I was on a writing marathon at the beginning of April up in north-central Nebraska and wrote this piece. Eight writers, mostly teachers, spent the day engaging with the world in that special way that writing marathons provide. I wrote the piece below for the story on the Nebraska Writing Project’s website. Many thanks to all of our hosts in Holt County and to my writing friends who never fail to provide the whole “in good company” phenomenon (an idea that shows up in the title of the best book out there on writing marathons, The Writing Marathon: In Good Company Revealed).
“Why would they want to come here?”
Jennifer’s students asked her this question when she told them that a bunch of writers were coming to O’Neill. They are too young to know yet that it doesn’t matter where we go. That it doesn’t really matter where any of us go. Or where we are. What matters is what we do.
Exhibit A: Randy Goeke, co-owner of R.F. Goeke Variety, an old-fashioned dime store in Atkinson, Nebraska. Hidden in the back of the store is a real soda fountain that Randy has lovingly restored to its original glory and which he operates in vintage style. In his white soda jerk hat and crisp apron, he makes me a “Green River,” a classic drink that he says is the true test of a real soda fountain. It comes out frothy and neon green, perfect and beautiful.
I sit and slurp with the other writers who are stubbornly taking up every one of the eight seats at the counter. We are reluctant to leave the chrome-plated 1950s bubble of this local wonder. Randy asks us to sign his guest book. He tells us a story about a young visitor who needed to be coached in how to operate the store’s old school rotary phone. Jeff suggests that we all write soda fountain haikus. I struggle with mine but eventually hand this one to Randy:
Green River goddess
soaks in soda fountain bliss,
lingers in the froth.