Tag Archives: Memoir

20 Reasons I Write

It’s cathartic

I love books and reading

My hand has a mind of its own

I want to express myself

I want someone to know that I have been there too

Letters are pretty and clean

I want to be an artist in some form

I am one voice of a generation

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

I want my kids to know me better someday

I want kids someday and I want everyone to know it

I feel liberated when I say it out loud, whatever “it” may be

I feel that I have a valuable story to tell

I feel that my story is unique

I want to tell my Dad’s story

I feel that my Dad’s story is unique

I want to thank my grandmother, in writing

I want to take a snapshot of a place in time, and lock it inside the binds of a book forever

I want to challenge myself, it’s fun

I want to make somebody smile

A Writer With a Deadline

Things are getting messy. They are falling apart so that they can be arranged together again in a newer, better way. Most of you think I am talking about my boyfriend. I’m not. I am talking about writing.

It is painful. Oh is it painful. Not this, not pecking away at the black keyboard, not talking to you like I am talking to a friend. Not talking about writing, that is the easy part. I could talk til’ I’m blue in the face, and finally, I am. I am meeting with other writers over coffee, I am emailing them and asking them questions, I am reeling over my work, I am supporting other writers and applying for scholarships for writer’s workshops in places like Big Sur, California.

But also, it is a quiet time. It is a time when I am sitting on the back porch, summertime scorched, iced-tea’d up and happy as a clam but I am all inside of my mind. I am only inside of my mind. My hair is greasy and I do not care, for once. My boyfriend asks me if I want a cold beer. He knows I never do but I’d told him to keep on asking cause I find it amusing. But all I am thinking of is words. My words. I almost do not hear him. Like a builder building his house, I am thinking over my material. Will this page work, or is this log rotted? Is there a workable structure to my story? How will it hold up? Will it stand? On it’s own two feet?

I am devouring favorite selected memoirs and books on writing like ice cube crunchers crunch ice from a glass on a hot day. I listen to everything and anything writing; podcasts, NPR, Ted Talks. I dissect their wisdom for hours. I am snapped back to the present, if only momentarily, when my boyfriend asks “Wanna beer?” again. “No, no thank you,” I tell him. “Sorry, I’m kind of out of it. In a good way though, in a good way. I’m single-minded right now.”

He says he understands and is proud of me.

I think it a good sign that I will brew a pot of coffee, pour it into a mug, and before I can finish the mug I have finished a page or a chapter. Just a security blanket– that coffee. In the kitchen there is a sink full of dishes. “I’m going to be ignoring some things,” I’d warned Steve. “Like you,” I joked, “and maybe some chores.”

I need to shower. I don’t want to. Could derail me. Don’t have time.

I wake up these days like there is a fire in the house. Alert. I only expect this to last for a couple of days though. This is the beginning. This is the beginning of being a writer with a deadline. I’d be lucky if this wild enthusiasm kept up. I could maybe Get There if it did.

Steve suggested I buy a printer. “Genius! Genius!” I told him and rushed down to Bi-Mart. As it was I was paying 10 cents a copy and the gas and time it took to go to the library. Now I can print off a chapter, sit down to edit at the dining room table–full, cold coffee by my side–then jump back onto the computer to make the changes. All in one night. And I can do that several times again.

I have three weeks. I have three weeks and then I pass off my full manuscript to an editor I’d contacted, on a whim, several weeks ago. I get the feeling he’s kind of a big deal. He might even be reading this right now. Gosh I hope not, cause I’m just talking, I’m not really writing…..am I?

Other than hope, I am armed with a sturdy oak writing desk that was here when I moved in. It sat, sadly, in the open, unused office space under a pile of instruction manuals and green twist-ties. It was covered in dust. I asked Steve about the desk. He told me it was his old roommates desk who likened himself a writer but mainly drank a lot and chased women. He said he’d had to drag that damn heavy thing in here would love to see it finally be put to use. “Oh, I’ll use it,” I assured him.

There is a pleasant nautical-style chandelier light hanging above my head, a window that looks out into the front yard providing at least some natural light, a solid wooden floor, and a grand bookcase taking up an entire wall where Steve and I both store our personal collections–him: Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens and many others; me: Janet Fitch, Lidia Yuknavitch, Mary Karr, Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, some of Steve’s Kerouac, and many others.

Aside from the cold mugs of coffee, writing inspiration (ie books), and the desk; I’ve got about 525 sheets of blank computer paper–a whole drawer in the desk dedicated to it–a jade plant, a jar of water for drinking, a small clay vase filled with one unsharpened pencil, two sharpies, several ink pens, and a pair of scissors; tonnnns of written work, most of it printed out, self-edited, and needing to be stitched into my memoir, eight copies of The SUN, a new, cheap, Canon printer, jumbo-sized assorted color paper clips: pink, baby blue, red; a stapler with turquoise staples, and one or two unmentionables.

I sit and write on a hard wooden stool. Steve will often drag the soft, blanketed love seat into the office to watch movies at night but I just drag it back out during the day cause I can’t write all splayed out on my back like that, else sinking down into the cushions. Yep, I am a writer now. With a deadline. I am talking to other writer’s and I am asking them “How does it feel to be a writer with a deadline versus a writer without one?” I am hoping they will tell me it’s much more painful to be a writer with a deadline. But that there is pleasure on the other side of that pain. Surely, surely there is pleasure.

Be Somebody Someday

I put out my cigarette on the tread of my car tire and stuck the butt in the ashtray. I felt like I had a little bit more direction now. This whole not-sure-where-I’m-going-or-what-I’m-doing thing, this was normal. This was my Saturn return. Which meant, it would end.

I guess I thought since I’d already gone through all of this same shit when I left college, that things would go smoothly from there. I thought that life could only drag me through so much shit, through so many “bad matches”. I’d been through enough crap in my childhood to last a lifetime. The tarot reader had even said so. Other than the poor decision to start smoking again, I had been going to yoga class, reading books like One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and Be Here Now, and I was working diligently at my job as a youth counselor. I took bubble baths and swam laps at the Y. Life was supposed to be peaceful by now.  It wasn’t. Luckily, I was pro-active. I didn’t just float along. I wouldn’t just float along.

As I pulled my car away from the curb, I thought about a time in my hometown when I was hanging with some buddies at a skate park. Actually it was a business park, but people skated there. A lot of homeless people hung around there too. I was dragging on a cigarette and staring shyly at my childhood crush, who sat across from me, his skateboard leaning against a concrete wall. A woman in clothing that might have actually been a vibrant color previously, but was now just a rainbow of dirt, waltzed by with her long-haired companion, who was carrying an unmistakable paperbag forty ounce beer, I noticed.

“Hey!” She hollered at me, pointing, “You’re gonna be somebody someday!”

She said those words with such conviction, that even though I should know better than to think this woman was some guardian angel or fortune teller, rather than some drunk just spouting shit, I still like to think that maybe she was on to something. I find myself remembering this day. And then taking another step in the right direction. I’m gonna be somebody. I mean we’re all somebody, but somehow, I knew exactly what that lady was talking about.

Womanbody

I want to be a mother. Want to harness life inside of my own body. Want to validate and make use of this healthy hearty womanbody that I have. See I always thought I’d have that baby by now. But I’ve discarded two lives by the ingestion of two pills taken two hours apart. Two men and women weeped and then ate ice cream afterwards two bloody times. I let go of two children on the floors of two different college town apartments no longer than two months into two separate pregnancies. I wasn’t yet twenty-two. Judge me, go ahead. I don’t care. I did what I had to do. What I had the right to do. But that was  way back then.

I want to do it right this time. And that’s OK. I can want that, can’t I? To do it right? My secret shames me. Or tries to. All the women ask me more more more about what I see, what I want. But the men turn their cheeks, their torsos, go silent, don’t know what to say. Most of em anyway. One of my friends though, he told me: I want the baby as I stifled a surprised laugh. The baby. I said I’d get back to him on that. Told him thanks, bra.

I’ve been on my own since fourteen, or seventeen depending on which angle. Point is, I’ve been on my own. I’ve packed and moved thirteen different times. I’ve hosted garage sales with a smiling beaming face all the while featuring the discarded stuff of lovers going their separate ways. I’ve patted the back of men I’ve dumped. I’ve sucked the dick of men I love, but never of men I didn’t. I’ve found my own truths through self-therapy, self-medicating, self-forgiving and self-love. I’ve had sex a million gazillion times and I’m still wandering through life unattached, not pregnant, working at a menial job, going to parties, “living it up”, paying rent, extending my youth. But I want to be a mother. Unapologetically.

I like to think I manage quite well our twenty-something household by cooking meals, watering plants, fluffing guests pillows before they arrive, and subtly controlling everything and everyone—including two twenty-something male roommates (one of whom is my boyfriend) who love to drink and debate and hoot and holler but will maneuver this way and that way to avoid my emotional pull and to please me in many a unique manner. But the men must know what I want. They must know I want a baby. We don’t go there. Sooner or later though, we must. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to prove that I can handle a baby, like a kid would try to prove that he can handle a puppy. Thing is, I probably can’t. What I mean is: learning curve. What I mean is: everything changes. What I mean is: there really aren’t words for becoming a mother.

I dreamed last night that I was. That I was a mother. I was the mother of a small little girl, chubby faced and brunette. She had a smile. Oh she had a smile and we smiled all above and around her. Then there was this moment. This moment where I wanted to go to the other room, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t go in the other room, because I had to stay with Her at all times. It was bliss meeting burden, being a mother. I want to be a mother. Make use of this healthy hearty womanbody that I have. Make up for lost time; for lost bodies.

Just Fine

I have nothing to wear,
but I tucked a chartreuse
three-quarter sleeve top
into a black maxi skirt and
it doesn’t look half bad
afterall

I have little money but it’s
payday nonetheless

People talk to much, trivially
but I go on and on and on
about my emotions

I don’t always feel wholly loved
and desired by my boyfriend but
he holds me all through the night
as soon as I crawl in
and in the morning whispers I Love
You and squeezes me even tighter
says he wishes we could stay
like this all day

Sometimes I think:
everything is disgusting and broken
I actually think that thought,
everything is disgusting and broken
but other times I feel that it is
shining and perfect
that everything is
shining and perfect

the truth is: everything is impermanent
whether shining or broken
everything is impermanent

the truth is: everything needs to be
maintained
home,
relationships,
friendships,
looks,
job satisfaction,
sexual satisfaction,
sense of wonder,
appetite, health of
the body and mind
All things are maintained
as we bend this way and
that way to restore harmony
Everything needs attention,
eventually
This is both
frustrating
and liberating

Little things bother me:
my dirty, grubby fingerprints
on a clean, white page
my poor penmanship
and scribbles
the dirt under my
fingernails as I write
the coffee film inside the
pores of my hairy tongue
people asking things of me,
subtly and without warrant
somebody expecting me to
arrive somewhere at a certain
specific time
really control of any kind
waiting for my boyfriend
to come home
being tired and ready
to leave the party
PTSD!!!
finicky computer programs
when I’m editing or formatting,
else my finicky mind
over-sharing (me and everyone else)
babies on the toilet on Facebook
a sad poem
cancer

This I love:
Candlelight dinners
a long red taper candle
with a skyscraper flame
burning while I write
a sunbeam
black coffee and
rolled tobacco
sage
Neil Young,
Jerry Joseph and
world music
indian gypsies
italian sausages
asian arts

roommates who talk
too much but always
cheer you up in the
end

boys and beer

love and hate

hate

happy

just fine

A Free Woman

Caretaking my day job
and tending to my valued
friendships, my words lay
dormant inside of me for
days on end
my fingers lazily
flicking the turn signal
with the underside of my
pinkie finger
my feet are on the pedal
and is it sunny and busy
outside–I am outside for
once

Later in bed I am trying
to wind down
I swat away thoughts
with my fingers and the
turn of my head like
the thoughts are flies
and it is summertime

I hear the click click
of my cat’s tongue
across the room
and the up and down
of conversation out
on the back porch
it is Thursday night
and my boyfriend is
hollerin’ out there

I left the music on (Tom Waits)
in the kitchen
so I wouldn’t be tempted
to stretch my ears and listen
to the stories grown men tell
as I have done in the past,
waiting for the drop of a
questionable manstory
–a story about a woman
or women and nakedness,
something controversial to
make me sweat and panic
and feel sorry for myself

But never have I overheard
such a story
and it’s not that I try to listen
it’s just the combination of my
natural inquisitiveness and
the fact that they’re fukin
loudmouths that I ever
end up eavesdropping

The sunshine has kept my
heart hurt at bay but I
cannot help but see
heart hurt coming down
the lane
as always things
are changing in “love”
But I’m not sabotaging,
No I’m not sabotaging

Though I do rifle through our
existence for weakspots
and I poke at them like
the bruises of a brother
I shudder fearfully acknowledging
the power he was over me
my future wrapped up in him
like a thin-linked silver thoroughly
knotted necklace

I don’t want to be pushed
to my limit anymore
So why do I take myself there
I want my home to be
a meadow of peace
So why do I search for
the imperfections?
Strain my ears to
hear them
Then spell them out
for everyone to
see when the only
one making a mess
here is me

I walk the plank
everyday in this love
and you and everyone
we know would say
I’m making too much of this
and I am
in just about every way
Like any good woman
eager for a baby,
I scare us both

I vow to dry out my
moistened wounds
in the springtime sun
and think
fresh and
trust and
first things first
First…Things…First
Me,
in bed,
alone.
As it was in
the beginning
and then thereafter
and as it will be again
in the end

I cannot, should not
control him I think,
as he shouts, emphasizing
a word in conversation
I cannot track his words
I cannot control him
I am enough as I am–
Ignorant
and trusting
A free woman as
he is a free man
and we are unmarried
and probably happier
than most

A History of Kitchens Part Three

Wintergreen Farm offerings

The kitchen, it’s my job. I want this role. I’ve earned this role. I wear aprons. If Steve did these things too it wouldn’t be my role. I might be demoted to just bathroom cleanup or worse, yard work. So I just shut up and say Bring it On, the dishes, the unbelievable messes Steve makes when doing anything in the kitchen but just sitting there on the counter. I mop up after the dog and Steve-boots multiple times on a good day. I wipe the coffee grinds from the counter top night and morning. I recycle the green and yellow sponge from dish sponge to chicken-egg sponge and I decide when we start a brand new one fresh from the threepack. I even get to feed and water the chickens, collect eggs, and harvest the fruit of nine apple trees. I have been blessed with a kitchen to call my own. And because Steve works on a farm, once a week he plops a dirty plastic tote up on the countertop and I smile warmly in return and start unpacking the goods. That plastic tote makes all the difference…our lives revolve around that tote, that kitchen.

I imagine I will dominate many more kitchens in my day. I have a dream to even design one. It will have a window above the sink, for gazing dumbly out onto while washing the dishes, an “island”, and one of those overhead hangy-things for pots and pans. Maybe I am asking too much. I probably am. Perhaps someday I will sit quietly in the kitchen of my daughter-in-law, watching her take control of the stove settings and the manner in which dinner is served all on her own, as I once did, eager to show her skills to her in-laws, eager to be grown up and woman and to have the gift of addressing each and every need of her guest. Water, tea, and fabric napkins. Beers, tops already popped.

I imagine I will die in a kitchen, upright, moving my hips and fingers to the beat of the radio…static, old classic country. I imagine the kitchen will be sunny, not gray or brown or fabric-y, a pot on the stove containing saucy stewing yummy things and the conversation always intimate and trying. I imagine I will die trying…to feed my family.

A History of Kitchens Part Two

I had a boyfriend in college who barked at me for washing his fancy wine glasses, his most valued possessions, with soap. Frankly he was much more sophisticated than I was [in the kitchen] and knew things like to wash with only hot water (I still don’t get it?)…and how to actually cook duck (I once ruined some very expensive meat), how to really tell when a steak is done (or perfectly undone), to buy unsalted butter, to always salt water, how to season fish Cajun style…we shared a kitchen which he absolutely dominated and filled with all sorts of fancy things like meat tenderizers and food processors and a whole set of knives it was understood I could. not. touch. ever.  I learned to fill a small porcelain saucer with salt for easy access, placing it near the cooking stove, something I still do today. I learned to defrost meat in warm water and how to make lemon vinaigrette in a processor. I couldn’t tell you what hung on the wall in the kitchen. Or what was on the fridge. I think the kitchen was a male.

orangesMy kitchen now didn’t always belong to me. Less than one year ago I was timidly tiptoeing around it, washing dishes quietly and obediently as my lover fell to sleep. Not wanting to boast my kitchen management skills, I cleaned the counters and the cooking pots in-between-time, quickly and nonchalantly. I picked things up off (bits of bark and mud from boots) the floor when no one was looking and I began grooming the kitchen to be mine, talking to her and showing her counters and cabinets Who Is Boss and where things belong.

In August, after I officially moved in with Steve, I painted the kitchen windowsills bright yellow and after dusting the kitchen head-to-toe I hung a large sun/moon artwork in the corner by the window, reorganized the spice rack, moved in my toaster oven (boyfriend loves), hung a colorful and funky coffee mug rack above the stovetop, put a simple beige rug underneath the sink where your barefeet go in the morning, and retrieved every mason jar I could for easy drinking, canning, and snack packing.OldDesignShop_AluminumCoffeePotBW

My boyfriend destroys the kitchen every single morning. Although he always always always unloads the dry dishes from the strainer and puts them away (it’s like a ritual) he also always always always always cracks three eggs, cuts one potato, dirties one chef’s knife, one plate, one fork, one coffeepot, two cups—and the egg yolk and dishes remain there on the counter until I get home from work in the afternoon. Then it’s: clean up the breakfast mess and start to make another mess for dinner. I tell my boyfriend, clean as you go, like I do. I try to demonstrate how perfect and polished the kitchen can remain even as you bake bread, pan-fry pork, handbrew a pot of coffee…if you just clean as you go! It’s brilliant! I chirp and hum along with the radio.

A History of Kitchens Part One

rebecca sittler
Photography credit: Rebecca Sittler

These are the kitchens of my past. Some of the kitchens were females and some were males. Some of them had dining tables and some did not. I remember the worst of the kitchens, the friends or neighbor’s kitchens in college—I was afraid to eat a thing strait from the waterlogged counter, there were hotpink Las Vegas shot glasses and sticky empty liquor bottles on their sides and who knows whose ass had been sitting up there. I remember the food bank finds, the cardboard microbrew beerbottle canisters with a banana inside, a serrated knife, and a days old spoon with yogurt-tongue markings still on it…a bag of Western Family wheat bread always almost out and wanting so badly to be the lucky roommate to eat the last sandwich, with cheese.

I cleaned kitchens in exchange for cigarettes for a woman I can’t remember the name of now but I can see her plain as day in front of a sepia television, blinds closed, sitting on her long black hair on a tan couch in a house down Modoc Lane. I was fourteen. She didn’t have a table in her kitchen. I used yellow Sun soap and an inefficient wide-pored plastic green scrubby from the dollarstore to wash dried Top Ramen noodles from indian boybowls on foggy, windy days, my kid-hands enjoying the hot soapy water and subsequent Marlboro 100’s plus four to go in the pocket of my jean jacket.

Personal | Becky Luigart-Stayner--Food & Lifestyle Photographer
Photography credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Kitchens with no power. A solar pushlamp dim as a candle. Kerosene lanterns and a generic plastic red and white checkered tablecloth my Dad picked up at Shop Smart. My Dad, just twenty-four but playing Mom with our square, aluminum-legged kitchen table, checkered cloth and candlelight, for both practical and spiritual purposes. Two dinner plates and forks. Papertowels folded in half for napkins. The days when things were real good for us both. A father, a daughter, and a kitchen. Propane gas stove and long-handled lighters—big boxes of matches my Dad would strike on his pants zipper if I asked him to. Matches that struck on the pavement of the platform outside our trailer, the concrete foundation that would be our home. A home that never really got to happen.

It was a small father-daughter kitchen, with one window above the sink which in the daytime looked out to a lush green lot, with rabbits in cages, wild doves in the Myrtlewood trees, and geese and ducks and things. The window fogged at night and I would write things on it to entertain myself, smiling faces, peace signs, my name, mad, antsy scribbles, spirals and hearts. There were no refrigerator magnets and the walls were bare. In the living room was a framed school photo of me that would eventually burn and in the bathroom, the Lord’s Prayer hanging on the wall, a wooden vintage piece: Our father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name... In the kitchen cupboards: white sheaths of premium saltine crackers, cans of “ABC” soup, a bag of popcorn kernals, white rice, apricot jam, and on the counter, carrots, potatoes, cumin and mint tea.

What Katie Ate » Happy Easter 2013 (!) and a few Gluten-Free Desserts :)
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A boy cousin is over for dinner. We’d come by some sort of green squeaky toy—a frog—my dad requests that we bow our heads to pray before eating which I obediently do. My boy cousin squeaks the toy and giggles. Maybe he did this twice. My Dad says firmly (to us both, as to not even call my cousin out), “Humble yourselves.” My boy cousin squeaks the toy again and my Dad immediately smacks the toy from my boycousins hand, looking serious for once and shocking us both to the core as it was one of the few times we’d seen my Dad genuinely pissed. We both bowed our heads as my Dad gave a shaky, but always sincere prayer starting with Dear Heavenly Father and ending with the three of us saying Amen.

Nag champa incense and me knee-sitting on a simple wooden chair washing dishes, often my designated chore, with large yellow rubber gloves (you know the kind) complete the memory of my most cherished kitchen—the one dad and I shared in Rock Creek. Sometimes I would be asked to come play, but my Dad made me do dishes instead. However if the dishes got done, I could go play. But if they didn’t it was me in the kitchen crying and alone.

Eastbound to Malta

Drunks and writers ride Amtrak. Classy drunks (the kind who don’t drive) and amateur writers. The type of drunks who don’t mind spending six dollars on cans of Budlight to wash down the flask of whisky they tucked into the inside of their winter ski jacket.

The writers are young and hopeful. We all gather up in the observation car sitting with our paper notebooks, ink pens, and hardback novels spread across the dining tables like sentence physicians—our vintage leather suitcases claiming the seats in front and to the side of us, lest some fool should try to join us, interrupt us; so our orange peels, Nalgene waterbottles, and of course our papercups of black Amtrak coffee crown our paperstuff, nudging us on and warding off talkers.

The young writer (actually he is a graphic novelist) behind me is passionate and excited in his seat. His shoulders are jumping and he has a faraway look as he fishes for inspiration. The train engine revs and be begin our travel from Portland, Oregon to Malta, Montana (me). As the train moves down down down the tracks, the jumpy novelist turns to me, “Excuse me.” he asks, “Do you know if it’s always this bumpy?”

Personally, I’d never much noticed the bumps. But I guess we were kind of bumping along. “Bumpy?” I respond, looking up from my poem.

“Yeah, bumpy.”

“I don’t know, I’m sorry.” I tell him. Poor guy. Thinks he’s going to be the next Art Speigelman beginning with an epic trainride across the west, where ideas will come to him just like Christmas gifts from lonely, wealthy, overzealous relatives and he will lay them down onto the page like Jack Kerouac did, his words timely and brilliant and bold. How sad, I think, as the young artists puts his pencil to paper and the train jerks and shudders. I look at my own paper and there are circle scribbles and big black holes and lines, missing letters and arrows.

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In the front of me is a poor sap whose head I keep looking above and all around. He’s a pretty boy and so he probably thinks I am admiring him, although he seems to be a writer too (pens, a wallet size notebook, a crown of snacks) so he just might know what I’m doing staring off like this. Thinking. Fishing.

He’s a bouncy fellow (maybe I think they’re all so bouncy because we’re on a train?) and for a spell he stares back at me and out the boxcar window, scribbling words or pictures, I don’t know. We begin to roll along side the navyblue Columbia, a river I have never truly rolled alongside before. Soon the jumpy fellow (pretty boy) is distracted by his cellphone—poking at it—and then he gets or makes two phonecalls and as I cannot help but eavesdrop I find that he has a “crazy” ex-girlfriend which reminds me, aren’t they all? Men use crazy to describe “unideal” or  “just didn’t work out” like we women use “lazy” to describe men who ignore us or have too many indoor hobbies and “cheater” to describe men who lie or have pretty friends.

He eyes me back but I am not eyeing him, just eavesdropping and fishing. There’s a more handsome man with a big smile and a greasy cowlick sipping a cocktail from a tiny plastic cup in a seat to the right and up a few. And beyond that there is my very own boyfriend who is waiting for my arrival way down the tracks in frozen Malta, Montana. And it is him who I set my sights on.

It is Christmastime. There is a man who stops at every chance to smoke and drags into the freeze his oxygen tank and Camels. Back at my assigned seat is a large man in cowboy boots and hat, nice enough guy, rank breath, offered to buy me a beer, likes to show you things on his phone. I politely excused myself to the obs car. Pretty boy and cowlick have struck a conversation and the graphic novelist behind me converses with a gang of old folks—and they all cheers to the grand Columbia.