Chapter 1: Bookmaking Boot Camp Begins (June 2011)
After driving seven hours from Enterprise Oregon to North Bend Washington, bouncing down a twenty mile gravel road in my Ford Ranger with my cat yowling beside me, and then hiking up an unmarked trail seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, I arrived at the corrugated metal cabin that would be my home for the next five months...
How did I land this job?
Well, in the spring of 2007, when I was working with Mrs. Green at St. Mary's Home for Boys in Beaverton, Oregon, I'd responded to an Internet ad from a man named Bob who was looking for a "Mountain Man" for his story: Geology Adventures. I'd just thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, and St. Mary's Home for Boys was a working nightmare (isolation chambers, group "holds," structured funtime, tossing rooms in search of inappropriateness, etc), so I sent him my resume and my story of thru-hiking the PCT. Two days later, he offered me the job of Caretaker at his world famous crystal and pyrite mine in the northern Cacades of Washington, not too far from one of the most beautiful wild places in the world, The Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
I wrote an entire draft of The Living City by hand in Bob's Caretaker's Cabin that summer. But, by the time October rolled around, my draft was a wreck...and so was I.
I remember talking to the hikers on the road who were going to the nearby Goldmeyer Hot Springs and feeling like I was shouting at them from across a canyon when I was, in fact, standing a few feet from them. Like I said, I was a wreck: drinking too much beer, smoking cigarettes, shrinking from sunlight (it's very dark there, even in summer), and generally wanting nothing to do with anything other than the world I'd created for myself in The Living City. Thank God the snow came. I like the idea of playing Mountain Man, but I don't think I was ready for the next chapter of that story...which would doubtlessly involve more social interaction with my wilderness creature friends than the sane people of earth would deem appropriate.
In any case, when I packed my Captain Kurk-style writing chair up the trail to the cabin again in 2011, I was determined to do whatever it took to fight The Fear and do as much bookmaking as I could in the presence of human beings. And, as a precaution, I took my cat Pip along for company...and to keep me from obsessing about my control, or lack of control, over the local mouse population. "This time I'm not returning to civilization like some half-mad crazy person," I remember thinking, "this time, I'm going to return to my family and friends as a basically trained Bookmaker Jake."