Friday, March 22, 2013

Here to Connect with Folks I Don't Know


I am on this train to connect with human beings. I want to learn what I can from them and exchange stories to pass the time.

Interactions have especially been encouraged because I spend around 98% of my time in the Observation Lounge. The walls and parts of the ceiling are glass and it feels open, spacious, and gives the illusion of fresh air which is something I need after being in the coach section of the train. The constant moving of stale air dries out my nose to the point where it bleeds without warnings 'cept the tell-tale feeling of a stream of warm way up in your nostril.

The train is set with people prepared with the same question: Where are you going?

That's the basis of every relationship established on the train. Your destination sets the tone for the conversation and stories flow from there. It usually takes a few minutes for me to decide if this is a person I want to engage long term with. Currently, to my right is Daniel, the most recent lad I've been fortunate enough to collide with.


As I staggered back from a frigid walk outside in St. Paul and through the coach cars to the Observation Lounge, I commented out-loud something about reading a book.

“Which book?” someone asked.

And that's how I met Daniel.

An engaging fellow who, and I quote Daniel quoting another train passenger who also had a Biblical name, Michael, but I didn't meet him, “[has] certain energy to [him].” Ahh! I'm actually not sure that quote fit in there. Maybe I should have just started by describing Daniel in my own words. I'm currently curious if he goes by Dan because he kinda seems like one. I could ask him right now but my fingers are too occupied to pause.

Daniel is someone who, over and over again, made sense and made me want to fist pump and go, “Hoorah! Yes! Indeed! So be it!” A lot of times, I felt like I was hearing myself as we talked about community college, not getting four year degrees, and how folks need to just go ahead and do things. If you want to go travel around the country on a train, save up and do it. If you've got a desire to experience Russia (although I didn't until after I bought the plane ticket), go ahead and make it happen. So much, so much is possible.

He's currently on a 45-day trip around the nation --- genuinely (notice I'm refraining from using the word “literally) around the nation. Portland to Chicago to Los Angeles (I think) and then up a bit and crossing back to Chicago to skitter the East coast and cruise on down to the South. This is something I've dreamed of doing and will do, but now is not the season for that. I'm excited for him and can only imagine everything he's going to see as he circles around and around. The United States of America is a pyrex baking pan full of diverse vibrant postcard moments. Montana's postcard is, in general, very flat. I should have warned you that a bad metaphor was coming up that wouldn't really help you better understand the idea I was trying to get across. Maybe I'll need to set aside a grand to do a similar train trip when I get back.


I appreciate that he is one of the first people I can sit alongside and feel like I don't need to constantly engage with – which is sort of what constitutes some of the dapper friends I have back West. In travelling, it's sometimes hard to get to that point with strangers where you can feel satisfied in saying what has been said and don't feel the need to make an excuse to depart. A lot of train conversations end with one of us looking at our watch and commenting on how they need food or to stretch. He did get food once, but he left his backpack. He says he has a friend who just looks like me. She's a burner. I saw her picture and didn't see it in her face, but I think it may be more in the mannerisms.


I also met Ben, the potter. Ben, like Emilie, is at a very different stage of life from me. He was in Montana checking out a pottery job. He chose to take it. I hope his kids get to visit him lots there. Ben is chill and real. I woke up at 4:58 AM this morning and he was the only sober one that was awake in the Lounge. Also in there were two men, blabbering their disoriented minds out, and a young women who might or might not have been enjoying their companionship at such an hour.


Nancy and Doug were a wonderful couple I got to engage with multiple times. They've been married for 34 years and also had some of their kids and one of their granddaughters on the train with them. They were headed home after a weekend skiing at Whitefish, Montana. You could tell that they were genuine, loving, and open. They didn't talk down to me at all, yet it felt sort of like having parental figures on the train. Nancy was the first person I felt like I had connected with on the train (not counting Nyklus since I got to bombard him off the train). They're some people I would enjoy seeing again sometime. They brought closure to our time together by taking me out for breakfast on the Dinning Car and I was grateful to them. I probably ran into them most on the trip.

Through connections, I've failed to do as much reading and writing as I had aspired to. I'm only on page 53 of Letters from Russia and started page six of text. I guess what this “living in the moment” thing is about, though. I'm just anxious not to let any of it go.

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