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This is CHAPTER 24 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Last we left off: Big Doodle Dayton had appeared on national TV. He was about to make a very important announcement on his former best friend and Lucinda’s dad, Bill Watkins. 

As I have mentioned we are nearing the end of our journey with Lucinda. It’s kind of a sad time. During the writing of a novel, LOTS of stuff gets written, it’s brilliant, then it has to be cut. Most of what I cut during the editing of this novel was sad or pensive or not quite the right tone or too draggy. Some of it I really liked, such as this sentence where Lucinda describes the weeks immediately following her dad’s death: “Mother would be dressed to the nines but with no makeup on, as if she had leaned into the bathroom mirror and couldn’t bear to paint her sorrow.” 

Or this bit about the Vietnam Memorial:

“I was not one of those Southerners who had nothing for the nation’s capital because it was an ever-present reminder of who won “the War.” I would love to see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington’s bright white needle in the sky, not to mention the new statue of Dr. King. I’d seen the Vietnam Memorial once, the traveling version set up in the stadium where the Jackson Generals usually played baseball. Instead of boys running the bases, there stood the black gash of a memorial, its surface dotted here and there and everywhere with baby shoes and high school trophies, curled sheets of piano music, notebook pages marked A+—love notes offered to their dead by wives and sons and daughters. The memorial was heavy with sorrow because, whatever else you wanted to say about our woebegone South (and there is plenty to say), it had always given graciously—and without thanks—in every one of our nation’s wars, the Vietnam War being no exception.”

They aren’t all sad. Some were funny but too much of a digression, like this:

“I was riding in a cab in St. Paul, pretending like I’d ridden in cabs all my life. Thing is, there aren’t any cabs in Mississippi. Well, maybe one or two in Jackson, but they’re all at the airport. If you need a cab anywhere else, see can you find one. This cabbie was nice, even though he’d made me repeat “Strathmore House” three times. The last time, I think, just for fun.”

This one points up how quickly a novel can get dated—who rides cabs anymore? But Lucinda is riding cabs all over this novel—to Big Doodle’s house, to the Gminsky’s house. When I first started riding the train in Memphis, I called cabs at 6:10 in the morning to come take me to the train station. It was a harrowing experience. I never knew if the cab would arrive or not. The minutes ticking by, no cab in sight, the train blowing its whistle. But. I also had some great conversations with cabbies. The most recent time I took the train, I walked to the station because now I live at the old loading dock of the train station. It’s a long story, and we’re too far along for me to explain. So we’ll just let that be it. 

I’ve put a link to The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in the Notes Section, though apparently there are many traveling walls so hunt around if this one doesn’t suit. 

I think that’s enough preliminary information. Now go read Chapter 24 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE.

Helpful Train Hint: Trains have different types of stops. Full stops. Flag stops, where they only stop if a passenger on board has bought a ticket to that location. Cigaret stops, where you can get off and smoke a cigarette, but you better be quick about it. When you’re riding the train, listen carefully to the conductor so you know what type of stop is upcoming. 

Footnotes: Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall

#TrackingHappiness, Amtrak train trip, Novel revisions, riding the train, Tracking Happiness, Tracking Happiness chickens, Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure, Traveling Vietnam Memorial

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