Saturday, April 28, 2007

Life on the train















(Okay, I had a carefully crafted order to the photos, but blogger has decided on something else )

April 25, 2007, 6:40 p.m.
Things I’ve learned on this tour that I didn’t expect:

First of all, at the risk of saying something that I’ll regret terribly after arriving in San Francisco, sad and sore from the 52-hour train ride I’ve now only just begun, I think it’s possible that I’m getting stronger. What I mean is this: I’ve been on this crazy 2 1/2 month tour, 30 cities maybe, and I don’t necessarily think that my body feels worse than usual -- I mean, I’m definitely exhausted and drained and overwhelmed and sinking into depression, but not necessarily more than before. Of course, I also have all of this incredible inspiration through such exhilarating moments of connection and solace even, is that the right word?
But what I’m saying is that I thought the trip would completely destroy my body on every level and I think that actually I’m okay, this gives me hope that if I can feel okay after traveling for 2 1/2 months then maybe I can slowly feel better after I’m home for a while. right now I can feel my shoulders neck chest arms aching from carrying my bags down the front flight of stairs at the hostel then wheeling them around the train station, and I know that when I get back to San Francisco I’ll be a mess for a while, but I’m also starting to hope that I can do more things like maybe exercise and especially go dancing at some point in the not-too-distant future. I don’t want to get too excited and do too much at once and then crash into that deep deep hole, but I think I’m ready to explore.

Feldenkrais is a large part of what has given me the ability to move through pain and not be so overwhelmed by it, like I can do something is terribly uncomfortable in a comfortable way and then that helps me get through it. Even as wow my shoulders are really hurting while I’m writing this, maybe I should go for a walk.

I’ve also gotten through the worst part of my sinus headache drama exacerbated by that plane in November, probably some of it will come back from this train but if it comes back with incredible horror even after a few weeks then I will have to start wondering whether I’m severely allergic to something in my apartment probably mold, and I will have to investigate. I mean I know there’s mold from the leak inside the wall, but how to get rid of it is a different question.

The other thing I need to investigate, I mean a big big project for myself over the next however long, is how to find beauty and hope and inspiration for my own personal sexuality, that’s just something I want to note right now. More and more in the sexual spaces I inhabit, I realize that what I’m looking for is somewhere else although where on earth is the big big question-- and how -- and with whom? But eventually I will figure it out, that’s what I’m hoping at least.
Oh wait -- Ottumwa, Iowa is the first smoke stop on this train, of course I’m not excited about exactly that, but I would like to get some air…

7:29 p.m.
Okay the air in Ottumwa is great today, moist and chilly and fresh, makes the air inside the train seem all the more trapped and gooey even, yuck. I’m worried that it’s too hot on this train, sitting in just my boxers and a t-shirt and hopefully my food isn’t going to rot. It looks like the frozen items have already defrosted, usually that takes about 40 hours and I’ve only been on this train for 5 ½. We’ll see…

A conversation with the steward outside in Ottumwa, he says now I live downtown but it wasn’t like that when I moved there, it was the intersection of shoot and run but now I look outside and there are condos starting at 400, 000, going up to 2 million -- this other couple in the building we bought together, Denise and Irene -- we met them in Lakeview when we all lived there in the ‘70s, when it was bustling and gay and now it’s just yuppies, but Denise and Irene -- they know how to take care of business, all of my gay brothers and sisters -- those property values, whoa! We’re locked in where we live because we only have to pay 20% maximum of the property tax for the neighborhood but if we sell then we have to pay everything. My wife and I say to Denise and Irene, just show us the next big gay neighborhood and we’ll run. Just show us the next big gay neighborhood.

April 26, 2007, 4:31 p.m.
It’s at that time when I’m on the verge of collapse, shoulders aching actually everything aching, eyes fading into headache-- I figure I’ll go on a walk to the social car, maybe sitting somewhere else will hurt less. Just in time, Andee calls and we talk for several hours-- yes, an escape from exhaustion, sort of. Then afterwards I get in a conversation with the people across from me who are all from Iowa but they’ve just met-- wait, one of them is from South Korea but the rest are from Iowa-- they’re playing cards and want to know what’s going on with me -- I mention the book tour, and then one person, Donald, wants to film me while I’m talking which is amusing enough, after I talk a little about Nobody Passes he wants to know what my favorite book is, of course I say David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives, then I figure we’re talking too much about me so I ask everyone else what their favorite book is. The first guy says right now it’s The Accidental Chef-- I like the way when he talks about cooking he’s suddenly poetic in a straight-dude-hanging-out kind of way. No one else mentions their favorite books, but the next person is a dancer, she grew up and the transcendental meditation community and is going to Santa Cruz for a month to study Axis Syllabus Dance which integrates anatomy with dance in a way that kind of sounds like feldenkrais -- this person, Kate I think, says the average career of a dancer is seven years because everyone gets injured. She’s been taking ballet since she was seven, but doesn’t want to get to a point where she has to stop dancing. The guy from Korea is too shy to say anything, and somehow Donald who has a camera gets away with not saying anything, even after he hands the camera to Kate, maybe he says a little about making movies but I think that’s later -- this is his first trip out of Iowa, he’s traveling for a month. Donald, Kate and the guy from Korea are all probably about college age and the guy who’s a chef is maybe in his mid-20s although he seems somewhat stunned that I’m 33 --everyone’s headed to Denver for different reasons, which is I guess how they all ended up on the same car because people are arranged by destination. I’m thinking about all the Europeans from the hostel heading out to Denver also, wondering a little bit about Denver since I’ve never been there. Back in 1992 when I was first driving cross-country to San Francisco I think I had plans to meet this one guy in Denver who I’d had a romance with, he was from there but then I never heard from him so I guess the romance was over.

But back to the train, we’re all having a lot of fun chatting -- I especially like talking about dance with Kate who asks if I ever danced -- I tell her it’s what used to keep me sane, when I get to that place where my head was aligned with the ground and the sky at the same time, I miss that place. Kate says that’s the place where she likes to be all the time. Then Donald is amusing us with magic tricks with this hilarious act he puts on where he gets us to think that he’s made a mistake but he’s got it all figured out. At some point earlier when we’re all getting excited by the thrill of new connection and now everyone has their cameras out, someone says we should make a reality show and I think Kate says Nobody Passes -- that’s the magic moment for sure, when I’m so glad about meeting these new people on the train, the beauty of the train is in making these sudden connections that probably wouldn’t be made elsewhere. We all talk until we’re ready for bed, I think I want to make these kinds of connections all the time that’s the challenge. Kate gives me a few of her pink bracelets and we make a plan to maybe see a dance performance in San Francisco once she’s out in Santa Cruz, Donald is the last one in the lounge car with me and we exchange web info -- he makes music as well as movies, I like his deadpan delivery about everything, there’s a certain kind of masculinity without aggression like everything could be a friendly shrug. Then it’s bedtime and I actually fall asleep kind of easily, with the white noise generator on I even probably sleep more than usual although why do I get up at 12:30 p.m.? I guess it’s because of the time difference and I feel rested for about 3 1/2 seconds, then it’s back to the zoned-out train zombie drama, oh well. But I like the moment when I’m wondering what the weather is like outside, I pull back the curtain and there’s the Colorado River with the red cliffs above it’s incredible like just this moment is worth the54-hour journey until I’m back in zombieland and my jaw hurts while I’m chewing -- must’ve been clenching it while I was sleeping and why is it so warm on the train? My food is running so much faster than last time, there’s no way it will last until tomorrow I just hope it lasts until bedtime then tomorrow I’ll be down to bread with a few cucumbers, string beans and cashews with nori seaweed -- I didn’t bring the dehydrated split pea soup this time, and I’m already regretting it.

April 25, 2007, 5:43 p.m.
More things I’ve learned from this tour:
The big one is that I’ve been sleeping, the homeopathic remedy has been helping for sure-- homeopathy works subtly, like you can move you into a new pattern that then becomes your pattern and that’s what I’m hoping. I mean I don’t feel rested at all, but sleeping is still so much better than not sleeping. I can’t even imagine how much more difficult the tour would have been if I hadn’t slept, brain wiring me into so many terrible layers of insomnia-- and so I’m hopeful that when I get home, my sleep will get better too.

And also my digestion, believe it or not -- I think my digestion is getting stronger. Like now when I eat an unhealthy oil at a restaurant, I have to shit right after, but not for three days like it used to be. These are great signs.

11:10 p.m.
I’m sitting in the observation room which is so much more comfortable for staring at the mountains and the sky than my own room because I can just look straight out instead of fucking up my neck by turning all the time. First I have a great conversation with Jen Meekel who’s just had hir photos censored from an art exhibit at the University of Florida in Gainesville, we’re talking about the perils and possibilities of feminism, Meekel is arguing for queer over feminism, that feminism is too tied into the category of woman and therefore exclusionary -- my feminism and queerness are so tied together, I can’t imagine one without the other but I’m enjoying the conversation although now I’m much too exhausted finding it impossible to write more and actually deliver some sort of summary of anything really. The second conversation is with a rabbi, I like her insight that my parents’ (Jewish) assimilation and the violence they were able to hide beneath the veneer of “success” is similar to the violence of gay assimilation/gentrification. Okay time to get ready for bed or something.

a quick rant:

Right, it’s after the last entry I mean it’s the next day, the last day of this train my food is rotting and I’m eating it anyway, glad that it’s not making me sick or anything but wait I’m actually finished with that food and onto the emergency rations, wrapping cashews inside bread and then chewing, we’re sitting on some mountain waiting for cargo trains that are having problems but still they are prioritized because there are no dedicated train tracks for passenger trains in this country, the freight companies own the rails that’s why they’re in such bad condition I mean actually cars and highways are the problem because that’s where all the money goes, if only we had a train system like Europe where some trains go over 200 miles per hour -- this one is averaging about 45 I think -- anyway we’re five hours late, almost there now I’m ready.

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