Turning Journals Into Novels

I was looking back at some of my travel journals and thought it might be fun to rewrite parts of them in novel format. In this piece, based on my visit to Venice, the characters and situations seemed like something out of a Charles Bukowski novel and I found myself borrowing some of Bukowski’s bawdy and direct writing voice. It was interesting how taking on another writer’s personality freed me up in my own process and led to the piece almost writing itself. Here’s the first installment.

Jolly Camping
The train from Bologna to Venice only took an hour. As I walked out of Santa Lucia Station the view of the Grand Canal knocked the breath out of me. Like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon, all wide open and shimmering. Then I noticed the hoards of tourists rushing around everywhere. Up and down the footpaths and over the little bridges they went, their faces dead serious. JEEZ, what’s the hurry I wondered? Were they trying to get to a business meeting, or something?
I strolled over a bridge pulling my suitcase, trying to imagine I was the only one there. Enormous grey seagulls with vicious beaks sailed close to my head and below me gleaming white boats PUTT PUTT PUTTED along. Real pretty. I could have stood on that bridge for hours sucking it all in but it was getting late and I had to find the campsite. Besides, people were getting annoyed with me standing in the way of their precious shots. Like I said, dead serious.

Finding the campsite wasn’t so easy. Once the bus had dropped me off on the mainland my map reading skills failed miserably. It should have been a short walk but I wound up going back and forth along the same side streets forever. I was starting to lose it when a young guy walked by lugging a colossal, filthy backpack. He was reading a map. I could tell he was lost too.
“Going to Jolly Campsite?” I asked.
“I sure am,” he said in a slow Southern drawl.
Ken was probably the most optimistic person I’d ever met. We’ll get there in no time, don’t worry about a thing, he kept saying. He also seemed to know statistics on everything, like the exact kilometres from New York to Los Angeles, and the cubic diameter of several planets. I wouldn’t know how far it is from my bedroom to the bathroom door. We were hitting it off, but no closer to finding the campsite. We’d just become two lost people instead of one. In desperation I approached two old ladies getting into a car. In addition to knowing the way to the campsite they offered to drive us there. I’ll never know how they squeezed Ken’s filthy backpack into their tiny trunk.
I was sure glad to finally lay eyes on Jolly Campsite. The receptionist had on a huge smile. Her name was Mini. Did I want to upgrade from a tent to a cabin, Mini asked. I thought about it for a second. The tent had seemed like a fun option when I booked and I was still in the mood for a little adventure.
Mini showed me to my tent, or should I say ‘shack’. Four walls of plastic sheeting and transparent windows. Jeez. This didn’t look like an adventure at all. It looked extremely depressing. I had a word with Mini.
The cabin was much better. Not huge but I liked the porch outside. It had twin beds but I was the only one there. Very cozy. My own little house in Venice. Things were looking up. I unpacked, put on a clean shirt and went to check out the restaurant. I was dying for a cup of tea.
Never get too excited about anything. If you get too excited someone’s going to come along and drop a big lead ball on your foot. It’s the law of the universe. Me, I’m always getting excited by things, I never learn. When I got back to the cabin there was someone there. I knew it had been too good to be true. KAWUUMPP! That’s the sound of a lead ball landing on my foot.
He was unpacking his clothes onto my bed. Better keep things polite, I thought and introduced myself.
“Heyyyyy, I’m Gaston,” he said holding out his hand.
‎Gaston was from Buenos Aires. He had a cracking smile, I had to admit. Ear to ear. Extremely warm. For a second I forgot all about my bed. He also looked just like the actor Vin Diesel, complete with bald head beneath his baseball cap. Then Gaston let out a terrific sneeze.
“Bless you,” I said.
“Thanks man. I kiss a Malaysian girl in Rome and she give me this,” he replied, while wiping his nose with a tissue and shaking his head.
I had to feel sorry for the guy.
In addition to his movie star looks and Latin charm, Gaston was a mean ukulele player. He pulled out a little ukulele from his bag and played the theme song from The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Boy, he could really play. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It had probably done the same for the Malaysian girl.
I decided it was time to bring up the issue of my bed.

2 thoughts on “Turning Journals Into Novels

  1. Nice beginning. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Really appreciate your encouragement! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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