The experience was instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever had a track break on an electric trainset, except that in the real world trains are heavy and have significant momentum. Thus, deprived of current they don’t skid to a sudden, plasticky halt but rather slide on for half a mile, slowly but inevitably losing speed. Everything bar the fire escape signs suddenly and simultaneously went out, and slowly, deliberately, the whine of the engine dipped and eventually ceased. After an ominous silence, the first of a succession of interruptions began. The hilarious announcements from the man on the tannoy (who probably had a ridiculous job title, but it’s slipped my mind) who seemed to know remarkably little about the man who was apparently trying to “recycle” the engine, let alone whether such a process was wise or likely to succeed. The banter between the passengers was fascinating, and delightfully American in its world-weary but essentially optimistic humour. The English train traveller would have been swearing under his breath at some unseen authority figure responsible for all such disasters, whereas the Americans started sharing anecdotes and advice, calling ahead to their relatives or cracking jokes. At one point we seemed destined to be shunted onto another train in what sounded like a spectacularly dangerous line-up-the-trains-and-jump-across manoeuvre, but then, miraculously, it sprang to life again and we were off, our 45-minute stay in that particular stretch of Rhode Island over with. (more…)
…was an allusion to a couple of songs, namely Mark Erelli’s wonderful “Baltimore”, and Counting Crows’ “Raining in Baltimore.” Erelli’s song I have alluded to before and is one of the great driving-all-night-to-see-my-girl songs, with the twist that on this occasion the girl in question is going to need a lot of convincing when he gets there. Probably best not to look (or smell) like you’ve just driven all night then, really. The latter is an unsung gem from August and Everything After, a paean to the joys and gut-wrenching impossibility of long-distance love. (more…)
The following is collated and edited correspondence both with my American friends and with friends and relatives at home, emails hurriedly typed in internet cafes in cities, or on borrowed laptops in friends’ houses, journal entries from the time. I have added commentary with the benefit of hindsight, and intercut some of the photographs I took along the way.
The journal in question was a black leather journal cover embossed with a Frank Lloyd Wright design, a present from my mother a couple of years previous, holding 7×5 refills ordered from Barnes & Noble in the USA because Europe doesn’t do 7×5 notebooks. (more…)