The Column of Disquiet – We Used to Vacation

My wife Wendy and I have taken exactly one vacation during our time together—both in the early days of our domestic partnership, as well as in our legally binding marriage1. We’ve taken trips—yes, so many trips; sometimes very far, like the middle of nowhere in Colorado or the very southern tip of Texas. But almost all of those trips involved traveling to visit family or old friends, and on a number of occasions, the trips involved traveling with family.

I don’t consider those ‘vacations.’

The vacation we took was over a decade ago, and we drove to scenic Duluth. We had no plan for what we were going to do and where we were going. This was in the dark ages, before we had smart phones, and back then in our early 20s, we were okay with that. This was before we lived with a companion rabbit, so we had no responsibilities at home to worry about. We had reservations at an awful hotel off of the highway, and had to commute into Duluth proper to do anything at all. The trip was a little cobbled together, but I have a vague recollection that we may have had fun. And despite how awful the hotel was, my wife found a marathon of “America’s Next Top Model” on television to occupy her time while I went swimming in the over chlorinated pool.

The classification of our excursion to Chicago in 2013 as a ‘trip’ or a ‘vacation’ is debatable. It had elements of a vacation, sure, but we were exhausting the goodwill of the friends we were staying with and visiting while there.

There is a multitude of reasons why we don’t go many places, and why it becomes somewhat of a chore to even take these aforementioned trips. One of the reasons is money—some people make it look effortless, don’t they? They get on social media and brag about flights to exotic locales being at all time low prices. They have some kind of stash of money kept away for traveling; or, they are content to live their lives with debt hanging over their heads in exchange for a few days away from normal life.

The other reason—and probably the main reason—we rarely go anywhere is because of my debilitating anxiety. Like, I can barely leave the house to run an errand in town without having some kind of emotional breakdown, so I don’t know how or why anyone expects me to get on a plane and take this show on the road.

Along with that is the fact that it is increasingly difficult to find a trustworthy rabbit sitter—someone who isn’t going to have a bunch of people over while we are out of state without being like ‘Hey is it okay if I invited a bunch of strangers over while you are gone?’; someone who isn’t going to break our toilet; someone who is going to be smart enough to run the fucking fan when using the shower so that the steam doesn’t set off the fucking smoke detector in the hallway, making them think the house is on fire and calling the god damn fire department to have it checked out, all while we are in rural Wisconsin.

I don’t think I ask for much—just a trustworthy young person who will use our wireless internet, or read, or watch whatever garbage they can find on Netflix. Someone who enjoys a quiet night in with our rabbit Annabell, and will give her all of her medications at the right time and give her cilantro and top off her hay and maybe talk to her and give her pats on the noggin.

 

* * *

 

One of the great things about living in the social media age is that it makes you instantly resentful and jealous of the fun others are having. You see status updates of your Facebook friends as they find themselves on holiday, while you sit at your desk, watching the clock, hating your life slightly more with each minute that passes. I guess I don’t really have this problem2, and I also don’t have a strong desire to get out and see the world. However, my wife has both the problem and the desire, and on more than one occasion, that resentment towards others who are having fun has bubbled over and become resentment toward me because my anxiety keeps us at home.

Planning a vacation seems kind of daunting, and it is a big expense up front for plane tickets and lodging and, well, shit—you haven’t even left your house yet. There are more expenses once you finally get to where you are going. THERE GOES ALL YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY. You also have to figure out how to get around once you’ve wound up where you are going and ensure that you can even get time away from work to do any of this. It’s just a lot, you know—or at least it seems like a lot, to someone like me.

At the end of July, we did a trial run—a short trip to St. Paul that involved getting completely out of my comfort zone to see if I could survive. We had the most capable of rabbit sitters watching Annabell. We went to a concert, but had gotten a hotel room nearby so that we didn’t have to drive back in the late evening. And I think for the most part, I made it. I may have felt that glimmer of what ‘fun’ is supposed to feel like.

You can talk all you want about how other people are taking vacations and you’re not, and you reach a point where you say, “If we’re going to do it, let’s actually have a serious talk about it, and not just a 10:00 p.m. before bed argument.” So you have an actual conversation about where you’d like to go, how you’d like to get there, if you can take the time away from work, and if you can find a responsible sitter willing to live in your home and watch your rabbit while you are away.

This is how I wound up on a 38-hour train ride, heading toward Seattle.

 

* * *

 

The author and his wonderful wife, Wendy, on a train for 38 hours

 

We board the train at 9:30 p.m. and our sleeping car—a ‘roomette’—has already been prepared for slumber. During the day, the size of the car is small, but bearable: it leaves a little space for personal items, and a small table folds down in between the two seats. However, when converted to a sleeping quarters, the seats pull forward and connect to form one bunk, the other bunk folds down from the ceiling; there is, quite literally, no room to move around at all—there is no room to stand and disrobe, no room for personal items, and barely any room for your stupid lumbering body.

Wendy takes the top bunk because of how often I get up during the night to use the bathroom, and because of how poorly I handle high places. To prevent falling or rolling out of the top, Amtrak provides a weird S&M style harness that you latch from the bed onto the ceiling of the car. There is roughly two feet between her and top of the car, and she spends both nights on the train worrying about sitting up too quickly, hitting her head. Due to my height, I barely fit into my bunk, and resign myself to sleeping curled up in the fetal position3. I am confident that I barely sleep at all either night on the train—if I do actually fall asleep, it is not for very long. Instead, I drift into the space between sleep and waking life—aware enough of my surroundings but also desperately trying to find the darkness that will overtake me.

There is a reoccurring issue with the air temperature in our portion of the train—most noticeable overnight. Despite the fact that we have selected for cooler air to come from the ceiling vent, there are times when the air grows warm and our compartment becomes intolerably hot, and my wife wakes up, unable to breathe. It’s not just our compartment having this issue—others in our section of the train wake up as well, and begin to complain to Tashi, the well meaning and easily frazzled Japanese man who manages our train car.

Traveling by train is, at its core, a more leisurely way to get somewhere. It lacks the pressure and anxiety caused by nearly every aspect of air travel. If you have the time to get somewhere, and don’t mind being confined to small space for 38 hours—you take the train.

Traveling by train is, at its core, an antiquated and practically dying way to get somewhere. The train to Seattle is full of passengers, sure, but overall, there are few people who do have this kind of time—or who want to make the time—to get somewhere at a slower pace.

We arrive at the train station in St. Paul in the early evening and it’s practically empty—this part of the city, too, is nearly deserted at 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday. We walk around near the station in an attempt to find a place to have dinner; the empty streets and quiet air makes me realize just how sad and lonely large cities are capable of being. The train station itself is a gigantic, gorgeous old building, renovated within the last five years—an homage to a time long since gone. Other passengers waiting for the train to Seattle situate themselves on large wooden benches that are evenly spaced out throughout the station—young men sit working on laptops or fidget nervously while watching videos on their mobile phones.

Since we have splurged for the sleeping car, we have access to a secure lounge as we wait to board; there, we’re joined by an older man wearing overalls watching Sunday Night Football, an intense looking man in carpenter jeans who speaks with a thick North Dakota accent, a middle-age couple, possibly drunk, who are very handsy with one another in the corner of the lounge, and an eccentric older couple who sprawl across couches to sleep.

In an act of train class elitism, passengers with sleeping cars are allowed to board first. As the lines form, a serious looking young woman files in with our group. She carries two very full canvas tote bags, one in each hand, as well as a large backpack, bursting at the seams. Across her chest, a toddler is strapped. The woman appears to be in her early to mid 30s and the look on her face is the one of somebody who has seen some shit. As we walk down to the platform, I catch a glimpse of her train ticket and it reads ‘one way.’

We are all running away from something.

 

* * *

America is shitty

On the train, I become convinced that I am surviving on the free Amtrak coffee4. Tashi, bless his big, frazzled heart5, keeps a warm pot of it in the entryway to our train car and it is surprisingly delicious when mixed with the rice milk I’ve brought along, as well as a handful of sugar packets.

During our time on the train, Wendy and I snack on the provisions we’ve packed (we bring almost too much food with us); we

Passing the time

watch old episodes of “Twin Peaks” on her iPad; we read and we try to doze if we can. We occasionally watch the landscape flash by us through our car’s window. Taking the train somewhere provides you with the opportunity to ‘see’ America, but through the desolate, bleak terrain of North Dakota and Montana, we ask ourselves if America is something you really want to see. Nearly every station we pull into for minor stops along the way is at the edge of some small, shitty town—the stations themselves barely functioning, and the buildings surrounding them are almost all dilapidated.

For meals (provided when you pay for a sleeping car) we are forced to become acquainted with other travelers who are seated with you at large tables. We meet a painfully shy young woman from Australia, traveling alone, taking the train across the entire country. We meet two older Canadian couples—one of which were on a bicycle trip along the Danube when a motorist ran the husband off the road. He fell, and in doing so, punctured a lung, and was told he couldn’t fly back home. They took trains across Europe to get to an ocean liner to take them across the Atlantic, into New York, where they had been taking trains west, in an effort to get back to British Columbia. The tale is almost too unbelievable to fathom6, but all of the inconveniences they encountered taught them patience.

The other couple we dine with turns out to be who I had dubbed ‘the eccentrics’ when they boarded with us in St. Paul. The man, Frank, wears a rumpled white linen suit and has a thick bowl cut of bright white hair; his partner’s name is Elaine. We have dinner with them the last night on the train ride, and in discussion it comes up that I have experience working in a bookstore. Frank has spent a bulk of his life in the Canadian publishing industry, and regales us with anecdotes about Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood.

I never adjust to passing through different time zones during the duration we are away from home. From Central, to Mountain, than Pacific—we eventually gain two hours, but I never really know what time of day it is, and at times, what day of the week it is. I wake from whatever rest I have gotten at 4 a.m. and my days become long, nearly endless stretches of activities and occurrences, until it is time to tightly shut my eyes once again, hoping to drift off and find some kind of respite.

My first morning on the train, I crawl out of bed and feel awful—dry throat, pounding headache, sore eyes; though I have never been, I have a feeling this is what it feels like to be hung over. “You have a headache already?” my wife asks as I pour four Advil into my hand, and scowl at her, washing them down with room temperature water.

For at least 24 hours after we’ve left the train behind, I have a strange feeling embedded deep within my body. ‘Phantom train’ I call it—the feeling like I’m still rocking side to side as we make our way down the tracks; the feeling of taking every bit of rough terrain and turn in the train car. I feel it when standing still the day after our ride has come to an end; I feel lit in my back at night as I try to sleep.

 

* * *

 

Our train slides into Seattle mid-morning on Tuesday, and as we step onto the platform, it is our first breath of fresh air since Sunday evening. Then plan was to store our luggage in lockers at the station until it was time to check in to our lodging, however, there are no lockers to be found, and rather than wander around downtown Seattle for four or five hours with two huge backpacks and a grocery bag full of snacks, we more than willingly toss $80 at a rental car—we were going to rent a car for a day anyway later in the week, but the use of its trunk is worth more than the additional cost.

We wind up at Pike’s Place Market, along the waterfront. We try to ignore the men tossing fish at one another; the smell of dead fish is too difficult to shut out. We get sucked into the market’s labyrinthine design of half-floors and esoteric gift shops. We watch a security guard ask a homeless man to move along; the homeless man screams at the guard, calling him a ‘fucking punk.’ The young woman at the counter of the store we are browsing in rolls her eyes and says, “Never a dull moment around here.”

I could never survive in this city.

Dale Chihuly

We walk to the Dale Chihuly Museum—he is a native of the Pacific Northwest ad a world renown blown glass artist. He’s also a bit of a prick, as depicted in a short video we watch while there—he’s shown barking out commands and directions to a gaggle of young people, who frantically shove glass shapes into a wire frame.

At the museum we meet my friend from college, Liz, and her husband Todd, who also happen to be on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. We exit through the gift shop; I buy an over-priced floaty pen. We find two record stores—neither of which have the records I was looking for7. We find a Mighty O—an all-vegan donut shop, and we proceed accordingly8.

I attempt to navigate the endless stretches of freeway and never ceasing congestion of traffic in Seattle and we make our way to our lodging accommodations at an AirBnB—a converted attic above a garage in a primarily Latino neighborhood near an airport. Not the airport, but an airport so at night, as I am unable to sleep, I hear the sound of airplanes tearing through the atmosphere. Our lodging is nice9—a loft style living space; the owner of the property and our ‘host’ has a gigantic dog with piercing blue eyes. I try to be his friend, but he is not receptive. By the second day, the dog grumbles at me when I say, “Hello pupper” to him. Maybe I’m trying too hard but either way the fact that this dog doesn’t immediately like me is more devastating than it should be.

The first day ends with us being too exhausted to find a restaurant or drive to a grocery store to buy things in order to make dinner. We wind up making a weird, sad meal involving things found in the kitchen, left behind by other guests.

 

* * *

 

Elliot Smith’s piano

Wednesday begins with a short tour of the offices and factory of FieldRoast, a company known for making delicious and hearty vegan meat and cheese alternatives. Jennifer, our guide, is incredibly personable, and offers us samples of sunflower katsu

Making a friend at MoPop

cutlets, and practically tosses us a whole FieldRoast and four boxes of vegan macaroni and cheese10.

We spend a bulk of the day at the Museum of Pop Culture—or MoPop as it calls itself. Once called the ‘Experience Music Project,’ they are currently boasting an impressive set of non-permanent exhibits including Mick Rock’s early 1970s photographs of David Bowie, and a career spanning retrospective on Jim Henson.

The change from EMP to MoPop is less than a year old, and it was very apparent that the organization is still trying to sort out its ‘branding,’ or at the very least, its mission and structure. There’s a room dedicated to the history of the guitar, and an interactive music exhibit; but there are also halls dedicated to science fiction and fantasy films and television shows.

The author even made a friend

Maybe a week or two before departing or Seattle, I learned that Elliott Smith’s 1919 upright piano, used to record “Miss Misery” as well as a few songs on XO, is part of the museum’s permanent collection, but I didn’t know where it was in the building. We hadn’t even made it up the stairs out of the main floor after paying our admission when I saw it; sitting on a ledge, blocked off by plexiglass, with a small explanation as to what it is and what it was used for. It seemed sacrilegious at first to have it out in the open this way, adjacent to the staircase. I stop to look at it and take a photograph. I wanted to—expected to, even—feel something once I found it. I wanted to be moved or to have this moment resonate.

I am not; it doesn’t.

The air around me is filled with the cavernous echoes of people entering the museum, or eating lunch at the Wolfgang Puck endorsed café below us. An old Death Cab For Cutie song plays loudly overhead.

I feel nothing.

* * *

We leave Seattle on Friday morning on a train heading for Portland, and are in the city for less than 24 hours. The most ‘Portland’ thing I see in Portland is a young man, riding a unicycle down the sidewalk. He carries a large cup containing a smoothie and attached to his wrist is a vine or a plant. He wears headphones, and sings loudly as he pedals and coasts through the intersection while my wife and I wait for a bus.

He may or may not have had a ‘Macklemore’ style haircut. I see so many god damn haircuts like this in the Pacific Northwest.

The whole reason we have even left Seattle, and are ending our vacation in another city, is because we want to visit the ‘vegan strip mall.’

Vegan donuts

Maybe the idea of a ‘vegan strip mall’ in Portland is the most ‘Portland’ thing. I don’t know. It’s a building that takes up less than a city block and it houses a vegan bakery/sandwich shop, a vegan propaganda clothing store, a vegan grocery store, and a vegan tattoo shop11. When trying to explain this to people who were curious about our vacation, I said that we’d be getting “a little bit of everything” while we were there.

Somehow I convince Wendy to get a tattoo; I think it comes as a surprise to both of us, though it’s not like it was an impulsive decision and she chose a flash design, like a naked woman riding a flaming boner. She had sketched out an idea of an elephant and a rabbit, and emailed it to Nora, the artist who did work on both of us. I get a quote from The Book of Disquiet—“How much I’ve lived without having lived!”

Later, as the sun sets, we find ourselves in a neighborhood where there’s a record store. I go in and look for the two records I was unable to find in Seattle12, and I leave empty handed.

We find a Powell’s Bookstore. Not the Powell’s, but a smaller one, which is still way too big. I look around for a few minutes but become overwhelmed. I find myself in the ‘W’ section in fiction and see old, sunbleached paperback copies of Infinite Jest, and expensive, rare editions of The Broom of The System.

Wendy and Rupert

We stay at another AirBnB in Portland. This one is a basement that was converted into a one-bedroom apartment. The ‘host’ also has a dog—her name is Rupert. She’s very small and energetic, and only responds to commands in Spanish. She seems to like us both, and humors me as I put my nose against hers, uttering “Hello pupper” over and over again.

I wake early Saturday morning. We eat the last of our donuts, make sure we have all of our belongings, and wander into the cold morning to catch a bus to the airport13.

 

* * *

 

Seattle is interesting in the sense that, for the short time I was there, it struck me as a city with three sides—industrial, gentrified, and poor.

I suppose you’ll find that in almost every major city, though, won’t you? Because Seattle is on the waterfront, as you drive down the endless, sprawling freeways, you see the shipyard, and the rows and stacks of shipping containers. You walk through neighborhoods and you see newly built or renovated luxury apartment complexes, and just down the street, you see something that stops short of being a trap house.

In the landscape adjacent to highway overpasses, you see tents and tarps and shopping carts; in the industrial park where the FieldRoast factory was, on gravel road, there were more tents and tarps set up off to the side. In the early morning, as we walked through the streets of downtown, on our way to the train station, you see the homeless lining up in front of day centers, hoping to get inside after presumably having spent the entire night out.

Liz’s husband Todd described the homeless in Portland as ‘aggressive,’ and he wasn’t kidding. We were outside of the train station for less than 10 seconds when a young man asks us for money. He doesn’t even ask, though; he looks at and says “Dimes. Quarters. Dollars.” We say no and continue walking.

He asks us again less than five minutes later.

Near the courthouse and visitor’s center in Portland, an older man sits on the curb, bellowing out as loud as he can about how he’s disabled and homeless. His voice sounds like Samuel L. Jackson’s as it reverberates off of the buildings.

I bring two books with me to read during this time away, and I finish one of them while we are still staying in Seattle. It’s an advance copy of Vacationland by esoteric humorist John Hodgeman—a somewhat sloppily organized memoir and reflection on Hodgeman’s time spent living in and purchasing vacation homes along the East Coast.

Some of it is very funny, and Hodgeman’s dry, self-deprecating humor is appreciated. Some of it I take issue with—he apparently doesn’t like raccoons14. Hodgeman is also self-aware enough to realize he’s written a book about, among other things, white privilege—and it’s maybe not the best thing to be reading about, and pondering, while you are on vacation, sitting comfortably in your gentrified AirBnB, while surrounded, at times, by extreme poverty.

I could never survive in this city.

 

* * *

 

We are all running away from something.

Thursday morning I wake up and it’s raining. It’s the first real rain we’ve seen since we’ve been here. Yes, it rains regularly in Seattle, but all we’ve experience so far are periods of overcast skies, followed by around five minutes of mist or drizzle, followed by the sun peaking through the clouds. Thursday it rains all day—from the moment I wake up into the evening.

Thursday morning I wake up and I feel sad. Today is going to be a ‘sad day,’ I realize, and I’m disappointed but not surprised. I figured it would all catch up to me at some point, but I’m impressed that I was able to last this long before the darkness crept

The Double R Diner

back in.

Wendy notices the change and asks if I am doing okay. I tell her I’m not feeling great, and that today is a ‘sad day,’ and she too is disappointed but not surprised; she is probably not impressed at how far we’ve gotten before this happened, however, she is probably thankful. You can take the depressed and anxious person on vacation, yes, but the depression and anxiety themselves never take time off.

Thursday is the day we take the “Twin Peaks” tour, which is exactly what it sounds like. The television program “Twin Peaks” was filmed, in part, around Snoqualmie and North Bend—two very small, scenic towns outside of Seattle. My wife has paid a man named David to drive us around for over four hours, pointing out various locations, occasionally allowing us15 to get out of the van and look around.

The tour is interesting but also detrimental to the willing suspension of disbelief you have with something like a television program you hold dear. The waterfall in Snoqualmie is the same as depicted on the show; however, the hotel it is nestled behind is not the actual Great Northern Hotel. The hotel that the crew filmed in, and modeled the fictional hotel after, is located on an island someplace that requires a ferry ride.

The Twin Peaks Sherriff Station is a real building, but it actually houses the ‘DirtFish Rally Racing School.’ The Double R Diner is a real diner, but it’s called Twede’s and the staff behind the counter are probably happy for the business but are also maybe weary of tourists filtering through, continually asking for damn good cups of coffee and cherry pie.

We’re not allowed to get out for a number of the stops—they are just things we drive past, and a so many of the locations are different from how they were presented on television that the tour is kind of anticlimactic.

The tour lasts longer than it is supposed to because David, our guide, implies he wants to take the group to lunch at The Roadhouse—it’s not the real Roadhouse, or ‘Bang Bang Bar’ as depicted on the show. No. That bar doesn’t really exist.

The Roadhouse, as it stands now, is a restaurant with shitty service on a corner in Fall City; only the exterior of the restaurant was used in the show. There’s nothing on the menu we can eat, so while the rest of the group shovels enormous burgers into their mouths, Wendy and I pick at a plate of french fries and I continually look at my watch.

We are all running away from something.

Smokey, a resident of the Carnation Rabbit Sanctuary and Rescue

Since the train left on Sunday night, I’ve tried to manage my anxiety. I’ve tried to keep it to myself, and not dwell on thoughts like ‘what if something happens to Annabell while we are gone?16’ I’ve checked in with our rabbit sitter continually—probably to the point where she audibly sighs when she sees another text message from me come across her phone.

But it’s in the van, on the way back from our “Twin Peaks” tour that my anxiety beings to slowly boil over.

The second activity we have planned for Thursday, and the last for this part of our vacation, is to visit a rabbit sanctuary and rescue in Carnation—a town around 30 miles west of Seattle. Aside from visiting the vegan strip mall in Portland, this is, like, one of the few things I was absolutely adamant about doing during our time away, and I had been in contact with the woman who runs the rescue17, telling her we’d be there between 3 and 3:30 p.m.

Because of the endless, sprawling freeways and highways and the eternally congested streets filled with traffic, it takes us over an hour to get to Carnation; we leave well after 3 o’clock, and I feel absolutely terrible about how late we are going to be. At this point, my anxiety becomes something palpable—the third passenger in our rental car that I am trying and failing to drive while keeping it together at the same time, Nick Drake coming from the car’s stereo, as we listen to the robotic female voice on my wife’s GPS, instructing us what roads to use. Google, in its infinite wisdom, tries to route us off the freeway to avoid traffic—instead, it places us in downtown Seattle into even worse traffic.

I start to silently weep while we’re at a stoplight.

Neither of us speaks the entire way to Carnation. Five Leaves Left plays quietly. The robotic voice occasionally pipes up, tells me to keep right or to turn left.

 

* * *

 

Upon returning to work, nearly all of my co-workers, individually, inquire about my time away. Some of them ask more specific questions, like what was my favorite part, or did I like the “Twin Peaks” tour. Some of them are connected with me on social media, so they were subjected to my incessant sharing of photos, some of which were occasionally out of context.

To almost everybody, I respond by saying that my time away was simply ‘fine,’ and in earnest, I say that I am happy to be back. To some, I say that there were parts that were okay, and there were parts that were less okay, and I choose not to elaborate much more than that.

You can take the depressed and anxious person on vacation, but, despite all of your best efforts, the depression and anxiety never take time off, and we are all running away from something.

How much I have lived without having lived.

 

1- Due to a number of circumstances, we never took a honeymoon; not even some mediocre weekend get away. I still feel a deep sense of regret about this.

2- Mostly this is due to the fact that I really like my job right now; I’ve got a really good thing going, and I no longer wake with the sense of dread that I used to back when I worked at the newspaper.

3- If we’re being truthful, I do this at home, in my own king sized bed. 

4- The free Amtrak coffee was probably better than the coffee that I paid for at myriad coffee shops in both Seattle and Portland; the worst offender was my first cup off the train at Top Pot. It tasted like soil mixed with luke warm water. What I am saying is fuck Top Pot and fuck their shitty coffee. It also seems worth mentioning that throughout both Seattle and Portland, there are drive-thru coffee huts where the employees (all women) have to wear bikinis. I don’t believe this at first, but after gazing too long at one of the huts while in traffic, I see a pick up window full of skin.

5- Tashi is not the only Amtrak crew member that left an impression on us during our 38 hours on the train. There was Caesar, the young and exhausted looking waiter in the dining car, who was joined by Rose, the good natured and jovial woman with an incredibly thick Caribbean accent. Hands down, the most memorable crewmember on the train was Miss Oliver—the enigmatic, disembodied voice of a personable, cheerful, sassy black woman; she greeted us regularly over the train’s intercom to entice us to the lounge car, where she served snacks and drinks. We were never brave enough to wander down and meet her in person. We didn’t want to destroy the facade.

6- While the story is unbelievable, yes, the couple, made a point of telling us how much money all these set backs cost them—the $6k in foreign hospital bills, plus the cost of the ocean liner and the various train tickets. I am not sure if this was because they were cheap and pissed they had to part with more money, or if they were wealthy and wanted us to know that they could afford to do something like this.

7- I was looking for Harmony of Difference by Kamasi Washington, and Stranger in The Alps by Phoebe Bridgers; the first record store is incredibly small and primarily deals in used records, so I don’t hold it against them that they do not have what I wanted; the second store, Zion’s Gate, was small and cramped, but the racks were beyond full with new vinyl. The clerk, a young man with dreadlocks, hadn’t heard of either album I was looking for. When I explain who Phoebe Bridgers is, he tries to sell me other records by other popular female indie folk artists. As we leave, empty handed, he slides a free sticker my way and tells me to visit the website and that they ship anywhere in the world. I throw the sticker away immediately.

8- Between Tuesday and Saturday, my wife and I ate a combined total of 18 donuts. And I never thought I’d say this, but I need a little break from them.

9- Yes, our lodging is nice but the few granules of sugar that I accidentally spill on the kitchen counter attract a fuck ton of ants.

10- We eat nearly all of this for dinner on Wednesday night.

11- It seems worth mentioning that whenever I say the phrase, ‘vegan tattoo shop,’ it causes mild confusion. Turns out that that a number of tattoo inks include bone char, among other possible animal-based ingredients.  

12- Out of frustration, while my wife wanders the Portland airport the next morning, I order both of them online (on Amazon. Sorry. I know.) from my phone. One of them (the Phoebe Bridgers album) arrives at my house less than two days later.

13- Our attempt at leaving Portland became a story in and of itself; we board the plane on time (it is completely full) but there is a delay—the parking break is leaking some kind of hydraulic fluid. After almost an hour of tests and maintenance and the captain asking everyone to ‘be patient, they tell everyone to get off of the plane. Nearly two hours later, everyone is wrangled onto a different plane, and we finally leave. We get in almost three hours late and miss our bus back home. Wendy’s brother has to come fetch us. It rains the entire drive back.

14- This is bullshit because raccoons are great. 

15- As sketchy as this whole thing sounds, it’s not like it was just the two of us in a big white van with no windows being driven around by a stranger. We were joined by a family (also from Minnesota, coincidentally) and a guy from Switzerland (who had a Macklemore haircut.)

16- I follow a fair number of internet animals (many of them rabbits) on social media. One of them, Darwin, becomes ill while his family is away in Europe. It happens, like, right before we leave for Seattle. He’s fine now; I mean, as fine as he can be. He’s prone to health issues because he is a dwarf rabbit. But this doesn’t sit well with me at all and I stop short of taking it as a bad omen.

17- We wind up being, like, an hour late, and the woman that operates the rescue out of her property in rural Carnation isn’t too put out—she’s very gracious and shows us around, introducing us to the multitude or rabbits she is housing: some she is just boarding, some are her own rabbits, some are adoptable through the organization, and some are special needs. We meet rabbits that have head tilt, rabbits that are missing an arm or hand, and rabbits that have splay leg. We spend the most time patting two black rabbits that have splay leg. They flatten their noggins down on the ground, happy for the attention.

 

Kevin Krein has been operating the award winning music blog, Anhedonic Headphones, since 2013, and he contributed the back page column to the Southern Minn Scene magazine for roughly three years. His writing has appeared on Bearded Gentlemen Music, Spectrum Culture, and in River Valley Woman. He’s a lot less verbose on Twitter: @KevEFly.

 

 

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