Holy fucking shit, you guys. I’m pretty sure I was in fact born on this train, will die or have already on this train, and am unsure if anything actually exists except for this train. I’ve been on it for about 35 hours already, with ten-odd more to go. I’ve breathed fresh air twice since Chicago, and one of those times was to frantically haul my shit off the train and then back onto another car, so as to actually wind up in Seattle and not Portland. Good job, self. I am never getting on a train again in my life.
…she says as she contemplates a 35-hour trip down to Southern California to see some cats. Well, and to see Jeff too, and meet his girlfriend, and possibly join forces to make Jeff regret introducing us, which is probably worth the trip in and of itself. Plus, y’know, cats. It’s been way too long since this blog was inundated with cat pictures.
I forget from whence I last updated — and am thoroughly, terrifying internetless up here in the fuckville mountains or wherever the hell we are (it’s absolutely, maddeningly gorgeous, but now it’s pitch black so I can go back to complaining about it) so I can’t check, but anyway.
Friday, I guess, I took off from New York, leaving a half bag of oranges and some cheez-its in Josh’s apartment, and probably a faint smell of old socks and futility. As usual I spent most of the time in the cafeteria car, chatting for awhile with a woman who had very strong opinions of NYC’s Hotel Pennsylvania and a guy who was a fellow hippie liberal and runs a Facebook group of students for Bernie Sanders or whatnot, both of whom were interesting, but Albany stole them from me, as Albany always does. And met another new friend in the wee hours, when the entire rest of the train was unsettlingly reminiscent of Matrix pods or something, or those movies where the heroes discover an intact train or plane filled with the peacefully dead.
After a few hours of dozing, finally bounced off into Chicago-land in the early afternoon or so and hauled my bike onto yet another subway, finally landing at Bill’s place. And Bill was in fact my first sanctuary when I set off from Milwaukee back in August, so that’s kind of cool. Plus: dogs!
Stayed up long enough to shower and pet Chester for awhile, and then promptly passed the fuck out for a couple of hours.
Neither of Bill nor I are particularly into fireworks, so later on we passed on going down to the lake or wherever and just got dinner, then to a bar with a neat rooftop deck for a couple of beers. Which turned out to be a pretty sweet compromise between actually watching the fireworks versus just standing on his lawn brandishing our canes, since we had a decent view of some of the bigger explodey-things, but minus the proximity and crowds.
And the weather was fucking beautiful, man — sometimes I forget how much better everything is when you’re not in Florida in the summer.
Or, you know, at all. Sorry, mom.
Monday I met up with aforementioned new friend from the train trenches for lunch — by which I mean walking around the Union Station area bewildered by the fact that everything was closed because what the fuck it’s fucking downtown Chicago why is like Starbucks closed, and then ending up on the floor of the station with food court food. Which was, to be fair, pretty tasty.
And then rather nearly missing my 2:15 train because I’d just idly pulled out my phone to look at something and realized oh shit oh shit it’s 2:00. But I didn’t.
For better or for worse, really, because then I stepped into this Empire Builder train and every hour that passed I become increasingly convinced that I will never actually step off of it. These people are my new family. Or have always been my family. The cafeteria proprietress calls me sweetheart, as she has for a thousand years and will for a thousand more.
(Welcome to Night Vale.)
Man, I was loopy before I even got on this fucking train. And I have no internet to soften the brittle edges of awake too long and gone too far. And I can’t sleep. Sorry, y’all.
Going through Milwaukee was strange; it’s been less than a year since I moved away, so there’s still the lingering feeling of home every time I see the skyline and downtown and my old office. But it is not in fact home, at all.
My seatmate through Minneapolis was a character as well. She’s a Talker, capital-T, but entertaining. She introduced herself immediately:
“By the way, my name’s Cathleen,” she says, awkwardly extending a hand.
I blink. “Uh, my name’s also Cathleen. But I go by Cat.”
Her eyes grow wide. “I *also* go by Cat!” she exclaims. “C or a K?”
“Me too!” She digs out her ticket to show me. We’re best friends now.
At least, until she mentioned that she’s going back to Minneapolis for her three-month check in, since she’s on probation for aggravated assault.
Maybe we’re just, you know, acquaintances.
…Back to the cafeteria car it is.
And I chatted for a few hours with another randomly-met denizen of Tumblr, who noticed my scrolling through it thanks to the mobile hotspot clutched in my greedy little hands (or bags). In retrospect, I hope I hadn’t accidentally left my Tumblr feed idling on porn, but it’s a coin toss on that one.
So Wisconsin melted into Minnesota into North Dakota, the harsh summer colors so strange to my East Coast eyes. Beautiful, but so different form the lurid, almost offensively verdant plant life of a Florida summer.
Montana, though, man. They ain’t lyin’ when they call it Big Sky Country. I realize that basically every person who’s ever set foot (or wheels) in Montana probably said that basically verbatim but fuck you. It’s beautiful — it’s breathtaking — but holy shit, is it bleak.
As are — unsurprisingly — the little mountain towns…
We’re about two hours behind schedule, it seems, so it was basically dark by the time we got to the Rockies, but we did get a pretty spectacular sunset just on the edge of the mountains. There was a park ranger on board — I think he was supposed to give like an actual presentation, but again, delayed, so he just kinda wandered around the lounge/observation talking to people and pointing out cool shit — and he said that recent forest fires gave the sunset a unique color, all grey and gold and brown somehow both vivid and washed out. I only had my iPhone camera on me, which did not do it justice.
There was maybe twenty minutes of fading light as we got into the Rockies, enough to catch a few vistas of oddly jagged peaks in contrast to the ancient mountains of the Northeast.
I’ve only been to/through the Rocky Mountains once before, when my ex and I (who’s probably reading this at some point: hi goat!) decided to drop acid in a Denver strip club in like 2003 and then scoff at the “Heavy Winds and Snow Ahead” sign on the mountain road, because we were from balmy DC and it was April for fuck’s sake, and also we were stupid and, you know, on acid. But that’s a story for another time and a less public internet space. Which I should probably have thought of before I, you know, basically told the story in a public internet space, but it is funny.
The ranger recommended we all wake up around 6:00 so we can see the sun come up on the eastern face of the Cascades, which sounds fucking amazing and there is no chance I’ll be doing it. Unless I just can’t sleep at all, which is always a possibility.
Tomorrow: the western end of Montana, through a little biddy-boop of Idaho, and then Washington! I realized that once I wander down through Oregon en route to California, then South Dakota will be my only greyed-out state left on my map of US states I’ve been to. Oddly, I do not feel compelled to remedy that with any urgency. (And granted, I’m absolutely including states that I “visited” for half an hour in order to find a gas station or something, but whatever.)
We should hit Seattle around noon, at which time I will immediately get on another train down to Tacoma, where my friend shall retrieve my lost little soul eventually.
See y’all back on solid ground for a minute.