part one. to be followed by maybe a billion more parts, i guess. don’t worry, they’ll also be shorter.
It’s very hard to travel by
train and not spend the entire time looking out the window. I couldn’t get the
notion out of my head that we were passing through territory that you simply
can’t see by speeding motorcar. The train cuts straight through the countryside,
only bothering to stop in towns when it’s convenient. The gentle sway of the
car and distant cry of the horn are really the only two reminders that you’re
not floating mystically through the endless cornrows of Illinois. That, and Steve
and Sage sitting in the seats next to me, ejaculating frantically.
We actually made it to the train
station all right, only accosted by one grafter, desperate for change. The station
itself had an immense, empty hall that led into a series of cramped corridors
where you’re actually supposed to wait. There was some concern that our baggage
would weigh far too much, but no one seemed to care. On the whole, the
experience was far more relaxed than a flight would have been. It only became
slightly harried when we were herded from the comfortably modern waiting area
out onto the hot, dark platforms between immense train cars. No Harry Potter
Platform and Nine and Three Quarters this. It was smelly, loud, terrifying and
most of all confusing. Each car was meant for a specific destination – a fact
that was only revealed once you reached the front of the line and were shoved
off further down the platform. Thankfully, Steve, Sage and I managed seats next
to each other, although our car attendant, Deborah (pronounced De-BOR-ah), gave us something of a cool
glare, obviously expecting untold shenanigans all through the night.
We weren’t really one’s to
shenan, though. The view primarily pre-empted my attention, despite its mostly
monotonous quality. Corn fields all through Illinois, then the Mississippi
briefly, followed by a long dark night through Missouri and Kansas. I awoke in
the morning to sunrise over the desperate, dusty fields of west Kansas, that
quickly dissolved into the desperate, dusty fields of east Colorado.
Eventually, a handful of mountains erupted, leading us up into an endless
tunnel that ejected us into New Mexico. Perhaps the most scenic aspect of the
ride was the late-night lightning storm that lit Kansas like a ghostly black-light.
It was so enchanting that I was compelled to write a note in my cell phone: “I
watched Kansas by lightning.” A better writer would have bothered to actually
work that line into the story. Maybe someday I’ll be that writer.
We brought books and cards (both
magical and otherwise) with us, but the most exciting parcel in our cavernous
bags was a nalgene half filled with shitty vodka and a liter bottle of lime Jarritos.
This delicate mixture was named “Green Raunch” after we took our first tepid
tastes. After nearly choking the awful concoction back up, the name quickly
popped into our heads. After suffering through several sips, we asked the
dining car dude for a cup of ice that made the drink almost palatable. With
several shots apiece, our late night Magic sessions took on a significantly
more exciting flair. Our gay laughter and blasting music echoed through the
observation car. Fortunately, most others were sleeping by this time. I suspect
that Steve and I were the last to bed in our large, comfortable seats that
almost – really quite nearly – leaned
back far enough to encourage a good night’s rest. Just…so close.
I awoke at dawn, with Sage and
many others following suit shortly after. Lack of sleep wasn’t really an issue
though, as it was a trend that continued merrily throughout the two week
adventure. We spent the second day rooted to our seats in the observation car
as an ancient park ranger droned on about the sea of dry grass that composed
our view. There was a brief exciting moment when the ranger announced a
National Park Trivia Game. Our gasps of joy were drowned out by snorts of
disinterest, but the ranger had claimed there might be a “prize!” I answered
the man’s questions dutifully, feeling confident that I had won, a notion that
Steve and Sage readily backed me up on. Hours later, the ranger suddenly
remembered the quiz, revealing the answers – and the fact that some other
trivia-loving douche bag had won. We would have had Steve pull the trigger on
him, but by then the train was practically to Albuqurque and it just didn’t
seem prudent to cause a ruckus so close to our destination.
Albuqurque turned out to be
fucking hot. Not entirely unexpected, but it took some of the wind from our
sails. Also, the difficulty finding our baggage wasn’t conducive to thrills.
Natalie did show up, though, and she took Sage and I back to Santa Fe, spending
nearly the entire car trip regaling us with tales of her idiot landlord. This too
was to become a theme.