Monday, September 19, 2005

Spent the weekend in Portland--or more accurately, spent the weekend at a Holiday Inn in Portland. This was mostly strategic: I was supposed to finish the 2007 page-a-day calendar on Friday, and by the end of that day I still had about 85 entries to write. So I took a couple changes of clothes and some reference books to cadge quotes from and grabbed an afternoon train down on Saturday. I arrived at the Holiday Inn at 5:30 and except for a Wendy’s run at 10 p.m., didn’t leave the hotel until four o’clock the next afternoon, by which time I was done with the calendar. I distracted myself plenty, of course, but it was pretty concentrated work, and I’m glad it’s finished. Had lunch with Douglas Wolk at a terrific Middle Eastern place (Douglas ordered for me), and tested my self-restraint by browsing at Powell’s for an hour without buying anything. I did pick up a book of dirty pictures at CounterMedia around the corner, though. The other three people I wanted to see in PDX were either unavailable or out of town, which was fine--I didn’t plan the trip for social reasons anyway.

Right now I’ve just experienced something that felt like it was out of a movie. I tend to spend my train rides in the dining car, reading or writing and listening to my iPod, sometimes loudly; I’m actually typing this on the train. In line for the return trip, I stood behind a pleasant, collegiate-looking dude (shaved head, glasses, skinny, destination Olympia) who recognized me from the Saturday trip. (He noticed that my glasses fit oddly and advised me to have the bow bent. I don’t think I’ll follow his advice, if only because this pair is on its last legs anyway and I haven’t had a checkup in four years--I’ll probably just get a new set.) In the dining car, I had been listening for a few minutes when Olympia Guy asked me to turn the volume down--he could hear it pretty well a few tables away. No problem. I pecked away at the column, and eventually turned the music off altogether. Then the Professional Wrestler made his move.

The Professional Wrestler is a huge Samoan-looking dude wearing a bright yellow Gold’s Gym tank top and an enormous John Cena wrestling belt--which, as it turns out, looks about five times as large in real life as it does on TV. He was sitting in the left back corner table of the dining car when I arrived; Olympia Guy was in the right back corner table, reading. Professional Wrestler was fiddling with a cell phone, then brought it up to his ear and proceeded to conduct a VERY LOUD conversation with his dad. It only lasted a couple minutes but it was enough to the car’s inhabitants--me, Olympia guy, a 50-ish couple, a 60-ish guy reading a manuscript--take notice. Professional Wrestler, his face in a permanent grimace, his hair permanently hockeyed, either didn’t notice or pretended not to, it was hard to tell which. Then, after another couple minutes, he clearly got bored and went for his phone again.

I’ve been hearing about phones that played MP3s and the radio, but I never experienced them until PW went to work. I think he was dial twisting--there were a couple instances of static--but mostly the selections he went through could have come from an Adam Sandler script: “Crazy Train,” Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” random static, AC/DC, Britney. I had no problem with Olympia Guy’s request to turn my music down, but I have to admit it was kind of fun watching him squirm at PW’s seeming obliviousness.

All this took place in a 20-or-so-minute time slot. Since, PW has put in an earpiece, spoken barely above a whisper, and seems like he’s daydreaming. Nobody said a word to the guy, but even if he was having fun with us, he eventually got tired of it. Then he fell asleep for the remainder of the train ride.