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Last Winter, a Nor’easter slammed into New York City, leaving above-ground trains without service, canceling days of office work for thousands, and accounting for an uptick in beer and wine sales. Had I been in my tiny, Brooklyn apartment that week, my purchases surely would have made up a great deal of those profits. Unfortunately for the local liquor store, I was not.

I was in a multi-million-dollar mountain home in beautiful Nederland, Colorado, home to the legendary Caribou Ranch Recording Studio, the Rocky Mountain Oyster Bar (serving deep fried sheep’s testis), and the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival, a morbid celebration of “Grandpa” Bredo Morstoel’s cryogenically-frozen corpse still at rest in a shed above the city. Needless to say, the human-popsicle had brought me here. While my friends back in NYC tackled slush-filled streets and bitter cold, I hiked through the thin mountain air.

It was everything I thought I needed.



A year prior, my best college friends and I had packed up and left the Midwest in dramatic fashion to pursue music in the big city. Folks back home made bets as to when we would return, but our tenacity was unwavering. The world was our oyster, and not the kind that dangles between a sheep’s hind legs.

We performed all over New York, from house concerts in strangers’ back yards, to dingy Lower East Side clubs, to a chapel crypt at Columbia University, trying to build a large enough following to prove ourselves as worthy artists. It was truly a working musician’s dream.

Still, something was missing. I felt its absence as soon as we first emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel. The city was smaller than it should have been; the people no more interesting than anywhere else. In time, I adjusted and began telling myself that I loved life in the Big Apple. “This is where I need to be,” I thought, “if I want to get discovered.”

When asked if I wanted to take a long weekend in the mountains, hit a festival, and stay at a friend’s family vacation home, I imagined a luxurious respite from the grind. It had only been a year in New York, but I could already sense the particulate matter building up in my lungs. I could already see the lines on my face. I could already feel my shoulder wearing away to reveal a massive chip. This is what New Yorkers did: They worked themselves to near death and made up for lost time with a weekend upstate. My upstate was Colorado. So what?

It was everything I thought I needed.



Upon first arrival, Colorado appeared to be all I could have hoped it to be: an endless supply of weed, a truly bizarre festival experience, and an opportunity to act significantly more wealthy than I am. The honeymoon period quickly wore off, though, as the days slowly transformed into a new kind of slog. When I wanted to sleep in, I was awakened early. When I wanted to walk into town, the car was already packed. Every action was coordinated to involve the whole crowd. Going off by myself, even if to get a coffee, felt like a betrayal somehow.

As a member of a band, I drew parallels to my creative life. There were things I didn’t want to do, but was supposed to do for the sake of the project; expressions with which I didn’t connect.

On Monday, when reports first started coming in about the storm hitting the East coast, my friends were in a flurry. There was work to be done. Bosses were going to be more than upset. What was once a short vacation became an ordeal. The trip took on an unsettled mood as expectations were altered. We rescheduled our flights for Tuesday. When they were again canceled, we tried for Wednesday. Until the FAA deemed it safe to travel, we were stranded.

Given extra time and distance, I began to reevaluate my New York life. Here I was in the middle of nowhere and, for once, I could fall asleep without the rattle of a passing train. I picked up my guitar not in an attempt to write a hit, but just to play along with the mood in the room. I had nowhere to be, nothing to accomplish, and no one to whom I could unhealthily compare myself. For all I cared, my flight could have been canceled a third time. There was nothing significant waiting for me back in New York except the illusion of success.

Here, the mountains were just as big as they were supposed to be.


Artists talk about reaching a rare moment of sublimity — a moment when every note that falls from your lips is exactly what it needs to be, when you blink and you’ve written three full pages, when you’re kissing your lover and you forget yourself. In my final evening in Nederland, CO, staying up alone until 4 A.M., strumming my guitar, jotting down lyrics, the moonlight silently shining through the windows, I experienced that sublime moment. The world melted away with the snow in Brooklyn, leaving only me and my creative self. Upon arriving back in my body, I decided that I was finished with both New York City and my band.

I now realize that art is no pursuit for which there is a material goal. Making it in music, in literature, in photography, in dance, in whatever — is a myth. Today, I am in Columbus, Ohio. Tomorrow, I will be in Asheville, North Carolina. A year from now, who knows where I’ll be. I’m no longer reaching for purpose. I’m allowing it to reach out for me.