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  • Ken Ilgunas

Article Aftermath Part II

[UPDATE: It looks like I will be on Air America’s The Ron Reagan Show this Friday, Jan. 8, around 7 p.m. ET. I’m not sure if you can listen to his show online, but here’s his website.]

It’s been about a month since I published the article in Salon. While requests from the media have waned, there are several outlets still interested in my experiment.

Yesterday, my hometown newspaper, The Buffalo News, published a front page article about my odyssey across the continent and vandwelling at Duke. It was the “most read” story for the day except for “Drunken Bills fan passes out, leaving three children crying.” (And who wouldn’t read a story with a title like that?)

I couldn’t have been more pleased with The Buffalo News story (besides the misleading title and unflattering picture). It would have been easy to color me as a reckless, over-idealistic freak—the typical McCandless portrait—but reporter Steve Watson did a fine and fair job.

On a side and somewhat self-conscious note, I’m not too pleased with the picture. Supposedly of the 25 pictures the photographer took, the best was the one where my left eye looks like one of those bulbous Chameleon eyeballs that can rotate independent of the other.

On Friday I might be on The Ron Reagan Show. If you care to listen, I’ll update this entry with information on how to tune in.

Several TV shows including Inside Edition and Fox and Friends wanted to do segments on my experiment. I struggle to find a reason to participate. What good can fame bring me? It will in no way make me happier. I will still have the same friends, family, and ideals afterward.

Inside Edition offered money to follow me around campus for a few days. For a minute, I did think that it might be nice to get a little tuition money out of the bargain, but after watching an episode of gossip-laden garbage that eclipsed even my lowest expectations, I promptly turned down their offer and disgust for my culture was renewed.

Producers of The Rachel Ray Show, however, are discussing whether they want to do a “van renovation” segment with me. The very last thing I want to do is “sell out,” so I’m wary of all offers. But the consumer in me really wouldn’t mind a set of solar panels and a periscope.

Lastly, I’ve established a rapport with a literary agent who thinks I can turn my tale into a book. This is something that I plan on following through with, but with some reluctance.

As a reader of classics, I’m constantly reminded of my own deficiencies as a writer, so I worry that I’m not ready to take on such an enterprise. Nor am I in the least bit convinced that I can make a whole book about living in a van. Regardless, I think I can make it happen.

All in all, I must say that I’m dealing with all the “fame” remarkably well. It hasn’t phased me in the slightest. I’ve been amused and I’ve experienced blips of excitement, but not enough to disrupt my daily schedule or infect me with illusions of grandeur. Really, I just look forward to going back to the van and having another stimulating semester of school.


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