Day 11: Slow Train Coming

Mt. Shasta from the California Starlight

Day 11 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Salem, OR where I am at mile 4843 of this voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

I awoke on the California Starlight this morning just shy of Dunsmuir, CA to find our train stopped dead.  Tunnel construction on the mountains near Shasta Lake had us sitting unmoving for hours, as one giant freight after another occupied the tunnel before us. At last we found ourselves underway once more, but by the time that came to pass, we were five hours behind schedule.

(This is a good moment to note that passenger rail service in this country usually takes place upon tracks that are leased, not owned, by Amtrak, meaning that trains carrying actual human beings are put in the queue all behind ones carrying pig iron.  Our rail system would be much more efficient, and be able to serve a much larger number of people, and with more efficiency, if Amtrak’s budget were larger, and if we, American taxpayers, ACTUALLY OWNED THE RAILS WE TRAVEL UPON.)

Interestingly, no one seemed too terribly disturbed by this.  For one thing, the sidetrack enabled us to see by daylight what normally we’d pass by under dark of night– namely, Mt. Shasta for one (and, for the ladies, Mt. Shastina!), and Shasta Lake– the latter shockingly low as the drought years in California take their toll.  I had breakfast with a couple from Texas who described the small roomettes (which I call our “coffinettes”)  this way: “They’re so small you couldn’t cuss out a cat in one of ‘em without getting fur in your mouth.”  And yet:  they– and, really, everyone I’ve met, LOVES BEING ON THE TRAIN.  Yes, we’d have been happier if we weren’t stuck behind all those freights.  But this is the reality of train travel in this country, and it’s clear the Starlight, like the Zephyr before it, is full of people who feel that making this journey is one of the great adventures of their lives. Including the people who do it all the time.

The "parlor car" only exists on the Coast Starlight line. If you look carefully you can see the bartender there. What'll ya have?

I spent the day revising the work I’d sort-of finished yesterday at Big Sur.  No fatal flaws yet,  but lots of little stupidies.  I sat in the “parlor car” in the afternoon– these 50+ year old cars have been refurbished, and exist only on the Starlight line– cushy seats, a bar, polished wood paneling, really like something from a more elegant era.  I started talking with folks in that car at 3 PM and stayed until the “wine tasting” began at 4.  And then I had dinner in the parlor car with the same group of people.  Delightful.  Someone asked me if I was the Amtrak Writer in Residence, and I admitted to it, and they were all over me– they’d read about the program, they’d read the blog, and so on.  As a result of this program, they’d decided to do a month of business travel BY TRAIN.  It all made me very happy:  the conversation, the amazing vistas, the short ribs for dinner. This life is very tasty.

We’ll be arriving in Seattle too late tonight for me to see my friends, alas;  I’ll scurry to the hotel and hunker down for a few hours before visiting North Seattle Community College tomorrow and teaching a class (!)  Then my friend from college, Johnny C., will get me to King Street station, where I’ll step onto the Empire Builder tomorrow for the trip that leads across Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and home.

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Days 9 & 10: At a Siding (V. & VI.)

Days 9 & 10 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Big Sur  where I am pausing at mile 4005 of this voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

How do I feel? Lucky.

This morning, I finished the first draft of my novel.  Over two years work, 450 pages, 100,000 words.

Later today I will pack up my things from Big Sur and get back on the tracks.  Next leg of this journey will take me north, to Seattle via the Coast Starlight.  I’ll board that train late this afternoon, and then spend tonight slumbering as we hurtle north.  In the morning tomorrow I’ll awaken in northern California and spend the day looking out the window at Oregon and Washington.  Arrive in SEA in mid-evening Tuesday.  A night with friends, and then it’s on to the Empire Builder heading east on Wednesday.

All of that lies ahead.  This morning, after finishing the last sentence of this long story, I went for a walk in the mist.  I came upon a horseshoe shaped ring of moss on a redwood stump.  How did I feel?  Lucky.

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Day 8: At a Siding (IV.)

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.

Day 8 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Big Sur  where I am pausing at mile 4005 of this voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

Up at 5 AM in this retreat on Big Sur, where I am holed up trying to finish a novel.  I walked out on the back porch in the early morning light. An owl said, Whoo-whoo, whoo, whoo. I believe that’s a great horned owl, but I don’t know.

Made coffee and started writing.  I was deep in it for quite a while.  When I looked up it was lunchtime.  A salad of local greens.

Always remember the helpful rhyme: "Snake any day, run far away." I saw this fella by the side of the road as I climbed up the mountain.

Then a hike up Big Sur, through the canyon filled with redwoods, some of them bearing the marks of a recent fire.  Went up two and a half miles and looked out toward the sea, which was covered with thick fog, all of it below me. There I stood, in the hot sun, surrounded by

Oh deer. What can the matter be?

mountains and the smell of bay laurel and salt, with the clouds below.

Hiked down the mountain and went to the “clothing optional” part of the spa with my clothes on. So embarrassing.

Sat down on a hill and watched the sunset.

You are my flower, a-bloomin there for me

I hope to write the final scenes in my book tomorrow or Monday.  I’m so close.

I’m posting half a dozen photos from today’s adventure.  Hope they bring a smile to your face.

Inspiration, move me brightly. Light the song with sense and color, that holds away despair. More than this I will not ask, faced with mysteries dark and vast.

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Day 7: At a Siding (III.)

The fathers of trees

Day 7 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Big Sur  where I am now at mile 4005 of this voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

I’m “at a siding” for a few days, here at the midpoint of the trip.  Having crossed the Rockies and the Sierras, I arrived in San Francisco last night where my friend Zoe scooped me up, took me to the Rex Hotel, where we drank a couple of Moscow Mules and at 7:30, dear hearts, I was in bed.

In San Francisco town there lived a whale; she ate pork chops by the pail.

Took the Coast Starlight to Salinas this morning, scooped up by car then and taken to my inn here in Big Sur.  We are surrounded by redwoods, and perched upon the side of a mountain overlooking the sea.  This weekend I will write and think and meditate and not say very much.  So if it gets a little quiet, know that I am working and resting, and that I am right where I want to be.  I hope to be up early in the morning and to finish the climactic chapter of my novel this weekend.  I will also hike the high ridge.  And finish reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior,” which I am teaching this spring at Barnard.

JFB drenched in California sunshine.

A couple photos to hold you over.  I stood at the foot of some of these California redwoods and pointed the camera up.  The fathers of trees!  I sat myself down by a lookout point– you can see the layer of Pacific fog that is actually below the level of where I am perched.  And finally there’s a shot of the ocean and the coast and the not-phallic-at-all whale sculpture at the front of the inn.

Love to everyone.  More soon.

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Day 6: Blue Trane

Here comes the sun: dawn over the desert near Winnemucca, NV

Day 6 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from just outside Martinez, California,  where I am now at mile 3795 of this voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

Once more I woke before dawn; we had just pulled into Winnemucca, Nevada.  I had spent the night safe and warm in my California Zephyr roomette.  I have had curious, but strangely comforting dreams on the train, perhaps the result of the effect of being gently rocked all night long.  I got myself to the observation car where for the second day in a row I watched the sun rise, this time over the desert of western Nevada.  I wrote a good 1300 words this morning, and when I finished, the dawn came up like thunder.  The woman next to me began to sing, “Here Comes the Sun,” and for a few seconds all of us were singing there in the observation car in the intense morning light.

I had breakfast with a woman who designs video games, and a librarian from Provo, Utah.  We spoke about “Gamergate” and children’s books, and the world of fantasy.

After breakfast–”Railroad French Toast” with bacon, yow! — I engaged with the Amtrak shower, and I can report that the water was HOT and the pressure was GOOD and that I was surprisingly refreshed.  Again, if you go: remember to bring your own shampoo and conditioner.  No, there’s not a blow dryer.  Please.

I settled into the observation car as we ascended the Donner Pass.  Crossing the Sierra Nevadas was almost as spectacular as the Rockies the day before. Although, gazing down at Donner Lake, it did make me think about the settlers of this country. It’s a miracle to me than anyone survived.  It’s impossible to imagine pioneers spending five, six, seven months crossing the plains, and then the Rockies, and then the Sierras. How on earth are any of us here?

JFB and Dennis Byrne, manager of my sleeping car on the California Zephyr. It was Dennis who, in summing up the ride, simply said "It's phantasmagorical."

After lunch, I wrote another 1200 words.  I’m so close to finishing the climax of this novel.  The extended time alone has enabled me to do this kind of sustained work– such a precious gift.  The only obstacle to the work– and I say this for the writers who will follow me– is that you really want to spend your time looking out the window.  Every second there is something new to see.

We are crossing the Cartinez Straights, and out the window to my left I can see big ships– oceangoing tankers out on Suisun Bay, and evidence, if any more were needed, that we are drawing near the end of the western leg of the trip.  Tonight, an SF hotel for me, and an author book signing and party.

Ships in Suisun Bay mean we have arrived at the waters of the Pacific.

Tomorrow morning I’ll board the Coast Starlight south, bound for Salinas., and then Big Sur, where I will hole up for the weekend:  hiking, writing, meditating, thinking.  I’ll be “On a Siding” for a few days, but I’ll try to connect back up before departing on the next leg of the trip– the northern leg from Salinas to Seattle, which begins on Monday the 10th.

In a way I am very sorry to be leaving the Zephyr.  What can I tell you:  you should do this, if you can swing it.  As my sleeping car manager Dennis said yesterday, “It’s phantasmagorical.”

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Day 5: Peace Train

Jennifer Finney Boylan is in love with the California Zephyr.

Day 5 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from just outside Moab, Utah, where I am now at mile 2819 of this 7298 mile voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

I awoke in my cozy roomette at 4:30 AM Mountain time, which I admit is too early, but I’m still on Eastern time, and I’m an early riser anyway.  So instead of resisting, I got up, got a cup of coffee, sat down in the observation car with my computer and started to write a scene.  This whole voyage west I’m working on the final chapters of a novel I’ve been writing for two years.  I got a lot closer this morning.  With the sun rising before me, and the sound of the rails and the whistle, and some dude lying on the floor all asleep, how could I NOT write well?

And then, friends, the sun came up.  It began, as always, as just a sly hint of grey in an otherwise black sky, but at 6:30 the sun burst over the plains of eastern Colorado.  The morning shift complete, I headed to the dining car, where I had breakfast with a clinical psychologist who was reading the biography of William James, whom, my companion claimed, anticipated everything.

Settled into the observation car as we climbed the Rockies.  I can only say it is every bit as breathtaking as you dream.  We passed beneath the Continental Divide via the Moffet Tunnel  and arrived at 8500+ feet as we stopped in Fraser, CO.  Snow on the mountains.  Air crisp.  I didn’t find the altitude daunting at all, even though we were warned not to exert ourselves.  Then we began our long descent into the canyons.

I wrote another 1500 words in the afternoon.  For a while I was hoping to write 8500+ words, one for every foot of elevation, but that’s way out of my range now.  I declared victory at about 3000.  Then I returned to the observation car and watched the sun set and drank a Sierra Nevada.

High Colorado: At 8500+ feet, Fraser, CO is the highest train station in Amtrakdom.

It’s the day after election day, but I haven’t heard much talk of politics on the train. As a Democrat, it’s a sad day for me, especially as I’ve caught up with news from Maine.  But yeah, looking at the sun illuminating Red Rocks Canyon in western Colorado lifted my spirits.

I’ll sleep through much of Utah and Nevada, arise in Pacific Time and California. We are supposed to arrive in Emeryville–near SF– around 4 o’clock PM, where supposedly a friend is scooping me up, taking me to my hotel to settle in, and then it’s off to an author reception and book party in the evening.  I’ll begin the next leg of the trip Friday morning as I head down to Salinas and Big Sur for a few days of quiet, meditation, writing, and hiking.

It will be hard to top today, not just this month, but for the rest of my life.  What a precious gift this journey has been.

In Denver (where the photo of me genuflecting before the California Zephyr’s engine was taken), I asked the train manager if it might be possible for me to visit the engine.  I had fantasies of blowing the horn.  She looked at me just like I thought she would, gave me the same look I give my son when he asks, Is it okay if I spend the night at my girlfriend’s house?  So that didn’t happen.  But I tried, and in my mind I blew the whistle TWICE.

My sleeper’s manager is a delightful Irishman named Dennis Byrne.  We were talking this afternoon, and by way of summing things up, he said the following: “Each trip is a micro sociological experiment in its own right in that a host of disparate elements are tossed together in one sense, against their will.”

I said, Yes.  You are right.

He smiled, and added, “It’s phantasmagorical.”

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Day 4: Soul Train

This steam engine sits on tracks just outside Galesburg, IL, It used to haul freight on the very tracks upon which the California Zephyr now travels.

Day 4 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from just outside Galesburg, Illinois, where I am now at mile 1572 of this 7298 mile voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

I am at last safely aboard the California Zephyr, which departed from Union Station, Chicago at 2 PM.  Before that, I rode the “Hoosier State” from Indianapolis to Chicago, which I can affirm was not a fast mode of transportation.  Before that I was in a limo being picked up at 4:15 AM in Bloomington, taking my leave of the IU campus and my days at the Kinsey Institute.

Today I have seen a field of windmills.  I saw the sun set behind a bank of clouds over a brown, exhausted soybean field.  I saw an Amish family with spectacular beards and bonnets.  I saw a grain elevator filling up a long semi with corn seed.  I saw a place on the tracks where somehow a hundred potatoes had spilled.  I have heard the sound of the whistle as we cut through small towns with barriers lowered, red lights blinking, at the one intersection in town.  I looked out for an hour or so at places where there didn’t seem to be any towns at all.  I saw a man standing alone at the edge of a fallow field.

Superliner roomette (on the Zephyr) is, in my opinion, not quite as roomy as the roomette on the Viewliner (Lake Shore Limited).  Haven’t tried the bed yet.  But there’s no window on the upper berth.  To make up for this, there is a fabulous dining car, where i’ll unfold my napkin in about an hour, and a bar car with an upstairs observation deck.  My wife and I enjoyed a similar car going from Fairbanks to Anchorage on our honeymoon.  I still remember the couple we met on that train ride:   as a result of two different strains of cancer, the husband couldn’t talk, and the wife could not hear.  Deedie and I have long joked that we have based our marriage on the model of this couple.

Carl Sandburg, looking rather naughty.

Here in Galesburg, Carl Sandburg was born in 1878.  In his home town he drove a milk wagon, worked as a porter for a hotel, as a laborer on a farm, before going back to driving the milk wagon.   Later, he won three Pulitzer Prizes, and published the “American Songbag,” a collection that attempted to do for this country, in the early 20th century what Sir Francis Childe had done with Irish and Scottish and English music 300 years earlier:  create an archive of traditional folk songs.

Among the songs collected by Sandburg is “The Railroad Cars are Comin’,” part of which goes like this:

The prairie dogs in dogtown
Will wag each little tail,
They’ll think that something’s coming,
Just flying down the rail.

Amid the purple sagebrush,
The antelope will stand
While railroad cars are coming, humming,
Through the prairie land,
The railroad cars are coming, humming,
Through the prairie land.

I wrote 1300 words between Chicago and Galesburg.  I don’t know if it’s any good, won’t know for months, probably.  But here I am on the edge of the prairie, grateful that I live in this country.  It’s Election Day, and I admit I’ve been kind of paying less attention than I might were i at home.  At the same time I can tell you that the very last thing I did before leaving Maine was to vote by absentee ballot.  I’ll go to sleep tonight content that the country, as always, will sort things out.  Something is coming.

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Day 3: At a Siding (II.)

jenny boylan stands before a Mapplethorpe portrait of an ass in fishnets

At the Kinsey Institute's showing of Mapplethorpe prints, I admit I got a little behind in my work.

Day 3 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Bloomington, Indiana, where I am, again, at mile 1190 of this 7298 mile voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

Yesterday and today I am “at a siding,” by which I mean I have stepped off the train to attend to business, in this case a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute.  Last night I attended a showing of the Kinsey’s collection of prints by Robert Mapplethorpe.  A photograph of me considering the proper crack to make is posted herewith.  I’m also posting a copy of the poster for something called “The Love Wanga,” a film (I think) about the “Strange Loves of Queer People.” The poster, part of Kinsey’s vast collection of artifacts, is definitely what you might call a period piece.

Got Wanga? This poster for a film from the 1930s (I think) is part of the Kinsey's vast collection of artifacts

The Mapplethorpe prints are beautiful and extraordinary and precious.  But I also thought that they seem to capture a moment in time that is now past– New York City gay life circa 1980.  I wrote yesterday about my open conversation with a woman in the dining car, about her daughter and her three transgender boyfriends, and my experience as a woman married to another woman.

The culture has come so far so fast– from a time when Mapplethorpe’s images were shocking, to a time when two middle-aged strangers can talk about lesbian relationships and trans identities over grits on the Lake Shore Limited.  Mapplethorpe’s work was intended to shock.  I can tell you I found the work beautiful and poignant and wry.  But it wasn’t shocking, at least not to me. It depicted a world, to me, that seemed almost remote as the one in “The Love Wanga.”  Could it be that “the loves of queer people” are no longer so strange? Or at least, no stranger than the loves of anyone else?

The alarm is set for 3:30 AM to wake me up in time for the 4 AM car to Indianapolis, where I’ll board the Hoosier State express at 6 AM. Hope to be in Chicago by 10 AM, in time to board the California Zephyr at 2.  It will be Election Day on a train heading west, across the plains, toward the mountains and in the far distance, the Pacific.  If all goes according to plan,  San Francisco Bay will come into view on Thursday evening.

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Day 2: At a Siding, (I.)

The Lake Shore Limited arrives in Waterloo, IN. My "womb-tete" was the third set of windows here-- bed upper, sitting area below.

Day 2 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Bloomington, Indiana, where I am at mile 1190 of this 7298 mile voyage.  You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.

Today we are “at a siding,” by which I mean that I have stepped off of the train for a day or so as I attend to business.

The Lake Shore Limited pulled into Waterloo IN this morning right on time at 7:33 AM, where a limo was waiting to drive me to Bloomington and the IU campus.  I’m here for 36 hours or so, attending a meeting of the Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.  I know many of my readers are more familiar with my work in the NY Times, or with GLAAD, but my more-quiet relationship with Kinsey is something I’m immensely proud of.  At tomorrow’s Trustees meeting we’ll celebrate the arrival of Sue Carter, our newly hired new CEO, and a pioneer in the field of neuroendocrinology.

Tonight, though, the Trustees celebrate the extensive collections of the Institute with a special showing of the prints of Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m really looking forward to looking at and thinking about that work.  I can also tell you that my own favorite Mapplethorpe photograph is the one just below here.  Patti Smith has a wonderful description of how they took that photo; all these years later I still find it haunting.

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance

I think about the world that Mapplethorpe lived in, and the one in which I do my own work, and it’s kind of amazing how far we’ve travelled.  This morning at breakfast on the Lake Shore Limited, I dined with a woman about my age who writes about hip-hop music for the Chicago Sun-Times.  She was reading the NY Times Magazine article about “Men at Wellesley” and asked me what I thought about it.  I said, kind of shyly, Well, I think transgender people are very brave. And she said, So do I! My daughter has dated three trans men! And so we talked about trans identities, and I talked about my wife, and it struck me what a changed and remarkable world we live in, in which two strangers on a train in Ohio could talk about trans lives and lesbian relationships and it was all pretty much pleasant, normal breakfast conversation.  At the end of breakfast, I said, Look, I might as well tell you. (pointing at the magazine cover)  I’m like that too. And my seat mate looked uncertain and she said, “And then– you went back to being a woman?”

No, I said, not exactly.

I slept all warm and cozy in my “womb-ette” bed last night.  Out the window I saw the dark fields of New York, the shores of Lake Erie.  The train rocked me from side to side.  I thought about my family.  And all the while I kept hearing that whistle.   Go on, click here and you can hear it too. A loyal reader sent me a wonderful link to a site that talks all about the classic 5-tone railroad engine whistle.  And I learned the answer to a lifelong question:  what’s that chord?

Why, it’s a B major 6th.  The notes are: D#, F#, G# B, and D#.

It is surely the sound of dreams.

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Day 1: Mystery Train

326 miles down, 6973 or so to go.

Greetings from Albany, New York.  It’s just after 6 PM, and we’re pausing here while the Boston train joins up with the New York one, in a kind of locomotive version of Let’s Form Voltron Force!

Last night went to a Halloween jam in the barn of some friends.  Sat in with the Blues Prophets, playing piano for two songs– one of which was “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and one of which wasn’t.  Home by 10:30, in bed for the last time for 17 days with my wife and the Stupid Dog©.  AT 3:15 AM the alarm went off, and the dog raised her head as if to say, “What are you doing?”

I didn’t have a good answer.

By 4 AM I was in the car driving from our house in rural Maine to the Amtrak station in Portland ME for the first leg of the Amtrak Residency, the journey that will take me the next 17 days and cover 7298 miles, coast to coast.  It was a dark and stormy night.  Rain slashed against my wipers.  Dead leaves blew past.

Arrived in Portland a little after 5 in time to step on the Downeaster at 5;30.  This has got to be the most adorable train in the Amtrak fleet, and by adorable, I mean there are volunteers on the train who want to make sure you’re “okay”– handing out maps, explaining history.  Train guys.  We pulled into Boston a little late, and I took the subway from North Station to South Station, where I stowed my bags and walked over for dim sum in Boston’s Chinatown.  I ate a whole bunch of things I could not identify, sparked up with chili sauce, and drank a whole pot of tea.

By 11 AM I was in the sleeper train/first class lounge of South Station, which looked a little like the Diogenes Club.  I looked around for Mycroft Holmes.  Then the redcap helped me on board the 12 noon North Shore Limited, where I was met by the sleeper car czarina, Lashawnda Jones.  She is very proud of “wearing the blue” (as she put it), and has been taking good care of all of us.  Right on schedule we pulled out of Boston, and I sat down to write.

Or, I would have, Ma, except that having to get up at 3:15 AM had me so knackered that I struggled to stay awake.  But I fought off the Z’s and got to work.  Wrote 1200 words– about my average for a single sitting– part of the climax of the book I hope to finish on this adventure.   After that, I strolled down to the cafe car, where I made the acquaintance of one Claudia Butler, the manager of the Lake Shore Limited.  She’s been around trains all her life– her father worked for the railroad too.  She was excited to have an Amtrak Writer in Residence on Board, and spoke with pride of her OBS crew (that’s on-board service).

I can say that the “roomette” is small; there is barely enough room for my ego.

I looked out the window and watched Massachusetts and New York go by.  It’s a very Edgar Allen Poe November out there; leaves blowing, rain streaking against the windowpane.  I wrote and I thought and I read a little of Maxine Hong Kinsgston’s “The Woman Warrior,” which I’m teaching at Barnard this spring.

Somewhere around 1 AM tonight–we’ll be just outside Dayton, Ohio– the train will come to a halt for an hour.  This is on account of the reversion to Eastern Standard Time.  I’d heard that trains do this– if they just chugged ahead, we’d all wind up at our destination an hour ahead of the schedule, thus opening up a rift in the space-time continuum.   It’s like what Steven Wright used to say about:  ”I put instant coffee in the microwave and went back in time.”

I’ll be up at dawn tomorrow (plus an hour) to have an early breakfast, in time to step off the Lake Shore Limited about 7:30 in the morning in Waterloo, Indiana.  Where, with any luck, a nice black limo will be waiting to drive me the three + hours to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, where I’ll be attending an exhibition of the Institute’s Mapplethorpe prints tomorrow night, and a Board of Trustees meeting all day Monday.  Tuesday, it’s back on the train, and on to California!

Thanks for riding with me.

“Come along, Mrs. Thornhill.”


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  • The Boylan Family, summer 2010

    DSC_0063 "You hang around our family, you learn all kinds of stuff."
  • Will Forte as Jennifer Finney Boylan on “Saturday Night Live”

    WiFo-Jennifer Finney Boylan-1
  • Jenny with Barbara Walters, December, 2008

  • Jenny atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin

    2036947979_34bfbec240 August, 2002.
  • Surrounded

    boylanWith President Clinton and Maine's Governor John Baldacci, fall 2006.
  • JFB and Edward Albee


    Edward had been my teacher at Johns Hopkins in the winter of 1986. He visited Colby in fall, 2007. As we took our leave of each other, he kissed me on both cheeks and said, "We have done well. You and I."

  • Jenny and her teacher, the great John Barth


    Jack was my professor at JHU when I did my thesis, back in the day. After many years, I can now confidently say I finally understand his definition of plot. Which is, of course, "the perturbation of an unstable homeostatic system and its catastrophic restoration to a new and complexified equilibrium."