Clarion West, Day 2: The cult

No, I’m not talking about the English goths who made a lateral career move into stadium butt-shaking. I refer instead to a subclass of railroad enthusiasts who enjoy sneaking into railroad facilities and risking arrest and bites from angry watchdogs to photograph equipment that looks like, well, equipment.

These are men who can look at a passing line of tank cars and tell you from the number on each car where they’re from and where they’re going while the rest of us are worried that all that gasoline is going to blow us to the Yukon. These happy-go-lucky hobbyists are what professional railroaders call FRNs: Fucking Rail Nuts.

I mention this because yesterday I said I’m writing a book full of trains. Another gentleman who wrote a book full of trains, Carlos A. Schwantes, was besieged by FRNs as soon as he went on the road to promote Railroad Signatures Across the Pacific Northwest. This is a book about the impact of the railroads on urban and rural areas and what happened when, in many places, the trains stopped running. It’s full of old advertising, memoir, maps, and cultural and economic analyses. But Schwantes could not escape the FRNs who assumed he had counted all the rivets in a steam locomotive, all the wooden ties under the tracks, all the bridges of Madison County, and other burning issues of the day.

I am not writing a book for rivet counters. My target audiences are my wife’s book clubs, past and present. I have met these women and I can tell you plain that not one of them knows the four types of stresses on a railroad bridge, and yet their lives run along just fine, thank you very much.

Today, after working on one unified chapter 1 from three variants, I cleared out more of the stalactites of surplus language in the cave of literature. In my piles of notes I found I had written a job description for a job that’s probably not going to be in the book and even if it was who is going to apply for it, a reader? Also some songs, critiques of chapters from critique groups I was in years ago, and, of course, erotica. Can’t have a book with trains in it without erotica.

Tomorrow, some thoughts on protagonists and the novelist Kent Wascom, who, on the advice of his mentor, kept 90 pages of the first draft of his first novel, The Blood of Heaven, and threw away the other 600. Frankly, I don’t have that kind of time.

Diet Day 2

There are entire nations that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and here I am complaining because there’s too much food coming my way. This problem would be incomprehensible to approximately 2 billion people.

The trick to dieting is filling your stomach with something that makes you believe you’re full but something that is not donuts. For a while I experimented with frozen corn and peas mixed with cut-up pieces of protein, such as chicken or sasquatch, then microwaved. Not bad, but these simple lunches required seasoning. All the seasoning. There’s actually not enough seasoning. I have returned to the test kitchen.

FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper said, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present.” Permission to transgress once may be the best dieting advice ever given.

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