All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found
The prize-winning author of Fire Season returns with the heartrending story of his troubled years before finding solace in the wilderness.
In his debut Fire Season, Philip Connors recounted with lyricism, wisdom, and grace his decade as a fire lookout high above remote New Mexico. Now he tells the story of what made solitude on the mountain so attractive: the years he spent reeling in the wake of a family tragedy.
At the age of twenty-three, Connors was a young man on the make. He'd left behind the Minnesota pig farm on which he'd grown up and the brother with whom he'd never been especially close. He had a magazine job lined up in New York City and a future unfolding exactly as he’d hoped. Then one phone call out of the blue changed everything. All the Wrong Places is a searingly honest account of the aftermath of his brother's shocking death, exploring both the pathos and the unlikely humor of a life unmoored by loss.
Beginning with the otherworldly beauty of a hot-air-balloon ride over the skies of Albuquerque and ending in the wilderness of the American borderlands, this is the story of a man paying tribute to the dead by unconsciously willing himself into all the wrong places, whether at the copy desk of the Wall Street Journal, the gritty streets of Bed-Stuy in the 1990s, or the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. With ruthless clarity and a keen sense of the absurd, Connors slowly unmasks the truth about his brother and himself, to devastating effect. Like Cheryl Strayed's Wild, this is a powerful look back at wayward years―and a redemptive story about finding one's rightful home in the world.
taxpayer money was actually a bad thing, an evil outcome of sound policy, the government would be obliged to funnel the extra tax revenues to bomb-building projects—in effect throwing the money away, since it created wealth, in the form of weapons, that could only be used once, if at all, and then only to destroy, never to create more wealth, which thus ran counter to the essence of capitalism, wealth creating wealth—while at the same time cutting programs for poor people and generally running
overload. The only difference between words and worlds is a typographical error. The only difference between immodality and immorality is a typographical error. I’m writing a bible for our times. It’s going to change everything. George Bush won’t bring peace to the Middle East. I will. I’m going to show the way. I’m going to have enemies, and they’re going to want to put me away in an institution. I’m going to tell them I’m already in an institution. The University of Virginia is my institution.
something new, one final thing. I couldn’t have lasted this long without you. But I want you to know I don’t have much time now. I might not be calling as often. Just call when you can, she said. Please. Call my cell phone if you don’t reach me at home. Please. She gave him her cell phone number. When he called, they no longer had phone sex. They talked about his illness, about his preparations for death, and when he got tired of talking about that, they talked about her work. One day he
capably—an acting job of unbelievable fortitude—that we never could have known him in all his complexity, no matter how hard we may have tried. No wonder he’d become a cipher in death. He’d been in hiding all his life. Before I left her mountain, M.J. did me a favor I could never repay. She made noises about being bored in the lookout, wanting to get out on a fire, then maybe a camp crew for a hunting outfit—if only she could find a replacement on fire watch—but I suspect she secretly made it
beer, listening to the crickets in the fields. No matter where their evening had taken them it always ended at the farm. They’d park in the lane and sit on the tailgate of Dan’s truck, looking up at the stars. We’d been gone for several years by then, and bit by bit the place was coming undone, first the windows of the house shot out, then chunks of good lumber wrenched free and hauled off, finally whole walls smashed and copper wire stripped. Each time they went back the place looked worse. It