Commentary 7: Tram #7 To Heaven

If memory serves, I think this was the first chapter written in Luxembourg using Jon Mack’s laptop. I spent 8 weeks in Lux; taking the first week off to get acclimated, writing every weekday for 6 weeks, then taking the last week off to celebrate the first draft. So it’s somewhat fitting that chapter 7 kicks off on an airplane since it was fresh in my mind.

This chapter actually serves to set up quite a bit of what will happen later on, especially when the narrator first arrives “home.” Foreshadowing includes Dad’s prowess with the guitar (and the ladies), the cute little redheaded girl, a vanishing love life in general, and the fact that not everybody blames Nelson for the death.

Other tidbits:

  • A flight attendant on the plane to Lux actually said “electronical.” Though technically incorrect, I really like it and have since adopted it.
  • The five dollar tomato was a late addition, inspired by a similar tale told by Jon’s roommate Andreas.
  • Flashing back to “the plan” was one way of cutting down the information overload in the previous chapter, where this scene originally took place.
  • If we were looking to make chapter title connections, floating around in mid-air seems pretty close to “Tram #7 To Heaven.”
  • Note on geography: Originally the plane had a layover in St. Louis, and during that layover was an entire deleted chapter about a trip to the 1946 World Series. In my original outline I knew I wanted to revisit both the Kurt Cobain death and a non-1986 Red Sox World Series game. That’s essentially the only reason the plot is bi-coastal. Once the layover was cut I just as well could have set the whole thing on the west coast, but it seemed to be an unnecessary rewrite. I think it does add to the plot to have had the narrator flee the “scene of the crime” as he calls it. The 3000 mile buffer also let’s me explain away a potential lingering question later on, but we’ll get to that when the time comes.
  • “For lack of a better term”/ “the elusive better term” is one of my favorite sentences in the book for some reason.
  • Speaking in song lyrics is addressed by the narrator for the first time here, partly to let readers who may have been confused by some phrasings to this point off the hook. When my wife would go through her early draft edits she would circle lots of phrases and put a question mark next to them. 90% of the time they were force-fed allusions. Most of the really gratuitous ones were rewritten, though there may still be a few.
  • Everyone I’ve talked to raves about the photography bit, and even my mother seems to appreciate it even though she partly inspired it. I sincerely believe that non-candid photos should be banned, with the only staged exceptions being professional portraits, school or team photos, and mug shots. (A driver license or passport photo counts as a mug shot.)
  • There are 40 known musical references in this chapter, as I’m really starting to play it up for Jon Mack’s benefit now that I’m in Lux and he’s noticed.

Read Chapter Seven Online

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