Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Here's to Husserl

Fortunately for my poor parents, they only have a vague idea about how many of my visits home over the years have been desperate and deliberate attempts to dry out. I think you know what I mean. My relationship with alcohol ebbs and swells, it is an organic creature kind of like a friend or lover I keep finding and losing, and periodically we dovetail with alarming intensity.

When I find myself blind drunk at 3 am on a Sunday night, smashing dishes in the kitchen I am forced to remember that sometimes I have a problem. (The dishes thing is not AS crazy as it sounds, we had these awful mugs shaped like no animal in particular, just grotesque smiling fantastical creatures which I'd always been loathe to drink from and at that particular moment, ranting that cups should be cups and their transgressive defiance of both category and categorization, not to mention gross bumpy surfaces and creepy grins, felt absolutely compelled to destroy in the most performative, cathartic way possible).

In desperate need of a break I found myself the next night spending the evening with a familiar friend, the Amtrak 354 wolverine train to Ann Arbor. No really, I hear Michigan is lovely this time of year. Relax, despite the way this might have started off like a sad story about my sodden liver, it's really more about an extraordinary phenomenological moment in a dining car on a train ambling, of all places in mid-february, dead east.

I travel this line every month or two and always see the same man working in the dining car. He's slight and chatty and gets off at every stop for a cigarette. He has the most curious manner of speaking, installed in a dubious but distinctly Irish aural syzygy of accent, affectation and plain old-fashioned perpetual tipsiness. As it was an evening train a long line had developed by the swaying stainless steel counter. A waspy middle aged woman and her portly husband bought two bratwursts and a split bottle of red-wine.
"Can you break a 50?" she asked in a hushed tone.
"What lady" my Irish friend droned like a refrigerator and smiling cagily, "You think you're the only wealthy woman on this train?"
The woman reacted strongly, eyes widening, face flushing, jaw slackening. IN an effort to cover her shock she responded melodramatically:
"you mean I'm not the only princess aboard?"
"Nooooo Lady" Says concession guy pulling their food from the microwave grinning widely and gesturing grandly with his free hand "You are surrounded by your kind!"

As if all this wasn't uncomfortable enough, a fat, gap-toothed woman behind them in line piped up.
"sure you're a princess, you're standing next to the king of shit!"
What a comedy of errors were these jokesters! Each one meant to be funny, but delivered dead on arrival, bombing worse than the one before it, wiping out whole populations of congeniality and good taste.
The couple's laughter now was full on shrill and nervous. They were florid and everyone in line shifted uneasily. Shaking their heads in bewilderment, They collected their "dinner" and made a hasty exit.

I felt blessed to be a part of this akward, awful interaction between strangers.

Later in the trip I returned to the dining car in search of chocolate milk. I can't remember the last time I drank it but some girl across the Isle had some and I got hit with a powerful craving. This time I decided to introduce myself to the food car guy. He'd noticed me on that route as often as I him and shook my hand heartily. His name is nick and he's my new friend. All they had was yoo hoo which I'd never tasted before in my life. "how is it?" I asked "I don't know lady, that stuff's for the kids, its made of whey, that's all I know lady, made of curds and whey." I tried it and tried to convince myself while drinking it that It was chilled because it needed to be refrigerated.

In niles Michigan, I overheard my new friend, as he headed out for a smoke, trying to explain to the frumpy older woman across the isle from me what a pub crawl was. I might not rank amoung the princesses of the 354 train, but I take comfort in knowing there's at least one other drunk.

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