Budding Writer, 1979: Anothuh day, and anothuh, and anothuh

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A frosty sunrise over North Hero, Vermont, February 28, 2022. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Looking back through my journals of my first year as a freelancer, the entries begin to read like a script for “Groundhog Day” — except that the idea hadn’t been invented yet. Bill Murray wouldn’t relive the same day over and over for another 16 years. By then I’d be married with two kids and two jobs. No two days would be alike again.

Well, not until empty-nesting and retirement, anyway.

But only the day before, I had written that “tomorrow is anothuh day.” I was echoing Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.” But Scarlett was a manipulative, determined woman. Did Mitchell intend her to be looking for an opportunity, or just procrastinating? Or both?

I was in much the same dilemma — opportunity or procrastination — at the time. I wasn’t aware of a third possibility — that tomorrow is another day just like today — until I read these entries, which I’ll combine into one post.

Anothuh cold, frustrating, and wasted day. Car still won’t start and may need major repair because I overlooked simple tune-ups. Meanwhile we’re keeping her warm. I began redrafting the TV Guide article and continue to be dissatisfied with it. I drafted a letter to Kilmarx, though, so at least there was some accomplishment.

Howard W. Fielding, “Journal, Volume II,” 13 February 1979

For the record, the car in question was a lemon-yellow 1976 Chevy Vega wagon, which had an aluminum engine block that was notoriously fragile, especially in cold weather. They were, essentially, disposable engines. The reference to “her” was just a common practice at the time, like calling ships “she.” It was a term of endearment. Most people didn’t name or sex their cars, although many now do. Most of my cars have been male.

Next day came this entry:

Still cold, but Francis managed to thaw out my car, which I promptly took to Forward’s Garage* to make an appointment for Friday. Also did a little gift shopping in order to say thanks. Made significant progress on the TV Guide article and completed the first draft of the Kilmarx letter. …

op. cit., 14 February 1979

And then this:

Worked some more on the Kilmarx and TV Guide pices, then braved the cold to buy Francis a thank-you electric teakettle and myself a TV Guide. In the magazine I found an item about the death of “Coed Fever,” which makes my article that much more easy to write but that much less saleable.” …

Also had trouble starting my car tonight, but I promised to take her to the doctor tomorrow.

op. cit, 15 February 1979

That last sentence was awkward, but you see where this is going now, don’t you? If this were a novel or even a Bill Murray movie, I’d have telegraphed a few things already. But in NaNoWriMo terms, most of us live our lives as “pantsers.” We don’t plot out things in advance. We take things as they come, flying by the seat of our pants. And sometimes the fabric wears a little thin.

In writing this, I was delighted to learn that Forward’s Garage is now in its second generation and going strong as a family business. At the time of my frozen adventure, it was only in its third year after founding by Tom Forward in 1976.

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