Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lost In Transition

Trainrides are good for letting things digest a bit, letting the memories saturate, and mentally transitioning yourself to the next destination before you get there. At least that's what I think they're supposed to be about. I'm very good at the first two, but I didn't quite do that last bit on March 16th, a day dedicated entirely to trainrides as we made our way into Spain. Having just parted ways with Julien, and soon France, I was a little out of sorts. It has a lot to do with my being overly sentimental and having a hard time with goodbyes, whether it's goodbye to a city, a routine, a particular bakery, or just a good friend. In this case it was all of the above. The thing is, the basic act of going from one place to another facilitates this idea that you're forcing yourself to move on, and a kind of survival mode kicks in. And I hadn't realized at the time how terrible I am coping with all that kicking.

See, I enjoy dwelling on things, and because of this it was taking me a while to warm up to the next leg of our journey. Alex, on the other hand, whether it's by her nature or her previous travels through Europe, excelled at switching gears. She'd be the one to read up on all the things to do in the next town, suggest restaurants, find interesting bits of history, while I'd absentmindly nod away... what a handheld baby I could be! I think this dynamic in our relationship as travellers made me a lot more aware of how lonely travelling could possibly be if I were, in fact, alone. And it made me more keenly aware of those who were alone around me. However, despite our polarized circumstances, I found myself very capable of relating to their isolation as I channeled my own feelings onto paper.



Then again, maybe that's what trainrides are good for. A little isolated introspection. It's a place where it's perfectly acceptable to stare longingly out the window, the same way we all do when the vast countryside is laid out before you and you cannot help but take in brief glimpses of life as it darts by in fleeting snapshots, the grassy green fields speckled with sheep, ponds, shadows from clouds, a wall of trees planted years ago (and who planted them anyway?), endlessly stretching fencelines tipping over the horizon border, winding dirt paths, crops and crows, an old woman sitting on a bench on the crest of a hill looking down on the tracks and - for a moment - you, a collective hunk of iron, steel, plastic, and glass shattering the silence with a thundering boom and the high sun bouncing off of everything, yet in spite of it all, you pretend she sees you staring back at her in admiration of her soon-to-be-restored peace, as you continue on through sleepy towns, busy cities, alongside motorways, industrial parks, and lumberyards (and who cut them down anyway?), to a darkness that robs it all from you as you pierce a tunnel through some mountain, so that when you surface at exactly sea level, with motionless waters on either side of the train, the sun hanging low, you feel as though the train itself is gliding on the sea, and an audible sigh is perfectly acceptable.


It was after dark when we eventually crossed into Spain. As border patrol passed through our car asking for passports, Alex and I learned who the English speaking passengers were. We got to talking as we arrived in Barcelona. One girl, in particular, was a New Zealander who worked for a travel agency. Her assignment was to review transportation systems in various cities throughout Europe. She usually spent two days in each location, which meant all travelling and nothing else. She was not at all ashamed to admit in just the few minutes we knew her that she was terribly lonely and wished she could make some friends along the way. Sadly, Alex and I couldn't help. We were staying on the other side of town for just a night before taking a weekend getaway an hour and a half away. We, of course, did not flaunt these plans to the girl who looked more lost and confused by the moment, but she did leave me feeling a lot more grateful for my journey ahead with Alex, who held my hand as we sat in our cab leaving the train station.

Next: Barcelona, A Medieval Village, and Crime Fighting

10 comments:

Ana Banana said...

MIKE! YOU are a POET! GOD! YOu sent chills down my spine reading your third paragraph! That is so f___ing beautiful I can't tell you! And I add the curse word for unadulterated emphasis there. You are very, very good with words and, of course, with image as well. But your words are powerful maybe even more powerful than your images, I don't know though, because these sketches are really beautiful, too. I really get a sense of your sentimentality from this writing, Mike, and the sense of loneliness and feeling disjointed from all of your travels. I am that way, too. When my husband and I go to our country home near the Oregon border for the weekend...by the time I adjust it's time to come back home, and by the time I come home, I'm feeling discombobulated. So, even though I like beautiful places, transistions are always difficult. I can't imagine what traveling from country to country is like, though, although you give me a bit of a feel for it in your writing. Thank you for posting this. It is very vulnerable and that is a rare quality to find in a man these days. I picked up on that immediately with you and that's why I am happy to be your blogger friend.

Ciao, my friend.

Ben Foster said...

Mike--

You are surely a treasure to behold. Each word is so perfect, each sentence building on the last, each image carefully placed to punctuate your message even more. This post was amazing. Thanks for sharing a little more of your journey with us.

THE Incredible Andy said...

Holy crud, Mike! Best honeymoon ever! Now I need to go get married so I have an excuse to travel Europe.

Btw, be sure to make it to the San Diego Comic this year and meet up with me and my friends. And keep enjoying Europe! Wow!

Scott Altmann said...

Dude you are such a downer! Just kidding bro- great read and I enjoyed the sketches as well.
Pssstt...i have a secret
*i'm a sensitive man too*
;)

Julien alday said...

Et voilà !
After months and months of mocking your strong sensibility, Scott finally have a moment of weakness and reveals his true nature ! :P :P :P
[ You know that will not change my love for you, Scott ! Mehehehehe ! ;) ]
I can't wait to read the next step, the words "crime-fighting" catch my attention. I know we both wish had more time together, but that is just a question of months now. I can't wait to meet Raven ! ;)
Bises à Alexandra et toi, à la Française, bien sûr !
J.

Scott Altmann said...

"You know that will not change my love for you,"
man love, crying, sensitivity, "time together" - what's going on with us- should we be worried?

Mike Dutton said...

C'mon Scott and Julien, you guys need to MAN-UP! Haha. ;)
Ehh, just in case the moody stuff is a bit much, I promise it's all going somewhere. And I think there'll be some comic relief in the next post. Bear with me.

Ana, thanks for the kind words, the unadulterated response was very much what I needed to hear.... I was actually feeling pretty embarrassed about posting it until I saw what you wrote. I think 'vulnerable' is a good word to describe what I was feeling at the time of the trainride, as well as how I felt writing about it for all here to read. :)

Ben - Treasure? hehe, I don't know about that, but really, thanks. :) I'm glad that you're enjoying the read, because the last thing I want is for these Europe posts to come across like a "Lookee here, this is what I did, and you didn't. nyah, nyah." And while I did see a lot of beautiful stuff, I want to share the more honest personal experiences, even if that includes the "downer" moments.

Andy - I'm sure you were kidding about getting married as a way to see Europe, but I still gotta say: I met a whole lot of people travelling alone. I know I write about travelling alone in a pretty dim light, but honestly, I envy travellers who can and have done it. Alex most of all, because she did it for four months, while others have gone a year or more. Seriously, do it while you're young, without all the leashes of home life .... I consider myself extremely lucky being able to do it for even 6 weeks (we've been back for a few weeks now - but planning our next big trip 3 years from now).
And defintely, I'll see you in San Diego!

Ana Banana said...

awwww...Mike...never feel embarassed to express yourself like this! Women LOVE this kind of stuff! And men, they should take lessons from you in the art of expression and vulnerability. If all men were able to express themselves as this, I would bet that we wouldn't have as many wars; I think repression boils over into aggression. You are a poet and a warm-hearted man! I look forward to more of your wonderfully worded posts, Mike.

Julien alday said...

Mike, Scott, be sure I'm fighting with my real forces for recovering, if not my senses, my dignity. :P Hélas, the impulse still the stronger ! Yeah, Scott, we should worry... The Animus of my Anima is talking here. ;) :P
Aside that, and as said before, Mike I can't wait to read the next update.
Bises à Alex et Raven.
J.

Bruce said...

Wonderful narrative, Mike. You speak the words that I have and can only feel and have felt on more than one occasion. Only, when I go to write something like this it reads like a caveman wrote it, ha, ha. Seriously though, it's good to see someone who thinks alike.