The Second Train. Nearing The City. Gary, Indiana. People in Quantity. Ok. Back in The City.

Time has passed between this happening and this writing. I do hate to give away the ending, but I am back in New York, sitting on a park bench, the poor victim of being whisked from one social event to another without much pause for You, reader.

I was lucky on Amtrak. My train was so late they let me catch an earlier direct connection to New York. Traveling with the understanding that you are magically arriving five hours earlier -- even as you chug through timezones -- pleasants things.

My neighbor on our full train was a nurse practitioner who was in Chicago to move her daughter into nurse practitioner school. She was busy reading a pamphlet that digested next week's soap operas for her. I left her for the snack car and she left me for Cleveland. Still, I remember this: early in the morning she offered me her blanket and we huddled away all the cold Ohio and Amtrak could throw at us. A nurse even in sleep, she left at dawn.

I ordered my 25th Gardenburger in the snack car and celebrated with a 26th. I sat down with a family of mom plus two happy little girls, and a young woman moving herself to Vermont. We talked bears and the environment and stayed up way later than everyone's bedtime.

I had a new neighbor when I woke up after Cleveland. Kitao is a New Yorker like me, or I should say better than me. The guy is just cool. He studied upstate with the photographer Joel Sternfeld (whose book on failed American utopias is perfect, as is American Pastoral (?)) and is interested in bike touring. We talked some, I put my contacts in, talked some more, probably slept, and then Kitao invited me to half of the ramen he was going to cook.

I love ramen and here's how to make it right.

Kitao's Ramen Recipe:

Soy sauce
Cooking sake
Bonito dashi powdery stuffy
Boiling water
Fresh ramen noodles

To do:
Simple enough, cut anything that needs to be, mix all the soy, sake, and bonito according to taste, boil water and add noodles. When they're soft, strain and add to sauce.

We were joined by Bob from a Bay Area pharma shop who was retiring whether he liked it or not it. We talked body mechanics, overnight parties on islands in Argentina, the world's worst museums, about the trapeze institute Kitao studies at in NY, great American documentary filmmakers, monastery life, and how a human being twists when he dives or trampolines.

Here's the trick. Everyone can do a half twist with their feet. While the body moves around, the hands and head are already gone and into the next turn.

My hands and head were still very much in my last turn, my turn west. The train ride back was not a very concrete bookend to my trip. It was more movement.

Fortunately, an awful woman got on in Albany and reminded me of all things bad on the east coast. She spoke loud enough for the entire train to hear, although I still can't figure out to whom. She was impossibly pregnant. I use this adjective doubly. She was impossibly large and it was impossible that someone willingly made her so.

Here are my notes on her:

Awful woman getting a tattoo of her babies footprints on her breasts. She laughed like thunder. Believes her child is a 'schizophranay' because she is moody. 'All my babies have different scents, scents; see, I'm Victoria Secret, but she [her 8 month old] is different, Poison or Clinique, I don't know. Repeated this nine times on her cellphone: "Going to see me at Auntie Asia house! Going to..." before she moved on to complaining about something else like how long the train ride was, the air temperature, or the Chinese ticket taker ("A Chinese...") she didn't like ("...gonna get dropped."). To be fair, Chinese man did ask her if she was 2 people. Couple with matching t-shirts scared of her. Everyone is. She has the ability to loudly embarrass anyone who asks her to be quiet. Convinced she thinks I'm a racist. Only hope is for a sudden diabetic coma to wash over her. Look at those arms...

We lived. We pulled into Penn Station. I walked off. My friends were there waiting for me. It was late. I ate a lamb burger. I went home. I lingered in the living room to see how long I could stretch their excitement before going into my room, feigning surprise, and then finally sleeping in my room, surrounded by my new pink walls and the tasteful array of penises they printed on them. I'm actually quite impressed by the level of detail in the prank, if not the new level of immaturity. And I am glad to have my dear, dear brother painting.

It is odd being back, my room included. There is so much sound. I spent an entire day walking around and listening to people whinge about small matters (not getting into clubs, not getting weekend off, not getting...). I heard a new jingle on the ice cream truck -- The Entertainer. I went to an unpopular bar and heard great song after great song. I heard powerlines getting fixed directly outside my window at midnight. I heard some kind of music at the art museum I went to. There was an Olafur Eliason piece that reminded me of the mist at the base of Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride. I bought and heard Baby, Let Me Follow You Down a thousand times until it stopped reminding me of that morning in Kansas. And I heard myself putting off this post (and the next and final one) until I got sick of listening, biked around town, and settled here in Tompkins with the same Blackberry I wrote everything on.

So, that brings us to now and east. I have yet to have my movie day or my last hamburger. I kind of don't want either. All I have done, when not with friends, is sit down and write. And wasn't that what I wanted more than anything? Time to write, a room of my own, a stiller mind, space to make things for the people I care about.

My final (written) thoughts on the trip are fast coming. I'm going to see the waterfall they've added to the east river and to venture to my first ever yoga session. I figure it's cheaper than a massage.

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