Friday, August 15, 2003

Saint Couchette

sooner than scheduled

and then we didn't go see the sistine chapel because we decided they wouldn't have us and besides i felt too dirty and tired and sore (and not in the good way) and charlie and i went straight for the train station to meet up with kristen and agnes in barcelona which meant a long train ride only i didn't mind and i wrote

(transcribed directly from the blank back page of Charlie's copy of William Lycon's The Philosophy of Language)

I decided Rome is a lot like a bunch of hyperactive children with no concept of foresight or planning who nonetheless build their own city... on the sun. As beautiful and grand as I found Rome, I've got no idea how these lunatics got more than two thousand years of history under their belts. Aeneas would not be proud.

During the ride from Rome to Genoa we passed a waterslide park. I contemplated saying "Fuck Agnes and Kristen and the good nation of Spain" and spending the remainder of my vacation as a slide guinea pig. Neither Charlie nor I have a clock and we are not far enough on this trip to worry about time yet — Pisa stands between us and Genoa yet. It's like timeless like a rolling casino... on the sun. By the heat I know it’s day but no real time...

The woman sitting next to me appeared to be reading some script for an Italian TV show. She was making marks here and there, so I suppose she might be somebody important. Evidence that, rather, she was crazy, like many people I have ridden public transportation beside: she had stuffed the script, a low-quality photocopy, in a Popo Gigio notebook with dozens of other papers. She did not speak a lick of English and neither did the script (I peeked). I'd like to think it was a family-oriented one-hour police drama about a recovering alcoholic cop divorcé who marries his partner, a sexy teenage witch superhero who hears prophetic messages from her talking log, then raises an eclectic assortment of international ghost children (one of whom struggles with his or her sexuality) and together they all form a rock band that travels the country, uncovering arcane governmental conspiracies regarding the existence of stop motion-animated aliens. Oh, and they have a dog named Tiger.


(and a second passage)

Everything was different after I left my shoes at the Hotel Stromboli. I did it on purpose, of course. These shoes I've had for more than a year and I still liked them, but foot odor demons possessed them long ago. Plus they had holes in their soles. Perhaps that's how the demons got in there in the first place. Their heaviness outweighed their usefulness. On a similar note, I decided against returning to the Sistine Chapel this morning. I opted to get to Genoa earlier and Charlie didn’t fight it. I'll probably regret this decision later, just like the shoes, which really weren't in such bad condition, now that I think about it. Maybe it’s the way my stomach flipped when I saw the Vatican — stunning, beautiful, damn close to perfect, but it made me feel sad. All that money donated over the years by hardworking Catholics over the years built a palace of marble and gold fancy enough to trap God inside. Glorious and gluttonous, it’s everything that’s right and wrong with Catholicism, my religion, stamped in my brain forever. And the maid at the Stromboli probably just threw my shoes away.

Next stop: Livorno. How many to Genoa? Nice? Barcelona? London? Hollister?

I’m wearing a t-shirt advertising a Joy Division album I'm not sure I've heard. As beaches blur by in my window, Italians cluster against the water like mussels on a rock, sleek and shiny. I wonder what Justin is doing. How do you say goodbye to an answering machine?


i think i thought nice was nice, even if i only saw the nice outside the train station and i think nice is where lucy is from and i thought about how great lucy is and how she's only in san luis now and i could go say hi some day if i only had here number but the train didn't board until way late at night and our car was full of backpackers desperate to get to barcelona and i swear the french punished us by not starting the air conditioning until way late and we were wet with sweat and thirsty and hungry from not eating all day but it did eventually pull out of the station and charlie and i shared our car with all these girls from california including this one named ashley who i found attractive in a rose mcgowan way and she went to the same high school in lafayette as shannon and we saw valeria again and i thought maybe valeria boded well for the rest of the journey since i felt so bad about stranding her back in interlaken and these horrible frenchwomen with sour faces like vinegar got in our car too and gave ashley and i dirty looks for talking and i don't think charlie liked ashley all that much but we had to leave anyway because we were in someone else's seats but charlie found an open, empty couchette and we crashed there and

Ah, the couchette. I think I have never have felt such a wonderful embrace as that of the leather bench-bed of that vacant couchette car. I only gained three hours sleep, but the alternative was total zombie status in Barcelona. If I ever become fantastically wealthy and build my dream mansion, I will include a couchette room, in which the couchette experience will be perfectly simulated, rocking and creaking and flashing lights passing through the edges of the window drapes and everything. No sweeter word exists in the French language before "couchette." Saint Couchette, the patroness of the travel-weary.

the ride through the spanish countryside to barcelona made me feel homesick because i thought it looked a lot like california, what with the golden hills and agriculture and all and even the people speaking spanish made me wish the train could have just kept going across the atlantic and all the way home only it didn't because that would be silly and instead it took us to the barcelona train station where we saw valeria a third time and i'm totally convinced that little ecuadorian woman is an angel because she serendipitously stopped us directly in front of the internet station where we could check our mail only the news wasn't as good as i had hoped

Excerpts from Kristen's bad news epistles, the first of which bore the subject "Big Problem":
ag and i just got to barcelona and the journey went fine, just took a while. on the metro on our way to go find a hostel, ag's money belt was stolen out of her little backpack. no cash was in it but both her passports, her american green card, her student visa for paris, her expired ATM, her eurail pass, and her social security card were in there. we went to the police station and reported it and it seems that she might need to go to paris ASAP because there is an actual canadian embassy there and here...

i saw two guys get on, one had an accordion and the other stepped between me and ag. while one was playing the accordion to distract us apparently, the other unzipped ags little back pack that she was holding in front of her and pulled the money belt out we think. ag also saw a third guy that was making eye contact with the other two that may have been involved. ag noticed it was unzipped a little when we got off and the metro was just leaving.

if you want to meet us in barcelona or paris, we'll work it out when we find out info from the embassy. but if you don't want to wait to find out or travel that far, thats ok too. i'll be emailing you asap about the next results.

mostly at charlie's urging, he and i went to paris, but not before i cursed both agnes for allowing some swarthy accordion man charm her into dancing away all her valuable documents and the six or so hours we hung out in barcelona, which passed like a kidney stone, although we did meet this cute viennese girl named mary/marie who knew more about swedish rock and david lynch than hot girls usually do and she reminded me of someone i can't quite place in my mind and she said i reminded her of thom yorke (which i kind of have trouble taking as a compliment) and also the lead singer of coldplay (which i guess i take as slightly more of a compliment) and we stayed with her until she went her own way and left us with the stereotype of the american nuclear family where the dad was in the navy and i suspect didn't like me and the mom was a dead ringer for peggy hill from king of the hill and they told us some stories about how they used to be wild before the wed and bred but i suspect their wild was on the wild side of mild

I arrived in Paris after two straight days of travailing travel and I arrived in Paris after two straight days of travailing travel and instantly wanted to escape to home by moving my flight up a few days. Upon the advice of the A, C, and K or D.A.C.K., however, I took a hot shower, brushed my teeth, exchanged the brown pants and Joy Division shirt I had been wearing for the last two days and allowed myself time to reconsider. One afternoon on the streets of Paris and I submitted to the city's allure. And now here I write.

As it should be, nine days.