Colorado Mountain College presenter inspires ‘Double Take’
SPECIAL TO THE DAILY
If author and adventurer Kevin Michael Connolly were an ordinary 25-year-old, he would describe himself with ordinary words such as adaptable, curious and stubborn.
But Montana-born and -reared Connolly is an extra-ordinary young man, so he pauses thoughtfully, with a chuckle, to describe himself as “lowbrow, callused, hairy, manic, masochistic and relatively eloquent despite my best efforts.”
The energetic Connolly said he is like a dog chasing cars who doesn’t know what he’d do if he caught one.
“I really don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t chasing down these ideas of mine,” said Connolly, who is an extreme athlete, world traveler and freelance photographer.
He also was born without legs.
The Bozeman resident explored his adventurous side growing up as a regular small-town kid – getting dirty, playing pranks and keeping up with his siblings and friends. He developed his creative side as a film production student at Montana State University. In college, he used his skateboarding skills to get to classes and then took his skateboard and camera around the world on study abroad and other trips.
His frustration, curiosity and camera skills led to the production of a unique photo collection called The Rolling Exhibition, in which he captured people across the world giving him a double take. The 33,000 photographs were culled to an exhibition shown at the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy Center.
Connolly’s experiences grew into the memoir “Double Take,” which was published a year ago. The book has since been released in England, New Zealand, Australia and Canada and has been translated in Korea, Connolly said in a recent phone interview.
The memoir has been the focus of reader programs at several universities, including the author’s alma mater, and was selected for this year’s fourth annual Common Reader program at Colorado Mountain College. The author will visit with students and present public talks at the college Nov. 1-5, with stops in Rifle, Aspen, Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Edwards.
Connolly said he is “immensely uncomfortable” to think of himself as an academic author behind a podium, but he said the highest honor is that his book made it into classroom curricula.
Many people tell Connolly his story is inspirational, but he still grapples with that.
“I was born without legs. I never lost them, so I have no context,” Connolly said. “I appreciate people pulling inspiration from the book, but I don’t understand it.”
As a ski racer since he was 13, Connolly has competed often in Colorado, including multiple Winter X Games. At last year’s X Games, where he took home a bronze, he ended up with a compression fracture in his back but skied the rest of the week before he realized it wasn’t just a hurt rib.
Connolly said he has turned down offers to be featured in a cable TV reality series and multiple documentaries. He prefers to focus on deeper pursuits and passions, such as planning to earn a master’s degree in social anthropology.
He currently is working on a second book and a photo exhibit about seven people living in places such as Brazil, Afghanistan and India who have created unique prosthetics.
“They have created adaptations, super enhancements in inhospitable countries, that are incredibly successful in letting them do what they want to do,” he said.
“They represent a new design ethos,” he noted of the next generation of prosthetics. “You focus on things that actually get the job done rather than looking like everyone else.”
Connolly himself is working on a “jumping crutches” prototype that will help him travel as he likes. Although he can hike 6 miles on this hands carrying a backpack, or skateboard 15 miles on paved areas, many countries where he has traveled have few accommodations for people with physical disabilities.