My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Jul 27

New York: Conception, Travel and Arrival

Category: Life

A few months ago I’m sitting in this smoke-filled dive bar with my friend, Kim. We’ve just met for the first time outside of the internets. So, we’re talking surrounded by a host of drunk people, she tells me that she’s been wanting to go to New York on a train, but nobody wants to go with her. Now, at the time, I’m fairly functionally depressed, but that night, I’m having fun. I like the idea of a trip to New York. I have this Things to Do list, and a post-trache trip without my family is one of my Things to Do. I figure, if I still dig Kim’s company in a few weeks, maybe I could figure out a way to go. I’d need a new assistant. My current best assistant, Sarah, would be gone soon enough, definitely before I could throw a trip together.

Skip ahead to early July. I’m still friends with Kim, I have a great new assistant, Katherine, who does everything I need perfectly, and I’m having nothing but trache troubles. Between late-June and mid-July, I’ve had four different traches in three weeks. One particular morning, I’m coughing like crazy, I’m not breathing well at all. I have to hike it to the e.r. in an ambulance. I’m in the e.r. thinking about a certain woman, how much I love her, and if it matters. I also decide that when I get out, I’m going to text Kim and tell her we’re hopping a train. I get out, I text Kim, we book tickets.

On July fifteenth, Kim, Katherine and I are set to be on a train bound from Tampa to New York. That morning, my family flips out a little bit, they stage something like an intervention, the consensus being that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I have no business trusting this assistant that I’ve had for just two months, that I don’t really know how to take care of myself, and that if I go to New York alone I’m going to die. None of this surprises me. I also find it a little ironic, because in my head I’ve been calling it “the suicide trip.” I mean, I’ve had nothing but trache trouble, I kind of feel like shit, I don’t really know what to expect, but I don’t care. I just keep thinking, fuck it, I’m going. It’s not that I want to die on this trip, at all, but I’m not going to let the simple fact that I could die stop me. I feel like I know what I’m doing just enough. Eventually, thanks to some counter-intervention from another friend, Celeste, people calm down. Celeste has a hatchet tucked under the front seat of her car, which pretty much says that she’s ready to handle any situation, especially zombies. I get on that train.

The ride takes twenty-seven hours because of delays. The biggest delay being that before the train picked us up in Tampa, it hit and killed a fellow. We start calling it “the murder train.” At around midnight that first night, I ask Kim and Katherine, “have either of you ever seen the movie, The Midnight Meat Train?” Kim says, “oh God, don’t talk about that.” I laugh, quietly. I type an old-school offline letter to someone I’m thinking about who’s getting further away as we go North. I write…

So, right now, I’m on the train, not online, but writing to you anyway. It’s night time, the car’s dimly lit, people are asleep. I’m lying on a cozy cushion, on the floor, it’s a nice big area by a window. I’m all lazed out under my fluffy red blanket.  The motion of the train under my back is the sort of thing that relaxes me.

I’m falling asleep now, thinking about you.

I’m definitely glad to be away from Tampa, but not entirely. I figured I’d get on the train and think, “later, Tampa, it’s been real!” I do think that, but not as strongly as I expected. I haven’t missed anyone in this particular way in a long time. It’s a good feeling, a good feeling mixed with melancholy. I think of Elliott Smith songs, and Aimee Mann songs. Songs about things that don’t work out the way we want. Part of me tends to think that Elliott and Aimee are entirely right, while another part of me just won’t accept that life has to suck. This is why I’m a ridiculous romantic, and why I’m in love again, and why I’m on a train that’s crawling toward New York and my possible demise. I do things on the off chance that I’ll experience something good. I’m a dark optimist. I fall asleep. it’s a really good sleep.

We get to New York late on the sixteenth, the folks at Penn Station are quite nice. A fellow hauls our forty-seven bags to street level, we start trying to hail a cab to our hotel. Now, the thing about New York City cabs is that they don’t seem to like picking up wheelchair people, or perhaps it’s just my crazy looking chair. Either way, getting a cab takes some doing, especially because my sort of cab has to be a mini-SUV, or specifically “accessible.” Oh, and I forgot to mention the luggage. So, we need two cabs, at least one big enough to fit me, my assistant, my vent, and my chair. Two cabs finally stop, both big enough to suit us. This is when we get our official “welcome to New York.” There’s this woman behind us, a resident of that particular street corner. she’s swearing at random passersby. We’re getting into our cabs, I get the hose temporarily disconnected from my neck while my vent gets loaded into the car. The woman screams, “oh my God, you pulled the tube out of that child’s throat!” She’s screams, “get that child out of here!” She screams, “I’m calling the police!” Kim tells crazy lady to relax. Crazy tells Kim, “I’m gonna burn your car.” We’re definitely in New York…


12 Comments so far

  1. Annie Flanagan July 27th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Oh my god, Mike this is awesome! I can’t wait to read the next installment. There will be another blog, yes?

    Being a jaded romantic myself, I’m especially intrigued by the love angle of the story. You are in love again, and that’s gotta feel great. Maybe she doesn’t know it yet, and that’s gotta feel not so great. The nosey broad in me wonders who she is. But if you’re not ready to tell her, I guess you’re not going to tell “us” your loyal readers.

    I love this blog. Have I told you that already? I love this blog.

    Thanks for sharing…. what happens next? <3

  2. Ormolu July 27th, 2009 8:33 pm

    Those last sentences made me lawl. *snicker*

  3. josh July 27th, 2009 8:40 pm

    Fan-fucking-tastic! You hit on so many levels right there and you haven’t even set out into the city. I’ll be checking back for the continuation far more frequently than necessary . . .

  4. jen July 27th, 2009 8:48 pm

    “Later,Tampa it’s been my favorite line…I currently left Jacksonville and my GOD did I feel that…no sad feelings for me exiting that place. I did leave someone I loved but I still keep him in the rear view mirror…Great writing, by the way.

  5. Susie July 27th, 2009 11:51 pm

    this is awesome …

  6. gayle July 28th, 2009 12:05 am

    Fun to hear about your trip (I’m going to NY myself next month…)

    BTW, I saw this call for literary tattoos and thought you might want to submit yours…


  7. Jenny July 28th, 2009 12:10 am

    I love “fuck it, I’m going.” Many people fail to grasp this simple concept. Work, money, laziness….. no risk, no sense of adventure.

    I often travel alone, and when I do, there is always a melancholy soundtrack running through, usually always brightened by happening upon a new place, meeting a new person, experiencing something genuine to yourself…

  8. Jennifer July 28th, 2009 7:49 am

    I am so glad you didn’t die.
    And that you did something crazy. I can’t believe the chances you take.
    Can’t wait to read more.

  9. stonedpengwin July 28th, 2009 1:21 pm

    wow that is some amazing writing….ive been reading your blog since seeing you on this american life….i couldnt help but post to this….your writing is amazing cant wait to read what you did in new york….lol checking your blog is the first thing i do at work monday through friday….make my day go by faster !

  10. Noelle July 28th, 2009 2:55 pm

    Hi Michael. I saw your episode of This American Life the other night and had to look up your blog…I love it. I have Crohn’s Disease and often find myself not doing things because it might make managing my disease a little difficult. You just gave me a huge reality check! Thanks!

  11. Lumiara July 28th, 2009 11:41 pm

    Hello Michael.

    I’m Cindy, and I am here via the wonderful live journal community in which you were featured some time ago which I wont mention (though I’m sure you can figure it out). I’m not going to offer any platitudes or ask you to let me be your groupie (I fear your pimp hand is too strong), but will say that I love that the internet has allowed me to hear a voice and perspective I totally would have missed out on otherwise.

    I’ve not been to the Castle (I’d heard of it), though the fact that Peter Pan attends gives it pretty good street cred. We don’t have anyone so colorful in our scene here in Sacramento, but nearby in SF there’s plenty to make up for it.

    I have also never been to NY, though I’m sure Crackhead Theater is just as good there as it is in SF, so I’m sure you’ll have a good time.

    I’m subscribed to your LJ feed, so I’ll be around if you’ll have me.

  12. Tony Wilson July 28th, 2009 11:49 pm

    You’re the balls, dude. Hope you have a blast in NYC!