Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Circles in the Snow

Because we've missed out on much of the white stuff this season, I rode Amtrak north in search of some.  Pleased to find that every seat had access to an electrical outlet, I worked on a book update until dinnertime, although I frequently glanced out the windows.  One of the first things you notice riding a train is people don't pay as much attention to the back sides of their houses as they do fronts, which shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, because it's also clear, as passengers pass through the aisles, the same is true of their bodies.  Another thing I noticed was lots of train whistles.  "A train's coming!"  A bit slow on the uptake, I had to remind myself that it was our whistle.

The prettiest part of the trip was Virginia, with all the little hamlets nestled in mountain hollows, and farms, orchards and vineyards.  By the time we reached West Virginia, after a layover in D.C., the sky was turning dark.  I realized I might as well stay put because the views from the observation car wouldn't be any better.  The sounds might have been, because the elderly gentleman across the aisle, who must have slept 90% of his trip, made no attempt to disguise a variety of noises.  Perhaps he left his Z-Pak at home.  Not for the first time, I wished I'd reserved a berth in the sleeping car.

As soon as I returned from a tasty vegetarian pasta in the dining car, my neighbor in the window seat pointed out that it was snowing.  I said, "That's interesting.  It was raining outside the dining car."  She laughed.  A few minutes later, when the snow changed to rain, I said, "See?  The rain finally made it to our car."  She laughed again.  It's nice to have an appreciative audience, except she apparently figured I wasn't really working and began offering enough information to make me hope she'd reach her destination soon.

By the time we sighted Lake Erie the rain had turned to ice and snow.  Two hours later, when I disembarked in Toledo, the roads looked a mess.  My sister showed up a couple hours later, finding me half asleep on what I'd turned into a long vinyl couch.  "Here I am, picking up my homeless brother," she said.

"You've been into first impressions this week, haven't you?" says Virginia.  "Remember when your friends from North Carolina showed up on Friday.  You hadn't shaved in 3 days and had mud and ashes splattered over your clothes and face."

Nothing a shower and "Queer Eyes for the Straight Guy" can't fix.  Whatever, I had found my snow, I thought, until my sister assured me we'd be out of it in 15 minutes.  Sort of.  A few hours later it began falling heartily in Bluffton as my mother and I watched from her apartment living room.  We drove slowly to dinner with Mary and Fred, and then even slower after I watched a van carve a circle in the snow in front of their house and a couple guys push her back on course, not really what I had in mind on a day of 70 degrees at home in Virginia.

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