In the movie “Apollo 13” (one of my favorites), there’s a scene where Tom Hanks, as astronaut Jim Lovell, tells a story of how losing his cockpit lights over the Sea of Japan might have saved his life, since the ensuing darkness enabled him to see the trail of phosporescence churned up by the aircraft carrier he was looking for. At the end of the scene, he says something like, “You never know what’ll transpire bring you home.”
The scene is running through my mind now because of my decision to bring the netbook to National. I waffled quite a bit. I really wanted to bring it, partly to show it off because I still think it’s really cool, but also for another reason I couldn’t articulate. Something inside was saying, “Do it.”
The conservative, careful side of my nature was questioning the call. What if I lost it? What if it got stolen? Wouldn’t taking care of it, making sure it was safe, be a pain in the neck?
I had pretty much decided not to bring it, when Jessica of The Moody Muses posted something about National — a request to tell stories as the conference went on for those who didn’t make it this year. That completely tipped the balance in favor of taking the netbook.
As it happens, my fears have proved to have no basis in reality. There’s an easy-to-use safe in the room that’s big enough to tuck the netbook into when I leave, so I don’t worry about it disappearing on me, and I don’t take it anywhere, so I’m unlikely to lose it.
The best thing about bringing it is the one thing I didn’t expect: I’m writing. I’ve written every day I’ve been here, 300-400 words a day. I could have written longhand, but I somehow doubt would have. I’m surprised by this, but also quite pleased. So you never know what’ll transpire when you bring things with you to National.
I haven’t talked much about the conference itself — no real reporting, that is — because I don’t feel as if I’ve been particularly plugged in. The laryngitis is almost certainly part of a cold I have, and that cold has made me a little (maybe more than a little) out of it. I also think all the writing I’ve done has detached me a bit. I’m living half in DC and half in the empire of Altus Estania.
One thing that I really, really, really like about this conference site is that there’s a CVS pharmacy across the street. I walk down the service driveway, cross the street, and there I am. I’ve been able to get lots of water (9 liters) for my little water bottle, cold medicine, hard candy to soothe my throat, and odds and ends I managed to forget to pack without having to trek any great distance (a blessing, given the heat and humidity).
Last night, I went to dinner with my goal-setting group. Three of us have been meeting at National since 1999 to eat, laugh and set goals we don’t usually meet. We rode the Metro to the restaurant, which was a minor adventure. I’ve been on three public transportation systems now — the MBTA in Boston, the BART in San Francisco, and now the Metro in DC — and I have to say it’s all variations on a theme. Which is obvious when you think about it, but I never thought about it.
The only…interesting part of the trip was the escalator in the stop near the hotel. It’s really steep and I’m guessing that it’s a good three stories high. I don’t mind heights, but I have issues with stairs. I had to grip the bannister and look up because I started to freak out just a little bit.
That’s my writing life: Adventure at every turn.