I am in a hotel room in York, Pennsylvania. We are in York to pick up a tractor, but not until tomorrow. My two best friends are watching Desperate Housewives, while I am sitting at the table trying to concentrate on Montaigne.
That probably makes me sound like a snob but I hardly care. I enjoy Montaigne. He helps me to think and at the moment I am thinking about writing. Of course, I am always thinking about writing…
Earlier, we had dinner at the Greek restaurant across the highway from the hotel. We sat in the lounge.
The barmaid served us quickly while talking to a man sitting at the bar. Her conversation moved between Greek and English. The man said almost nothing. They smoked slowly from the same cigarette. Every few minutes the she looked up to see if we needed another round.
The next morning, it’s something of an adventure to get the tractor loaded. We really have no idea what we are doing. Ultimately, the kid who works in the yard takes pity on us and loads the tractor onto the trailer. In return, we agree to return to the highway using the most ridiculous route the kid could dream up. It’s long, winding detour through the country.
I wonder what it must have been like to fight on such rough terrain. My vision of the nineteenth century is invariably dulled by still landscapes and thoughts of men with flowing hair, but as with any time, it was alive with consequence. Soldiers charging up hills, bone tired, yet pressed on. A hail of bullets ripping the air about them, raining down from positions above. The agony and anguish of cannon-fire and the moments of triumph. Did that exist?
We’re having lunch at a diner. According to the radar, a heavy snow is coming. If we move quickly, we’ll stay ahead of it. I’m waiting for pecan pie and coffee.
In the mountains, it starts to snow. We’ve been together long enough that all of our conversations have worn through.
At first, the snow swirls and blows off the road. Eventually it sticks. The van has a hard time maintaining traction in the slush but soon we get beyond the reach of the snow and the road clears.
I sketch pictures of the landscape in my notebook. I think of the portraits I’ve gather on this trip, but there’s nothing coherent enough to be a story.
How I Almost Started Writing is a series of brief portraits focused on the times in my life where I found myself on the verge of focusing solely on the writing life.