One was pink….
The last time I wrote that having a variety of job experiences is a good thing for writers, just for their overall education and background to draw from. I realize it also made it look like I couldn't keep a job, but there's nothing I can do about that. You may reach any conclusion you want.
Today I'm addressing another topic, and that is the benefit of travel as a source of education and material. I tend to believe this one, although I know it's possible to travel in one's imagination and still come out sounding knowledgeable. I'm confident Arthur C. Clarke did a fine job with 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I have traveled a lot, including 47 states and the District of Columbia. I have actually lived in Iowa, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. I lived on USAF bases in Texas and Massachusetts. I also traveled in 24 countries, living in Germany, Turkey, and Israel, and stationed by the USAF in The Republic of the Philippines for eighteen months.
I have yet to live on another planet, but if that ever happens, there'll be something I can use for my stories. Travel!
Today I emailed back and with a friend from high school days who currently lives in Dubuque, Iowa. He mentioned that he was supposed to be in Des Moines today for a presentation (he works for the ACT people) and a second presentation tomorrow. He said it looked like both would be cancelled due to the winter storm warning that was declared. The weather nerds are saying 18-24 inches for a good part of the state, including Des Moines and Dubuque. This information brought to mind our local (Upstate South Carolina) winter storm a few days ago and how my long-suffering wife and I survived being 30 hours without electricity. At first, it was an adventure. Fortunately, we had plenty of propane for our gas logs, so the front of our cozy cottage stayed comfortable. We shut off the gas logs that first night and retreated to our bedroom. We woke up the next morning raid to extend ourselves from the warmth of the bed. No wonder. When I checked the thermostat, it read 49 degrees. Indoors. I nearly sprained my ankle running for the remote control thingy that fires up the gas logs.
During the day, we entertained ourselves reading by the light of the sun. When it grew dark, I broke out the Coleman lanterns I had wanted for Christmas. Also, I unpackaged the Coleman stop and fuel that were part of my Christmas gifts. So we had hot food. If we were to have a son, I would name him Coleman. I am not kidding.
I was thinking how fun this was, you know, camping and enjoying "roughing it," yet staying indoors protected from any snakes and bugs that weren't frozen. We had plenty of wine, cheese, bread, and several other goodies, and so the romance maintained. When it got dark, we scooted for bed and flipped on the Coleman lanterns to read by for a while as we snuggled.
All this time, our young pit bull/terrier rescue canine was loving it, running out in the snow and leaping and biting the white stuff, then turning on the afterburners to race back to the front porch and inside to hang out in front of the fireplace. She thought it was romantic, too.
The electricity returned just before dark on Saturday night, but we still weren't able to get out due to the snow on the ice on our upward-inclined driveway. Not to mention all the trees down in our neighborhood, blocking roads. So we just settled in some more, but with the delights of electricity.
And hot water. Without it, romance can fade quickly. Trust me on that one.
I have reached my limit on t-shirts. I finally paid attention to why my t-shirt drawer was so stuffed, as was the other t-shirt drawer. Not counting white t-shirts that I wear under regular shirts with collars, I have 15, FIFTEEN t-shirts with various statements on them.
Here they are: Boston Red Sox, Boston '13 World Champs, Boston Red Sox World Champs (in Hebrew), "I might live in South Carolina but I keep my sox in Boston," Newberry College, Narnia College (a favorite), Eastern Connecticut State University, black IOWA, white IOWA Football, Beware of Dawg (U. Of Georgia with famous picture on the back of Uga going after the Auburn player), black Wales, Israeli Defense Forces, POEM (Professional Organization of English Majors on back), "If you can't see Paris Mountain you're too far from home" (we live back up against Paris Mountain), and "Careful or you'll end up in my novel."
That's it, FIFTEEN t-shirts with a message. I intend to donate at least half to a charity. Some are so threadbare I'll recycle them into the trash. It will be hard, but no one who lives in a cozy cottage needs to have that many t-shirts taking up space. When that's done, I think I'll get a t-shirt with "Efficiency" across the chest.
As most of you are aware, I am from Iowa. I grew up there. I know about cold weather. I know about blizzards. I live in the South, now, Upstate South Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In fact, we have a mountain right up against the back of our property. We are in the midst of a terrific snowstorm, but it is important to understand that "Southern Snow" is fundamentally different from "Northern Snow." You can look it up.
It is wetter. It is slippier. It is less expected. It can kill because its unique characteristics surprise and blindside people. It is a liar, it is deceptive, it lures people to their deaths. It looks lovely and unique, but it hates people, cars, trucks, children who just want to play.
That's why, when the grizzled weatherman on the local TV station says, "Stay inside" and the slightly-pudgy Highway Patrol Lance Corporal says, "Stay inside," we do. I have walked to school in -20 weather (we didn't have "wind chill" readings back then; couldn't afford thelm), and I have had to go out windows to get to the front door and remove the snow so we could go outside, and I have had conversations freeze outside so that we had to wait for Spring to know what we said. But that was "Northern Snow."
"Southern Snow" is different. Ignore that fact at your own peril. It wants to kill you, even if you are from Vermont or Michigan or South Dakota. Or Iowa. It doesn't care. It is humorless. Beware.
The weather's been a bit blunt lately, not only in the north, but here in the Upstate of South Carolina as well. All the blizzards remind me why my long-suffering wife and Ivacated Iowa when we finished school up there. We made our decision the morning we let our Bulldog (Dudley) out and, when he didn't come back as usual, we looked out the front window and saw him frozen to a fire hydrant.
Which brings me to the nanny-local-weather and the nanny state we live in. They tell us to dress warmly when it's cold, take an umbrella when it's raining, don't shovel too much snow when you're trying to dig out from a blizzard, and don't get wet when the weather's bad. I appreciate the advice. I mean, I would never have figured any of that out on my own. I did figure out not to put my tongue on the flagpole when it's -15 degrees. And I remembered not to ever do that again, and I learned that independently. Once was enough.
What's next? Well, I suspect the gummint will start fining people for not listening to them. Heart attack from shoveling heavy snow? Big fine. Out in a misty morning without an umbrella. Medium fine. Not dressing warmly when it's cold out (THEY will decide what's cold out), maybe just a warning. Seriously, if the feds can tell us what kind of light bulbs and commodes we can have . . .
There's an enormous, hugely-exciting, and breathtaking social EVENT taking place this Saturday afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina, from 4-6 PM at Fiction Addiction, the best bookstore east of the Mississippi River. And, in a moment of shameful self-promotion, I must admit that it's a Launch Party for my debut novel, Signs of Struggle. Copies of the book will be available for signing, and not only that, but there will be free refreshments, ranging from cake to punch to veggie trays to hot cider. Conversation is free, of course.
So come on by Fiction Addiction (which has launched other authors' novels, including Moby Dick, Last of the Mohicans, True Grit, and The Old Man and the Sea) at 1175 Woods Crossing Road, Suite 5, Greenville, South Carolina 29607. Your GPS will get you there unless, like ours, it occasionally breaks into Mandarin Chinese. Or you can Google "Fiction Addiction" and get directions from their website.
In any case, I would be delighted to see you and sign your copy of Signs of Struggle. Blessings!