Photo credit: Andrew Illarionov

In high school, after being expelled a second time, he was sent to Illinois and made to live in the woods. His parents called it “wilderness reform”. For two months, in the desolate midwest countryside, he yearned for the city. For two months he spoke to nobody but learned many things. He learned to write his thoughts down and he learned to set up a tent in the snow. He learned to start fires with a bow and how to cook food. He learned begrudgingly, missing his friends in Los Angeles and despising his parents for subjecting him to such a fruitless exercise.

When his two months ended he was sent to a new school, a boarding program in Philadelphia. He hated it there, living by himself with no friends, attending classes he found uninteresting. When he acted out, he was once again thrown out of school. He hoped this would persuade his parents to bring him back to the city, but instead they sent him back to Illinois for two more months in the frozen woods.

We’re driving on the 405, lamenting the traffic that plagues Los Angeles. It’s been years since he swam in the ocean; the trouble to drive west from Hollywood isn’t worth it. You can drive for 50 minutes in this place and make it only halfway across the city. I think: cities can be confining despite their expanse.

“Did you come to enjoy the time spent in the woods?”, I ask. His punishment sounds like a dream to me.

“After I left”, he says, laughing out loud. “I miss the time to think, and keeping a journal. And cooking over a fire.”

I think again: cities can be confining despite their expanse.


This is day 106 of my intention to write something every day in 2016.