Thursday, March 29, 2007

train

well, i'm on my way from washington D.C. to new york. it was cherry blossom season in D.C., something i'd always wanted to see. there was no time to enjoy it this time around, but i managed to catch the sweet scent in the air and snap a shot from my treo.

the best thing about this trip is that i found an excuse to ride the train (acela express to be exact). i don't know what it is but i've loved taking the train since my late teens. europe opened my fascination with the train. i remember taking the eurail and stumbling my way across western europe with little more than a backpack and even less of a clue. it was challenging, but the sense of freedom and adventure i felt was without match. i remember the quiet churches of venice, nearly missing my train in germany after 2 huge beers with new friends in the hofbrauhaus (munich), a ride in the back of a truck in denmark, visiting an ex-girlfriend in the hague, and accidentally discovering an amazing peter gabriel concert (free!) in paris. i rolled back into madrid with just enough cash to buy a fresh baguette and some apples. note: there's a reason why you never see apple sandwiches on a menu.




fast-forward to graduating university of michigan and heading off to asia for a little more train adventure. first trip was a night long voyage to kuala lumpur from singapore with my freshman year roomie jeffrey lam. we were visting my mentee and pal mike louie who was staying in KL for a short period of time with a friend. KL was not incredibly beautiful or interesting to be honest, but it was the first time i realized the size and reach of islam as i stared at the world's largest mosque. juxtaposed with this likely the world's largest pirated software market. to commemorate the experience, i bought all the adobe products i couldn't otherwise afford for 5 dollars. i suppose i've been doing my penance in the software industry ever since ;-)




following singapore and malaysia, i headed over to japan to take the j-rail for a week. using my pass and serviceable nihongo, i traveled from tokyo all the way down to fukuoka where i visited a fellow wolverine (victor) who was taking classes at the university there. he took me to an amazing summer festival on a lake with fireworks and street vendors who sold tasty octopus dumplings among other strange and lovely things. on the way back i had the chance to stop by kobe and kyoto (one gorgeous, the other historic but somewhat bland). i can still recall walking by myself through pristine, silent japanese gardens, feeling like i had been transported a million miles away from the rest of humanity into a secret, alien place. i remember sitting in the train station, hearing a distant rumble, and moments later having my hair blown back as a speeding shinkansen blurred past the railstation at 190 mph.



so here i am in my 30s, back on the train with a decidely more complicated life than in earlier days before mortgages and jobs. odd how none of that seems to dampen the sense of freedom i feel as i write here on the acela. the moment at hand is as perfectly enjoyable as the memories.

1 comment:

Mai said...

The Romance of the Railway. Now I understand what you're talking about! You have had predominantly positive train experiences... you are lucky. The night train from Berlin to Paris in the summer in a sleeper car with 4 sweaty Africans? Never again, my friend. And after taking the Long Island Railroad (that brings the commuters of LI's bedroom communities to the city)twice a week for 3 years, and even coming to expect the sodding 2-hr-delays-without-explanation (in both directions)... well, you get the picture. Come to think of it, the shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Osaka in Jan 2006 with my dad was the stunning exception to a streak of bad experiences. Sleek, fast, punctual, and... oh, there was some kind of attendant who walked up to the front of our carriage and bowed to everyone!