David Miller, IL

Junior Writer

David is a writer, laborer, and philosophical tinkerer operating out of Chicago, Illinois. Inspired by the encyclopedic novels by authors like Herman Melville, David Foster Wallace, and Thomas Pynchon, he’s made a habit of synthesizing highly technical information, vibrant prose, and intimate personal narratives within his work. As a trade journalist, he’s written for a string of industry-specific publications, including Electrical Apparatus Magazine, Realtor Magazine, and Green Building and Design Magazine. He has an eye toward finding stories — sometimes of mythic proportions — within the most mundane and bureaucratic crevices. David is most drawn to narratives that explore the influence of work, spirituality, and the geographical landscape on the way we fashion our inner worlds.

As a Story Terrace writer, David interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know him better by reading his autobiographical anecdote below.

Taos

My father’s Isuzu Trooper rounded a curve in the densely forested road we were travelling along, and it was as if we passed through a portal. Suddenly, the trees that had towered over us just moments before were as small as children’s toys, peppering the rim of a glittering lake nestled in a basin hundreds of feet below us. A curtain had been pulled aside, and the shadowy chiaroscuro of the wooded tunnel we had just emerged from sprang into vibrant technicolor, resplendent with azure and emerald tones.

A massive grin spread across my father’s face.

“Welcome to New Mexico, my boy.”

He was exuberant as ever, beaming as brightly as the sunlight that now shown above us, while I, curled timidly by the window in the backseat, was far more reserved, yearning to return to the peaceful cover of the trees.

Just a year earlier, my parents had divorced, and my father had moved up north. Growing up, I had been very close to him, and during my teenage years, his absence took a heavy toll on me. I always saw myself as being very similar to him, a concept he encouraged. Our trip to New Mexico, where after his own parents’ separation he had lived with his father for many years, was meant to be an opportunity for us to reconnect.

Our voyage brought us to the city of Taos, which was where my father insisted we stay. I was immediately struck by its insular qualities. With hardly another human being in sight, moving through the narrow streets hemmed in by cuboid adobe huts felt more like being inside a diorama on display in a museum than occupying a real place.

My father narrated our experience for me, musing constantly about his favorite art museums in the region, Native American trading posts, LSD trips in the desert, and the various adventures he had here with his own father. I had become accustomed to these endless streams of dazzling rhetoric. As far back as I can recall, he had been a big talker, and his stories had a mythic resonance for me.

But now, drifting through Taos’ unreal streets, I found myself increasingly uninterested in his tall tales. His inner landscape was shaped by the liberated atmosphere of the 1970s, by pulp stories of cowboys and gangsters. He saw himself as a playboy, a hustler, an adventurer. As a small boy, I was easily swept up into these archetypes, but now, I began to see how different my own inner-realm was.

At the moment, my father struck me as a man lost in the specter of a dream of a memory. Yet, while he stared misty-eyed into the sky and allowed his nostalgia to carry him away, I found myself developing my own distinctive vision of the region, and in the process, of myself.

In rebellion for its own sake, I set my vision against his — pledging that I would examine the world as it was in careful, contemplative detail. There would be none of my father’s romanticism or frivolity in my version of Taos.

Instead, I became absorbed in the smallest details — the interlocking patterns of gravel paved into sidewalks and roads, the runic angular contortions of cacti plants, and above all else, the isolated, ear-splitting silence of the landscape we inhabited. In all of these things, I saw a series of secret inscriptions in which my own unique psyche began to reveal itself. New Mexico was not an expansive vista ripe for adventurous conquest, as my father insisted; instead, it was an enclosed dome inside which every minutiae had been preserved, untouched by roaring cities and calamitous human drama.

In that way, my father and I went about our trip, sitting side by side as we floated through New Mexico’s distinctive landscape, but occupying vastly different mental realms. Over the next decade, we spoke less and less. The last time I saw my father, he was lying in a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack. A tracheotomy, necessary to allow him to continue breathing, had rendered him unable to speak. No more was he the weaver of master narratives or the spinner of tall tales. Standing over him, I carried the conversation as his eyes twinkled with tears.

Shortly after our final meeting, Dad died. When I went to his apartment to collect his things, I found a small, dim room, scattered with turquoise jewelry, dream catchers, and cowboy hats. At his request, I ferried his ashes to Taos, where he wanted them spread. Returning to that place, I recognized how phantasmagorical and impressionistic my own vision of it had become. I was no less lost in a spanning inner vision than Dad, and he was no less a solitary pilgrim than I.

Growing up, Dad had a tremendous influence on me. Every risk I took, every challenge I braved, and every scrap of confidence I ever managed to muster within my frail, boyish form was a result of Dad’s constant chiding, his bold, sometimes even pompous assertions, and his unrelenting call for me to believe in myself above all else. Even in pulling away from him to fashion my own vision of the world, I followed his example above all else.

While I miss him terribly, there is a sense of completion in my soul as his ashes are scattered across Taos’ skyline. Now, I drive the car, and my father’s spirit sits in the backseat, providing commentary. Once again, I see how we are the same.

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