“Like the pines, I am lonesome for you…”

There’s a Laurel and Hardy clip for every mood, every place and every occasion — including a road trip from New Jersey for a stay in  faraway Virginia:

 

If we never meet again (or the Blue Ridge fare-thee-well blues)

I’ve been in Virginia for more than a week now, working on a couple of short stories and reworking a couple of longer manuscripts —

Here’s a photo of my writing studio, which is set atop a hillside of the peaceful former farm where the Va. Center for the Creative Arts is located.

studio exterior

Here’s a photo taken inside, where I’ve been spending a lot of time writing — and looking out of the window at the sky (which has mostly been blue) and those treetops.

interior of studio

 

Here’s what I see when I get a little stir crazy and go for a little drive (took this  photo yesterday )

blue ridge foothills

And here’s some of the music I’ve been listening to late at night:

Time is a jet plane/It moves too fast…so wrote Bob Dylan…I can’t believe time can pass so quickly in such a slow-moving place, but I’ve been here for ten days already and have just four more to go….I’m going to miss this place, but I’m sure I’ll be back….and until then I’ll just have to listen to lots and lots of old Stanley Brothers songs…

 

 

 

Terpsichore in Blue Jeans

I didn’t think I would ever do such a thing. For one thing, I don’t dance very well. For another thing, all of my fellow writer and artists here at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts are still pretty much strangers to me, since I’ve only been here for less than two days. But last night after dinner, someone shouted out “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!”

And somehow they managed to get me to agree to participate. See if you can figure out which one is me:

A Blue Ridge Sunday

This is who I encountered this Sunday morning as I drove down through the pasture on my way into the small town of Amherst, Virginia, where — to my great surprise and joy — the gas-station convenience store actually had a stack of the Sunday New York Times, which meant I could indulge my Sunday morning habit of drinking a cup of coffee while doing the NY Times Magazine’s crossword puzzle.

Anyway, let’s call this first photo “How, Now…?”

brown cow

After getting my coffee and Sunday paper, I drove down to the Wash-and-Dry laundry, where the only patrons were me — and these folks. The husband nodded at me when I walked in — end of conversation. I took this portrait of my laundromat companions as she folded their clothes — and he watched her fold their clothes.

I’m stuck on two names for this photo. Either “A Woman’s Work Is…” or “Sons and Daughters of the Pioneers.”

laundry day

Portrait of the artist

Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?
Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?

Had my photo/portrait/post office mugshot taken today as I begin the final week of my three-week stay at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I’ve done lots of work on a novel — inspired by the life story of the real-life 1920s Italian anarchist with the unlikely name of Severino DiGiovanni — and where they have invited me four times in the last four years to spend time as a fiction-writing fellow because, nearest as I can figure, I’m a fellow who writes fiction.

Anyway, however I got here, I’m very excited about this novel. But I’m wondering about this photo.

A writer friend who’s very smart and very hip and very talented and very published just messaged me to say “Great picture!”

My brother, on the other hand, who I can always count on for his support because he’s blood, emailed back: “You look like a serial killer.”

So, let’s say early reviews are mixed. I myself don’t know what to think.

Do I look like an author? Do I have that intelligent, slightly bohemian, interesting, he’s-a-genius-but-an-approachable-genius look that I suppose all writers — or maybe it’s just me — crave?

Or do I look like I’m lost? Like I’m being interrogated by the NSA and CIA and FBI and KGB all at once in order to save time? Like I have amnesia and I’m wondering why I keep hearing nothing on the radio but country music and fire-and-brimstone preachers? Like I’m doing a screen test for Andy Warhol’s Incredible Plastic Inevitable?

Or like I’m just about finished contemplating and now I’m about to answer a reporter’s question: “What, Mr. DiGiovanni, is the meaning of life?”

Well, if I’m in the mood, and I think you’re all ready to handle it, I’ll answer that question in my next blog post — but in a pre-screened post that will be available only to people who, like my astute writer friend, with declare with great enthusiasm: “Great picture!”

November

I know there are good things about November: my brother Tom’s birthday, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving.

But mostly the month feels melancholy, a time of fading and dying, as summer’s bounty turns to autumn’s final harvest and then inevitable winter. Click on the Tom Waits song (above), and you’ll hear some of what I’m feeling on this first day of November.

I took a break from my writing this morning, bought a cup of takeout coffee, and drove down a back road, heading in the general direction of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. I found myself on a gravel lane winding up a mountainside through deep woods. A rush of wind blew hundreds of dry brown leaves all around my car. A flock of wild turkeys, about two dozen of the birds, scurried across the road and down into a dark and deep ravine. It felt like a time of conclusions and departures and endings, and I while appreciate the month’s barebones beauty, I’ll be glad when November makes way for December, with its bright lights and boundless, beautiful dreams.

Here’s another song that feels like November. Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going,” sung by Tom Rush: