Today was supposed to be the second part in a three-part Reggie Black “Born to Run” chronicle, but poor old Reggie was busy propping up a rickety rosewood dining room table somewhere in the vast Tampa exurbs last night. No “Reggie in Residence.” I pulled back the curtain here in Maine this morning; not one flake of falling snow. Darn. Part of me was looking forward to a final day of winter isolation and contemplation in my home office.
There are other ways to be alone.
If one were to plug the words “Amtrak writer in residence” into a search engine, one would find numerous articles and blog posts about the publicly funded railroad’s latest savvy marketing project directed at young-uns like my nephew. Amtrak wants to provide “creative professionals” with time and an “inspiring environment” in which to write. Exactly what these creative professionals should write and to what purpose their content will be used is not completely clear in the “Official Terms” although no professional writing experience or particular educational background is required.
Residents of Alaska or Hawaii may not apply. Sorry about that, but if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, you’re used to hearing the “not one of the contiguous 48 states” routine.
As part of the “Official Terms” a writer must agree not to “disparage sponsors.” I guess that means it wouldn’t be amazing and inspirational to discuss how filthy the train’s public bathrooms become after twelve hours of rocking and rolling. Of course, the selected writers in residence will travel on a sleeper car with their own private toilet. That and a writer’s ego that says “my BLEEP doesn’t stink” will keep the focus on the amazing scenery and inspiration of train travel.
Sorry to be all potty-talk about Amtrak. I love Maine’s Downeaster and I love Amtrak in theory. Preserving the existing rail infrastructure is important to transportation health in a world of diminishing resources. The Lady Alone Traveler has a whole series of train jaunts and posts lined up for spring and summer and she’s no stranger to long distance train travel, either.
I don’t mean to be all snarky and cynical about Amtrak’s new promotion, either. If I’m honest with myself, I’d like to enter the contest but I don’t have the psychic energy to become a one woman Amtrak cheerleader. At the end of the day, the publicly funded transportation service is looking for a different type of traveler, one who is all wired up and tweeting train tickets and hashtags. I know, I know, Jessica Gross still lost money on the trip in spite of her free train ticket.
Of course, there is nothing stopping the Lady Alone Traveler from buying a sleeper car ticket and writing about it. She wouldn’t have to say Amtrak-appropriate comments about toilets masquerading as chic, multi-purpose…a-hem…package holders. The Lady Alone Traveler is a “writer”, after all, and she could certainly deduct the price of the ticket on her taxes. In fact, she could bring her own sense of style, decorate her “roomette” with a few touches from her vintage storage suitcases, and spend the whole journey writing.
Amtrak, thanks but no thanks on the #AmtrakResidency. Lady Alone Traveler makes her own rules, so please make sure my roomette is sparkling clean.