On The Road Again

Kate Flora: I am convinced, of course, that people rarely read what I write here, which

Sign beside a murky pond in North Carolina

gives me license to write nonsense from time to time. Today, having crawled out of the car after eight hours in awful traffic, I’m not sure I have the capacity to write anything BUT nonsense. Sometimes the most fun blog posts emerge, though, when I have nothing planned in advance and just sit down and write, bleary eyes be damned!

As you know, most of a writer’s life is spent sitting at a desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, hoping that the lovely sentences crafted in the writerly brain actually seem lovely when put down on the page. But as I’ve occasionally remarked here, sometimes the writer is allowed to leave her desk and go out into the world in search of inspiration. It can take very strange forms.

For the past several days, being away from my desk has involved driving from New England to the Gulf Coast of Sunny Florida. It was warm when I left, making me wonder why  needed to so south at all, and today it was 90 degrees here.

Mormon church outside DC, gleaming like a Disney castle in the rain

Much of the fun of being out on the road, when there aren’t traffic jams, is watching the world around me. So, heading south toward Washington D.C., I found myself behind a truck with this message written on the back: Hate trucks? Stop buying stuff. Problem solved. Pithy and to the point.

Passing a sign that declared Savannah, Georgia, “the world’s most romantic cities,” and attributing that quote to a travel magazine, I, like any writer would, yelled, “GET ME AN EDITOR.” But then, as my husband and I speculated about what we thought was romantic, we passed a dead skunk, our speculations became about roadkill and romance, or, as he said, “Roadkill and Candlelight.” I said it sounded like a blog post. He agreed. Actually, I think it will end up being a short story.

And instead of letting other people’s annoying driving make me furious, I collect the idiots, and the autos they choose, and their appearances, expressions, and aggressions, and save them up for minor characters.

Do the rest of you take notes on possible stories as you drive along? Are there genius ideas lurking somewhere in your life on small pieces of paper? Now that I’m older,

A trompe l’oeil cat in Calistoga, California

and my memory isn’t as keen as it once was, I tend to write the clever ideas down in my phone. Alas, though, often later I can’t remember what those pithy notes mean. For example, one note reads: A pot full of brown water. On reflection I realize this refers to the coffee at the Ritz. They could do better. I think we all know what “Last French fry before kale,” means. But what about “the bloody tart?” Or “why’d it have to be snakes?” Or the comment someone once made that I heard wrong, about a copy who loved to stop people for “erotic driving.”

Or how about this gem, which ought to send all of you scrambling to your keyboards:

Sex scenes based on Moby Dick, Dickens, Ulysses.

Some good advice for writers, saved in my phone, source unknown: Take two hours and call me in the morning.

Sign in a winery window

Do not allow your heart to harden.

Be a student even when you’re a teacher

Allow Your Fear

and Create Miracles.

Maybe what we all need to do, from time to time, is get behind the wheel, go on a road trip, or explore the gems we’ve at some point recorded on small bits of paper. The world is full of things to intrigue or entertain us.

 

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11 Responses to On The Road Again

  1. Beth says:

    Kate, I read all posts, so stay on your toes, haha. I enjoyed today’s post, as I am traveling a distance next week. I’ll be putting my imagination to its test and create characters along the way!

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  2. From one SinC to another, who lives seventy miles south of historic and mainly beautiful Savannah, kudos (or is it Cujos?) for writing under what seemed miserable conditions. I’ll bet you felt better afterwards. Yes, take two hours and call me in the morning!

    P.S. Do you have a story that qualifies for an Anthony? Let me know: rsrorb@gmail.com

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  3. Gram says:

    Of course we read your posts. If I wrote down everything about all the idiots on the road I would have no time to do any sightseeing. I am not driving at those times.

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  4. Julianne Spreng says:

    Years ago my family took a road trip up the east coast It included a stop in Cape Cod to pick up my sister who had been working at the Inn of the Golden Ox all summer. We continued up the coast and eventually ended up on P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island for you non Canadians!). But during the long trip my Nana asked us to read billboards, road signs, and town names which she wrote in a notebook. At the time we thought it was a silly activity. I came across her notebook not long ago and began reading through. My gosh, it all came back. Mile after mile, camp grounds, lunch stops, every day laid out in my memory simply by skimming a list of quotes and names.

    I keep a pocket recorder with me to remember ideas, fragments of thought, all those oh so eloquent responses you wish you had composed, and stuff from the radio…I always listen to our local NPR station when I’m in the car. It’s too hard to write while I drive so I simply push record.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. The off-the-cuff stuff is often the most fun to read!

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  5. Julianne Spreng says:

    An aside. I love to read bumper stickers. You can get a feel for car owners that way, but you can also be infuriated, amused, and surprised. My husband and I bought a semi-dump trailer that came with the sticker “Give a trucker a thrill. Drive naked” on the rear bumper. We found it amusing so left it in place.

    One evening he pulled up in front of the house, jumped out of the cab, stomped into the living room, threw himself into his favorite chair, and announced that he had nearly had a heart attack. Earlier that day a car pulled along side his tractor and tooted the horn. When he looked over the driver was smiling and waving at him. She was as naked as the day she was born! It seems that woman took the bumper sticker literally. It wasn’t the last time such a thing happened either.

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    • MCWriTers says:

      Hilarious, Julianne. My favorite bumper sticker is the one that say: A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. And the one about some brand of beer, which then says: Helping ugly people have sex since 1887.

      It sure does make the miles fly. And your nana was very clever. It kept you busy and observant. Our mom used to make us learn the names of every mountain and stream or river along the way.

      Kate

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  6. Lea Wait says:

    Love your post, Kate — and the other comments. (Wow, Julianne!!!) Have a wonderful time in Florida. Mud season has come early to Maine ….

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  7. Amber Foxx says:

    Yes, we do read your posts. And I love to read bumper stickers and strange signs. The road sign I want to revise is on I-25 near San Felipe Pueblo. It says “Gusty Winds May Exist.”

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    • MCWriTers says:

      Lovely. I do have to start writing more things down as we travel, because signs like this are all over the place. And writers must save them, right?

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  8. MCWriTers says:

    Hilarious, Julianne. My favorite bumper sticker is the one that say: A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. And the one about some brand of beer, which then says: Helping ugly people have sex since 1887.

    It sure does make the miles fly. And your nana was very clever. It kept you busy and observant. Our mom used to make us learn the names of every mountain and stream or river along the way.

    Kate

    Like

  9. Kate L. says:

    Another reader here!

    “Why’d it have to be snakes?” is likely a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark (I’m also a Harrison Ford fan …).

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