Main Street Sheridan, Sunday Morning

Trail Hotel

Sometimes a place strikes you. The architecture. The quality of the light. The collection of buildings that are more than the sum of their parts. Early Sunday morning in Sheridan, Wyoming my uncle (who is an accomplished photographer) and I took a walk down Main Street to capture the signs and buildings that had captured our attention and imagination throughout our days there. The morning light and sky gives the photos a dusty, timeless quality, but if you look closely you can see that this place is firmly rooted in the present: new shops selling fancy Western Wear mixed in with shuttered, empty storefronts; a renovated theatre and faded painted signs and bricks. I think that we have a tendency to fix smaller towns in our minds as places that are “removed” from the march of time. However, I think these places that make up “Main Street USA” are where our culture and economy are lived, felt and experienced on a human scale and a day-to-day level.
Rainbow Bar

Boot Liquidation

Sorry We're Closed

Western Windows

Parking in Rear

Mint Bar

Hotel Rex

There’s more Wyoming views on Flickr.

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The Green Grass of Wyoming

Looking towards the Bighorns

When I was a child my mom and I would go out to Sheridan, Wyoming for two weeks a summer to visit my Aunt, Uncle and first cousins Ben and Heather. We would go in June or July, but I can’t remember the last time that we visited that the rolling, grassy hills and mesas around their house were green. By the time we arrived they were always baked a light beige with the red clay soil and rocks peeking through. It was a real treat to head out to Wyoming for a family gathering last weekend and be pleasantly surprised to see that the hills were still green, contrasting the roads and soil of red rock. I love it out on the range because I feel like these small roads stretch forever towards the horizon, the air is permeated with the smell of sage brush, and the sky is huge and expansive, giving me a sense of space, freedom and possibility. While Montana holds the official title, I would say with confidence, that Wyoming is also big sky country.

Out for a Walk

Trailer Tableau

Sunflowers on the range

Mama and Foal

There’s more photos on Flickr.

Wyoming Range Life

The view towards the Big Horn mountains

The last time I was in Wyoming I arrived in the middle of the night, having driven straight from Portland, Oregon on a compressed, cross country trip. To get there we drove through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana in August darkness, watching meteors streak down through the clear western air. I’ve joke that I am the penultimate East Coaster – that I walk and talk too fast and am too attached to the ocean to live anywhere else. However, chunks of my childhood summers were spent on the range and in the mountains of Northeastern Wyoming, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins in near Sheridan. I’d like to think that somehow, in some small way, that experience stays with me.

As a child and early teenager going to Wyoming was a dream come true. It is awash in wide open spaces to explore on horseback and was of pre-dawn mornings helping (however ineffectively) my uncle and aunt with the cattle they raise. Wyoming was freight trains, rattle snakes, sage brush, wild landscapes, and hours with my cousins playing Legos and reading Calving and Hobbes comics.

County roads, Wyarno, Wyoming

My grandmother lives in Wyoming now and so last weekend I caught (just barely) an early flight to Denver and then a propeller plane to Sheridan to visit her and the rest of my family. While the endless barbed wire fences, train tracks, range and sparse population are the polar opposite of where I live now, I felt a rush of familiarity and welcome when I arrived Wyoming. I love that place. I am a total outsider, but I feel a sense of awe and respect for the country there and the people who call it their home.

Coal train headed towards West Dutch depot

Maybe because we’ve just had a huge national election and the idea of what is “America” and who is “American” has been debated and thrown about ad nauseum I couldn’t help but think, “This is what people are talking about when they talk about America.” Here are hard working people who make a living from the land and another job to make ends meet. They drive sturdy American made trucks and cultivate a sense of Western independence. Native American history and contemporary culture is woven into the fabric of this place. This is where stories about the American West were made. And, yet. Wyoming cannot be reduced to a caricature. It is not a rustic idyll or a rural backwater. It’s a place as complex as “America” itself.

Winter Wyoming sunset

Wyoming is where I can have long conversations about the dangers of fracking with my Uncle, who is one of the toughest cowboys I’ve ever met. I remember he told me about what a bad idea it was 10 years ago, before anyone on the East Coast had really begun to talk about it. I wish New York State would take a cue from the experience of people in the west and see the havoc it wreaked on the environment there and how little benefit local people actually derived from it. It’s where I have out and proud gay family members, even though gay rights still has a long way to go there (and everywhere!). It’s where I can go out to lunch with my cousin I haven’t seen in 10 years and we can chat like we just saw each other yesterday. It’s a place I’m proud to know a little bit and proud to hold as part of my past and, hopefully, part of my future.

Western twilight

Sunset behind the Big Horn mountains

Below is a little look into my Wyoming past: wearing shorts, riding bareback on my Aunt’s Welsh pony, with awkwardly cut curly hair and in 12-year-old heaven

Finding France (and Remembering Summer) in West Chelsea

As I write this I am listening to the winter wind howl through the trees of Sunset Park and summer seems very distant. How sad that I have been meaning to write this entry since then! But to follow-up on my entry about my favorite block of the Flatiron District, I wanted to write about one of my favorite walking routes through West Chelsea. Since I am an irrepressible Francophile, the places that caught my eye focus on France, but there’s so much to be had in this district. And the best part is, so much of it is eye-catching you don’t have to buy it to enjoy it!

Wild Grasses on the Highline in August

The Highline Park is a far west, obvious place to start. Inspired partially by the Promenade Plantee in Paris, this revamped elevated rail line has been celebrated since it’s open a few years ago. It’s a wonderful place to go in any season and I love the combination of art, architecture and native plants.  I love running my hand through the grasses and smelling a meadow in Maine instead of New York City. I particularly loved Valerie Hegarty’s painting on display. The interplay between human creation and nature’s will speaks volumes about city life and American art history.

Valerie Hegarty's painting, city, and wild grasses- a perfect juxtaposition.

If you exit the Highline on 20th street you will soon pass the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary, which looks like you have just stepped into the English countryside (okay, I am also a bit of an Anglophile). You will also walk along a historic block of row houses which were partially conceptualized by Clement C. Moore, who is more often known for writing the Night Before Christmas (I have a family connection to this beloved American poem too, because apparently he composed it while visiting my ancestors at Constable Hall in Upstate New York) .

General Theological Seminary is a sanctuary in the city.

Historic West Chelsea.

On the corner of 9th avenue and 20th street is La Cafetiere, a boutique full of French kitchen and homeware goods including glass and earthen ware, table linens, and decor items. The shop is attractively laid out, the staff friendly and the experience so transporting that I bought my mother a linen chicken that was one sale without twice about how ridiculous I would look in the airport check in.

An inviting, open door to La Cafetiere

If you didn’t find exactly the French decor item or linen you were looking for at La Cafeteire my other favorite shop to drop into and browse is Les Toiles du Soleil, located at 19th street between 7th and 8th avenues (closer to 8th) which specializes in Catalan fabrics from the south of France. They sell fabric by the yard as well as items that are sewn in-house.  I got a pair of Espadrilles here on sale at the end of the summer which have been loath to leave my feet since. I also got fabric to make cushion covers for my living room chairs, a beautifully colored iPad case for my mother, and a chic apron for my father. The owners are two of the nicest French people you will ever meet and if you speak French they will engage you in the kind of friendly banter that is usually only encountered in an un-snobby, out-of-the-way Parisian boutique.

Aprons and Esparilles at Les Toiles du Soleil

Fabric by the yard and handmade items at Les Toiles du Soleil.

To end this wander maybe you are in want of some caffeine? The best place in the neighborhood to go for that is Cafe Grumpy, which is not Parisian, not Londoner, but New York. And wonderful with a menu of artisanal, single origin coffee to select from, individually made drinks, organic milk, and sweet staff members (and hello, they have a Park Slope location since 2009! Well, maybe I don’t have to mourn leaving Chelsea after all!).

One of the talented baristas at Cafe Grumpy.

A perfectly made iced Americano. Summer in a glass.