Good morning! we are here. A little tired fit to excited to notice. Jet Lag won’t hold us back! First on the to do: awesome breakfast. Then some shopping and maybe a massage. I hope everyone is having a great evening in Morgantown!
Thanks for joining us on our journey. This is my website which I initially got going a few years. I pretty fooled around with it and didn’t do much (I always blamed work.)
But now there is no better time to write again and share with you an incredible journey. My wife and I are going to Vietnam! We leave today. Thu is very excited. Its a homecoming for her and I have another family to meet.
I’ve been there before. 5 years ago I was there. Almost to the day. Check out the archives of the first blog I wrote as I traveled there: http://vietnam.blogs.wvu.edu. That was a class trip to Vietnam with the WVU School of Social Work. Its been kept each summer with a new group sharing and reflecting on their experience.
I met Thu on that trip. I told her I’d see her someday and that would come back. I try to keep my word. She just made it easier for me to do that.
We’re packed. The checks are in that mail. Worried about my plants and that they get watered (Thank goodness I have no pets.)
Time to close the door behind you, hoping you remember everything. (Stove is not on!) See you on the other side of the world.
I came across a word a couple of months ago that has stuck in my mind since I read it.
The find came out of a John Steinbeck book, Sweet Thursday via an Elmore Leonard booking his rules for writing.
“Sometimes, I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle… Spin up some pretty words, maybe sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up in the story.”
This is a great quote. I can’t help but think of so much of the world as Hooptedeoodle and it is getting in the way of a better story…
I look at the tabloids I read at the counter are some hooptedoodle. It seems like a nice flourish to life to think that there is so much interesting culture out there. Doesn’t really tell me much about what is going on though…
…Gosh. Thinking about Obama and DC strikes me as a bunch of hooptedoodle, too. I was pretty excited by that. It got me going too when that whole election went down, and it was history in the making.
Perhaps I am reading that idea wrong.
For good measure:
Embrace the silence, so that you may hear.
Erster Teil: Why write about Milo?
Will: What are you doing?
Myself: Trying to write.
What do you want to write?
I don’t know.
What do you want to say?
Anything. Just want to put something out there that feels inspired and will get people to think.
What is it that, Fitzgerald says? You write because you have something to say, not say something?
Yeah it is something like that.
What do you have to say?
There’s a whole world out there. I could say something about anything. Right?
I don’t know. Can you?
Well, I want to tell stories.
Where I’ve been and what I’ve seen or done. Who I’ve met…
That sounds like a start. Who do you want to write about?
Okay. So who is that?
A character. A real character.
Okay. Is he real?
Yes. I can’t make some of these people up. It is better than fiction.
Okay. So? What do you want to say about him?
He’s in love with a 36 year-old single mother with horrible health problems, two young kids.
So there you go. He’s a romantic.
Or a damn fool…
Really? Why? This sort of thing happens all the time.
He’s 88 years old. He’s been around the world. He has sculptures everywhere in the world. Neba Neba Bo, which means little big man or something like that which is displayed in a museum.
Okay. 88 years old. Umm.. ok. [Laughing] Wow. That is pretty good. I think that you have a lot to say about him.
Yeah. Hmm. Where do I start?
Where did you meet him?
Milo. Where is that?
Maine is a good place, I hear. Cold isn’t it? Why were you there?
Okay, what is that?
Geesh. Sounds like it. You can only reply two words to that.
Well, VISTA is not really the interesting part of it all really.
What is then?
Being broke, living in a boarding house on the edge of civilization in the boonies of Maine with the forest separating you and Canada. Finding weird, nice people, watching out for Moose, swimming and falling in love.
Hey not bad.
You sound like Milo is special place. At least to you.
Yeah. Yeah it is. It is not a normal small town. Perhaps that is only because it is the only really small town I’ve actually lived in. I don’t know what to say about it really.
You loved it there?
I did and I didn’t. Like life, huh?
Yeah, maybe. But that doesn’t answer the big question. Why are you still sitting here, blankly staring at the page. Don’t you want to write something?
I do. I get hung up.
I want to make it big. I always wanted to write something big and significant.
Well… only if it was world-famous.
[laughing] Okay. Whatever man. You know that is not going to happen. Do you realize how many writers seek that same glory?
Well, I was reading this book by a lady going on a walkabout in Australia. It made me think, that I can do this.
Why is that book making you think that?
Because it is an easy and fun read, insightful. It’s not master storytelling though.
And you are? [Laughing] and you are? That is why her book was an international bestseller and you still have not typed one word of this story.
Now you’re being cruel.
I don’t think so. You’re being cruel. To yourself. Start from the beginning if you have too. Life there wasn’t a novel was it? It was just a collection of short stories. Strange to funny to boring to engaging and uplifting. That is what people read in any case. It’s just life.
I guess so.
Good. So are you going to write something? Please say yes.
I don’t know.
I can’t help you anymore. I’m calling procrastination to come in and hold your hand.
Shit. I’ll get started on it.
In what I can only describe as a first in a series, I have a tendency to think about rural life. It is a unique place in contemporary American culture, if you think about it.
It is easy to say that being from the country, you don’t have the same opportunity or are somehow backward compared to city folk. I feel that I was given a real gift to have grown up in the great Appalachian Mountains. I know things a majority of Americans won’t. It is a uniqueness to grow up as someone does in a rural community.
Welcome to my new blog For the Glory of Vandalia.
It should follow that you wonder, “what does he even mean by that?” What is or where is Vandalia?
Strangely, when I attempt an answer, I draw an utter blank. Complete silence, because verbs and nouns can’t fill this void. This space is filled however with a tremendous feeling. One that rises up from the a deeper core of yourself. However inspiration ripples through you it is the source…. of hope, love and perhaps a little adventure.
So in a sense Vandalia is a place. Of Being. That sentiment or urge that words could only do harm to.
All of this this doesn’t explain how such an idea ever crossed my mind, however. So here’s a little backstory:
On a particular evening, I sat thinking in reverence of the wonderful West Virginian mountains, my mountains. I contemplated the wonder and privilege of claiming such a place as my home. And then the words soon exploded in my mind and my mouth, “FOR THE GLORY OF VANDALIA!”
Yes, Vandalia is a real place too. Or was supposed to be.
Many years ago, or centuries really, bullish speculators of colonial times saw the greatness of the North American continent. They envisioned one day reaching beyond the wild western mountains. Beyond those mountain barriers were passageways of commerce and opportunity. The speculators sought to breach the great green forests walls and begin a new colony. There they could divide the land, the rivers and streams and the great mountains and anything in between to make it part of their burgeoning hopes. These hopeful enthusiasts called this place Vandalia.
Fate had another plan as wars do occasionally break out. The land was grabbed and the idea discarded into the greatest column of history: Possibility and potential. The “What-If?” As it was, the land of Vandalia would be incorporated into the established order of being and became a colonial hinterland. It was to be looked-over and forgotten by power and capital until many years later. But that is a different story.
As I see it, life is what Vandalia was. It is a feeling of great possibility. It is the rising spirit, like the mountains that surround you. Climb them. You feel the exhaustion, but you smile. You understand the mountain the mountain is helping you up, so you can see a vast expanse before you. Your struggle is worth it.
When the sense of an adventure sweeps over you and you succumb to it, that is Vandalia calling you.