for 2007 and the Jury Prize for Cinematography in the Communication Arts 2007, and he’s photographed for places like the Smithsonian, Washington Post Magazine, TIME, and Popular Mechanics. He’s also currently working on a documentary film about asbestos and has an upcoming photo book about the legal brothels in Nevada (check out a few of the photos here).

Documentary filmmaker: Ashley Panzera
I met Ashley when she answered a craigslist ad about an open room in my apartment and we never looked back. We spent our year living together sunbathing on the roof, shooting random documentaries (she and Brad did the shooting, I just starred in them – evidence here), and having endless chats about life and gender issues over wine. She’s is always finding interesting stories and documentaries to pursue. She’s worked on the film (A)sexuality: The Making of A Movement, which screened internationally, Pushing The Elephant (premiered at Human Rights Watch), and she’s now working on her directorial debut called Noise Runs about a radical newspaper in Haiti.

Research assistant: Catt Meyer
Catt will be helping me with research this summer as we dig into subjects like U.S. energy and oil production, fracking, and North Dakota politics. She currently lives in Lamar, Colorado, and recently graduated from the University of Northern Colorado last May with degrees in both mass communications and environmental and sustainability studies. She’s been a research assistant in a biology lab and an intern at the Colorado Springs Independent.

Editor: Bill Buck
Bill is my extremely cool cousin who’s also a writer and currently working on not one, but two books. The first is called Finding the Real City: A Guide to San Francisco that helps visitors and newbies find hidden gems in the city, and the second is a guide that explores America’s National Trails (there are so many more than the Appalachian and the PCT!). He’ll be heading out to North Dakota with me to help with the project and have a quiet (albeit cramped) space to work on his own books.

Drivers: Carolyn and Greg Briody
You might notice that I share a last name with these people, and that’s because they’re my parents (see the last post – they’ll be driving me out to North Dakota and pulling the trailer). They’re pretty awesome, and I’m excited they’re going on this adventure with me for a couple weeks. Both are retired teachers, and I credit them for my love of adventure and travel. Growing up, we traversed all over the world as a family, and they never cease to amaze me with their energy and up-for-anything spirit.

Assistant photographer: Will Christiansen
Will is not only a talented photographer (check out my author photo), but one of my best friends. I’ve known him since 6th grade, and we moved to New York together from California when we were 22 and spent lots of time eating pizza and watching NYC-themed shows and dreaming big. He’s now a successful video game animator in Seattle, working for 343 Industries on games like Halo. He’ll be taking off a week of work this summer to help take photos and video.

I’m lucky to have such a great crew and you’ll get to hear more from them once we’re in North Dakota. This is basically us:

Trailer Livin

Many people ask me where a I plan to live when I’m in North Dakota. It’s a good question, since there’s a housing shortage and if you do happen to find an available place, the rent rivals a Manhattan penthouse. The solution? A trailer park.

I never thought I’d want to live in a trailer park at the age of 29 (okay, maybe briefly at 16 when I pictured myself running away from home and doing anything and everything to disappoint my parents (sorry again about that lovely parents)) but to be honest, now I’m kind of excited. I picture myself in cowboy boots, kicking up dust, and carrying a can of Budweiser as I waste hours sitting around in a fold-up chair people watching. Could be fun, right? Sort of a Friday Night Lights meets Into the Wild.

Those same lovely parents have offered to lend me their TrailManor camper and tow it the 1,500 miles from Mt. Shasta, California to a trailer park in Williston, North Dakota. I’m attaching photos of it. Any name suggestions? I was thinking Thelma (from Thelma and Louise), Lucille (because it sounds right), or Tammy Taylor (FNL for life!).

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The Oil Men has been fully funded!

Some exciting news! The Oil Men’s crowdfunding campaign was a success! We received over $10,100 in contributions from 87 backers! I’m overjoyed and feeling incredible grateful for all the people who helped make it happen.

As much as my romanticized idea of a nonfiction writer is taking off at a moment’s notice, traveling to dangerous places, and holing oneself up in a cabin for months to write, I’m realizing now how important a support team is, at least for me. I now have 87 people who are invested in this project and care deeply about seeing it through to the end.  I can afford to bring a photographer and videographer with me and build a team of dedicated people who are as passionate about the project as I am. This is such a blessing, and as much as we criticize the increasingly digital world we live in, funding a project like this likely wouldn’t have been possible in an earlier time. It’s a reminder for me to embrace the present and all the resources it offers.

I want to thank everyone again who helped make this project possible, and if you didn’t have a chance to get involved and still want to, the project is still live and rewards remain available for purchase over at Fair.st/oilmen.