So Let It Be Written . . .

…so let it be done.
 
And done it is. Train of Thought: Travel Essays from a One-Track Mind is being printed even as I type this. The first copies will be ready in time for Beaver County BookFest on Sept. 8–9. That’s right around when I’ll also make them available on Amazon.
 
The last week is a complete blur. Most of what I was doing the past few weeks involved getting the book ready. Because I have a long history in prepress work, I do my own interior typesetting for my books. I love it, but it takes a lot of time to build a book from scratch. Every font. Every image. Every header, every subhead. On every page. I’m getting tired just thinking about it.
 
Anyway, this past week or so is a flurry of activity where I worked at my desk, ate at my desk, and got hyped up on caffeine at my desk.
 
And let’s just say my house is full of evidence that I’ve been living at my desk. Every room. Every dirty dish. Every undusted surface. Every uncleaned bathroom. I’m getting tired just thinking about it.
 
So now, in the two weeks till BookFest, I’ll climb away from the desk and wade through the debris field known as my house, so I can tidy up a little bit. But as I look around at the state of every room in this house—plus the overgrown yard outside—all I can say is this:
 
Please, Lord, don’t let anyone visit me till sometime in 2019.

Train of Thought … right on track

Deadlines are often my mortal enemies. They hate me, and rightly so. I taunt them. I brush up against them in annoyingly familiar ways. I tell them their father was a hamster and their mother smelled of elderberries.
 
This behavior doesn’t make them go away. In fact, they seem to loom larger the more I harass them. They are angry, bitter little beasts that don’t appreciate my behavior in their presence. You see, I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. Was late for my own birth, and I’ve perfected the skill in the ensuing years. I had to run for the bus an unprecedented number of times during my school years. I had to stay up late in college the night before a paper was due. I left for work thirty seconds later than it would take the average person to get there. It’s almost like I don’t hear the clock ticking until the deadline is breathing down my neck.
 
Deadlines love this behavior. They start taking bets on me, that I’ll falter and miss the deadline this time. Sometimes they’ve thrown my self-imposed, internal deadlines at me as signs that I’ll likely miss a real deadline currently before me. But they don’t understand that I know the difference between a random, self-imposed deadline and a real, can’t-change-the-date deadline. I know because I routinely conquer the latter while allowing myself way too much slack on the former.
 
The proposed September release for my upcoming cross-country train trip book, Train of Thought, was a target date for my Indiegogo backers. I chose that month based on what seemed reasonable once I got home from my trip in mid-May. Setting the date with a month—but no specific date—gave me more than four weeks of leeway to keep that rather flexible, self-imposed deadline.
 
Meanwhile, the deadline demons know how crazy my summers are and were giggling with glee that this time they would win. What they failed to factor in was Beaver County BookFest on September 9. There was no way I was going to sit at a third BookFest table in a row with the same four books for sale. I needed a new book this year.
 
Add a real deadline I cannot change onto my self-imposed deadline and you’ve got one determined writer. Once I am up against a wall I cannot tear down, I always scale it just in time. Always. I procrastinate until the adrenaline kicks in, and then I dash ahead. The deadline demons keep forgetting that I have more than a half century of practice at this. Don’t try this at home, kids. I’m a professional.
 
They will never win.
 
I have approximately ten days to finish this book (including layout, which is already in place) in order to have physical copies here before September 9. That’s plenty of time, as long as I don’t clean the house or have a social life or get heroic with dinner prep for the next week and a half. Which is standard operating procedure around here even when I’m not on a deadline.
 
So, if you see me on social media sites at all over the next ten days, it’s only because I need to remind myself that the real world is still out there and hasn’t been nuked into oblivion by some little nutjob halfway around the world. Because that’s about the only thing that’s going to stop me from meeting this deadline.
 
Take that, deadline demons.
 
 

Daydream Believer

I try to stop myself from typing in “Amtrak sleeper” in the Google Images search box. But it’s no use. I’m off on another daydream about what it will be like when I first step out of that cab a few months from now, at around 11 p.m., armed with nothing more than a backpack and a messenger bag, each full of things I’ve deemed essential for survival for the next fifteen days.

What will it be like to sit in the Amtrak station here in Pittsburgh in that last hour before I am no longer a train-virgin? How many other people will be there waiting with me? Will some of them be so used to this routine that they’ll be nodding off out of boredom? How will I not stick out like the newbie I am?

And what will it finally be like when I climb onto that first train, headed for Chicago overnight? I’ve chosen a simple coach seat for the first nine hours, despite those nine hours coming between midnight and 9 a.m. I wanted to save my money for roomette and bedroom upgrades later in the trip. Besides, I know I’ll be too keyed up that first night and won’t sleep anyway. Might as well sit in my roomy, comfortable coach seat (I finally found a benefit of being 5’1”), with this little laptop open, typing my eager thoughts about the train—the sights, the sounds, the smells (good grief, don’t let there be too many smells in coach, though!).

But today, more than three months before my trip, I open a browser and type in the word “Amtrak” and thousands of images start popping up. Many I’ve seen before, since I do this dumb sort of daydreaming at least once a week. Now that I’ve purchased the tickets and the trip is set, I suspect I’ll daydream my way through many lulls in my schedule in the ensuing weeks.

And I admit, sometimes I fall asleep at night trying to imagine what it will be like once I am cocooned in a tiny roomette, where I will wake up hundreds of miles from where I fell asleep.

Oh sure, I’ve done that on a plane. I’ve done that on a cruise ship. But soon, I will do this on my very first train trip—a dream of mine since childhood. What adventures await me? What misadventures? I’m ready for all of them.

Bring it on, Amtrak. I’m ready to see America.

—–

Want to help a gal make her way across the country to write a book about it? You can get a copy of the book for only a coupla  bucks by backing me on my journey! Go here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/train-of-thought-book-travel/x/7437287

 

Fly the Friendly Skies? Talking to Myself Again

Overheard in the grocery store… Wait, no, overheard in my mind (sorry, I get the two confused). A conversation with myself…
——
“Linda, why on earth would you take a train trip across the country for two weeks, when you could fly across and back in a single day?”
“Well, Alt-Linda, I hate flying.”
“So do birds, Linda, but you don’t see them complaining.”
“Birds don’t hate flying.”
“Well, you get my point, though.”
“No, not really.”
“You actually hate flying?”
“No, I’m just faking all those heart palpitations and that vomiting whenever a plane trip gets closer. Like, a year in advance.”
“But why take a train? For two weeks? To essentially do nothing but take the train?”
“Think of the adventure, Alt-Linda! The romantic lure of the rails! The glorious susurrus of the train as it glides across landscapes far and wide!”
“Susurrus? You just made that up.”
“No, it’s a real word. Honest. Look it up.”
“I’d have to know how to spell it to look it up.”
“Well, it’s right here on the screen.”
“Not yet it’s not. You’re still transcribing this conversation. And it’s not even a real conversation. It’s just you talking to yourself. Again.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass. It’s going to be an adventure, Alt-Linda. I can’t wait!”
“You’re lucky this conversation is all in your head. I bet you can’t pronounce susurrus.”
“Shut up. Nobody’s talking to you.”
“Except you.”
I’m you. Well, you know what I mean.”
“Rarely, but let’s move on, Linda. So, let me get this straight. You’re going to pay these Amtrak people a lot of money—”
“I already did. They charged my credit card, like, a nanosecond after I pushed ‘Submit.’”
“Okay, so, you paid these Amtrak people a lot of money to sit in a big metal box on wheels that’s going to go careening across the country at nowhere-near-breakneck speed… for two weeks.”
“Well, yes, but…”
“And at periodic intervals you’re going to go to a different metal box on wheels—attached to the first box on wheels and a bunch of other boxes on wheels—to get expensive food.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expensive.”
“You’re completely missing the point.”
“And at other periodic intervals you’re going to lie down and sleep in your original metal box—in a teeny, smaller box inside the bigger metal box, a box so small that they’ll give you a crowbar to get in and out of bed.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expen—”
“Okay, okay. What’s your point?”
“We haven’t even made it to Chicago yet in this scenario. Do I really need a point?”
“But it’s going to be—”
“If you use the word ‘adventure’ one more time I’m going to smack you.”
“That’d be quite a trick.”
“Back to your flawed thinking: If you get bored in the teeny tiny metal box or aren’t hungry enough to go to the metal food box—”
“They have tablecloths in the dining car.”
“Oh, well, THAT changes everything.”
“I sense sarcasm.”
“Moi?”
“I still don’t see your point.”
“My point, Linda, is that your definition of ‘adventure’ is rather low, don’t you think?”
“Potato, potahto.”
“You’re always bringing up food.”
“Only when I think about flying.”
“That’s a gross, disgusting play on words.”
“You’re the one who brought up bringing up food.”
“Back to my original point! Where’s your sense of adventure if all you’re doing is sitting in big metal boxes, eating food, sleeping, writing, and showering in tiny cubicles with flexible hoses recently used by complete strangers?”
“I’m bringing my Kindle along.”
“That’s it. I’m outta here. Taxi!”
“Don’t call for a taxi. Take the train.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“No, you’re out of my mind.”
“Oh, shut up!”
*****

Already I’m Confused

I bought a money belt for the big train trip in May. I’m not sure if I already feel safer, or if I’m going to end up in a seedy hostel in California, bleeding in a bathtub with my pancreas harvested for money. (Joke’s on them, though. I’m diabetic. You couldn’t give my pancreas away on Craigslist, even if you tacked on a free Hatchimal.)

The money belt itself is fine, but it came with a little flyer labeled “Useful Travel Safety Tips.” I’m eager to read anything that even tangentially relates to this trip, so I sat down to read through their list of 50 helpful (and not-so-helpful) tips. I’ll elaborate more on these in an early chapter of the book, but here’s a glimpse for the voyeuristic among you:

“If possible, take a self-defense class.”

Great. This hadn’t even occurred to me. Do fistfights routinely break out on Amtrak trains? There’ll be a fight over the good seats in the observation car somewhere around Colorado, won’t there?

“Bring a portable door or window alarm.”

The first time I read that, I saw “Bring a portable door” and panicked that the trains might not have doors. Still, even with the rest of the sentence factored in, I find this suggestion a little disturbing.

“Be on the lookout for anybody who is offering to help you with your bags at a train or bus station.”

Because it would be horrible if a Red Cap actually HELPED me lug that suitcase up to my Roomette! The horrors!

These next four really are back to back on the flyer:

“Trust your instincts and use your intuition and gut feeling when dealing with strangers.”

“Make a local friend.”

“Try to dress like a local.”

“In some places, it helps wearing a fake wedding ring.”

I don’t even know where to start with these four. All I know is that, by the time I finished reading #7, I had so many questions that I was weeping uncontrollably.

  • What if my gut instincts tell me NOT to make a local friend?
  • To dress like a local in Los Angeles, do I have to wear an Ed Hardy shirt and Birkenstocks and grow a hipster beard?
  • Why can’t I just wear my real wedding ring? After all, it looks fake in the right lighting…

“If you get lost, do not look at your phone or a map in the middle of the street.”

… because you’ll get hit by a car. Duh.

——

There are 42 more of these gems in this flyer. After reading all these, I may not be able to work up the courage to get to the station, let alone get on the train.