Moving and shaking

Last Friday I was headed toward Union Station, our Amtrak depot, with romantic notions in my heart. There’s something classy and exciting about traveling by rail, isn’t there? The last time I’d been on a train was winter of 2006, when I was crossing the snow-filled landscapes of Germany and France. Years before that I went on a train trip in Central California with my cousin. I seem to remember that one being a fun adventure during which we sat comfortably at tables and played card games with strangers. I really don’t know how accurate that is. Anyway, I thought those maybe-fake memories could be relived, in some fashion, on this trip to Seattle.

You can see where I’m going with this. I rode in coach class and there wasn’t much that was glamorous or even comfortable about it. Other passengers were certainly living out part of the fantasy that I had, as I overheard to their enthusiastic conversations throughout the trip. There was a girl from Missouri who has spent the last few months traveling across the country and, I think, makes a living doing odd jobs. She enjoys meeting new people and hearing their life stories. She sat next to a young guy who is single but has a daughter whom he loves. He made witty remarks and evoked a hysterical-sounding laugh from the woman sitting across from him. The chatter was exhausting to listen to, but pleasant.

My seatmate was a girl a few years younger than me. We didn’t make any attempt to chat. I knew the conversation could only start (and probably end) with generic questions about where we were going and why, and I didn’t care about that. Small talk is not my forte. Besides, my head hurt, and I had a stomachache from hunger. I passed the time by writing, listening to music, and reading. Altogether it didn’t feel much different from being on an airplane. However, tickets were much cheaper. And there clearly was a possibility for striking up good conversations with strangers—more so than on any flight I’ve ever taken. Train travel must put people in a better mood. No security screenings, safety demonstrations, or seatbelt lights confining us to our chairs.

We arrived in Seattle at 10:15 on Friday. I visited until Sunday, suspending my Portland loneliness with the company of a good friend. I also got to see my brother for a couple hours before I left. I could have spent that weekend moving into my new apartment, but it was an ideal time to see my brother before he disappears into the Middle East for a year.

After much waiting and delay I finally have a one-bedroom apartment to myself. I picked up the keys and signed the papers on Monday and got the moving done that night. Every night this week I’ve been shopping or unpacking or cleaning. Most things are still in boxes, but at least those boxes are neatly arranged in my living room. Now I’m tasked with furnishing and decorating the place, a challenge for somebody as neurotic and indecisive as myself. I can spend up to an hour in the home-and-bath department trying to pick out the right sheets or towels. This will be fun.

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