The Week That Was (Part 1)
And the Week That Shall Be
(Well….the fortnight, really.)
What was I doing all this packing for? Only my neat-o-est vacation concept ever (and if it works, the shape of things to come). A full 10 on the neat-o-meter.
Trains. The future is trains.
Well, I mean the obsolete past of obsolescence is trains really, but MY future is trains. Specifically, using them to get around the country on all the trips I never take because I’m always too busy.
I know what you’re thinking, my intrepid reader. Trains? Did he say fucking TRAINS? Expensive. Slow. Antiquated. Half of them don’t have WiFi. Those trains? Why not save 40% of the price, and just fly there in 1/10 the time? What the actual, literal fucking fuck, Chris?
Hang on. Slow your roll. Give me TWO minutes. (Three if you’re a slow reader.) Let me now appeal to your writerly sensibilities for a moment.
Yeah, I could get on a plane. Spend a little less money for as little space as one can scientifically fit. Be there in an hour or five. Cramped between some manspreading dudebro with deplorable body odor and a guy who packed a fishwich from the day before. Struggling against my bladder because I don't want to ruin their whole flight by needing to get by Mr. Fishwich for the third time––lord, why did I drink a large Dr. Pepper. I could go through TSA where they act like they don’t know what a Kindle is and make sure I know they know I’m packing a Hitachi Magic Wand. I could be there in half a day (though it always seems to kill the whole day no matter when you fly), and once I’m there, I could jump right back in to life’s frantic pace with its never-ending distractions from writing.
However…instead, imagine this: You are provided with a very spartan room but it has a plug for your laptop, good lighting, a bed and a couple of chairs. You can nap if you want, play games or watch movies (that you’ve downloaded) if you want, and read if you want. And of course you can write all you want. Long, quiet, uninterrupted hours. Your meals are taken care of (and quite well if your don’t have diet restrictions). You will be summoned to each one by a voice on an intercom. You can go to the dining car and socialize for a few minutes while you eat, or ask to take your meal back to your room if you’re on a roll or just too into your book. You can walk around if you wish to stretch your legs and there’s even enough room to do some jumping jacks or leg lifts to get the blood flowing, and the passage of time (should you choose to care about at all it) is marked by periodic stops where you can exit the entire building and get some fresh air. There’s even a small shower that so many of those camping retreats lack. To your side, gorgeous panoramic vistas slide by the window. They are not urgently distracting like television, but provide the perfect beautiful and ever-changing landscapes to gaze upon, should you wish to let your mind wander. There is no Wifi, and often no cell phone signal, and you quickly realize how distracting the internet has been and begin to establish a whole new rhythm and pace of writing as well as a fresh sense of how you need to refocus your writing time to involve much less Facebook and hot-take editorials on politics. Perhaps best of all, at the end of this experience, you will be someplace different. Maybe someplace where a friend lives. Or some place you’ve always wanted to visit. You get to have a fun vacation. And then, you get to do another couple of days (or three or four if you're going across country) on the way back.
Writers––a shit ton of writers––basically pay hundreds, even low thousands, of dollars for this kind of experience, dropping gobs on retreats where they can get away from it all and spend a long weekend looking at trees and writing up a storm while someone else cooks, or booking hotel rooms to sequester themselves away from friends and family so they can concentrate without distraction. If you take a train and get one of those roomettes, you get all those things and transportation to someplace nifty. And when you consider the meals, space, lodging, AND transportation, the price is entirely reasonable. Plus, when you get to where you're going, you’ve just written so long and hard that you don’t have to feel guilty about doing a light day or two.
I’m telling you….trains.
So yesterday morning, I packed up a bunch of clothes and headed to Denver and Ann Arbor. I’m finishing up the first leg to Denver, have been on this train almost thirty hours (and have about one more to go at the time of this writing), and have finished more writing in the last two days than in the two weeks prior. And I honestly feel like I’m just hitting my stride. I still plan to do some writing during the vacationy bits, but the real spectacular key clacking is going to happen while I’m on the trains. Back and forth across the country.
Trains (or rather the trips taken on them) do mean a bit of logistics, particularly for my Facebook page. I can’t really post from my laptop until I am at one of my stops. And I can’t post from my phone unless I’m in a place with signal. (Despite the Verizon commercials, there are more places where he can’t hear you than you can imagine, particularly out in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness.) And while I can technically turn my phone into a hotspot and upload a post really quick––this is what I did last night––it chews through my data REALLY fast, and isn’t something I want to make a habit of. So my posting might be spotty, erratic, and even miss days. But when the posts DO hit, they will be solid like your cat-lady-aunt’s Christmas fruitcake––you know, the one you used as a door stop to hold open the fire door at your office so you could get onto the roof and smoke.
So here’s to fun, adventure, and a shit ton of writing in the coming weeks. And hopefully it will only be my adventurous spirit and creativity going off the established path.