I had been drinking some the night that my train was due to leave; it was Spring Break and Lincoln was cold and quiet. I went home at one in the morning and ate leftover Dominoes for dinner. I had run out of groceries the day before and didin't feel like grocery shopping for two days worth of food; though I'm sure the cheap frozen processed shit I like to buy would have kept for the four days that I was gone. I showered, packed my briefcase with five sweaters, five pears of pants and underwear, toothpaste/brush, deodorant, astringent. I filled my backpack with Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres", a notebook, and the Sunday Times, and was out of my apartment at 2:45 for what was supposed to be a four a.m. train.
It was cold and damp and while not quite foggy the air was certainly hanging low. My van was the only sign of life on the drive to the Haymarket where sits the Amtrack "station".
Those who worry about federal tax dollars going down the drain for Amtrak should rest easy. It's hard to see where any money is actually being spent. Beyond the coasts, where large cities are packed in close to each other and maintaining the ludicrous ideal that the automobile is the horse of the modern knight is more of a headache than it's worth for many people, the Amtrak service is notoriously shitty. Cities like Salt Lake, Denver (Lincoln and Omaha) get only one train going east and one train going west per day, the California Zephyr, stopping in all of these places at odd inconvenient hours. If you take this as a sign that Amtrak money is going to waste instead of a sign that there is hardly any money involved to waste, well different minds work in different ways.
I arrived at the station and bought my ticket at three for a train I was now told would arrive at six, and then six thirty. I walked outside, realized that the nearest place to get coffee at this hour was eight blocks away, and stood dumbly for awhile, I was starting to feel quite drowsy but would have had to have been much more so to sleep on the narrow thin-padded chairs in the Amtrak waiting room. The thick air was carrying some kind of terrible smell from either the countryside to the west or the standing snowmelt in the Salt Creek floodplain. I eventually went back in and got a Mountain Dew from the vending machine, than I sat down with my Smiley book.
There was this hippy girl down the row from me, an honest to-God hippy girl with leisure hat and body-length walking stick with meaningless symbols carved onto it. She was talking to this long haired-fellow, Lincolnites may recognize him, shoulder-length hair with specks of gray and bifocals, portly, looks something like I might look like in ten years if I don't take care of myself/current trends continue. He was apparently an old pro at riding the train and was talking to the girl about the in's and outs of security, particularly how security guards usually didn't show up on the trains until at least the outer suburbs of Chicago and yeah that's where the people are and you have to protect the big cities but do we not count? I mean is that what you're saying? He told her that he was a power crystal connoisseur and that his biggest reason for travelling from place to place was to attend power crystal conventions.
And than we waited, a black man came in with his luggage in a garbage sack, and than we waited some more. The train came at 6:40 and I a group of five of us got on board and I sat in the seat behind the black guy.