Monday, June 20, 2011


So, all day long I have been avoiding the great, steaming outdoors - is this Borneo or is this Missouri in June? what's the dif? I ask myself, i.e. you guys, knowing well that there may well be among you, adventurous souls who have, in fact, been to Borneo, as I have not, but then, how many of you have sweated out a summer afternoon in Missouri, which leaves you feeling like a used tea bag? In any case, grateful I am for the luxury of air conditioning and having manuscript revisions to do and have done all this, as is said, the live long day. And what about? The West & our nation's cruel, ghastly, heroic, make-or-break, inevitable expansion thither - oh baybee, can you tell that I've been watching Poirot on PBS? Well, what's the use of being a writer if one can't toss around words such as thither every once in a while?
In truth, I haven't been writing so very much, but rather, letting myself be diverted with painting and genealogy [What I wouldn't give to know what Michael Peter Harness, b. 1 Jan 1699 in York, PA; & his wife Elizabeth, b. 1706, & their 13 kids LOOKED & SOUNDED like! and what in the hell was my great-grandmother's NAME, for crying out loud and why didn't I have the sense to ask my elders before they got their tickets punched?], and fiddle lessons and visiting my friend Natalie Kinsey-Warnock up in Vermont [man oh man oh man, we went on a car trip –
Here's a car song for you, sung to Mr. Sandman:

Mr. Slowpoke!
Get out of the way!
We want to get there sometime today!
You poop along like an old tomater!
Why don't you step on the accelerator?!

Mr. Slowpoke!
What is the deal?
Are you like dead up there at your steering wheel?
We're begging you to please go fast!
Mr. Slowpoke, step on the gas!

– to Campobello Island, where I had the bittersweet honor of standing in the doorway of the room in which Franklin Roosevelt sweated and suffered, with the polio's terrifying onslaught, 90 years ago this summer. I had the privilege of writing & illustrating FDR's & ER's story years ago... the book was in print maybe three or four months, the world being rotten...] and sculpting [an example in the picture here], knowing all the while there was writing to be done. So, when I no longer could avoid it, I set myself to typing on an actual contracted manuscript, the first in too g.d. long a while. I gave myself up to cutting and pasting, to looking things up, Googling, paging through one or the other of my encyclopedia and 26-or-so or so books lined up in a tidy row on the floor beside this desk. What a far out deal, rediscovering what fun writing is, once you tackle the hard part: Getting started.
So I've been obsessing over finding the clearest, most concise way of explaining such things as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the fur trade, and the National Road, which was begun two centuries ago this year, just for you to know. Happily obsessing until I have to explain the Black Hawk War of 1832. If I hadn't, I'd never have known that old Black Hawk, the prisoner, was taken back east and exhibited a la spoils of war, to the hoi polloi or ever read, shuddering, an account of what happened one summer morning on the banks of the Mississippi. Jeez, there's no avoiding the fact that our kind's history is a nasty & cockeyed caravan. Still, I'm busting to get back to it, first thing in the morning.

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