Sunday, April 15, 2007

Two Years on the Slow Train

In the late winter and spring of 2005 I was living in Northeast Philadelphia, but making the trip back to Elkhart, Indiana at least every month. I usually took a regional train down to Washington, D.C., and then rode the Capitol Limited west through the Allegheny Mountains. The old Baltimore and Ohio line followed the river valleys--the Potomac, then the Casselman, the Youghiogheny, and the Monongahela. Once west of Pittsburgh, the Capitol could do 79 miles per hour. But through the mountains, the top speed was rarely more than 50.

At the same time, I had serendipitously discovered the world of blogging. I had learned from my son Jim, an avid gamer, that White Wolf, the Atlanta-based publisher of role-playing games, was holding a novel writing contest for its revamped (pun not originally intended) World of Darkness series. The World of Darkness was one of vampires, werewolves, and mages. The new mage series had yet to be released, so the contest was limited to the world of vampires, set in Chicago, and the world of werewolves, set in Denver. I had lived in the Chicago area for some eight years, and I decided to enter the contest.

One of my characters was a seemingly young woman who called herself Cassandra, because she told truths about the vampire world that none of her fellow vampires would believe (except those in the power structure who were trying to eliminate her). But I needed the details of the Cassandra story. A Google search led me to The Cassandra Pages, Beth Adams’s fascinating blog. From there I linked to blogs all written by intelligent, caring people who shared many of my views and interests. Some of them are on my blogroll. I also learned that Jana Oliver, a high school classmate, not only had a blog, but was also a freelance writer. Since then she’s published a book, Sojourn, a time travel adventure (and a great read). I was hooked.

While I didn’t make it into the second round of the White Wolf contest (the story has since morphed into a time-travel adventure set in 2005 Philadelphia and 1968 Chicago), I’ve been bogging now for two years. I took the name from the liner notes of Bob Dylan’s album, “Highway 61 Revisited,” which begins, “On the slow train time does not interfere.” The song, “On the Slow Train,” by Flanders and Swann, a lament for the days of local passenger trains in Britain, was a secondary source. And of course, I was thinking of my many hours on the Capitol Limited, rolling through the Alleghenies.

In the two years I’ve been blogging on the slow train, I’ve found new friends and have learned much from my fellow bloggers.

So what’s next on the slow train? I plan to begin a feature called “Discarded Wisdom,” which will review books discarded from local libraries. And a story on Rudy Bladel, a man who was furloughed by the New York Central and responded by becoming a serial killer.

Many thanks to my friends in the blogging world for their support.


Peter said...

Happy blogging anniversary, Steve! Your blog is a big highlight of my blog-surfing.

Does the Capitol Limited still run through the mountains?

I bet they'll be a lot of blog material here for dicarded wisdom. I read that local libraries are getting rid of classics (Dickens, Thaackery, etc.) because no one is checking them out.

steve said...

Peter, I'm honored. And yes, the Capitol still follows the former B&0 route through the mountains. You miss most of the scenery going west, but the eastbound ride is glorious.

I'm afraid you're right about the classics. My wife wanted to read Walter Scott (she's very proud of her Clan MacRanald ancestry) and found virtually none of his works available. (I think they had Ivanhoe, which she had already read.)

My feature probably won't revisit the classics, but lesser-known, sometimes recent works. The first one will be "Nice Guys Finish Seventh," by Ralph Keyes, a fascinating look at misquotation.