I had a nightmarish situation at the train station the other night. I went out to Connecticut to visit a dear friend, and we got so wrapped up in conversation that I almost missed the last train of the night. She rushed me to the train station, where there were several others also waiting for the train.
Sigh of relief. I made it.
I ran to the ticket kiosk and purchased my ticket back to Grand Central. I thought I was just in the nick of time. The train would be pulling into the station any second.
But it didn’t.
Conversations with the several other confused bystanders led to various theories: the train had left early, the train was delayed. An app and the MTA website both said the train was delayed. We waited.
No train. Some dude tried to get us to take an uber with him to Stamford. “It’ll get you a little closer,” he said. Not close enough, I thought. He left.
We waited some more.
Still, no train. A couple finally had enough of the waiting and also called an uber. They were going to Washington Heights and offered to split it with us. It was only going to be $80. Between 4 people that would be a bargain–especially considering the fact that I’d spent $22 purchasing the wrong ticket on the way out to Connecticut. My ever-hopeful friend believed that the train was just delayed, though, so we said we’d just wait.
And wait we did.
We waited over an hour for the train. We tried calling several numbers listed, but no one was working those late hours. There were no employees in the station. Was the train delayed over an hour? Was it canceled? Finally, an employee came by. She told us the train had come early and left without us. It was 1:45 in the morning, and the next train would come til 5am.
We tried to find an uber, but suddenly the prices had been raised to close to double of the original amount. That, and we no longer had anyone to split the cost with. The friend we were visiting told us we could crash at her place, but we hadn’t brought toothbrushes and new contacts and makeup. We endeavored to get home. We ubered back to the city, and I took a scary 3am subway ride home. I was the only woman in a train full of men. Not my wisest decisions, but I felt like I’d been leaking money and didn’t want to pay for a taxi home. I finally got in around 3:30am. I watched an episode of Frasier to unwind.
The good news in all of this is that I did a bit of free book marketing. The train station in Connecticut had a kiosk of free books, where straphangers were encouraged to take a book to read on the train. The selection was curious and random and lovely. Something for everyone. Maimonides. Edgar Cayce. Allison Pearson.
I’d heard of this take-a-book and leave-a-book trend before. And I’d experienced it years ago at hostels when I’d gone backpacking through Europe. It’s such a great way to meet new books.
I didn’t have a copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful on me, so I did the next best thing I could think of: I put a few postcards on the kiosk. What better author to read about on the train than Jack Kerouac, who was known for his intrepid travels?
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I took this photograph in May of this year while standing on the beach across from my parents’ house in Greece. The name of the beach is Lagouvardos, which is part of the Peloponnese. I’d stolen one last look at the beach before I traveled back up to Athens to catch a plane.
Like the tides, I have a come-and-go relationship with Greece. It seems like I no sooner arrive, and it’s time for me to leave again. Perhaps like so many children of immigrants, I struggle with the concept of home. I call New York my home. I love the skyscrapers and window-shops, the fast-paced energy. It’s difficult in the beginning for me to settle into the quieter lifestyle of Greece, and yet soon it feels as if I’ve been there all along. Indeed, I’ve known my family’s house in Greece many years longer than the apartment I now live in in New York. More than that, it’s family that makes a home. It’s heartbreaking every time I have to leave.
I created Hellas: A 2016 Calendar to capture the natural beauty of Lagouvardos and Filiatra. The photographs show the blue, blue waters my father grew up swimming in; wildflowers that signify Greek resilience; our blue-and-white flag flying victoriously; and mountains rising toward heaven.
Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with Hellas, a 2016 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean in these stunning photographs.
Purchase your own copy of Hellas here.
I went to Philly the other day and visited the site of printer and author Benjamin Franklin’s house. To get there, I had to pass through this little tunnel:::
The sign made me laugh. Imagine being so famous that historians noted not just the site of your house but the little passageway you walked through to get there! His house is no longer standing, but excavations show aspects of the infrastructure. The signage there is equally humorous, as it seems to reveal a strange relationship between Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read. He seemed very concerned about her ability to manage the household and seemed to think she might burn the whole place down. I was so fascinated by his strange letters to her that when I got home I did a little digging into their relationship. It turned out that our Founding Father wasn’t in a traditional marriage! Apparently, he had proposed to dear Deborah but her mother didn’t approve of him so while he was traipsing through merry old England, Deborah married some rake who took her money and ran, never to be heard of again. Ben and Deb technically then entered into a bigamous, common-law marriage. They had two children together and also raised Franklin’s illegitimate child. They don’t teach that in the history books in school!
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Maybe one day Lowell will put up a bunch of signs pointing out where Jack Kerouac went to church and where he wrote while he drank. My friend George Koumantzelis, who is the nephew of Kerouac’s friend Billy Koumantzelis, recently brought Grant Welker’s article “Is Lowell missing the Kerouac beat?” for The Sun to my attention. Welker writes:
Lowell has a small park with a memorial on Bridge Street dedicated to Kerouac and has a walking tour organized by the National Park Service, but it doesn’t have a permanent center — a museum, library or open-to-the-public childhood home — dedicated to the writer, whose popularity continues to grow here and abroad more than 45 years after his death.
Happy Friday! I’ve rounded up a bunch of Buzzfeed articles that feed my need to travel. Hey, if you’re a starving artist and not traveling anywhere this summer at least you can read!
The Trainspotting Guide to London
12 Literary Spots in London That Every Book Lover Needs to Visit
23 Beautifully Bookish Places to Explore This Summer
26 Real Places That Look Like They’ve Been Taken Out of Fairy Tales
40 Books That Will Make You Want to Visit France
During my lunchtime reads, this headline, via Poets & Writers, made me laugh:
The link round-up led to The Atlantic’s article “Shocker: Conservative Republicans Hate the Amtrak Writer Residency.”
I’m not one to blog politics, but I will talk copywriting: these two headlines grabbed my attention and made me actually laugh out loud. It sounded like an Onion article! I kind of love the fact that they’re so outlandish and made me think about politics and the media.
Are some Republicans seriously against writers getting to use a seat that would’ve otherwise gone empty on a train? Of all the things going on in the world, is Amtrak’s residency really worth the political hubbub? Did the “liberal media” exaggerate and twist what Republican senators actually said? Are the senators’ concerns that the taxpaying public has subsidized Amtrak services with $1.5 billion and yet are giving away free tickets legitimate? Should the government help fund writers and those in the arts as a means toward furthering our cultural heritage?
When the Amtrak Writers Residency was announced a few weeks ago, friends came out of the wood works to urge me to apply. After all, writing and being on the road is my literary jam.
No matter what your politics are and your stance on copyright, Amtrak’s certainly made headlines. Someone in their marketing department is doing something right!
Ten years ago — wow, time flies! — I had the pleasure of penning an introduction to Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt’s adventure memoir Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches. As part of my research, I toured his birthplace, a gorgeous brownstone right here in New York City. I loved hearing the inspirational story of how he was a sickly child whose love for reading and nature led to him becoming an advocate for conservation. Just like Jack Kerouac later would, Roosevelt read Leo Tolstoy and dime-store westerns, traveled America, dreamed of ranching (Roosevelt actually did ranch; Kerouac was a lot of talk), became associated with hyper-masculinity, and created a legend out of himself through his writing.
Today marks the 155th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth.
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My inbox got a recent happy surprise with the subject header:
‘The Road Is Life’ Celebrate the launch of Granta 124: Travel
In case you don’t recognize the quote, it’s from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. In part 3, chapter 5, he writes:
Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
The lit mag will have its New York launch for the issue on July 24th at 7pm at Bookcourt (163 Court Street; Brooklyn). Granta editor John Freeman will supposedly be there–despite May’s news that he is leaving the lit mag. Contributor Phil Klay will also be there. Readings, drinks, and conversation to ensure!
If you’re not in the New York area, you should be! But even if you’re not, Granta also has launches in San Francisco and London.
Book Court has a plethora of other events coming up that include poetry, nonfiction, fiction, photography, and music.
In case you missed it, here’s my recap of hearing Freeman speak about Granta.