The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Whirl and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary on Monday. This past year has been a peculiar year for both of us. We both used up all our our available vacation, sick leave and then some back in the first three months of the year. We did not have any significant amount of time off. I had managed to work most of Memorial Day weekend which gave me a few hours of ‘comp time’. Whirl had done something similar. So with a single day off, we set about finding a getaway destination that might provide us a small bit of peace and tranquility.

We took the train to Springfield, Illinois.

I realize this is an odd choice for a romantic anniversary weekend. There were restrictions on our travels. Due to the head injury, I am not allowed to fly for a year. We do not own a car. Whirl does not drive at all. The last time I drove a car was shortly before the injury. We traveled downstate to help paint my grandfather’s house. I do not think—nor does Whirl—we do not think that it is a good idea for me to get behind the wheel of a car without some practice. Particularly not starting in downtown Chicago driving in downtown Chicago and on the Stevenson (or Kennedy or Eisenhower or Dan Ryan or Edens or Bishop Ford or any of them, really) can be a challenge for anyone.

So airplanes were out; automobiles were out. That left trains and boats. We looked into the various possibilities of destinations. As it was just going to be a three-day vacation, we did not want the travel component to be particularly long. Three or four hours to get to where we were going would be about the limit. That yielded a short list of rail destinations that included Joliet, Galesburg, Quincy, South Bend, Milwaukee, Kalamazoo and Springfield. – We did not find anything remotely reasonable as far as boat trips on Lake Michigan. I suppose we could have taken a bus. Nothing says romance like Greyhound.

We decided on the train.

Whirl had never been to our state capital. I have been there with my family and grandparents, but it was years ago. I think I was eleven. As we have done on several of our anniversaries, we stayed in a bed and breakfast: the Inn at 835. My child bride selected this particular choice primarily due to the rumors that it is one of the most haunted buildings in the entire state. While we did not encounter any ghosts, spectres, poltergeists or Things Man Was not Meant to See, others apparently have. Read some reviews, particularly the one from the patron from Charleston, South Carolina posted on October 22nd, 2004.

The time in Springfield was quiet and quite relaxing. We toured many of the historical sites, including the Illinois Statehouse, the old Illinois Statehouse, the Lincoln Home, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum and the Illinois State Museum.

Of all the places we toured, our favorite was the Lincoln Home. The National Parks Service has preserved approximately four square blocks of Springfield and is working to restore many of the homes on those blocks that surround Lincoln’s home. The effect is considerable, as it provides the subtle context that would otherwise be missing. Stepping onto the unpaved streets and wooden sidewalks makes it that much easier to imagine life in 1860.

The old Illinois Statehouse was also quite impressive. The volunteers working at the historic building were engaging, insightful and funny. Whirl bantered with one volunteer about the current national and state political situations much to my amusement.

In stark contrast to Chicago, Springfield rolled up the sidewalks at about 6 pm—and they seemed to stay rolled up until Monday morning. When we were done with the museums and historic buildings we returned to the inn for something to eat and spent some quiet time together.

I had set myself a single goal for the weekend—other than not worrying about anything: particularly health and work. I wanted to finally complete Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series. I had come very close to finished before the injury, and since then have not done as much reading as I would like. Now my list of books to read continues to grow. I wanted to accomplish reading one from the top of the stack.

As the quote at the top of this post has probably given away, I accomplished my goal. I read the last five hundred remaining pages of Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower. My review is quite favorable. Whirl and I have discussed the series many times. She has been a consummate fan of Stephen King for many years. This series is often regarded as his magnum opus. There are seven novels in the series proper, yet it is easily argued that the characters, stories, plots and themes stretch out from this series to in some way touch almost every other story King has written. I consider myself a fan of King’s work. I have not read everything the man has written. If I were to count, I have probably read fifteen to twenty of his novels—including the seven in the Dark Tower series. It is perhaps for that reason that my favorite novel in the Dark Tower series is the one that seems the most self-contained, Wizard and Glass. It stands on its own with the least amount of support from the other books in the series, and the strength of purpose encompassed in King’s greater bibliography.

This is not to say I disliked the rest of the series. I did like it. Wizard and Glass is the strongest section—the most compelling.

I have been putting off the next book on my list since my mother sent it. Brainlash was written by a friend Mom made at a folk music camp in Boulder this past year. The author writes about the book’s purpose: Brainlash offers support, information and insight into the daily challenges and triumphs of living with the consequences of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). After a couple days of on-and-off reading, I am halfway through. I am conflicted about how I feel about the book and that state contributes to what I might say here. I am not done with the book; there may be more in there that I have not yet come across. That said, I do not much like the bulk of what I have read. Part of my discontent stems from Denton’s writing style. I find her style overly metaphorical, punctuated with self-promotion, “feel good” messages and unsympathetic allusions to a variety of invisible hand theories to which I cannot reasonably subscribe.

I wonder if part of my discontent with the book has to do with the book’s purpose. Her experience– and her stated intended audience—is one of being a victim of what she calls “the unseen injury”. Her brain injury did not come from a bullet wound, or an obvious blow to the head. The obvious trauma to her body was elsewhere, and the brain injury was left untreated for a significant stretch of time. Her injury did not register on an MRI or a CT scan. I do not mean to say that Denton was not injured; she was. I can only speculate that it is this invisible, untreated nature to her injury that has added such an evangelical tone to the work. A near-constant cry to say, See! I hurt my brain! when, for me, that was never the case. From the moment people began treating me, my injury was obvious. I have never had to convince anyone that I was injured—and injured severely.
Another factor may be my stated dislike and distrust for psychologists. In this experience and in others in my life, psychology is a field that has not offered me a lot of practical help.

“Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebel’s hidden fortre–” [ Vader chokes the Admiral with the Force ] “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

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