Days 12 & 13 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Williston, ND, where I am at mile 6197 of this voyage. You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.
I woke in the fabulous “Author Suite” of the Alexis Hotel in Seattle yesterday morning– my absolute favorite place to stay in the world. They buy your book when you’re a guest, and you sign it and it becomes part of the library in that huge room. Once, I picked a book by David Sedaris off of the shelf, and found that it had been signed: “I stayed in the same bed as Toni Morrison. And she kept stealing all the covers.”
I had dinner last night with a woman who taught music theory at a college in North Dakota. This morning, I had breakfast with an Amish couple who said they don’t approve of music. We were something of an odd threesome, but I was delighted to break bread with them. The man, with his abundant beard, noted, “We have 77 grandchildren!” His wife, in her bonnet and plain dress, nodded. She seemed tired.
Having fought my way to a rough draft of my novel before I left Big Sur, today I began the revisions. I cut 10,000 words, and yes, that’s a lot, although no one should be surprised that occasionally I use 10,000 words when zero will do just as well. In the afternoon today, I turned my attention to a commissioned project for a new anthology, and I cranked out 4000 not terrible words before declaring it time for a beer.
I settled into the observation car and looked out at the plains and drank a Sierra Nevada and listened to Beethoven’s Third on headphones. That morning, I’d seen the sun come up over the Rockies, watched the sun glimmer off the crystalline moonscape peaks of Glacier National Park. By noon, though, we’d come down into the plains, where everything was white and frosty and empty. I had never quite gotten my mind around the vast emptiness of the plains, but I got my mind around it now. The horizon goes on to infinity.
I had dinner with an Irishman from Indiana and a young woman who appeared to be on her way home for Thanksgiving after seven years away from her family. “They sent me a train ticket,” she said. “They wanted me to come home.” The Irishman and I tenderly tried to note how much parents love their children, and how glad they will be to have her home once more. We noted that neither of regretted anything about our twenties except the worry. “I would do it all again the same way,” said the Irishman, “just this time I wouldn’t worry about the future.”