The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Scribbler

The pool man dumped a jug of something that looked like furniture polish into the water about a foot from the cement edge, all the way around. It foamed slightly and I decided not to take a swim after all. The fitness room (open 24 hours) was the only room in the hotel not chilled to a frosty crunch. I made it through a mere ten minutes on the elliptical trainer without watching TV but with drinking hazelnut half-decaf in a paper cup with a cardboard hand sleeve designed to impress Hilton’s commitment to sustainability on us. How adding more cardboard to your breakfast accomplished that I wasn’t sure but the message was everywhere. The elevators showed two boys in a flexible flyer one pulling the other in a black and white photo with the message, “Carpooling is good for everyone.” Norman Rockwell had it right I guess. The rooms, too, were decorated on the doors with these type of photographs, rotating every few to add individuality. Mine had a Deer Crossing highway sign, the deer was in mid-leap, no doubt about to be bounced off a Walmart semi just outside of Asheville.
The Jacuzzi was foaming with goodness, also chemically induced and I realized that the fresh hot water in my shower was a much better bet. If only these chemicals had the effect of peeling off my psoriasis then these pools would be amazing therapy for me. I gave up after pumping a few rounds of new fangled hand weights, the grip parts were blue plastic cylinders, very ergonomic and the ends of the weights where the actual amount of weight was shown, was marked in bold letters with HAMPTON. I’m sure the Sky Mall magazine had a service where I could replace that with GODWIN for personalized hand weights. Speaking of Godwin, I thought North Carolina would be the one place they would not pronounce my surname with an extra “o” as in “Good-win” as they do everywhere. There is a kind of universal dyslexia when the eye glances at an “o” followed by a “d” and it sees two “o’s” instead. But in NC, there is actually a town called Godwin, though I haven’t found it yet and no one seems to have heard of it.,_North_Carolina
There are also towns called “Qualla” and “Cherokee.” Important, of course, for fans of Charles Frazier’s amazing book “Thirteen Moons,” as you know I am. It was probably the last major book that Todd read and on our last camping trip, he read parts of it aloud to Bodhi and Amee and I to our universal delight. It is the wonderful and tragic tale of the Cherokee removal from Western NC, and the rare efforts of one chief and his adopted white son to save their lands. As it turns out, they succeeded and there is a band of Eastern Cherokee who remain large landholders in the Western mountains of this state. I’d love to see this area and perhaps when my nephew Bob arrives after my workshop at Warren Wilson, we will take a drive out there, an hour west of Asheville (where Frazier is from.)

In the lobby, everyone, I mean everyone is in uniform. Like a kind of golfing Stepford Husbands, the uniform is khaki shorts and solid polo shirts. I’m in long board shorts with a Banff T-shirt and look somehow comical and out of place (at least I think so.) Though all are friendly enough and we enjoy the styrofoam (or is it cornstarch now?) bowls and cutlery with “fresh” fruit and microwaved American starchy treats. USA Today is free and shows me a height comparison for Obama and Romney; Romney is one inch taller. It also shows a bar graph of how many times the taller man has won the election. Eight times more often, four times the shorter man and only one time as often have the evenly heighted become president. (Does this mean we once had twin presidents? Was it the Roosevelts? The Adams? Or perhaps the twin Grover Clevelands, or the “hobo” James K. Polk impersonator? Have I misread this chart? But of course, if Romney can’t win on the issues alone or by spending more, his height wikk surely be a factor.
Last night as I boarded the nineteen minute shuttle from Charlotte to Asheville, there was an interesting man ahead of me in line. He was Obama’s height and wore a gold painted hardhat, a loose and less-than-pristine Rastafari T-shirt and, most notably, carried an electronic keyboard under one arm, his only carry-on and without a case. “Hmmm,” I thought, “you don’t see this on every flight.” In Asheville as the Hampton shuttle picked me up, the driver said, “Wow, you travel with your own accompaniment.” “Yes, I usually do.” I said, not realizing that she was referring to the minstrel who had set up on a lonely bench in the dark outside the terminal and begun a kind of solo concert. We were the only three left at the airport and he was playing a Casio-driven blues number, a kind of welcome home song to himself.
The airports here have rocking chairs for the lonesome travellers. Comforting and sweet, though not quite erasing the machinery of modernity and harsh perfect surfaces and packaged living all around. I head to the farmland at Warren Wilson College now to begin my writing program. Perhaps I will find real rocking chairs on real porches, or at least those who can evoke that comfort with their pens and laptops.