All the trippy people on the train say “hi”

This Amtrack Train would make a great moving set. It’s hilarious. I’ve never been to a place with so many rules – there are even more rules on a train than there are on an aeroplane. Wear your shoes. No singing. No using the tables between meals. No laptops in the cafe cart. No arriving for dinner at your pre-booked time. The dining room lady will inform you when she feels that it’s 5.15pm – at a time of her choosing. In the middle of the night, the police were called aboard at a stop to eject some passengers who weren’t behaving. So I’m keeping a low profile and encouraging my mother to do the same.

I love trains. Sleeping on one is twice as expensive as a plane to the same place, 30 times slower, and a million times more entertaining. The Coast Starlight is a sort of down-home version of the blue train - priced around the same as Eurail, if you consider that meals are included.

And the staff are a real motley crew. The woman in charge of the lounge car – Veronica – is the coolest. She has a genuine sense of humour, and the best Spanish accent ever. She’s being heavily courted by a hip hop guy in a big yellow jacket, who I think gave up and got off the train in Portland. Then there’s Henry, who tells the kids jokes and placates the passengers who have been told off by the woman who runs the dining cart. And Bryan who waits in that cart and seems to play good cop to her “schoolmarm cop”. And there’s the woman who runs the dining area for coach passengers, who announces in a seductive voice that she has “Coffee, tea, juice, jalepeno burger… or (whispering) a snickers bar… come see me”. I had to go see her. She’s a little old lady with grey hair who looks like she should be next to a fire, knitting.

And there’s Julio, who nobody’s ever seen, but who gets told where to be all the time. For some reason, they haven’t discovered the joys of cellular or walkie talkie communication, so all internal staff communications are broadcast throughout every single cabin on the intercom. As I write this, Julio’s last known location was the Dining Car.

And that’s just the staff. The passengers get pretty weird too. Like the reborn Christian evangelist who spent an hour lecturing some poor old man whose wife had died about how he needed to move on, then left… she was carrying a goldfish in a tupperware. And the dude who sat carving his lighter up with a flick knife, while making strange grunting noises. And this lawyer from California who followed me around and sat and stared at me wherever I went, and eventually gave me this poem, which I’d seen him carrying around specially printed out since we all got on the train in the morning.

Merry Christmas to you too.

As you can imagine, I’m having an awesome time. This is screenwriter heaven.

Mom wanted me to send my brother a picture of us together, to show I was looking after her nicely. Here's me doing as I'm told.

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