Rich Wilhelm

Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

An Open Letter to AMTRAK

In trains on February 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Dear AMTRAK,

Word on the street, or on the tracks, is that AMTRAK has offered free “residency” train rides to writers, and that you may be offering more of these trips soon. If this is the case, I’d like to offer myself for one of these rides.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rich Wilhelm. I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and in-law. I am a friend to at least a few people as well.

Professionally, I am a writer and editor and have worked for the same organization for 24 years. I will more than likely be at this organization for awhile longer, which is fine.

But that’s not all. For example, since my father died in 2003, I have been seriously involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay of Life, the local version of which we’ve been holding in my town of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania since 2004.

I have also unexpectedly become a bit of a craftsman in recent years, making notebooks out of old cassette single sleeves, VHS tape boxes and record album covers. This means that I have sent Pokemon VHS tape box notebooks to people in Australia.

In another recent attempt to keep myself engaged and engaging in my middle-aged years, I trained to become a certified volunteer tour guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia two years ago. Laurel Hill was the first cemetery to be declared a National Historic Landmark and it is fascinating, eerie and beautiful. Becoming a tour guide at Laurel Hill was the culmination of a lifetime of poking around old cemeteries and visiting presidential grave sites.

I once walked Debbie Harry to her car, though some people I know doubt my version of that event.

At the heart of all of this, I am a writer. I’ve been published here and there and I’ve maintained various blogs since the dawn of the age of the word “blog.” Mostly, though, I’m simply a writer, who enjoys a good train ride now and then.

Way back in 1988, my friend Joe and I, just a few months away from college graduation, took a series of longs AMTRAK rides: Philadelphia to Chicago; Chicago to Memphis; Memphis to New Orleans; New Orleans to Atlanta; Atlanta to Philadelphia. It was quite a week. Adventures ensued. I spent a decent chunk of our train time that week writing in the journal that I’ve been keeping, more or less consistently, since 1981.

While writing has continued to be important to me, I’ve never really gone on any kind of writing retreat. Going on such a retreat might help me clarify the various writing ideas that have been tumbling around in my brain for the last few years.

So what I’m saying is, if you’d happen to invite me to take a long train ride, I might just be inclined to accept that invitation. I’d go anywhere, though a train trip that ends at your Philomath, Georgia, stop would be ideal since I’ve heard that people needing inspiration sometimes journey to Philomath.

Oh, can’t get to Philomath from here via AMTRAK? Well, I’m sure we can iron the details out later.

In any event, thanks for thinking of all of us writers/riders!

Regards,

Rich

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