Heavy, Hemlock, and Being from Rock Springs

I came across this Vice article about a book on growing up in my hometown. A word of caution: the author, being true to his hometown roots, uses colorful language in the article.

1454970421336In Life Inside an American Mining Boomtown on the Brink of DeclineNathan C. Martin (formerly of Rock Springs) introduces the reader to Rock Springs, Wyoming while simultaneously introducing the reader to J.J. Anselmi’s book Heavy, a book that “chronicles Anselmi’s experiences growing up as a straight edge, BMX-riding metal head in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a place with one of the highest per capita suicide rates in the United States.” 

I’ll be ordering a copy of Heavy for two reasons. First, I’m always intrigued to read about places I know. It’s fascinating. To read about my own hometown, well, that’s a rare treat. Secondly, I resonate with the write up. Change a couple details – replace BMX with skater, metal with punk – and it’s my story, right down to straight edge inclinations fueled by the destructive behavior of my father, booze, tattoos, and yes, a season of self-hate. And like Mr. Martin describes, I’ve experienced the response one gets when telling people I’m from Rock Springs.

Hemlock cover with shadow
Cover design for un-released self published version of the novel

The Rock Springs experience that led to Anselmi’s memoir is the same one that developed into my not yet published autobiographical novel, Hemlock: Death and Jesus, a Tungsten Retrospective. I wrote about what prevented me from being consumed by the life-devouring Rock Springs culture. I’m curious to know if Anselmi has avoided the destruction rampant in our hometown or has he just removed himself from it’s immediate presence. As they say, you can take the boy out of Rock Springs, but can you take “the psychological grind taking place inside the Rock Spring residents” out of the boy?


Good people live in Rock Springs. It’s definitely a rough place to live, but the way of destruction is not at all the only story to tell. There is hope and life in the midst of the unbridled sin. May they be empowered to withstand that which surrounds them.

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