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.


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.