26 September 2005

Long Day's Journey...

Well. This one'll likely be long, or incoherent, or both.

I'm writing on the train back to NYC, and, as I'm sure you know, I have definite mixed feelings about it.

I'm happy to be going back after five months away, but I'm not terribly happy about being out of work and having to scramble to pay rent again, after a little scrape with the IRS and some back taxes have put the kibosh on my attempts to save a couple months rent.

The bright side is that the folks for whom I worked at Time Warner seem to be interested in having me re-join them for more temp work, which would be great, and fun. I'm having lunch with a couple of my old pals there Monday, after I stop in at the beloved Laury Group agency for a visit with the new placement person. With any luck, I'll be back at work quickly, and the whole rent thing will sort itself out.

I generally love the train ride to and from Pittsburgh, but I have to say that since Amtrak has cut service on the Pennsylvanian line, it's a bit of a pain in the ass. There used to be two trains a day between New York and Pittsbugh, and now there's only one. Used to be, you could get a train at 7:20 a.m. and get in around 4:30 in the afternoon -- a very long, but very pleasant and scenic ride. Now the only train from Pittsburgh leaves at 1:20 p.m., and doesn't get in 'til nearly 11 p.m. And since I'm doing it on a Sunday, that pretty much guarantees I won't get to Kenny's apartment (where I'm staying while waiting for my sublet to leave at the end of the month) 'til nearly midnight -- subway service turns to poop late night on the weekends in NYC.

I don't know why I didn't just bite the bullet and pay the $300 for an airline ticket back in August when I still had money. I guess I just wanted the new camera too much, so now I'm paying the piper. The funny thing is that Ben, who was taking a plane back to NYC, is probably just landing as I'm writing this. And his plane left ten minutes after my train did.

There's a silver lining, though. On my last couple of train trips, the reduced service meant packed trains and an almost-assured nine-hour exposure to screaming babies. I seem to have dodged that bullet this time. This particular train is originating in Pittsburgh, so I didn't have to fight with already-ensconsed passengers for primo seating.

I'm near the restrooms, and they don't stink. You can't beat that with a stick.

1:55 p.m. -- We may be coming to our first station stop. The train is slowing to a crawl. It's either that, or we have to slow down to let some other train cross in front of us or pass us. I wonder which. In any case, we're not exactly flying along. I think I'm going to take a break for a while and recharge the battery on my camera. I also bought a book for my trip back -- the first I've bought for myself since getting that library card earlier in the summer. I must admit, the $30 non-resident fee for that card was the best investment I made. I probably read books that would have cost over $300 had I bought them for myself -- and then I'd have had to ship them home. Like I don't have enough crap to ship myself. Okay, we've been crawling along for nearly ten minutes, and we're not to a station yet. I wonder what the delay might be?

2:06 p.m. -- We just pulled in to the Greensburg, PA station, and boy there are a lot of people lined up on the platform! This train may get really crowded by the time we're really under way to New York. The threat of screaming babies still hangs over me like the Sword of Damocles.

I think I wrote earlier about having spent the morning with E.B. yesterday, trying to avoid saying my goodbyes. It was a hard parting for me because -- even though I still have no idea, really, if he would return the burgeoning feelings I have for him -- I've really grown to like him. The self-doubting pessimist in me keeps suggesting that he just wants to be friends, which, while disappointing, would be fine by me. But, truly, I want more with him. Well, I want to get to know him better, because I suspect he's a person with whom I could go deeper, emotionally.

I'm not sure what it is about him that's particularly special. He's smart, of course. And funny. And I think he's incredibly handsome, but that's subjective. He's sensitive. He really feels things. And he loves his dog in the most hilarious way. He's not like a showdog parent; he's more like a rough-housing dad. Well, a dad who's kid is a dog that looks like a muppet.

2:20 p.m. -- And we just blew through Latrobe, PA, birthplace of Rolling Rock beer. The locals pronounce it LAY-trobe, but the rest of us pronounce it LAH-trobe. Go figure. People in Pittsburgh pronounce the town of North Versailles as "Ver-sails," so they're not exactly in the position to mock anyone, are they? There's a town in the middle of Pennsylvania called "Dubois" that's pronouced "du-boys." Natch.

2:38 p.m. -- Wow. We're well into our climb into the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, and the countryside is just beautiful. The light -- even though it's only the first day of autumn -- is quite something, and we're passing above a river surrounded by forest. I just happened to be listening to the largo from Handel's "Xerxes" as we're passing along at what can only be described as a stately pace.

Too bad the battery's out of my camera and stuck in its charger. I don't mean this unkindly: Your loss.

3:09 p.m. -- Well, we've pulled in to Johnstown and another boatload of people got onto the train. They look like they're art of a tour group. And suddenly the "p" key on my keyboard is being recalcitrant, required a good, stiff keypunch before it'll work.

If it's not one thing, it's another, no?

3:48 p.m. -- Lawd, but we're crawling now. No wonder this trip takes 10 hours. The slow clickclick clackclack of the wheels on the tracks and the rocking of the car are lulling me to sleep. I may have to try for a nap. I'm reluctant to try for one, though, 'cuz I don't wanna sleep and then keep myself awake all night at Ken's. I have a lot to do tomorrow, so I can't afford to be up half the night.

4:30 p.m. -- We just pulled out of Altoona, PA, and the sky's become it bit overcast. I wonder if I might get rained on for my triumphant return to NYC.

Rather than take a nap, I decided to take my book and go to the dining car for a sandwich and a soda. Okay, I admit it. It was a hot dog and a soda. At least it was an all-beef hot dog.

It's really crazy to be sitting here working on the computer and not being able to pull up the internets to check our progress on a map. I've come to depend on the Google Maps page so much since I deleted the Rand McNally Streetfinder software from my computer. It worked off of a database on a CD, and the CD got cracked somehow a while back, so there was really no point in letting the program keep taking up space on the computer -- but boy it was handy when I needed to map something and the internets weren't available. Like now.

Anyway, while I was in the cafe car, we went around the famous "Horseshoe Curve." From the dining car at the back of the train, I could look out and see the engine ahead of us, going into the curve. I imagine it must have been quite a sight in the days when passenger trains were more than four or five cars long. Sadly, my fingers were all-over ketchup, so I couldn't grab the camera and snap any photos of the train going around the curve.

There was a little old lady sitting in the dining car as we were going through the curve,and she was just delighted by the whole thing. I sat there wondering if perhaps that sort of wonder at the world is something we lose during our middle years; like it's a gift we have as children, lose as adults, and regain once we come to the end of our lives. Your own mortality is something that'll bring home the joyous mystery of the universe, I would think.

There's a secret part of me, though, that is really just afraid that I'm generalizing what's basically a personal phenomena; that I'm the only one who's lost his sense of wonder, and in the general population, it's not something that's lost. I want to be continually amazed by the world, and in many respects am, but not always.

Oh, by the way: I found out why were moving so slowly.

As it turned out, some slow-moving Georgia Pacific freight traffic got in front of us as we were leaving Greensburg, PA, and we had to slow down so as not to ram it. The conductor insists that -- despite the delay, we'll make up the time later.

And now we've pulled into Tyrone, PA; a tiny little town with no proper train station -- just a tiny little shelter like you might see at a bus stop. What must it be like to live in a town like this?

5:32 p.m. -- We're in some serious mountains, now. Well, serious by Pennsylvania standards. And we're finally making up some lost time by zipping along through lovely mountain passes with streams below us on the embankment and peaks above. Part of me continues to ask, "Why would someone want to live all the way out here in the boondocks?" But another part thinks it's quite something, and really quite beautiful. Must be a bitch to be caught up here in the winder, though.

It's funny to think of there being farms on a mountaintop, but they're all over the place up here. Now we're flying past field after field of dead corn stalks. It's either been a seriously dry summer up here, or it's just that the corn-growing seaon is all done. Come to think of it, it is autumn, now. I guess the season is over.

I was sitting here looking out the window and I've just come to the shocking realization that I may have left some recently-purchased porn sitting on top of the VCR in my suite at the Shadyside Inn. How embarrassing is that?!? Worse, the money I spent on it is wasted!!!


6:13 p.m. -- Lewiston, PA. And another boatload of people getting on the train. Well, a train load, at any rate. At this point, I've still got around five hours to go on my trip. If we're running on time, that is.

The foreign lady across the aisle from me has been watching DVDs throughout the trip. Oh, had I been half so clever as to arrange my Netflix arrivals to coincide with my long day on the train. As I recall, on my way to Pittsburgh, I watched the better part of a whole season of The West Wing -- the fourth, I think -- while happily snuggled in my train seat. Whatever she's watching, it's making her laugh.

It's getting harder and harder to fight the urge for a nap.

I wonder what the weather is like in New York?

7:29 p.m. -- Harrisburg, PA. The train is full. Crying baby has moved in across the aisle. No joy in Mudville. The next three and a half hours will probably be tons o' fun.

The mom seems nice, at least.

9:02 p.m. -- Dog tired. And tired. Of. Talkative. Babies.

10:04 p.m. -- Philadelphia. An hour behind schedule. I'm not going to get into New York City until after 11:30, and it'll no doubt take me an hour to get to Kenny's apartment. That poor man. He's gotta be up early for work Monday morning. Hell, I need to be up early Monday morning!

There's always a bit of a delay in Philadelphia, too, because they change locomotives on the train. I'm not sure, but I think they use a diesel engine for the trip from Pittsburgh to Philly, and an electric engine into New York. I think I remember a conductor tellling me that once. Or I may be on crack.

Earlier, I thought we were going to make up time. The train was screaming along the tracks so quickly between Harrisburg and Philadelphia that the car was literally shuddering and rocking back and forth. I was getting seasick.

Now it's 10:15 p.m. and we're finally on our way.

The crazy thing about changing locomotives is that now it feels like I'm traveling in the opposite direction, because the new engine has been connected at the rear of the train.

I think there are only a couple of stops now before we hit New York, but we're still a good 1½ away, at least. Forgive me, Mr. Ken.

No comments: