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Slightly embarrassed (and still completely nonfunctionally out of it, thanks in small part to a show at the Roseland ballroom last night and in vast quantities to the insanity that was the diverted Q train to Brooklyn last night, I’m barely sitting upright and I think Michael and I yelled at each other this morning but I honestly don’t even remember, I was so out of it) to learn that Bolt is actually a subsidiary of Greyhound, founded this spring to compete directly with the Chinatown buses. Early reports list the service as NY-DC only, although now the company has a Boston run too.

The question is – isn’t Bolt now competing with itself, ie Greyhound? Why couldn’t they just cut costs on the regular Greyhound line? Will this force the Chinese buses to get more organized and clean?

This also begs my two personal bus pet peeves – why can’t American buses install those amazing double-wide faux-leather Lazy-Boy-recliner seats with the radios in the arm rest like the awesome Spanish buses? And why can’t there be an attendant who brings around tea or coffee, hot towels and blankets to tuck you in at night, like the South American buses? (They do this in Turkey too, but the gentleman on that bus took a creepy interest in a friend of mine and she woke up with him beside her staring and I think almost touching, if not outright, so I’ll leave that off the list).

The list of East Coast bus services is getting long, so I’ll leave with one last question – what’s the best?

I ask not just for me, but for also for Mom, who has been pondering ways to take a weekend trip or two solo once we have our new place in Park Slope, and I think there’s some buses that will pick her up in Salisbury on the Norfolk-NY run, but I’m not sure nor do I know how nice they are.

At a recent writers’ conference I had a chance to attend a 90-minute session with Larry Habegger, the Executive Editor of the Travelers’ Tales series who also offers travel writing conferences – his latest accompanies a group to Turkey. My notebook from the session is buried in packing boxes right now, but often the lessons that stick in your head weeks after are those you actual learn. The highlights:

Twelve of us attended. A woman asked: why should anyone care about my personal experience? This gave her fits of writer’s block. She was particularly struggling with an essay about her old car. Several of us said we could totally relate to her ancient wheels, and Larry mentioned that proves that if its of interest to the author, there’s an interested audience. Write it, write it well, and people will read it.

We brainstormed for 10 minutes or so about the purpose of our writing. Thinking about the messages I hope my pieces convey. I came away with several lines I want to print large and hang on my wall for inspiration.

Larry read two 150 word vignettes from one of his books, short prose pieces of almost pure description that encapsulated a single emotion, from the insecurities of approach a Parisian matre d’ to the ghosts of war. He suggested vignettes as a writing exercise to spark creative juices.

Be emotionally honest, he said. A woman spoke of an essay she wrote about lap swimming, where she admitted an unflattering truth, but offered a lesson in patience and maturity. That essay sparked the most reaction of her career.

We spoke of memory too, and the power that comes from weaving the past into the present. Readers can travel to more than one place, and the emotional resonance ringing through the writing can capture an audience in ways flat description cannot. Larry discussed an essay where a spoonful of coffee returned the author to a childhood diner and his father. I would suggest the recent New York Times Travel article “In Mexico, on the Lam With Ken Kesey.”