The first part of Carolyn Baker's exclusive interview with Dan Armstrong, writer, activist, and owner of MUD CITY PRESS
I'm going to ask you about your book "Prairie Fire", but first I'd like
to find out a little bit about your background. Tell us about your
roots, how you came to settle in the Eugene area, and your passion for
My background is that of a middle-class suburbanite baby boomer. My
father was an officer in the Navy (as was my grandfather) and as a
youth, I lived either in a suburb near a Navy base on the east or west
coast or within a short-commute to the Pentagon.
I grew up in the belly of the beast.
I entered Princeton University as a
freshman in 1968 to study Aerospace Engineering, headed to a career in
the defense industry. As a junior in 1971, I did an independent
research project on the effects of greenhouse gases. To my surprise, I
found that we were already well into a positive feedback loop of
warming. This project, along with my involvement in student
demonstrations against the Vietnam War, began what would be a lifelong
questioning of the American way of life. Instead of taking a job in the
weapons industry, I went to graduate school at the University of Oregon
in Eugene to study journalism and the theory of mass communication.
Street life in Eugene in the early 1970s, however, proved far more
interesting and meaningful to me at age twenty-three than graduate
school, and before the year was out I'd said good-bye to the
establishment and hello to counterculture. By 1974, I was nothing more
or less than a Eugene hippie trying to live the simplest life I could.
The beast had burped me up and spit me out.
As part of a counterculture
lifestyle, I sought self-realization through art. I wrote fiction and
did sculpture, working part-time as a house painter or construction
worker to make ends meet. I have continued in this manner all of my
life, though I have added editing to my resume.
My passion for writing is
intimately connected to my state of mind. For me, writing is therapy, a
kind of intellectual yoga. It's a way of ordering my ideas, stretching
my imagination, and bringing peace to my inner being. After writing for
forty years with only the slightest financial return, it's clear to me
that I write because I have to.
So tell us, what does "relocalization" mean to you? How and why did you
become interested in it? How important is relocalization to you