In this first-person memoir piece, I describe what it was like to live in a van in secret for one full year.
"I was lying on the floor of my van where the middle pilot chairs used to be, trying to hide from view. This is it, I thought. They know. I’m going to get kicked out of Duke.
"Moments before, I had been cooking a pot of spaghetti stew on top of a plastic, three-drawer storage container, which held all my food and my few meager possessions. I figured the campus security guard had parked next to me because he spotted the blue flame from my propane stove through the van’s tinted windows and shades." Read more.
My 1,700-mile hike across the Keystone XL (Salon -- January 2013)
In this travel piece, I describe the first half of my hike across The Heartland.
"To take off to northern lands on the eve of winter with a purple toe and no trail to follow or guidebook to consult would be, to most rational thinkers, insane. Yet since everything about the Tar Sands and the XL and America’s contempt for the reality of climate change struck me as insane, too, I thought it would be fitting to embrace this spirit of insanity, throw all caution to the wind, and embark on my adventure anyway." Read more.
|Photo credit: Woody Welch|
Another vandwelling tale, this one describing my first semester at Duke.
COULD I live in a van? I looked over the Craigslist ads, took a bus to John’s used car dealership in Raleigh, N.C., and scanned the rows of sedans, trucks and SUVs in search of my new home.
And there it was. A giant 1994 Ford Econoline coated with a burgundy sheen, the sun turning its black-tinted windows a blinding white. It looked out of place among the shiny, spotless SUVs, whose bumpers proudly faced away, as if exhibiting a juvenile disdain for their ponderous elder. Its distended underbelly hung vulnerably low — so low I wondered if it would scrape its undercarriage when climbing up and over speed bumps. Read more.
|Illustration by Scott Seymour|
A travel piece about my get-out-of-debt journey, set in Coldfoot, Alaska.
I thought of student debt like I thought of death. In other words, I didn’t think of it at all. As a 21-year-old college student, I had a long life and bright future ahead of me. Why should I worry myself sick over gloomy inevitabilities? Best to shove worries of my $32,000 student debt to the back of my mind alongside other yet-to-be grown-up worries, like paying a mortgage, finding good day care, and growing skin tags. Read more.
I Will Keep up with Andrew Skurka (Duke Magazine -- November 2012)
In this travel piece set in the Colorado Rockies, I try to keep up with the greatest hiker in the world.
"'If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have done it,' he said matter-offactly, while violently rubbing his hands together. 'We could break a coccyx if we fell.' My guide was Andrew Skurka ’03, a god of calves, and arguably the greatest hiker the world has ever seen.
"I’d been hiking with him for two days, but I still had a lot to figure out: Are we going to get down this mountain? What exactly is 'ultimate hiking?' Who is the real Andrew Skurka? And—most pressingly— where is my coccyx?" Read more.
(Salon -- November 2011.)
In this first-person travel piece, I describe my week living in Zuccotti Park as a member of Occupy Wall Street.
"On Oct. 20, I arrived at Zuccotti Park, carrying a tent and sleeping bag, eager to see things for myself and excited to embrace the life of an “occupier” (if just for a week before I had to go back to work).
"Zuccotti Park was smaller than I’d imagined — only 33,000 square feet, little more than half the size of a football field – yet hundreds slept here every night, and thousands visited throughout the day. There were folded blue tarps, piles of backpacks, heaps of cardboard, and rows of sleeping bags laid side by side like body bags after a deadly battle. From afar, I heard the clatter of the drum circle and the clunking of construction. There weren’t any distinguishable smells except for a hint of grilled hot dogs wafting over from a nearby food stand. Thousands of tourists slowly wove around established sleeping grounds through narrow, curvy lanes. A gaggle of reporters, like hens crowding a poultry feeder, surrounded a man in a wrinkled shirt screaming something about how the Jews were to blame for everything." Read More.
An Intolerable Intolerance (Winston-Salem Journal -- April 2012)
In the op-ed, I point how ridiculous it is for Rep. Virginia Foxx to say she has little "tolerance" for student debtors.
"Last week, Rep. Virginia Foxx offered the nation's 36 million student debtors a lesson in tolerance. She told radio show host G. Gordon Liddy that she has 'very little tolerance' for student debtors who have as much as $80,000 or $200,000 in student loans. 'There's no reason for that,' Foxx said. Actually, there are a lot of reasons why student debtors have over $1 trillion in debt. And Foxx is one of them. Read more.
(Go Magazine -- February 2012)
In this travel piece, I spend time with Creole cowboys on their customary "trail ride" in backwoods Texas.
"On a cool Saturday after noon in rural, backwoods , wheretheheckamI southeast Texas, a procession of cowboys and cowgirls on horseback trots down Farm Road 1301 — the sort of road where you might spot lolling cows lounging in the sun, freshly rolled cylinders of hay in an open field or the remains of hapless wild pigs and raccoons decaying along the shoulders. Way out ahead, leading the group, two riders proudly hoist the American and Texan flags, and in front of them, decked out in black denim and rhinestones, Betty Love marshals the oddball parade, her regal, tengallon hat bobbing with her horse's gait.
"When Love went on her first trail ride nearly 20 years ago, she didn't know anything about the 'cowboy way.' She didn't know what a party wagon was. Or a muleskinner. In fact, she was so unprepared that her brothers — who'd dragged her along — had to go out and buy her a pair of jeans. Now, Love is the president of the 'Betty Love Ryders' — a small, eightperson riding club that, for the past 11 years, has hosted this annual 'trail ride.'" Read more.
Confessions of a Lab Rat
(Duke Magazine -- September 2011)
I took part in 25+ experimental studies when I was a student at Duke to pay tuition. These are my confessions.
"Over the course of my graduate education at Duke, I was zapped by electrodes, pricked by needles, dazed by pharmaceuticals, and I can even say that I shared three of my four primary bodily fluids. While it may sound like I spent my time exploring the shady side of the student body, I actually got paid to do these things.
"I was a lab rat—a research-study participant. I took part in some twenty-five studies that would pay, typically, $10 to $20 an hour to participants willing to undergo cognitive tests, pop experimental pills, and have their brains scanned in MRI machines. And for much of my college career, I was willing—at least until I did an experiment with an anti-seizure pill that caused a harrowing, drug-induced nightmare involving my sinking into a pit of quicksand." Read more.
One Year, One Acre
(Duke Magazine -- June 2011)
This is a profile on Duke's brand new student-run campus farm.
"Emily Sloss wasn’t supposed to be a farmer. In fact, she was supposed to be anything but. Coming from a long line of Iowa cattle farmers, Sloss likely would have taken up the family business if it were not for her parents’ decision to move out of the heartland when she was young—a decision they made to give Sloss and her brother a chance to lead better lives.
"The decision paid off. Sloss ’10 got into Duke, where she majored in public policy, but much to her parents’ surprise, upon graduating she traded in her cap and gown for a hoe and pitchfork, taking a job as the first-ever project manager of Duke’s new campus farm." Read more.
Age of the Loan Drones
(Artvoice -- December 2007)
When talking about student debt wasn't popular, I published this story about how student debt was affecting graduates of Western New York.
"At first glance, recent college graduate Dave Antonelli has it all. Nested in a cozy hamlet of rural-suburban Wheatfield, Antonelli, 23, and his fiancée Liz Baker, 28, live in a country home, cheerily stocked with symbols of the American dream.
"Though it seems they’re only short a set of wind chimes and a couple of kids to round out their idea of the dream, their student loan bills tell a much different story. The cost of college has put the soon-to-be-weds $230,000 in the hole. Like many young Americans, Antonelli and Baker have been denied their slice of domestic bliss because higher education, though accessible, is no longer affordable for most degree-seekers." Read more.