NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 16 (Tired, yet good)

Off and on during parts of the day, I would ask myself, “what do I want to write about when I get home?” In the auditorium after being talked at and shown PowerPoint slides with long blocks of text. When I felt fatigued and my irritation growing with the pain in my feet on the way back from lunch. At 4:30 when I literally had nothing else to say because I’m not an expert like the people I was with in the room.

Afterwards, I got back to Union Station and sat down in my seat, I thought, “when you get off, ask the conductor if they use Kawasaki trainsets on the Camden Line.” Then, I wondered what I’d write about.

I never decided what I felt like saying.

I did, however, pose my question to the conductor. After I climbed down the steps, I stood near him and waited, the other passengers filing around me to cross the tracks towards the parking lot.

The answer, once everyone else had disembarked: only sometimes, he said, readying to command the train towards Camden Station. The Kawasaki trainsets are used almost exclusively on the Penn Line. The Camden and Brunswick lines use the newer MARC IV Bombardier sets. I wish I had more reason to be on the train and ask railfan questions to the conductors. I wonder why I never did it more often in New Jersey.

This morning, I finally got a ride on a Kawasaki 7000-series Metro train. Much cleaner. Video screens showed news, like PATH trains. Digital message signs displayed the next and future stops like newer cars on the NYC Subway. Everything a subway car should be in 2016, even if they’re lacking the charm of 70’s chic, which some folks still like.

I didn’t get home until 8. And I have to be in bed already for tomorrow. But I got to write about trains before I went to sleep. It was a good day.

Tomorrow, I’ll be on the Penn Line. Maybe I’ll get a Kawasaki set. Tomorrow will be a good day, too.

NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 15 (The Old, the New, the Familiar)

I was back in D.C. For my job. The details of that aren’t of the greatest importance. Conference at a government building. Lots of exuberant participants. Surrounded by them in an auditorium, classroom style meeting space, a meeting space that looks more like a foyer. Somewhere you could stage skits, but not a play. Horrible acoustics. Then again, it wasn’t built like that.

My aunt reminded me, in response to the unexpected amount of fatigue I felt when I got home, that the last time I’d run around, commuting to D.C. and worked a full day there, I was 24. Fifteen years ago. No wonder I was bone tired.

It did all come back to me.

Passing Ivy City Shops, where Amtrak stores and repairs their trains. The station a little up the line at Laurel Race Course, the one place I remembered from my first time on the Camden Line. I was coming home from my first day at work at my very first internship in D.C. One of my high school friends had invited me to an O’s game and I hopped on the train after work. A freight train passed us at high speed and shook the train so much I thought it might tip over onto the platform.

The hard right after you walk down the platform at Union Station. It takes you straight into Metro. It can get clogged with commuters, so you instead make the right at Sbarro and the left at what’s now a clothing store, but used to be a bookstore, and down the escalator. Fewer people take that way. Easier to get down to the mezzanine and buy a Metrocard. Or reload your SmartTrip.

Red Line trains still oppressively crowded. The surprise at being able to get into the first train that comes. Having to usher someone into the train before me because I was only going one stop and I needed to be right near the door.

Masters of the Universe types eating lunch on Pennsylvania Avenue, the wonder at what they might be doing in their offices or in their cars. Maybe they’re like Raymond Reddington, running a worldwide operation, seemingly always from a moving vehicle. Sleeping in their suits or pants suits.

Protests. This time, school kids marching down Pennsylvania Ave, to register their own disdain for its soon-to-become landlord.

Still, there was room for surprise, discovery.

NoMa/Galludet Station really close to Union Station, closer than I thought. It’s almost like you could walk it, just like the short tunnel between Gallery Place and Metro Center. You can stand in one and look down the tunnel into the other. If not for the connections to other lines, they shouldn’t be spaced that way, I figure.

The new parking garage at Savage. It didn’t look like a bus stop this time. Perhaps a bus stop with a large parking garage, but still an improvement.

And yet, the thing that grabs and holds is this: Bombardier multilevel rail cars.

When I climbed aboard, it was like Jersey. I’ve lost track of the number of miles I’ve logged going to New York, Secaucus Junction, the occasional disembarking in Newark for the PATH. That equipment had become as familiar to me in some ways as the seat of my car. And more welcoming as I could sleep in them.

It was like a small reminder of one of the things I’ve missed. An echo from the part of me that feels as home there as the place where I grew up. From that space inside that misses the feeling of connection and awe from going into New York for an acting class, a writing workshop. To the burrito shop in the Village. Watching trains race by Hamilton.

The train back was Bombardier. The Penn Line train on the next track over was made up of the old Kawasaki bilevel cars that were being rolled out when I was commuting daily into the District.

I slept, as I had so many times on New Jersey Transit and MARC before then.

I’ve thought so much about home lately and what and where it is. I haven’t concluded anything yet. And maybe the whole point is to always be learning and creating and growing it. These glimpses of the joy up the line tell me I haven’t lost what I was trying to build there. Those dreams are still alive, waiting for me to get my ticket and come back. That’s comforting.

Chesapeake Writers Conference – Day 5

Day five, the final day, is in the books down here at the Chesapeake Writers Conference.

Kids and Food

The boys were present at lunch, dressed in their khakis, blue shirts, and ties. Highly presentable, very tasteful. As usual, they sung at dinner. I’m glad I was sitting in the back, since the baritones were back there again. I always enjoy hearing the baritone and bass parts in choral music.

I haven’t mentioned what I’ve been eating during these forays into the dining hall, but at dinner, I had tilapia and a couple of burgers. I was the only person at the table not eating any salad, but I’ll be certainly doing so once I’m outta here. I have not kept keto this week, but I’ve done my best to go crazy on protein. When I get back home, I’ll add the fats back in, the coconut and MCT oil. I’ll be on track again quickly.

Craft Talk

Angela gave an awesome talk this morning with tips on revising your work. Some of them like reading your work out loud and taking some time away from your first draft, were things I’d heard before.

But things like cutting the word “feel” from your writing, was one I hadn’t heard and I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Show how your character feels through description and verbs. You don’t have to say how your character feels.

Also, her tip on cliche ideas was well worth the price of admission (LOL). Write towards something other than a resolution that everything is okay. She talked about the inner plot and the physical plot and all the lovely things I like about drama (we just use slightly different terms for the same thing; I use Richard Toscan’s terms “emotional plot” and “suspense plot”. I’m a playwright).

She also talked about removing parentheticals (which I obviously love) as well as clauses inside of dashes –I love those, too–. I consider myself a dashmaster. I’ll go into the kitchen and get a canister of Mrs. Dash and sprinkle it in my notebook. I love dashes. It’s going to be hard to wean myself off of them.

Great way to end a week of craft talks.

Workshop

Today was my essay’s day to be workshopped. I submitted a lyric essay. Without going into everything that was said –because I took several pages of notes I haven’t transcribed and don’t plan to post them anyway– the process was one of the best workshop processes I’ve ever been inside of.

One of the issues I’ve had with workshops is people stating their critiques with the proviso, “if I were writing this.” I hate that. You’re not writing this. I’m writing this. I’m not interested in where you would take the story because it’s my story and I’m interested in where you think I should take it, given what you see and where I might think I want to take it.

And what I got in this workshop was exactly what I wanted — people’s thoughts on what they read and where they thought I could take it to make it better. And most of my fellow participants’ comments were right on the money. I’d originally written the story during my Creative Nonfiction online class and I was on very strict word limits. The essay ended up being quite bare, even as far as lyric essays go, but Angela and my fellow participants gave me some great ideas for how to flesh it out and make it into something more full, especially now that I’m not on any particular word limit.

One question I did have was this: in terms of narrative structure, I thought the lyric essay eschewed the normal structure. However, we did discuss the essay in those terms. However, Angela made the point that instead of following a strict arc, what might be desirable is to increase in detail so that the reader gets a broader view of what’s being discussed (and in terms of this essay, hopefully a raison d’etre). That’s something I’ve had issues with in my own lyric essay practice, so I’m grateful to have a specific answer from someone who is practicing the form professionally right now.

Lecture

Instead of straight lecture, Matt Hall sang some songs, read us a children’s book he wrote, and gave us a presentation on Dada. Since he mentioned the Neo-Dadaists, I told him I wish he’d do John Cage’s 4’33”; he told me he’d thought about it, but didn’t have the time.

Patricia Henley read from one of her stories. I wish maybe she’d had a few folks read from her play. I know we were here for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but Matt Hall was up there singing songs. Why couldn’t have had a few pages or perhaps a whole scene of a play read?

Other good stuff …

Since craft talk started at 10:30, I had time to sleep in and write morning pages. I got some breakfast then sat outside of the Daily Grind and wrote several pages longhand. Yes.

I’ve been typing all my freewrites and with all the typing for these blog posts, it felt good to get back to handwriting my thoughts and not just taking notes.

#

As I was walking very slowly on the path towards the dining hall for dinner, one of the student staff members working for the reunion stopped her Cub Cadet next to me on the path and asked me nicely if I was looking for something.

Normally, my reaction to such a question is to get ornery because hell, I paid my money to be here like everybody else. However, I told her I wasn’t looking for anything, but I would take a ride the rest of the way to the dining hall if she was going in that direction. She was.

Too bad she wasn’t going back and forth when we came out of lecture.

#

My co-participant’s 7 month old was in the dining hall at dinner. On the way to lecture, I took off my hat and showed it to him and asked him if he could say “Orioles.” He looked and grinned at the Oriole bird. Another converted, confirmed, passionate O’s fan. And while mommy was wearing a Nationals shirt. Sweet.

Not so good stuff …

During workshop, one of the participants, who’s also been acting as a student staff member, received a call from the conference director, looking for me. I’d been parked outside of DPC and the events staff was upset that a car was blocking the area behind the townhouses. They were trying to unload items needed for the setup for this evening’s concert on the townhouse greens.

I wasn’t back there, but he asked me to move anyway. I go over to DPC and there are eight other cars over there, a few of which weren’t even inside of parking spots like I was. I figured it was some personal bullshit and just moved it because I wanted to get back to workshop and didn’t feel dealing with anybody who might have had some static.

I noticed that there was indeed a car parked directly behind the townhouses.

By the time I’d gotten back within sight of the building, I noticed that somebody had indeed parked in the spot that I’d just vacated and none of the other cars had moved. I noticed the car behind the townhouses was still there.

I went back to workshop and cooled off, both inside and out. Then I finally got the email about the car that they were looking for and a text that it wasn’t me they needed to move. Right.

After workshop, the same car blocking the rear of the townhouses was still there. A couple of spaces on the side of DPC had opened up, though. So I put my bags in the flat and walk up to Lot R to get the car and put it back on the side of DPC.

However, Public Safety was blocking the road going back directly to DPC and were guiding people to Lot R to park for the concert. One lady tried talking to the officers for several minutes and she got turned away.

I thought about going the other way around campus, but I didn’t know whether Public Safety would let me back on campus on the other side of DPC and if not, whether my good parking space where I was would be there. I let discretion win instead of emotion and just left the car there. It was a good spot and with people arriving for a reunion as well as some Boy Scout thing I saw signs for, leaving it right there was the better play. In the morning, I’ll just walk up and get it and put it right behind the townhouses to load up.

I hope it’s not this complicated every year.

Now that it’s over …

I don’t want it to be. A few of us walking up the path from dinner agreed on this feeling. All of us would love to be able to wake up, write, learn about writing, write some more, etc. on a daily basis. This was a wonderful week and I do not want to go back home. I told our HR director at work I probably wouldn’t want to and I don’t. Tomorrow, I want to wake up, write morning pages, find some food, do more writing, go to a lecture, something. I don’t want to get back on the road and leave this place, doing these things. It’s probably going to take me some time to get back into my usual routine, such is the momentum that I built up here, momentum that I don’t want to lose.

I’m so tired right now, but it’s that good tired. That tired when you not only know you worked hard, but you worked towards something that you really wanted. Accomplished something. I don’t know, though, if I’ll sleep well because I’m tired or if I’ll be excited and sleep fitfully because I’m so ready to get back up and write again.

#

I think I’m going to keep waking up at 6:30 daily and write, but I’m going to work on my projects much more than I do and not rely on that after-work time to complete them, as that hasn’t been working the best for me.

Now that I have some better pointers for revision, I’m going to revise some old projects (perhaps I’ll reserve the evenings for blogging and revision) because I see now that I have to get more work out there, including a book. It’s a goal I’ve been working towards, but now I need to go even harder.

These are my initial thoughts on the week now that it’s over, but I’ll still be writing a full postmortem, which I’ll begin on Saturday at some point.

Chesapeake Writers Conference – Day 4 1/3

One third of day four is in the books down here at the Chesapeake Writers Conference. I’m dividing the day into 3rds as we’ve only had the craft talk portion of the day, even if it wasn’t exactly that. That and why I’m posting early will be explained …

Craft Talk

Instead of the usual craft talks we’ve had the other few days, we had an editor and a literary agent discuss the business of publishing.

I won’t print their names since they’re not in the official schedule online, but it was an insightful talk. I learned that a lot of what I’ve heard about publishing is pretty accurate.

I asked about how to structure a submission for a piece of creative nonfiction –memoir, full length essay, etc– since it’s not necessarily general nonfiction (like how-to’s, history, science, etc) or fiction.

The answer was, in general, what I expected, that it will probably be treated closer to fiction and to follow submissions guidelines, whatever those are.

Another participant asked why so many poets don’t have agents and the answer was that publishers like to work with poets directly.

#

Participants who signed up, are able to have one-on-one meetings with the two. I’m over here writing because I went to the sign-up document late and none of the earlier slots were open; but still, I’m not necessarily ready to send a book out, so there’s little reason for me to go and talk to either of them. Even the editor who was there, while he’s a writer and has worked in several different roles in publishing, he’s an editor at a fiction mag and aside from getting ideas for where to send my work, I’m not sure what else I’d talk to him about.

The best thing for me during this time was to come back here and write. Even if it’s blogging, I’m getting the practice and habit of being back in front of this computer and putting down words. There’s certainly value in that, especially given where I am. I need to work. When I’m ready, the doors will open.

Besides, I’ll probably try to get a response from Angela since she’s doing the kind of work I want to do, has had a book published, and is working on another right now, I believe. Jerry was on the panel to give perspective as a writer, but I wish Angela had been up there to give the perspective as a nonfiction writer as Jerry writes fiction. Again, largely the same, it seems, but not exactly.

Kids and Food

Went off campus again for breakfast. No other comment.

Workshop

Very much looking forward to it. One of my fellow participants wrote a really good essay that we read last night for workshop today.

Plus, we’re covering lyric essay today. Also assigned were Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, Things To Do Today by Joe Wenderoth, and Captivity by Sherman Alexie. All really good, lyric essays. I can’t wait to discuss them.

One of my own lyric essays will be workshopped tomorrow. Probably best that I procrastinated until last night to submit it for critique.

Five Things – 22 June 2016

1.

Mets took down the two-game series vs. the Royals on the latter’s first trip back to Citi Field since last year’s World Series.

Despite the pyrrhic victory, some getback from last year feels good, but the Mets’ issues weren’t solved in this series with the Royals. They need to keep hitting. It might help to go out and get a bat.

I’m ignoring Murph’s Nats stats … ignoring them … ignoring them … wow he’s really cooled off. Batting just .352 now. Whew.

O’s beat the visiting Padres to sweep their two game series.

Nothing much going on in Ravenstown. That’s good news.

2.

Tomorrow, Judge Barry G. Williams will read his verdict in the trial of Caesar Goodson, one of the six Baltimore Police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The trial didn’t start out well with the judge excoriating the prosecution concerning some of the evidence. Since then, my feeling has been that Goodson will be found not guilty. Actually, before that point, since the moment that Goodson requested a bench trial, that’s been my feeling.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, 10 AM.

I hope, in the event of a not guilty verdict, if there are protests, the rights of individuals to protest the decision are respected. I’ll leave that there.

3.

It’s tough coming up with things when 95% of my time is taken up by writing, being taught about writing, and talking about writing. This is a good problem to have, though, so no complaints. Still, I’m paying minimal attention to the O’s, Mets, Ravens, everything outside of here.

4.

Aside from the fact that I watched last night’s episode of Major Crimes, which was really good. Maybe they’ll give Rusty a better arc this year with his still-shaky relationship with Gus and now his mother’s revelation that she’s pregnant.

I’m really looking forward to Murder in the First’s season premiere Sunday night. I’ll be back home watching it, so I need to leave really early to get home and write so that I’m not up writing late instead of watching.

5.

I’m not thinking too much of going home. I’m enjoying myself and worked through the issues that plagued Sunday and part of Monday. The writing activities and process have really helped.

I think I’m going to resolve to do even more writing in the mornings. Like getting up earlier, like 6, and getting it in, before work. And perhaps hiding with my notebook more. Not eating lunch at my desk. Maybe I’ll haul a desk into the big network closet to be a writing desk for myself.

Chesapeake Writers Conference – Day 2

Day two is in the books down here at the Chesapeake Writers Conference.

Kids and Food

I did NOT beat the kids to the dining hall this morning. In fact, I didn’t go to the dining hall for breakfast. I woke up feeling like I had a cold or something coming on, so I decided to get some vitamin C.

I also got a breakfast sandwich from a well-known fast food chain whose name I will not mention so as to avoid the inevitable shaming from my girlfriend. Suffice it to say, the sandwich was really good and I don’t regret the decision in the least.

I went to lunch as quickly as I could after craft talk and I beat the kids. After workshop, I did the same and beat the kids. One of the student staff members sat next to me towards the end of dinner and informed all of us workshop participants at the table that if we wanted seconds, to go now; the rumor was that “the boys” would be there in five minutes.

He was right, too. Fortunately, I didn’t want seconds. I’d gotten all the protein (again) that I wanted. So I went and got a couple of cookies to see how those were. The oatmeal raisin ones were really good.

Craft Talk

We had two. The poet Liz Arnold and the all-around writer Matthew Hall both presented.

Liz presented on poems using Germanic and Latinate words in English. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Not just because I love poetry, but because during the presentation, she asked us to identify roots of words in the poems and I did pretty well. More importantly, I took some great notes, especially concerning going and exploring how I use sound and the physicality of words in my writing work. All of it, not just my own poetry (whenever I work it, but that’s neither here nor there). I think I want to come back next year, but for poetry.

Matthew Hall’s presentation was about using Improv theatre skills to help develop characters.

The participation in his lecture involved several groups of students getting up and doing Improv and then afterwards, all of us discussing how that particular game could inform character.

One of the participants, who’s also in workshop with me, was urging me to go, but I refused at every turn. I’ve never been good at Improv and it’s never been fun. Whenever I’ve tried, I’ve never just gone along with the scene partner; my writerly instincts kick in and I want to write the scene instead of being in the scene and allowing the creation of it to be collaborative. I’ve also had apparently, the same problem in my conventional (with a script) acting. So I wasn’t going.

Still, this sort of thing is good for creating and fleshing out characters. Sometimes, it’s the stuff around the goals your character has, that you need to make the characters truly three dimensional and believable.

Workshop

We talked about the personal essay. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation as I’m a huge fan of the form. We read and discussed The Invitation by Barry Lopez and a fabulous essay, The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf.

One of the things we discussed was staying in the moment and being present to experiences unfolding in front of you and delaying thinking about writing about them until later. Whether that’s a good thing. If it is, are you able to do that. It was a fun conversation. I’m enjoying still thinking about it.

Afterwards, Angela had us to choose a color, then go outside and walk around campus for 15 minutes, looking for all the things of that color, then using something you found outside as the starter for an essay.

I chose red and I was going to write about the red in the many bricks used to build the buildings and walking paths on campus and how they remind me of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, but I decided to instead write about the Flag of Maryland. I’m working on that essay after I leave here, so I will not be talking about any of it in this blog.

Still, the beginning fragment of the essay started us on a pretty in-depth and fascinating conversation. I can’t talk about the conversation until I make some traction with or finish the essay. Just know it was a great conversation. Some very interesting items came up.

Lecture

Angela gave today’s lecture. But she didn’t speak on anything a length, so much as she gave us a short primer on film essays, then showed us several. One of them reminded me of the book Reality Hunger by David Shields with its combination of images, found video, narration, and quotes flashing on the screen.

She told us yesterday that her husband is a filmmaker and one of the films she showed was his. She’s going to be getting into screenwriting to work with him. She’s really doing the damn thing.

Other (somewhat) good stuff ….

One of the dining hall employees and her mother have worked at the college since the time I was a student. The mother was there today and said she remembered me. She gave me a hug and caught up on how much things have changed at the college and in town.

She said that some of the sort of crime you see in suburbs has crept down here into St. Mary’s. I was dismayed to hear that. Back in the day, that was pretty unheard of. She said they’re building too much down here. All of the construction I saw the other day and even the stuff I saw earlier –even more developments in Hollywood– confirms just how much the place has grown. I’m not surprised that the issue that you find in those areas have migrated south. I just hope it doesn’t become too bad. Most of the biggest development seems to have taken place in the last 15 years and that’s a really short period of time for a place to grow and learn to take on some of the problems of bigger suburbs and cities.

Talked more O’s and Ravens with one of the student-staff members. He’s been at some classic O’s games and he knows quite a bit of O’s history, at 23. I feel so glad for the folks in his generation, now coming of age to have a winning Orioles team. When I was his age, the O’s were into a decline that wouldn’t end until I was well into my 30’s.

I’m also happy to meet and talk to fellow O’s and Ravens fans down here. I don’t know how it is during fall and spring class sessions, but way back when, the PG folks dominated that sort of talk. But, the Ravens were just getting started and baseball wasn’t that big among my social groups.

I’m still able to watch TV using my tablet across the Internet. Even though I’m “away” and concentrating on writing during the day, it’s good to have some part of my regular life available. That and talking to my S/O online really have helped.

My fellow participant who was urging me to Improv is from the area and has seen all the changes around the county, too. She was describing everything that’s different from her point of view. She’s in her early 20’s, so she was growing up around the time that I was just leaving the area, so she saw all the changes first hand, just like the lady at the dining hall. They agree about how much is different.

Weather Stuff

Weather Service had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch down here for the afternoon and evening hours. I kept watch on the Weather Channel app. Skies were really dark around the time that we got out of workshop. I went straight to the dining hall and sat on the patio balcony since I was there before the start of dinner. The storm blew over, thankfully. It did rain, but I don’t think it was anything like what areas north of here received.

Pictures

Took a bunch today. Not uploading properly. I’m going to take a bunch more tomorrow. I’ll go off-campus and upload them and hopefully tomorrow night, the upload into the site will work. I may have to share them via Google Photos, even though I want to put them on this site.

Chesapeake Writers Conference – Days 0 and 1

Greetings from the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference 2016, hosted by St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Lots to go into, even though I’ve only been here since yesterday and the event runs through Friday night. There’s a lot of “wow, things have really changed” going on. I haven’t been to school here in 20 years and I haven’t visited the campus in 15 years. When I was a student, I thought the place was, in some part, the land that time forgot. Time has caught up and made up for lost time, as it were.

And there have been some cool writing things going on, too. As well as some not so good things. Here we go …

Changes

For the first time ever, I drove the majority of the way down Maryland Route 2. I picked up 2 off of U.S. 50. Since I hadn’t been that way before, the entirety of the road between 50 and Maryland 4 was all new to me anyway.

Much of the multiplex Route 2-4 was really familiar even through Prince Frederick. They’ve put up a lot of new business along 2-4, but all in all, it looks the same. South of Prince Frederick, all the way through Solomons, everything looked as I remembered. I was using GPS, but I could have used my own memory as my old landmarks were all there and visible.

Even the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge is still the same and still a pretty intense experience, with its 2 lanes (with no shoulder) over a pretty steep incline. Maryland needs to rebuild this bridge. If I remember correctly, the state has put out questions in the area as to what they should do with the structure. I say get rid of the whole thing and build a bridge with 4 lanes and a shoulder. Same thing for the Harry W. Nice Bridge across the Potomac into Virginia (what’s up with the politicos and engineers back in the day building all these bridges over major bodies of water with just two lanes and no shoulder. The original span of the Bay Bridge was built that way.)

Across the Patuxent, it’s different story. I couldn’t believe it when I got to Route 235. I’d heard that the area had been really built up. It was beginning when I visited the campus about 14-15 years ago.

But instead of the somewhat still-rural Route 235 I remember, I saw strip malls all up and down the road between Route 4 and Shangri-La Drive. Hotels. Huge gas stations with mini-marts instead of the old country highway type (with an old, dingy mechanic shop) of stations.

This 235 looked more like York Road in Timonium than Three Notch Road in St. Mary’s. There, I needed the GPS. Even if some of my old landmarks are still there, some of the names have changed, some are surrounded by new development.

For instance, the Ledo Pizza is right there, exactly as I remember it, but there were so many new things surrounding it that I almost didn’t recognize the building at first. The gates to NAS Pax River are in the same place, but the new (albeit gorgeous) museum that commemorates the station dominates the view from the road now.

Down closer to campus, same story.

The road we used to take to get to town, Youngs Road, was mostly rural, aside from one or two developments; The Greens was one of those and if I remember correctly, it was a favorite among commuter students. The Greens is still there, but along the road are now newer condos and apartments and new home developments. I don’t usually use the term McMansion, but that’s the type of home being built there. From the 280s as the sign says. And many more are under construction right now.

The campus itself has changed pretty dramatically from my time here. For one, when I drove onto campus and got to DPC, I noticed you could keep going, further into campus. This certainly didn’t used to be the case. There are more dorms and other buildings north of there. There was one inbetween Caroline and the gym and a few more behind Goodpaster that I don’t remember (I also don’t remember Goodpaster, which opened in 2007)

I knew the old dining hall was no more, as I’d been down by the time they built the new one, but there’s a cinema and presentation room beneath it. The school store is in the same building, over from Anne Arundel Hall (though it may have been there last time I was here, but I think all of this was under construction at the time). The patio is definitely new.

Baltimore Hall computer lab is still there in the same place (some great memories of pranks and hijinks there) as well as the library.

They tore down the old Public Safety building. And I don’t see the post office anymore. Getting packages from home in that post office was a life saver.

One of my fellow workshop participants was surprised to learn earlier that Dorchester Hall didn’t always have air conditioning. Nope. We used to swelter in there. These days, I guess, the kids have creature comforts. I haven’t been in there and I won’t as the writing conference also has a teen component and the teens are staying in there.

The campus has really grown. I got lost driving. You didn’t used to get lost on this campus. At least Montgomery Hall is where I left it. And it looks largely how I left it. I strolled through the Theatre. The place where I first fell in love with the art of theatre. More on this later, perhaps.

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I went to Buffalo Wild Wings last night to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals (what a game). While there, I thought about how where I was sitting was probably a patch of land 20 years ago, along with the shopping center across the parking lot, anchored by a Kohl’s.

When I was here, I never cared for the isolation. Having grown up in the City, this place was at first, a huge shock. Couldn’t walk to the store. Friends were far away. It was so out of my comfort zone and I was too stubborn to let it back in. So for that and other reasons, I went home on weekends as much as I could. I wished I could have a car, but that never materialized. Lots of things never materialized from the experience that could have.

Today’s students have an exurb here with all the familiar sights from home. If they’re like me and take much to adjust to new settings, then all this new development would probably help them ease in. Being able to go to Buffalo Wild Wings or one of the several Mexican restaurants I’ve seen might go a long way to making yourself feel comfortable so far from home (and again, there were other reasons I wanted to be close to home as much as possible. I really should have taken a gap year, but unfortunately, those hadn’t been invented yet)

I wondered if I could be a student here now and I don’t think so. I’d rather be on an urban campus. Walking through campus now, I understand those days and myself better. I’m grateful for my time here, but I might have done better in a different setting. However, there are no mistakes. I met some great people during my time here. And still, I’m back for this conference. I’ve changed a little, too.

Kids on campus

In addition to the teens in their own section of the writing conference, there is at least one other group of kids on campus, involved in the Maryland State Boychoir concert taking place on campus this week.

In addition to rooting me in line several times, they have been singing at mealtime. Those kids are really good, too. One of the leaders gives a signal to get up and once they’ve all risen, they sing a 2-3 minute choral song. They were so good, I didn’t care anymore about them rooting me in line. Besides, the school wasn’t going to run out of tater tots. And if they’d run out of bacon, I wouldn’t have cared.

I am getting up early in the morning to hopefully beat the kids to the dining hall. Wish me luck. Maybe they’ll have some non-pork meat in the dining hall, too. If not, I’m for sure going somewhere off-campus for breakfast Wednesday morning.

Not so good things

The Data Situation

Not that it’s the fault of the school or the workshop –and I was forewarned about this– but the cell signal on campus really sucks and I’m very unhappy about that. Cell phones weren’t a thing when I was a student here, so it’s nothing I ever complained about back then, but right now, it’s frustrating. The replacement is public WiFi. Evil, evil public WiFi. The signal is just around campus, but still, public WiFi is of Beezlebub. Don’t trust it. Unless you’re far from a reliable cellular signal and it’s the only thing available.

The Walking Situation

I’d forgotten how it was walking here. Going down the hills is okay as it ever was. But going back up? Well, it’s hot and those hills are steep. And I missed a few weeks of throwing the bell and lifting, so I might have lost all kinds of my gains from those activities. Hopefully I’ll get used to it again. Being winded makes for some bad writer conversations on the way to the dining hall and back.

The Accommodations Situation

This didn’t happen to me, but a bunch of the folks didn’t get the bedsheets we were supposed to get. My roommate ended up fending for himself and going to some mystical laundry room that nobody else knew about.

I’m not going to write a story about this, but I imagine someone else will one day. I hope so.

Some other folks are having issues with wasps. So my issue with there being no hand soap is pretty low. Plus, I went and got some. Problem solved.

The Breakfast Meat Situation

All pork or veggie. I was a breakfast vegetarian today. Fortunately, I made up for that at dinner with burger and grilled chicken. I really went crazy on the protein. Still, there’s more to breakfast meat than pork.

Good stuff so far

There is a lady in my workshops who lives in Bethesda, but originally from Alabama. She’s a retired teacher who had been steered away from writing and towards being a teacher, back in the day.

She wrote a brief essay in workshop about being a teen and the young, super-religious boys back then having issues with her skirt being too high above her knee. When they were wearing the same kind of stuff. She’s going after this body shaming and ridiculous double standards BS hard. I’m looking forward to what she’ll be writing next.

While walking back from the dining hall with her, I told her my boss is from Louisiana and a huge LSU fan. She wouldn’t even acknowledge that I’d mentioned that. She said where she comes from, they ask you if you’re Alabama or Auburn. She even said some guy from Tennessee was asked that question there and he said he was Volunteers. They still asked him if he was Alabama or Auburn.

If I’m ever in that part of Alabama and I have to choose between the two, I choose Alabama, only because Ozzie went there. Outside of Alabama, I’m Big 10 Maryland and ACC Miami.

Oh and she’s been to freaking Breadloaf a few times.

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My workshop leader, Angela Pelster-Wiebe, has an MFA from Iowa. And an interest in experimental essay forms. How could this be anything but good? We’ll be workshopping and writing the rest of the week. It’ll be her turn to read and lecture soon. I’m looking forward to that.

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I took several pages of notes between Patricia Henley’s opening remarks yesterday and her craft talk today. I can’t even go into all of it right now without writing much more (this is up to about 7 typed pages). But suffice it to say, her ideas about using your curiosity in writing, have stirred up much in me.

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The soda machine in Goodpaster is touchscreen and takes cards. I really needed that water.

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A Few Pictures

Having problems uploading. Will do that ASAP.

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Conclusion

If there’s anything I missed, I’ll cover it later. They have social stuff on campus during these post-workshop-event hours, but if we’re getting homework like the folks in the fiction and poetry workshops, I’ll be back in here writing each night. I made a commitment to blogging this experience and posting pictures of it.

I’m so glad I have a couple of tablets I can use to watch TV on.