Raised in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati, I seemed to have a fascination with "the West" before I understood the function of a compass. By the time I was 5 or 6, I had noticed castle-like buildings on the prominent ridge west of the Mill Creek Valley; in later years, I learned that one was a water tower and the other a retirement home. Nevertheless, when my paternal grandparents eventually moved to the west side of town, I relished the lengthy excursions (probably an hour or less) to their new home; the fact that we sometimes stopped to ride horses at a roadside amusement park only added to the illusion that they lived in the exotic West.
Since my family always vacationed either at Lake Erie or in Florida and since high school field trips took us to history-laden cities of the East, the West remained a land of mystery, revealed only in nature documentaries, in films about the Wild West or on the colorful pages of calendars. I would not cross the Mississippi until I attended a friend's wedding in St. Louis, in 1973, and would not see the Mountain West until my wife and I interviewed for residency programs in 1975. It was this latter trip, which included a circuit through the Desert Southwest and Pacific Northwest, that cemented my attraction to the West.
Now, having lived in Colorado (at least part time) since 1982, I realize that the West begins with the High Plains; every city and landscape east of that high, dry corridor belongs to the East, a region I associate with my youth. To me, despite its many spectacular ecosystems, the East is defined by greenery, humidity, history and tradition. The West, on the other hand, is thin air, arid landscapes, lofty peaks and adventure. My soul resides in the West.