EMPIRE BUILDER STATE OF MIND.

You decide to take the Amtrak to Idaho, because the roads are icy and your car has old tires, and on the train, you can read and sleep and dream. You step out onto the platform with your rolling suitcase, and you are alone, because your family left yesterday, and they are already making angels in snow drifts beside a frozen idaho lake. You find car number two and the conductor assists you as you step up into the stale-smelling, yet impressive train known as the Empire Builder. You are wearing snowboot-moonboots and they are large and awkward and you trip a little bit as you move your way down the aisle, looking for a spot by a window. You claim seat number seventeen, get comfortable in your new space and recline in your blue chair. As the train pulls out of the station, you try and focus on the view of the city, but mostly all you see are warehouses and fog. After you eat your peanutbuttersandwich dinner, the darkness sets in and paints the world black. You notice that your feet are sweating in your big fur boots, and you decide to watch a movie, which is not good, but you finish it anyway. You read the same paragraph in your book nineteen times, then you get distracted by an announcement that the dining car is open for Jimmy Dean sandwiches and cans of Coors. Instead of heading to the meal car, you have a conversation with yourself in Spanish while dividing your hair into tiny sections in an attempt to give yourself cornrows. You stare out the window and pretend that you are not listening to the woman across the aisle from you, who is talking to someone on the phone, telling them they need to: “send the papers for the thingy or it will be too late and haven’t we already been over this blahblahblah “. You pick the remaining bits of gold polish off your nails, then open up the amtrak brochure and ponder other railway adventure opportunities, such as the Texas Eagle to San Antonio or the Heartland Flyer to Oklahoma. Around midnight, the train rolls to a slow stop and the voice of the conductor announces that you have arrived in Spokane, that the train will stop for two hours and that people may disembark if they “wannasmoke”. The crowd in car number two erupts into cheering, and ninety-five percent of the passengers file off the train to go stand in the snow and light up. You watch them from your window as they huddle in clusters and flicker flame into the darkness. And now, without the rocking of the car or the turning of the wheels, you notice that the night is silent and still, except for: the rhythmic and contented sleep sighs of an elderly fellow two seats ahead; the open mouth snoring of the man across the aisle (whose head is tilted back at a painfully awkward angle); and the droplet sounds from the galaxy notebook of the girl in front of you (you wonder if she is texting or just erasing pictures off her phone). As you listen to the passengers coughing, sneezing and breathing around all you, you suddenly feel wide awake and mildly anxious. By the time you manage to find a comfortable position with your loaf-of-bread-sized amtrak pillow, wedging your head in-between the seat and the sweating window, you feel the conductor shaking your shoulder with urgency in order to alert you that the Empire Builder has arrived at its destination. He tells you that Idaho time is 2:37 am, and that the forecast says snow. With a smile, he hands you a brown plastic Amtrak pin, and waves goodbye from the open door of the moving train. And as you are standing alone in the freezing night, watching the train continue on down the line, feeling the winter air on your face and listening to the sound of snowflakes fall from the purple-white sky, you pull out your Amtrak badge and pin it like a medal on your jacket, because its been a long night and riding the railway is a bohemian adventure. But you made it, and at this point, nothing can break your empire builder state of mind.

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