An Editor’s Introduction

Feast your eyes, ears, fingertips, noses, tongues on the third and freshest issue of These Fifty States, picked at peak ripeness like a peck of corncobs from a Nebraska field! Herein a few folks traveling back through their travels: Elias EstabrookSarah Jampel, Erica Leh, Abbie Moore, David Rico, and Hannah Sassoon work through senses of places they are still coming to know. Katy Clayton, Lucy Fleming, and Jacob Osborne glide through senses of places they have known well, but from which time has removed them, while Alisha Jarwala and Eleanor Marshall greet the new homes toward which time has moved them with ambivalence. Jesse Bradford and Ben Goldfarb wax frustrated/existential in confronting transportation hiccups. And David Rico (again!) makes a mountaintop pit stop at home on his way to heaven.

Herein a representative democracy of constituent states: we have opened egalitarian arms and delivered small-R republican soapboxes to all the comers who stayed, to all who sweated and innovated on past the original idea. If they are but few, we may hope that they are a justly, robustly representative few.

“A place,” Joan Didion has written, “belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” We wish this issue, as this site entire, to be a place of hard but not exclusive claims. We wish to make as much as we wish to remake.

A quote from James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room: “Perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what it says but betrays a nagging suspicion that something has been misplaced. I think now that if I had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home.” We have stayed at home. We have gone looking for ourselves, and our unitary self, in our great within.

That’s all I got. Yank back a husk, marvel at the bright American yellows and browns and greens, cook each cob till tender (optional), and bite. Bite again. Keep biting. Chew, savor, swallow; exhale, smile, repeat.


Alec Joyner once walked the length of Manhattan Island down Broadway with his brother. They didn’t see the Cash Cab or Bill Murray, so it wasn’t exactly a success, but when they were done it was a new year. Send Alec an email at

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