Today’s ride was 50 km out of Chongwu along the coast. It was quiet, sunny, beautiful.. well, better than no coast, and a wonderful ride to ‘end’ with. Into Quanzhou we hopped a bus and went straight to Xiamen. In Xiamen we shipped our bikess, via rail to Shenzhen and called up our couch surfing host, a nice young lady. She gave us just what we needed a shower and a place to put our bags down. Fed, cleaned, and now interneted, we’ll stay here for a few days and then catch a bus into Shenzhen where we’ll pick up our bikes and ride across the border into Hong Kong, arriving earlier than expected, but still generally on time. Three days later we hope to meet two friends who will catch us up to speed on how to act American, as well as how to live well and drink hard. I expect good things. I’m especially looking forward to the reunion with my laptop, as I’m sure Dan’s excited about the 6 G’s of equipment he entrusted to a box and a generic non-insured shipping company. (fingers crossed)
A single engine diesel is all that moved the cars from Boston to D.C.
Seven cars in total.. but I didn’t really count, just guessed. Seven
is a good number for train cars and dice. Just one diesel though and
a cafe car, that’s where I chose to sit. There I’ve got power,
electric power, but also reign over my table. A four person table for
just me.. unless someone sits down of course. Here, in my domain, I
can sit with confidence, with pride. I make sure my table is clean.
I make sure my kingdom is happy, everyone smiles, and everyone laughs
at my jokes. Here all things are in order and from here I can observe
my neighbors, draw up treaties, wage war, elicit sanctions, in
general, rule with authority. I diverge.
My new domain is indicative that I’ve indeed left the greatest
smallest state of Rhode Island. The big RI was an interesting stop
along the way, a relaxing stop and certainly a homely stop. I was
greeted by my friend at the train station and promptly invited into
her family’s life. I wasn’t about to go out to parties and run the
town, this was a wake up in the morning and eat your breakfast kind of
household, a very pleasant place. There were four siamese cats, all
very friendly, a noisy bird, three stories, my own room, and lots of
trees outside, green trees, tall trees, and a garden with sweet cherry
tomatoes. There were about a dozen bird houses scattered about, atop
poles, hanging from branches, in trees, and even atop one tree, which
I found slightly remarkable. A small ravine dipped away from ground
level just fifteen meters away from the house, dark but not too deep
and a grand place to explore. Past the ravine was nothing, that I
could see, except more trees. I didn’t feel like I’d left Maine in
As I boarded the train bound for Philadelphia I thought, “did I see
it? Did I just float through Rhode Island or did I get a feel for it,
it’s value, it’s place, it’s people, at least as much as I could.” I
agreed I had, as much as I could have experienced it all in the
several days I was there and in a sense of agreement you only get when
you’re sitting by yourself on a train typing a short letter to
yourself. I evaluated. I saw rain and sun, woods and beach, swam in
a ‘pond,’ sat in a sauna, body surfed in the ocean, floated down a
river, crawed in muck and sand, ate fresh foods and canned, went to
the mall, walked through New Port, ate clam chowder and a salmon
burger, and watched every second of it go by. We talked, I listened,
read, and laughed a lot. While I could check things like Providence,
New Port, and Crazy Burger off my list, as the train barreled through
the state and onto Connecticut, I was in effect content, ready to be
on my way, but happy to have stayed.
Thus, there I was back on the Train, where there existed an odd sense
of home. Not the same sense that I was leaving, not the sense that
someone is looking out for you and yours, but the sense of familiarity
and possessiveness with a twist of safety. The standoffishness of the
other passengers coupled with their sense of willing weakness to
interact, eager for a catalyst. A perpetual state of limbo, of
passenger replenishment, a world where you stand still and the windows
project everywhere you’re not. I suppose that’s the motive force of a
single engine diesel. What a remarkable device.
Nowhere seemed to be the theme after I arrived in Boston.
Julia and Chris put me up for the night and then went off to sail in the morning. Their last day until school started. I began to walk.
I have never been to Boston. I wanted to know where they served tea, but I never asked. From MIT across the river to Fenway and its monster through the park and to downtown. Past china town and across another river. Into South Bay and to the water. Couldn’t find Sam Adams and his men, caught the bus back to MIT. Up into Cambridge and Dan called. Back to MIT. To the apartment, back up to Cambridge for lunch, across the river, picked up some ukes, into the park, down the street, Pour House for dinner and conversation with the waitress, back to MIT. Asleep.
Up in the morning, a walk about campus, and back to the apartment to gather our things, then over to South Station and on the bus to Portland. Goodbye for now Boston. Awake in Portland, Maine. Dr. Todd unlocks his car and we’re off for Wiscasset at midnight. Down into East Booth Bay, a right at Lukes Gulch (private rd) and another quarter mile the car shuts its lights off. A small dingy rests on the dock. We push it in and awkwardly slip in. The beam is three inches out of the water. The guessing game is moment from finality. Which is it? The schooner? That yawl? This thirteen foot sloop? There she sat, “Remedy”. A 35′ sloop all the way from Hong Kong some 40 years prior, a Cheoy Lee – though that builder still means very little to me. A brief tour ends at our birth in the forward cabin and morning come too quickly and too bright. I rectify this by closing my eyes and opening them an hour later. That’s better. This bay is beautifully clear, clean, wooded, calm. So this is Maine, eh?
After loading gear, running errands, fetching breakfast, and doing a cursory check of the rigging we’re underway for the day about the Bay, hooray.
A bit of a motor, the genoa (so called “jib”) is unfurrled, around lobster pots and islands through the harbor and back to the mooring. Bath time, we’re all in the water, then rapidly back out again. It looked delightfully warm, but had the taste of high school waterpolo hell week. You can’t help but laugh when you’re out lasted and out shivered by a 65 year old man. I have no towel. I brought Dan his and seemed to be dry afterward. Into Booth Bay Harbor for our farewell Lobster dinner. A walk and then back to the boat. Content. Asleep.
Dr. Todd, by request, becomes James, then Jim, then Captain Jim, then back to Jim.
Morning starts with a quick row ashore, use of the facilities, postcards in the mail, and on last once over. Off the mooring and out to sea. My attention t the chart is somewhat overwhelming for everyone. I cool it. Jim’s in charge.
Chicago. No one is from this city, but everyone visits. Tourists everywhere, people everywhere, no one knows where to get a good meal. Even a hostess doesn’t hasn’t lived here, and she lives here. We stop at the library. There’s a wedding. We’d like to crash it, but the doorman is from here. He gives us a map. An intersection. A name. We walk. My legs feel great. Cooped up on the train is tough on the muscles. I had started a regiment of push-ups and pull-ups but nothing for the legs except a nip of scotch after dinner.
We find the bar, ____, it’s wonderful. Authentic german beer and food. Still no one is from here, nor does anyone eat the food, so its a blind order on beer and eats. Both are delicious. The bartender is swamped, would have hired me, but I have a train to catch. 10 PM we’re off to Albany. My Chicago walking buddy sits in a different car. I meet several ‘youths’ complaining about closed or broken toilets, slow and late trains, and their frustrations with the current administration of everybody and everything. I suggest they adhere to a strict pro-leisure tour curfew, but you can’t push a rope and you can’t quell the angst of a retiree.
Their complaints are mostly in jest and I get to laugh with them. They pass along some good advice, the first of many. After a nice bit of monologuing from my seat mate regarding cancer, love, life, fortune, and laughter, I exchange a goodnight with the stranger and struggle into an uncomfortable series of naps throughout the night. Breakfast leaves the seat next to me vacant so I catch a bit of wonderful rest. A good morning wakes me and sits me upright again and I excuse myself to the parlor car for the remainder of the ride.
Singin’ on The Train, and a New York Business Man.
He allows me to share his table. We converse. I listen. More advice. She draws my hat, I tell her about it. She listens. More advise. I listen. They share lunch and chocolate. I share the few remaining crumbs of Kiras ginger-zuchini bread, meager, but all I have. More from both parties. The conversation become a bit controversial, opinions appear. Silence. Lighter topics and then farewells.
The train had passed all of rural america which still exists. The Rio Grande, Antelope (or Gazelle something running along the tracks), Arkansas, Up-state New York. Great lakes and rivers, farm houses, towns without people and people without towns. Could have fished off the train there was so much water. All passed behind the tempered emergency exit beside our marked books and lunch scraps.
We’re in Albany. Change to the Boston Commuter. I write and read and watch a movie. The trees are big, dark, but not as handsome as some I’ve seen. We barrel along. The long ride is setting in. It’s dark, I eat a microwave pizza and have a can of ginger ale. My arms are ready. South Station. On the T. Off the T. At the Bar, one, two beers, two glasses of water for Chris and Julia. Asleep on their couch at last. Four days of sights and people and thoughts. I’ve arrived safely and soundly with much gained. Boston.
Let me back up a minute.
Where did I start…
Tucson: August 28th, 1 AM
Hotel Congress: Kira, Chad, and I gulp down the last of our drinks and walk across to the train station. I board, stow my gear, and promptly fall asleep. The G/T was stiff, the long island more so.
I’m the last car on the train and the last room on the car. No neighbors. My view is an obstructed 270. Back window and one on each side. We’re still in the desert when I wake. New Mexico I believe. Breakfast soon turns into lunch into dinner into Texas into two more days and San Antonio. I saw the Alamo by street light and enjoy a Lone Star at Alibi. Live music tonight. The train is still there when I get back. I put my self to bed and am rocked to sleep as my car is moved, shuffled, decoupled, shuffled, recoupled, moved, and departs the station. North.
Now my room is at the front, just ahead of the dining car. I see everyone come and go. Its lively.
Texas, again. Texarkana. Little Rock. Its green. St Louis. It’s really green. An arch, a stadium, neighbors move in. Neighbors move out. The people are fascinating. Crazy, kooky, bright, beaten, black and blue. Photographers and artists, fragile folks, at this point a lot of drawls and y’alls, I’s fits right in.
A carpenter and his wife join me for dinner. He’s been to Antarctica, Russia, Cuba, China, and Tennessee. He works with the US Embassy.
A nurse/text book writer and her husband computer engineer/photographer keep me company for several meals. Puns more than I expected. I’m engaged, enthusiastic, enthralled with their company. They’re happy!
Chicago arrives. Everyone off. I’m first class. So is she. So are they. Sleepers, it only costs about $500 to get free crackers and juice and someone to watch your things for an hour.