WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Strangely Familiar

By on May 31, 2016

Learning how to see your own surroundings as a foreign land.

An unsuspecting plate of avocado tomato toast at Picnic inspires the author to blaze a new path, exploring unique experiences in his hometown. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

An unsuspecting plate of avocado tomato toast at Picnic inspires the author to blaze a new path, exploring unique experiences in his hometown. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – It’s not often that I’m able to experience something new in my hometown, so I was thrilled to have spent this morning writing at Picnic, my first visit to the café since it opened last fall. I ordered some avocado tomato toast with eggs (hurray for healthy food!) and sipped away at my coffee as I watched my Jackson constituents maneuver in and out of the restaurant. I’d sat in the same seat when the location was Hard Drive Café and La Boheme after that, but I was observing my surroundings with new eyes.

Although the familiarity couldn’t be shaken, I could still appreciate the fresh aspects.

The last seven months of my life were a whirlwind of bizarre adventures, heightened emotions, and an overall sense of appreciation for the word “yes.” Spending a winter in Iceland was certainly something I had dreamed about accomplishing, and now that it’s behind me and I’ve returned to my hometown, my appetite for adventure has not yet waned.

So far, being back home is such a blast, and the transition from a polarizing rural life in Iceland back to a vibrant life in Jackson has been (understandably) easier than I predicted. It helps to have such a welcoming, supportive community at my back, and that’s something I may never find anywhere else, no matter how far I search.

Last week’s column was a conclusion to that seven-month period of my life, a reflection of what I’m thankful for attaining, and how I plan to move forward. Since being back home, I’ve returned to working at the Valley Bookstore (June marks my tenth anniversary of non-consecutive bookstore employment) and have been eating so many damn vegetables that my body’s vitamin deficiency after the Icelandic diet is at an all-time low. Huzzah! I’m awake, alert, and ready to accept whatever comes my way.

Therefore, this week’s column is meant to be an introduction to a new era of  Well, That Happened.

The Icelandic dispatches were always so fun to write about and share with my readers, that I wanted to keep that spirit alive and continue my life in Jackson with the same optimistic, adventurous outlook. I want to treat my hometown like it’s as unique, odd, and fascinating as Neskaupstaður, Iceland.

Starting next week, I’ll be writing about my new adventures in Jackson Hole. My plan is to report on Jackson’s distinguishing past as well as its pulsating, energetic present. I’ll hang out with interesting community members that make up the splendid menagerie that is Jackson Hole’s population with the intention of learning as much from them as I can.

I’ve grown up in this town and have traveled down just about every street more times than I can count, so this search for Jackson’s hidden treasures will revitalize my own appreciation, and perhaps yours, for my stomping grounds, as well as offer up a snapshot of Jackson’s overall character.

Think Humans of New York meets National Treasure, minus the conspiracies and Nicholas Cage.

I know I’m guilty of repeatedly poking fun at the culture here in Jackson, as evidenced in my production, I Can Ski Forever. In collaborating with my creative partner, Josh Griffith, it was easy to peel off the first layer of Jackson—the stereotypes—and parade them around in good humor. But with the valley’s housing emergency, increasingly divisive political sphere, and the myriad of other issues we face, there’s a part of me that worries about losing what makes this place so fascinating and alluring to the outside world. What happens when the creative, outdoor-loving middle class disappears only to be replaced by corporate West Bank bigwigs with a thirst for more, more, more?

Having finished off my breakfast at Picnic, shaking hands with former mayor Mark Barron, and chatting the ears off of old acquaintances, I became curious to see where this new perspective takes me, as well as this column.

While it’s still taking my sea lungs some time to adjust to the altitude, I can say with certainty that I’m thrilled about being back, and I’m so excited to uncover some of the real characters and genuine soul that comprise Jackson Hole. PJH

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