jookitcz: (Default)
I would have written this last night, but I was hovering around 36 sleepless hours, and not in any shape to string coherent sentences together. Unlike usual.

Spokane has around two feet of snow shutting down the city. I had a train ticket home for Wednesday night, when there was about a foot and a half of snow. Getting to the station was the worst part, since there was only one cab company still open, and they were swamped. I was an hour and a half late getting to the Amtrak station, but that was fine, because the train was six hours late.

Thank God for audiobooks. I've discovered that the medium is ideal for listening to teen fiction--books that I would love to read, but am too embarrassed to be seen reading. Plus, the writing tends to be nice and simple, so that you aren't trying to follow a page-long sentence with your ears. Of course, as I discovered, this can be a drawback for certain romance-oriented stories. There's only so much gushing over the romantic interest's handsomeness and perfection the gag-reflex starts to win. I'm looking at you, Meg Cabot.

So, five hours waiting in the station. I was afraid to sleep, in case the train came and I didn't wake up in time. I still managed it, a few times, sitting with my head in my hands and my elbows on my knees, I would close my eyes, have a weird 30-second dream, and wake up five minutes later to find the station looking exactly as it had.

I only had three apples and some gatorade in my backpack, which I ate during the first five hours. Hungry, hungry Jessie.

At 8:30, we finally boarded the train. It was a commuter train sent over from Seattle, since the train headed west got so bogged down in the Dakotas that it would have taken more time for it to get here than it would to simply send the eastward passengers over from Seattle on the commuter, transfer them to the train that was supposed to take the westward travelers, then put the Westies on the commuter to take them to Seattle. This got harder to explain to people as time went on, and my brain got foggier.

That said, it was probably the best train ride of my life. Usually the whole trip takes place in darkness, but we saw the entire span of Washington in brilliant daylight and covered in snow. It was fantastically romantic. Since the commuter isn't meant to turn around (they simply take the engine off of one end and attach it to the other), and since they didn't want to waste time by turning the seats around, we all sat in backwards seats, facing east while we traveled west. It was very whimsical.

I sat next to a 12 year old boy who was reading a gun catalog. That aside, he was a great seat buddy, in that he hardly took up any room. Two black men in the seats behind us spent the first couple hours of the trip discussing the relative merits of various cinematic adaptations of comic books in Ebonics, which was fun to listen to. And the Amtrak staff were very eager to try to make us all happy, which translated into free food.

And nothing makes me happier than food.

We got a breakfast box and a lunch box, filled with all kinds of organic crackers and fruit and cheese and applesauce. And coffee, and water, and later, our choice of sodas or drinks in the cafe car. And when the train rolled to the stop in the middle of the Cascade mountains, they actually told us what was going on (the freight car ahead of us had a part broken by the cold and the wet and freezing, and they had to fix it). And everything was gorgeous. The snow had fallen heavily in the mountains, and since the train runs alongside the rivers and creeks, we could see where the water had sculpted past snow-covered rocks. And there were glittery icicles, and since we were facing backwards, we could see the bridges behind us as we past over them.

Which isn't to say that I wasn't happy to get off the train, since it was still pretty cold and I was incredibly tired. But I wouldn't have traded the experience for, say, 12 hours of sleep and the chance to miss the awful wait in the train station, which was cold and damp and destructively boring.

And I have a jar of blueberry jam in my purse, which came with the breakfast box but I couldn't open. I was too embarrassed to ask the boy next to me to open it.
jookitcz: (Default)
Ah.  Travel.  I suck at it so badly.  I had a train to catch, 2:15 AM, Wednesday.   How did I miss it?  I planned to leave my room an hour early.  Called the cab.  Waited.  Waited, waited, waited.  No cab.  No call from the cab.  Dozed off, maybe for fifteen minutes.  Blink.  Panic.  Call cab again.  Cab says they called, and got the answering machine.  This is weird, I think.  My phone was in my pocket.  No logged missed calls.  No message.  But the cab comes, and I get to the train station.  At 2:12 I run up to the ticket counter.

The train is pulling away.

Awesome.

There is no room on the bus for tomorrow morning, and I have a pre-op appointment at 1:00 on Wednesday.  All of my contingency plans involve me missing that appointment and putting off surgery for another six months.  But before I can resign myself, my mom has booked a ticket on a plane that leaves for Seattle at 5:00 AM.  So I was awake for 24 hours, and got home at 7:30 AM.  And once again, my parents rescued me.  I wouldn't mind solving my own problems and living with the consequences, for once.  Really. 

I learned on my eye appointment that I have thinner than recommended corneal tissue.  They can perform LASEK, but after they make the corneal flap, there probably won't be enough tissue left for any future enhancements that I might want.  They recommend PRK instead, because it removes the regenerating protective layer over the top of the cornea instead of making a flap, and leaves more tissue.  On the downside?  You get to live for two to four days with an open wound on your eye, the pain of which being ranked somewhere between skinned knee and childbirth, depending on your pain tolerance. 

I don't know if I want to endure childbirth through my eyes.  But I don't want to rely on glasses any longer than I need to.

Also?  They dilated my eyes for the examination, and they still haven't undilated.  One more than the other.  So I look super-creepy, with one eye that is a black pool of scary.
jookitcz: (Default)
This is going to be a lonely, painful week, I think, because nothing is more isolating than having many personal tasks with which to contend.  No one else cares about them, you see, and since that's all that you can think about, it's impossible to have a satisfying conversation.  I am not prepared for my calculus test, because I have too much trouble still solving for maximums and minimums of solids.  I am not prepared for my finance test, because I've been skipping classes, not doing the problems, and all encounters with the theory cause me intense artistic misery.  I am not prepared for my Management test.  I think I'll get a B.  And my managerial economics class?  I feel like I'm going into it with my eyes closed.  Maybe I'll be able to find my way through by touch, you know?  I only feel optimistic about it because I'm not even prepared enough to know to stress out about it.

The Mock Trial invitational was frustrating.  I thought that my competitive doppleganger had left for an alternate reality after high school, but put her in front of a judge, and she starts to struggle to break back through to this one.  And I don't like being competitive.  I find it to be an unpleasant feeling, and it distorts proper perspective.  Being competitive is fine if you are fighting for something that is both in your power and worthwhile, but if you've done all that you can do--that's enough.  If it isn't worthwhile, re-prioritize.

Duke's campus is gorgeous, though.  All these sprawling, Gothic stone buildings.  I would have appreciated the beauty of the landscaping more, probably, if I had not been wearing heels.  My legs still hurt today, not in a exercise-sore way, but in a strained-muscle way.  I need to find, at some point, dress shoes that don't destroy the structural integrity of my body.

I am glad, though, to be back to my own food.  The south has a very disturbing approach to vegetables.
jookitcz: (the last unicorn)
And we're back from Lake Shuswap. 






What you are not seeing in the above white space is a silent, textual shout of invective, a string of the worst language available to my naive experience.  It is a curse against the fate that causes our poor, overworked van to shudder and hiccup and stall on the freeway as we trundle past Everett, heading south in the fifth-and-half hour of a six hour trip, in the middle of a swamp of bad traffic that appeared out of nowhere to welcome us to the Puget Sound congestion hell.

Hiccup.  Stall.  Restart.  Dad growling, Mom hanging on whiteknuckled and cursing out other drivers, Keegan... cheerful and wide-eyed.  And me carsick.  I've never been carsick in my life until today.

The terror that gripped us was the zombie of an engine problem that ruined days One and Two of the trip, that stranded my parents in Chilliwack while our friends in their van adopted me and my brother to take us the rest of the way to the lake.  The many containers of Heet, methyl alcohol, a miracle pill that seemed to fix the trouble on the way up, but only temporarily and coincidentally.  Removal of the housing, desperate diagnoses (No, it's NOT the fuel filter!), six hours in Canadian Tire across from the restrooms and then a motel.  Marley being traumatized from separation from his parents.


And. So. Hot.

Because you know, the van overheats easy.  I suggested, once, that turning on the heater would siphon warmth away from the engine.  Saying that out loud, I decided today, was one of the poorer decisions of my life.

But I did much thinking at the lake, thinking and contemplation and floating, and I have a better grasp on my creative juices, a new character, several possible plot developments, and a deeper setting.  And inner peace, as a matter of rule.
jookitcz: (Default)
I was disappointed to find that Portland, thus far, looks just like Spokane.  We have a gorgeous view from our hotel window, of a one way street and a parking lot and a Shell station, in the most aesthetic configuration.  On the bus trip, we stopped in the Dalles, which looks nothing like it does in the Oregon Trail.  No greenery and trees, and you couldn't see the river from where we were.  Just a long, yucky strip of dollar stores and fast food places, and some suspiciously birthday cake colored Mexican restaurants. 

Besides a perpetual stomachache (which I find eases in fetal position), I'm feeling pretty not-bad.  The bus ride was leavened by Flyboys (ngh) and Tombstone (happy-face), because the bus is an upscale bus with a dvd player and cute little television screens.  I repect that kind of innovation.  It does lead me to wonder, however, why other, simpler luxuries are neglected.  For example, why is there uncomfortable hard tubing running along the inside wall of the bus, right where a sleepy passenger might want to rest their shoulder? 

If I designed a bus, the walls would have cushions.  People would pay more for the window seats.  Maybe I would have little hinged head rests on the aisle seats too, that would swing out and keep your head stably wedged between it and the seatback headrest.  I hate falling asleep on bus aisle seats.  It leads to floppy heads and sore necks, and is just a crabby idea.

Also, buses need more leg room.  And there should not be plastic handles on the seat in front of you, where you might want to curl up your knees.  Seriously.  What's the point of those handles at all?  Whole trip, I felt no compelling need to grab on to something in front of me.  I did feel a compelling need to curl up in a vertically oriented fetal position, and ended up with bruised knees.

But the little televisions were a nice touch.  I guess they figure that thoughtful planning, although technologically cheaper, just wouldn't be as consciously appreciated as the little glowy screens.

I should be an engineer.  I'd fix all the buses.

Relativity

Dec. 17th, 2006 01:40 pm
jookitcz: (Default)
You don't realize how much something as simple as hot food improves your life, until a wild windstorm knocks out the power that makes said hot food possible. 

My saga began late at night, or early in the morning.  After a day of taking my accounting final, packing, scoping out downtown, and wild wild end of term partying (wii bowling for the win), I was more than ready for sleep.  But there was this matter of a train that would be taking me home, a train that was scheduled to depart at 2:15 AM, a train that had my confidence despite worried discussions of snow in the pass and 90 MPH winds in Seattle. 

I phoned Amtrak to check.  Julie, Amtrak's automated voice answering system, told me that my train was 49 minutes late.  I got to the station at 2:08, after sharing a cab with Chris.  Chris's train was reported to be three hours late.  We sat at the station.  We discussed many topics of high and low erudition, from economics to journalism to my shady past as a roleplayer (and me describing all my characters in painful detail of enthusiam).  At 3:45, the train arrived.  At 4:15, we boarded.  At 4:30 or so, we departed.  Slowly.  You see, a freight had crashed and taken out a half dozen crossing signals, so that train had to slow down and stop for each one.  And it takes a lot of slow to stop a train. 

I was in an aisle seat, which is uncomfortable squared compared to a window seat, because you have nothing to rest your head against, and because the lights that run down the aisle ceiling shine right in the eyes.  I was also cold.  But by curling up under my coat, putting my pillow under my lumbar thing, and using my scarf for both neck support and eye-coverage (I was the peculiar looking one with the scarf draped over my face).  I woke up around sunrise.  Fell asleep, woke up.  And again.  I had a hard time keeping my eyes open until we were in the mountains proper.  It was about 10:00, two hours past the initial arrival time.  

Mountains, snow, trees, snowy trees, winter fairylands, and so on.  Then the train stopped.  In the mountains.  In the middle of nowhere.

I hadn't been too worried.  I mean, my phone had no service, my parents would have expected me to be home but I was miles away, and it was cold! but Chris had given me a havarti-and-summer-sausage bagelwich at the station, and I had been rationing it out in bites when I felt hungry.  But now it was gone.  And the train wasn't moving. 

Never fear, though.  Amtrak gave us complimentary stew, which was rice, corn, beans, and little bits of everything under gravy.  I ate it, befriending the old ladies sharing my table with anecdotal wit.  And we started moving again.  I read.  I napped.  I read some more. We arrived at 2:30 PM. 

My parents picked me up at the station and took me along to look at various hardware stores for lamp oil, because the power was out from the storm (for us, and for a million other people in the region).  We finally found it at Safeway.  On the way home, we were forced to detour only two minutes away from our house because of downed trees and power lines.  It was as if there were an unholy force trying to keep me away from my front door.

Of course, the power was out.  So home did not mean, as it had in my imagination, warm.  My parents were sniping at each other more than normal, because of the cold and the stress and is the meat in the freezer going to last.  (It did)  I was too tired to mediate.  I just ate my soup and tried to look pleasant.  But once we had all the lamps lit and were stationed in the living room, wrapped up in blankets, things got better.  We played two dozen games of Uno, and I killed at Monopoly. 

Bed was cold.  Waking up was cold.  The house was cold all day.  We have a gas stove, but the fan is electric.  So we took shifts, sitting in front of the gas stove with a big sheet of cardboard, rhythmically thwapping the hearth to force air in and out of the vents and heat up the living room a bit.  I measured approximately 250 thwaps for every fifth of a degree increase.  We couldn't open the fridge or freezer, for terror that we'd let some precious cold out.  We used the basement door to put food on the deck outside, for fear of letting some of our hard-earned warmth out.  And we played card games at night, after I read all day to take advantage of the daylight. 

My conclusion?  I am a spoiled brat.  Residents of developed nations, for the most part, live in ridiculous luxury.  Even without heat or lights, so what?  We still had hot running water, we still had a sound house, we still had cleanliness, plumbing, and plenty of (cold) food.  And so what if my train was late?  I'm still here.  I still traveled in relative comfort, I had room to move around, I was assured of a comfortable place to sleep at either end of my travelling.  Best of all, I am healthy.  I am well-nourished and loved, and have every opportunity to raise myself even higher on the top one percent of the world's economic scale. 

I am lucky beyond my ability to comprehend it.
jookitcz: (the last unicorn)
Imagine something for me. You live in a small town in Eastern Washington (pop. 1570) and work full time at a ten-table cafe. On Monday mornings, you act as hostess, waitress, and cashier. A girl walks in with three boys. She seems to be college aged. It's hard to tell. But she is wearing the most peculiar clothes. Black flip-flops over green woolen socks, red plaid pajama pants which stop inches short of her ankles, and a man's leather jacket over a pink sweater over a black shirt over a orange tanktop over another orange tanktop. Her hair is best described as "absurd." It has the look of curly hair that was trampled by a tossing head while sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag in the woods in a super-humid tent. Because it was raining outside.

Do you serve her food? Do you even notice if her three companions look half as disreputable? If you do, she's immensely thankful, because there was only a can of tomato soup (and rather a lot of delicious raspberry vodka) standing between this breakfast and that of yesterday.

Camping was pretty wonderful. Sure, I spend most of the night chilled, damp, and unsure whether or not I was sleeping on my sleeping pad or the very cold ground. And it rained a lot. But forested lakes are peculiarly beautiful in the rain. Priest Lake is very clear. The water in the morning is very still. And there are bright leaves dropping onto the surface near shore, so I saw the leaf floating over water over clean stones. And there was mist on the lake.

But most of all, it was autumn. There isn't autumn in Western Washington, really. Leaves turn brown and soggy and fall off. It rains a lot. It is difficult to distiguish from winter, really, except the roads are not icy. In any case, it isn't a particularly attractive season. And even the beauty of the Cascades in the summer is different, because the colors are all of one texture: green, coniferous.

The drive through Eastern Washington (and Idaho) was very different. Unbelievably rich, and the feeling is of your eyes widening too much before each blink to gorge themselves on sight. The deciduous trees all turn yellow, just on the far side of orange, and are citrus-luminescent. Better yet, there are Tamaracks. I don't think we have these at home. They're pine trees, sure, but inside of staying evergreen they turn even more fiery bright than the leaf-droppers. So the woodscape is a stippling of dark, calm green, with ridiculously exciting patterns of sharp color laced through it. But add the sky to the palette too--it's huge and many shapes of down-gray. And the ground itself shifts the color scheme minute by minute. It runs in colors of dead grass from wheat to almost as orange as the tamaracks, washed with brush that is gray or mahogany or vivid maroon, or filled with still water that reflect the gray sky. And broken in the foreground by sparse old buildings, weathered barns, wood fences. Horses and cows, too.

All of this is hugely exciting to me. If I were to read this entry back to myself, I would think--melodramatic sap, does she think describing pretty nature scenes is interesting? Or original? What disgusting, unimaginative passivity!

Maybe the bottom of that is only that anyone can look at nature and appreciate it. That's nothing special. But it's also like a touching song or good joke or excellent food, which is exponentially more amazing when you share it with other people. And I took no pictures, so by rights I'm allowed my thousand words.

Suddenly I understand evangelism.
jookitcz: (Default)
Early tomorrow, after many preparations (mostly along the lines of organizing meals for eight people for a week) and bustle (like my staging all of my school/dorm stuff so that it can be moved out at a moment's notice), our small caravan (the van and the boat) will move out and into the great white north.  Which will in all likelihood be warmer than here.  We're staying for a week in a cabin on Lake Shuswap in B.C., with two of my aunts, an uncle, and a cousin.  All from my dad's--interesting--side of the family.  We'll return Saturday afternoon, and leave again early Sunday for Spokane. 

This is all more complicated than you could ever believe, and my mom has organized it with military precision. 

But the point is that I will be out of internet communications until Sunday at the least.  I'm pretty tired.  Vacations are so much work.

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jookitcz

July 2010

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