First of all, this train scene is bullshit. The compartments are evenly divided among smoking and non-smoking, which I think is unfair. One could be forgiven for thinking that all Europeans smoke, because there seems to be smoking just about everywhere. I saw folks smoking in a sushi restaurant in Amsterdam and remember thinking, how can you taste the sushi?
Anyway, I choose a smoking compartment because the non-smoking compartments are stuffed full, and I’m hoping to spread out and get some writing done. I am listening to my iPod as I settle in.
The smoker in my compartment, an older gentleman in a suit, faces me and will nurse a girlie cig every 45 minutes or so. His tie looks like one of those loaner clip-ons they give you at Sears Portrait Studio. His teeth are smoker teeth. He has a gold pinkie ring. He and the train attendant are some kind of buddies and laugh and exchange cracks in German as the attendant checks our tickets. The smoke from his girlie cigarette slowly drifts toward the window then gets caught up in the whirlwind from the wall-mounted vents, swirls quickly upward and disappears. I debate offering him one of my super-chic Nat Sherman cigs but think better of it – them’s for hot chicks (although I did make an exception and give one to Casey on the train to Vienna.) He reads a magazine, but the way his eyes cross it sort of looks as if he’s looking past the magazine and right at me. With his right eye, anyway. It becomes more than a little odd to look back at him while Eminem and Saint Dog rage into my ears….
I’m packin heat, I ain’t unprepared…
As I settle in and decide to do some writing, I notice that the outlet into which I’ve plugged my laptop is poorly grounded, so if i let my arm touch the steel frame of the compartment while I’m writing, I get a mild shock. Nice.
No more games… tear this motherfuckin’ roof off like two dogs caged…
The Austrian countryside is lovely. Uniquely-constructed homes make up small, cozy villages that hug the countryside. The homes are colorful and bright, but choose from the same limited palette. They are all laid-back colors, though – soft browns and beiges dance with the blues and yellows of an Easter basket. Resting against the gentle gray and blue of the sky, it all looks like it would be quite comfortable in the window of a Hallmark store.
More windmills – they seem to be synchronized to the music I’m listening to – and despite their steely look, they somehow fit – unlike the occasional industrial building that works about as well as a pimple on the face of a princess. Two small lakes whizz past, probably man made, almost as blue as the Easter-egg houses.
What really does look out of place are the high-tension power lines that stripe across the hillside. For some reason they bother me. Part of it is my photographer – they make almost any scene impossible to photograph well.
Then, as it has done so often during these past few weeks, it began to rain. We arrived in Munich shortly thereafter, and according to the schedule I had 9 minutes to reach my connecting train. However, my train was precisely 9 minutes late, and I was primed at the door to jump when we came to a halt. At that moment an old lady asked me to help her get her bag out of the train. I quickly grabbed her bag, lowered it to the platform, and ran for my train. Oddly enough, I made it.
For a while I had a compartment all to myself. But halfway through the journey a man in a plaid sportcoat and a woman in a black business suit joined me in my compartment. The woman almost immediately began talking on her cell phone and the plaid-coated man couldn’t have been more exasperated about it. He had some very old books and was trying to get some kind of writing done. He seemed to be practicing to give a speech, or was writing a song, or poem, or something – because his mannerisms were that of someone rehearsing. But, he did not like our seat-mate, Chatty Cathy. If dirty looks were currency, this was France’s richest man. He would occasionally look at me, curious either why I wasn’t equally upset or better yet, why I wasn’t doing anything about it. After her third conversation began, he got up in a huff, grabbed his things and disappeared just after flashing me a final look as if to say, good luck with this scene, man.
While we were in Germany, the announcements were made in German and English. Now that we’re in France, they are only made in French. I am fluent in NO foreign languages (although at this moment, French is not a foreign language, is it?) But I am OK with French, having spent a few years toying around with it in high school. I can dissect it when I hear it, I can do alright when I read it, and can even pull together a sentence or three. We’ll see how I do.
And after what seemed like forever, we roll to a stop in Paris. J’arrive!