Sean Wilsey

Sean Wilsey is the author of Oh the Glory of It All, a memoir, and the editor, with Matt Weiland, of State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, which will be published in the US in September.

Diary: Going Slow

Sean Wilsey, 17 July 2008

In the fall of 2002, in the company of a dog named Charlie Chaplin and an architect named Michael Meredith, I set out to drive a 1960 Chevy Apache 10 pick-up truck, at 45 mph, from far west Texas to New York City: 2364 miles through desert, suburbs, forests, lake-spattered plains, mountains, farmland, more suburbs and the Holland Tunnel. I got to know both of my travelling companions during a brief period living in the town of Marfa, Texas, which is also where I found the truck, parked in front of the post office: boxy, banged up, covered in sky-blue house paint, the half-smashed windshield a lattice of stars and linear cracks, like a flag. A Mexican man in his sixties walked outside with his mail and drove it away. Then I found it parked out by the cemetery. Jesse Santesteban, the owner, showed me where he’d signed the engine compartment like an artist, and said I could take a closer look. The doors had handmade wooden armrests, and the seatbelts were fashioned of canvas and chain link. An orange shag carpet covered the floorboards. I offered him $1200 cash. He handed over a green plastic keychain that read ‘Laugh, live, love and be happy!’ and warned: ‘Don’t take it over 45 or it’ll throw a rod.’ A friend later explained: ‘That’s a polite way of saying the engine will explode.’

Some of them can read: Rats!

Sean Wilsey, 17 March 2005

“Rats have eaten cadavers in the New York City coroner’s office. Rats have attacked and killed homeless people sleeping on the streets of Manhattan. Brown rats survived nuclear testing in the Pacific by staying deep down in their burrows. ‘Rats that survive to the age of four are the wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth,’ an exterminator told the reporter Joseph Mitchell sixty years ago. ‘A trap means nothing to them, no matter how skilfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read.’ A pest control technician – as they’re now called, ‘exterminator’ having a deceptive air of finality – told Sullivan that a ‘sniper with a night-vision scope’ is the only way to kill a rat of the semi-literate kind.”

Clopp. Ssh … RRRaaaaooooowwwwwwrrr rrrrrrrrrrr – reeeeee eeeeeeeeeeppp – rrraaaaooooo wwwwwwrrrrrrrppppppp – tic! – rrraaaa ooooowwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – reeeeeeeeeeee eeeeppp – tic!-schrapp! –

BAM! COMBP! – RRrraaaoooowwwwwwrr rrrrrrrrrrrrr –

– TNK! – rrraaaaooooowwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Skateboarding’s inspiration...

The Greeter: With Cantor Fitzgerald

Sean Wilsey, 19 September 2002

The first grieving person to arrive was a big man in his late fifties, wearing a yellow and green polo shirt stretched tight over his stomach. I realised that he was one of the people we were all here for because the words ‘Can I help you?’ seemed to sink into him, rather than leaving him unaffected, or making him conventionally polite, or annoyed.

From The Blog
4 December 2009

Buzz Aldrin may have been only the second man to walk on the moon, but he was the first to wear a watch on its surface. In 1962 Nasa visited a jewellery shop in Houston, bought some timepieces, and subjected them to what agency historians describe as ‘exhaustive tests aimed at determining performance reliability in the conditions likely to be experienced during EVA'. That acronym stands for ‘extravehicular activity’, which means moon walking, which means temperatures ranging from -250 to +250ºF.

Sean Wilsey’s father, Al, was orphaned as a teenager, dropped out of college, and made a fortune in dairy, real estate and other business ventures. Over fifty when Sean was born, Al flew a...

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