While I knew I left San Diego for Prague on May 1st, it has come to my attention that May 1st is in fact on Tuesday, not Monday as I previously believed. Good thing I noticed today’s date this morning.
It’s that odd in-between time, the quiet time before sleep comes. The day is finished, done, written, but the next has not begun. And here I am, astride that gap yet contained within it, neither here nor there. It is a time when today does not exist, only yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday was a good day, although not according to plan.
Yesterday was not perfect. The world is not perfect; it is a flawed orb which cannot even manage a circle in its orbit around the sun. Plato thought that because we are able to imagine perfection, that ideal must exist somewhere. I don’t think so. Not for yesterday, at any rate. The ideal was too full of contradictions, multiple wishes that were inherently incompatible.
I wish I’d had more time with Rose. She remains my favorite bartender in the whole damn world, and I wanted to tell her of the time I was in a little place, nine time zones away, and the bartender broke a glass. “Rose!” called out my brother. They have never met, but I had told him that I think of Rose whenever I hear glass break. I did find a moment to tell Rose she rocked — I’d never, ever, fail to do that — but it was a quick hand signal over other people’s heads. Plato would have me remove all those people, and replace the hand gesture with something more familiar, a more substantial expression of a relationship that has only on fleeting occasions overcome the wood and copper bar between us.
Needless to say, if Plato gave me license to create that ideal, Rose would be less than pleased. All those people are her livelihood, and her friends. Her happy greeting when she sees me is genuine, just as it is with dozens of other regulars. Those people at the bar were her friends, and making them disappear would not make her happy. Hell, they’re my friends, too, some of them.
And then there’s Amy and Gene and Tom. Less time with Rose meant more time with them. What are you going to do about that, Mr. Plato? Moving toward one part of the ideal takes me farther from another. Yesterday was not perfect, nor was it even remotely possible for it to be so. I just wish I could have talked to Rose a bit more.
I am sitting now, in the wee small hours, upstairs in the lounge car of a train plunging through the night. There will be no recounting the collision of feckless vagabonds, angry locals, young canadians, disaffected writers, beer, vodka and tequila, salted with a skeptical but attractive token female presence. I will not speak of the arm wrestling, of the violated pickle, or of the face graffiti. Stories of knives and vomit will have to wait for a more fictionlike vehicle.
But what does that leave? It all started innocently enough, when I quite accidentally sat in the only seat on the whole (accessible) train with an electrical outlet. Around this modern-day watering hole a variety of species came to taste of the current, but ultimately it was the proximity of the bar that made the Netherlounge the place to be. The cars on this train have two levels. Most of the seating is on the top, and the best seats for watching the world go by are on the top of the lounge car. Windows don’t matter much at night, however, and the lower floor of the lounge car is the source of alcohol.
The bar closes at a humane hour, but the Netherlounge remains the place where there is no possible way you can disturb other passengers. I was having a decent conversation with Jesus and, um… Franklin (not a good guess) and Shawn and another guy when the canadians arrived, token female in tow. Not-Franklin didn’t last long after that, he was hoping the train would be late enough to delay his deployment to Iraq for a week, but he wasn’t interested in being stupid.
The rest of us, it was demonstrated, were. The Canadians brought a jug of their Russian friend, Smirnov, along with his little buddy Sauza.
I identified myself as a writer. I’ve simply run out of other things to call myself. This put me in an odd sort of spotlight, as the Canadians had copious paper and pen just so they could jot down the stray word or two. Writing games ensued, and more than once I found myself sitting at a table, staring at the ruled and impatient sheet, the only requirement that I Be A Writer, while the happy earnest folks waited. I read the nimble thoughts the others jotted, while turgid phrases oozed through my mushy synapses. Not my finest hour. I am, I must acknowledge, not a man of swift wit. It would have been worse but a random word from the sole female bailed me out at a critical moment.
The sole female I impressed almost less than the guy hitting on her. She was sober. The guy hitting on her was not. It will never happen, but should one member of the male of our species ever mutate the ability to say, “you know, I’m not at my best right now, I’ll save my hitting on this girl I like for another day,” that self-restraint gene would easily out-compete the rest of us. A man who did not regularly make an ass of himself at the most critical moments would pretty much have his choice of reproductive partners (not counting competition with assholes). That it hasn’t already happened just shows that such an aberration is incompatible with the Y-chromosome.
But those are just side stories. Puppet shows and poorly-done shadow figures in the flashlight beam on a canvas tent wall. On the main stage there was drink and danger, dynamite and zippo lighters with perhaps a bit of kerosene and enriched uranium (the Canadians jotted down a quote from me to that effect, my sole moment of sparkle). Now it is a time-zone boosted 3:40 in the morning, and I am really, really tired.
But you know, it was all right, tonight. It’s why you ride the train.
Addendum: tonight there will be no sleep. While I sat in the lounge car watching the world slide laterally by and pecking out this episode, the big guy in the seat next to mine quite naturally annexed the Sudetenland, as it were. Comparisons to aquatic mammals aside, it seemed a shame to disturb him.
I’m at Central Connection Café in Albuquerque right now, with about an hour to kill before I need to be at the train station. Thanks to the train being a wee bit late I have time to enjoy an fine beer. That’s not really news, but the fact I was carded was fun. (For those keeping score, people are drinking who weren’t even born when I came of age.)
I forgot to check Trip A on the Miata odometer as my voyage began a new phase today; but the little machine’s role in the adventure is at an end. The next few hundred miles will be by rail; I’ll see if I can make up find out the mileage for this part.
I haven’t been on a train ride in this country for a long time; I’m looking forward to a relaxing overnight trip with time to get some writing done. We’ll see how reality deals with my expectations.
Yep, the mini road trip just crossed the 5,000 mile mark. I’m sitting in the High Country Lounge in Chama, New Mexico. The Saloon side was closed, although it seems open from where I’m sitting now on the restaurant side of the operation. Next door is an internet business with broadband, but they are closed on Sundays. Luckily for me they did not turn off their WiFi thingie while they were out. I sat in the parking lot and double-checked that I had indeed uploaded the latest Jer’s Novel Writer for the kids at Apple to evaluate. So, hopefully everything’s cool now.
The waitress is stretched a little thin right now; the first customers have arrived over there and she’s in charge of both sides. She sounds like she’s from Wisconsin as she greets regulars warmly. “It’s not music without Bob Marley,” she just said, which sounds pleasantly odd when spoken in a Wisconsin accent.
Other than that, not much to report. It was nice to see all the rock stacks still standing in the morning sunshine; I got a few more pictures that maybe will show them better. I’ll try to get a photo episode up soon.
Addendum: I am on the Saloon side now, a place I’ve always enjoyed being. The place manages to be rustic without crossing the line into kitsch — just how they do this is not clear. They have the old bits of western paraphernalia on the walls, wagon wheels in the divider between the sittin’ area and the bar, and all that. It just doesn’t seem contrived in a place like this. There is a fire crackling merrily in the corner (even sunny days in spring can be chilly up here), and that’s always a plus. Add a juke box with Bob Marley and Pink Floyd (turned up to respectable levels), a reasonable beer selection, and friendly conversation flowing through the spokes of the wagon wheel, and you’ve got yourself a nice place to hang. If you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and drop by the High Country.
I signed up to be judged at the Apple Design Awards this year. I really wanted to get one more release out before submitting, but it turns out that builds I do on my laptop aren’t working right. It doesn’t like some of the files I transferred over to the other machine, but it won’t say why. (Actually, is was only by accident that I discovered that a couple of the dialog boxes won’t load. I almost did a crippled release, which would not have pleased the judges.
There are two steps for entering. Fill out an online form, then send in the software. It did not go smoothly. Here is the message I sent to them:
OK, so finally I took the time to enter. I went to the site, selected country and type of entrant, then went to the next page and filled out all the stuff. Then I hit send. D’oh! Forgot to click the accept button by the rules. Did that, clicked go on, and on the next page all the fields were empty! The fields! The fields! All that work! All those words, lost, gone forever. Then I hit the back button, thinking, those words are still back there somewhere! Safari will know them.
Somewhere in there the “Thanks for registering” screen came up. At this point I have no idea whether you got my lovingly-crafted submission or whether you got a bunch of empty fields. As a writer I am required by law to be neurotic, so rather than waiting for you to contact me if something’s wrong, I am compelled to bother you about it.
ALSO, just so we’re on the up-and-up, I spend a lot of time in the Czech Republic, which for some reason is not an eligible country. (Yet China, pirate nation, is. I don’t get that.) Anyway, While this was mostly developed in San Diego, and I’m in New Mexico right now (which is mostly in the US), complainers and whiners could point to my strong Czech presence (although I don’t have a visa there and can’t stay longer than 90 days at a stretch) as grounds for disqualification. I’d rather you knew that now, rather than after I get the best in show prize. Really, my primary place of business is my laptop.
The best answer would be to make the Czech Republic eligible. Heck, why exclude any EU nation?
Thanks for your help.
After the form went in I got an automatic reply, with instructions on how to upload my software. It turned out to be remarkably simple. They have a cool thing set up where I had a temporary virtual ftp account of some sort that automatically put my entry in a bin where they could match it up with the entry. Pretty slick.
That was a couple of days ago. I’m in the wild unknowns of Northern New Mexico right now, where ‘broadband’ is thought by most to be an all-female musical group. I just managed to get online (dialup is painful) and there was a polite reply from the folks at Apple waiting for me. The form they got was filled out properly, but they said they didn’t have the software I uploaded. That’s the part that had worked flawlessly! Now I must scurry tomorrow to find broadband and upload the puppy again, before the deadline. Good thing I got some rock-stacking in today (a brief but heavy snowfall just added to the charm).