First Dispatch from College Park

Tuning in from the Kerouac Project House, where Jack Kerouac lived, on and off, with his mother, and where he "wrote, brooded and hid out in the months after his influential novel "On the Road" came out in 1957." It’s been nine days since I became Writer in Residence here, and though I’m not 82% percent done with a new book, I’m happy with how things are going. The first half of the novel is clicking into place and for the first time in months, I’ve started a new short story.

The house is located in the College Park neighborhood of Orlando, where the streets are cobbled and the freight trains run all night. The trains and the brick remind me of being a kid in Brookfield, IL, a town boxed by railroad tracks and where tuckpointers like my grandpa always had work. Slowness is the general rule. Cars roll by as if lost. Even on a bike, I feel like I’m going too fast. The pace of my immediate neighborhood seems to be a slow jog. Across the street, my cheerful elderly neighbor rakes oak leaves in a pink jumpsuit all morning while her Basset Hound watches from the yard. Sometime between noon and two, she pulls her beige Plymouth Valiant out of the carport and backs it into the garage. The garage is about three inches wider than the car. The procedure takes about fifteen minutes, and it's riveting. So I find my day divides itself into two parts: Plymouth-in-carport (PIC) and Plymouth-in-garage (PIG). It is my goal to have written a thousand words by PIG time.

It’s a far cry from Santa Cruz or Silicon Valley, and that’s a good thing. Novelty brings inspiration. And freshness of place isn’t the only lovely thing about this residency. There’s the space: more square footage than I know what to do with, not to mention the mental breathing room. And time: three whole months in this historic house.

There’s a great old oak out in front of the house. To me it embodies the grandiosity, wildness, and grace of Jack Kerouac’s work. I’m going to climb it one these afternoons...

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