Sunday, June 28, 2009

trains are stupid

it occurred to me that my words come more fluidly when inspired by the raw encounter of another human being, which brought to mind a writing project i thought of ages ago: "Portraits of a Stranger." writing novellas describing people that i observe and extrapolating what i think their life must be like.

so, i had this great (uber-romaticized and inevitably naive) idea of hopping on a train to nowhere for 3 days, sleeping in a modest car, with my wine and my laptop, eying strangers unabashedly in the dining car. after surveying a mediocre website, i phoned customer service only to encounter a rudely perplexed woman who insisted that i have a destination in mind.

when she finally conceded to serving my unruly wiles, she quoted me a price for a round trip, sleeper car fare from seattle to portland. before i could tell her that portland would be utterly insufficient as it is only a 3 hour drive and hardly meets my trip parameters of a 3 day journey, she let fly that the cost of said ticket was $400. $400? four hundred dollars! to portland! a flight can be had for a meager $80 on a bad day. since when has the slow, gruelling monotony of railroad travel become iconic to the point of justifying exorbitant fares?

then, it occurred to me that i was just the brand of sucker they are hoping to hook with these hopped up prices. alas, this writing project will require a flat-footed trek to local thoroughfares, complete with all the uninspiring familiarity i'm trying to avoid. after all, it's one thing to ogle a stranger on a train whilst tickering away mysteriously on my computer. it's another to have to face off the everyday schleps i might see again.

however, if i refuse to succumb to this greatly altered prospect, this creative pursuit will most likely fall into the gutter of an undisciplined writer, which is now threatening to flood.

2 comments:

mme. bookling said...

A perfect writing assignment. The city will be your muse, as it has been mine. A muse which offers a kind shroud of anonymity.

So where's first? A coffee shop? A wine bar? A university pub?

But how a train would have been so fun.

Becca said...

The train is only that expensive because of the sleeper car. I promise. And to portland. That's three hours on the train. It's fabulous, I've done it many times, but it's not a three day trek. For example, if you did not get a room, and went to say West Glacier, MT (Gorgeous!) and returned, it is $160. And that's an actual three day trek. No bed though.