‘Smokey’ was born during my gig as a seasonal interpretive intern with the U.S. Forest Service on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In the red glow of the exit light in the office basement, I fumbled for the light switch so I could stock up on Fabulous Fungi and Haunted Lighthouses of the Great Lakes for the gift shop and get the H out of there before Freddy Krueger claimed me as his own. In the flip of a switch a giant bear head stared back at me, wide-eyed and grinning. I absolutely adored Smokey as a child and once my pulse dropped below 200 beats per minute I felt the warm fuzziness of fate reuniting us once again. Of course, a giant furry bear costume to me translates as a big red button with “Don’t Push!” labeled on it, so obviously my only option was to slip into Smokey. What the handbook didn’t say was that Smokey was never a thick-thighed woman and a 20-minute long pantyhose dance may have ensued to get Smoke’s Wranglers up over my hips. Stumbling around like Smokey had one too many pots of honey, I made my way up the stairs and gave life to America’s favorite bear.
That summer, I lived at home, worked for less than minimum wage, turned 30, and was without wheels, often rolling in to work in my mom’s white 1995 Fleetwood Brougham Cadillac, a boat that would put the Titanic to shame. Recapping my Smokey experience to my dad as I drove us to get our weekly blizzard from Dairy Queen, he snorted and dubbed me “Smokey” (a nickname that stuck all summer long), laughing every time I drove the Caddy. I wouldn’t ever let on that I though his idea was brilliant, but that mockery gave birth to my writing project.
“Smokey” was a single chapter in my life, preceded by many and to be followed by many more. I want to transform “Smokey” not only into a way to share my travel experiences and seek new ones, but to project the world through my smokey-colored glasses. “Smokey” is about travel and chapters, food, and nostalgia.
I’m back without a car (as has been the case since 2006), but adventures don’t need wheels to get around. Follow along with me through the fires of my passions and the scorching heat of my personal deserts, and I promise you’ll find a cool drink of water from lush forest oasis.
THE REAL SMOKEY
I’m an 80’s child and Michigander implant to Utah since 2006, with a stint in Asturias, Spain, and now call my semi-permanent residence in Salt Lake City home.
Among an eternal list of interests with which I am passionately obsessed are canoeing, travel journalism, wheel pottery, lengthy cooking sessions, nickel arcades, rainy days, alliteration and ellipses, belly dance, perfuming and fusions, folk music, making pita bread at 1am, nostalgia, campfires, touching people, and the aurora borealis.
The most notable publication to my name is this eccentric, lucky-to-have-survived-thus-far work-in-progress memoir with a working title called “Life”.
While there has been the random grope or bum squeeze on multiple metros across the globe, I’m proud to report I’ve gone 1,734 days without being kidnapped, and counting.
It’s a good life.