I read a lot of Heinlein and other Golden Age writers lying in a jungle hammock in my backyard, drinking ice cold lemonade. My mother made it killer sweet, which probably made me a hyperactive child. Another taste key to the past is peanut butter (crunchy) and saltines. My mother and dad would leave me and my brother to "babysit each other" in the afternoons Saturday and Sunday while they went to the country club to drink. They'd leave us a big jar of Skippy and a box of crackers, so we wouldn't starve to death if they forgot to come home. Joe
By land and saw the arches, which are now almost done and are very fine, and I saw the picture of the ships and other things this morning, set up before the East Indy House, which are well done. So to the office, and that being done I went to dinner with Sir W. Batten, and then home to my workmen, and saw them go on with great content to me. Then comes Mr. Allen of Chatham, and I took him to the Mitre and there did drink with him, and did get of him the song that pleased me so well there the other day, “Of Shitten come Shites the beginning of love.”
(This calls for some research.)
I like to read him outdoors, camping, so many of my memories of his delicious prose are mixed with the glorious synergy of campfire and cooking smells.
And one humorous tang of fear – I was crowded close to the campfire reading Love in the Time of Cholera long after sundown, and a huge ball of rank fur bumped into me and squealed in surprise! A fat raccoon, near-sighted or blind, was attracted to the fire's light and warmth and hadn't noticed that the world was inhabited.
When I was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude we were camped by a mountain stream in Maine. Wish I had the photo I snapped that afternoon, a net bag floating in the icy water with a bottle of white wine and three bright green artichokes.
The next morning it rained, a soft mist, and I started writing the long narrative poem "Saul's Death," sitting on a log with a poncho protecting my tablet. I'd moved some kindling under the car to stay dry, and was able to get the fire going again for breakfast.
A percolator is nobody's favorite way of preparing coffee, but it's pretty fine with a campfire and the woods waking up all around you.
"The Baptists believe in the Right to Life before you're born. They also believe in Life After Death, but that is a privilege and you have to earn it by spending the interim in guilt-ridden misery. At an early age, I decided that living a life in pious misery in the hope of going to heaven when it's over is a lot like keeping your eyes shut all through a movie in the hope of getting your money back at the end."
(I guess that's a malady you might call fisherman's eyeball. I knew the limit was 12 inches, but the fish looked longer than that to me. The warden was a literalist, with a ruler.)
Writing and painting and biking and loving the ambience. Nice simple restaurants, and the double room has a kitchenette and a fridge, which keeps me happy when we don't feel like biking the couple of miles into town.
For lunch we went to the venerable restaurant Steamers. I'm not much for clams, but love that Cajun-grilled grouper sandwich.
As a vacation spot, you'd have to admit it's oriented toward older folks – putting it kindly. Anyone under 30 would probably be swimming for the mainland after a couple of days. But if your idea of excitement is sitting in a wonderful environment writing and reading and every now and then opening an ice-cold beer . . . this is the place for you, and me.
I've been carrying little notebooks since I began carrying a purse in the sixties, but I was never systematic about it until I read that Moleskine blog. Why not? So I started carrying Moleskines, and eventually dedicated a foot or so of bookshelf space to them. They were a random mess, always falling down and put back any which way, so last week I got together all that I could find – nineteen of them – and dated them in a systematic way. A white gouache spot on the upper left front cover.
I have a couple of dozen other (larger) notebooks full of writing; for many years that's been the first stage of any serious piece of fiction. But this pile of Moleskines is a chronological miscellanea. A lot of notes about the books I'm working on. Lots of unrelated lecture notes and research. Pages of equations and library work.
Probably kind of rare. Most writers use computers for this kind of thing nowadays, and I do have megabytes of that stuff. But a fountain pen on paper is more real and more pleasing – and longer-lasting, I think. I've never had a page of handwriting disappear at the wrong stroke of a key.
Most of my notebooks are authentic Moleskines, though a half-dozen are other brands. I pronounce it "mole-ess-ki-nee," so it doesn't sound like some poor little blind creature was harvested for its manufacture. The company that makes them says there's no "official" pronunciation.
I've written two novels completely in Moleskines, Marsbound and Listen to the Raven (retitled The Coming at the editor's request). Carrying a large one around for months does tax its durability, especially if you bike everywhere. The elastic band helps to keep the book together, and of course keeps the book from opening up in your purse. Still, a couple of mine have gotten pretty shabby before the books were done.
This is my current one, a 5" X 8" hand•book, a brand that's not as well known as Moleskine. I've come to prefer them because their paper is slightly better for watercolor and fountain pen ink. Absorbent without being too absorbent. They look about the same, elastic band, black cloth cover with rounded corners.
The blank book I'm using for the current novel is a high-class leatherbound number I bought from a craftswoman in London. I forget how much it cost – less than a hundred pounds – but when I saw it I knew I had to turn it into a book. That could be a drawback, because it looks valuable and steal-able. A chance you take for the pleasure of using it, I guess.
A hundred miles from Key West; about seventy from where we'll be camping and observing the slightly southern stars. (We can actually see Alpha Centauri and the Southern Cross, near the horizon after midnight.)
Here is my slightly bohemian visage:
Decided to grow out my beard and see whether I like it. Right now it just makes me look like another scruffy retiree.
People love the killer whale,
from its toothy grin to its too-high tail.
In Sea World pools they used to pet 'em
Until one grinned up at a trainer – and et 'im.
A horrible sight to the humans who watched,
But you really can't say the performance was botched.
It did give the creature a moment of fame . . .
And where did you think that it got that name?