New Hampshire to California

About ten years ago, I was a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. Anytime a new episode rolled out, I received messages for a couple hours as the broadcast reached people’s time zones. (The first time I was on-air, a friend from college nearly drove off the road.) Inevitably, no matter what I said, I also got denunciations, hate mail, but that seemed par for the course; weird things happen outside the public eye as a result of being in the public eye.

Lately, I’ve done a lot of media for my new book, including several podcast appearances. A few days after one came out, I received a message on Instagram, along the lines of We don’t know each other, but were you hiking yesterday in Ventura? I asked the guy what he meant. He said he and his girlfriend had just moved to Southern California and that weekend, they’d been looking for a hike, his girlfriend found one online, and for the drive he put on the latest episode of his favorite podcast, which happened to feature my interview that day. Half an hour later, he turned off the stereo, parked at the trailhead, hopped out out of his car, and about a minute later performed a startled double-take when me and a friend of mine went past, finishing a morning walk. (My headshot had been included in the episode notes.)

Anyway, he realized it was pretty weird, he said, but he’d enjoyed the interview quite a bit, was looking forward to reading the book, and just wanted to share the odd simultaneous occurrence of events – which I found quite sweet and replied yes, this was pretty unusual!

In fact, a similar thing happened in Oxford, Mississippi, a few years ago, when I was on tour for a different book. I wrote it up for The Paris Review, you can read the whole thing here. A brief excerpt:

The boy and the girl were engaged, driving to California, where the girl wanted to make costumes for the movies. The boy planned to study Native American archaeology; he was just out of the Navy. They were the sort of young people I felt accurate calling beautiful—good-looking, around twenty years old, in love. But it was more than that. The fact is, it’s sustaining, getting older, to meet young people who are hopeful and naïve, just enough.

They had a car, a dog, a vision. But they didn’t have a book. Leaving New England, they’d heard about a certain book on NPR, and the girl thought it sounded just right. The boy said they’d find a copy on the road somewhere. They drove for days, heading south from New Hampshire: Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee. No book. The girl pressed. The boy promised. Bookstores don’t exactly dot the American highway in the grand manner of Sbarros. Finally, driving through Mississippi, seeing a sign for Oxford, the boy suggested they stop, stretch their legs, find the damn book. Oxford was a university town, there had to be a bookstore somewhere.

Anyway, cheers to synchronicity making the world feel a little bit smaller.

What the what? A (mostly) weekly newsletter by novelist Rosecrans Baldwin of (very) short essays about things he finds beautiful.

Rosecrans’s new nonfiction book, Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles, is available from BookshopAmazon, or your local store. Check it out!

Any other books mentioned in this newsletter are featured on a list at Bookshop.