Once it was a drunken piano bar; now it’s not even drunk in.

Train stations are so romantic, when they’re done right. They’re yesterday’s airports – grand, glorious waiting rooms made into malls, full of stories starting and ending and somewhere in between, and memories of all the times we were all there before. Hope, sadness, adventure… whatever it is, nobody travels for no reason. Most people seem to live most of their lives for no reason other than survival, really, moving from morning piss to after-dinner drink to passing out, like mere organisms.

The sign says to report it if you spot anything unusual - like, say... a Tom Cruise Lookalike with bad facial hair and foreign teeth? These men are dangerous. Our train journey back was delayed five hours because some asshole called someone - uniformed men then stopped and searched the train for illegal immigrants.

I spotted nothing that didn't seem unusual. Take this guy, who's carrying an orchid. Where is he going? Is it for him or his lover - and how long will it live?

Train stations promise more than that.

My two favourite station stops on Amtrack’s route between LA and Seattle were Los Angeles Union train station – which is beautifully maintained and restored and smells of fresh coffee, and the station at Portland, Oregon, which seems full of stories.

Just randomly walking around in a Christmas hat... in LA station, on Christmas Eve 2010.

LA station is a real crossroads. Add the fact that it was Christmas Eve and the beginning of my mother and my trip to Seattle… and that I expected LA station to be an awful, dirty, low-ceilinged wasteland. This was an amazing surprise. So amazing I bought souvenir tequila-shot glasses.

You can say a lot of bad things about sleeping in a train station. One of them is not that it's forgettable.

A day or so later, we stopped for 40 minutes in Portland, Oregon.

These trains made me happy.

Oregon is supposedly the only state with its own flag.* Correction to this provided by Shannon in the comments. My mom went and got this info from the baggage handler... maybe he meant it was the only state that always flew the flag this way?

Another surprise – a feeling that some of the things the place was made for were gone now.

Once, this was a piano bar. Then it was just a bar. When we were there it was closed.

This piano bar made me really sad. I want it to be open. I want to dress up and go there – drink a large, illegal martini, while flirting with a gangster in a black hat. I love little details like this. Like the church bells in South Africa’s small towns that were once rung by real people, now ringing out as scheduled recordings. I’d love to write a movie about the last person who rang one of those bells, and how it felt when they lost their job.

But a station store with a sense of humour at least. If you want a fridge magnet that mocks the 50s, this is the place to get it.

Well, reading them is free.

I love "I love bacon" the most. That and the No Drama sign. Every home should have one.

Apparently human beings can't cope with more than 7 choices.

... tick. Tock. I believe in ghosts.

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5 Responses to “Once it was a drunken piano bar; now it’s not even drunk in.”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Most states, if not all, have their own flag. Texas is the only one that is allowed to fly at the same height as the US flag, though, as it was an independent country before joining the US in 1845.

    Seventh grade Texas history FTW.

  2. jeanbarker Says:

    I guess that’s what happens when you get your information from the baggage handler. I actually noticed a Cali flag somewhere and wondered about this ol’ post.

  3. Jannie Maree Says:

    Jean, Oregon is the only remaining state that has a two-sided flag. There is the state seal on one side and a beaver on the other – a real beaver… the state animal.

    Groetnis.

  4. jeanbarker Says:

    Ah that explains it. Broken telephone between the baggage handler, my mom, myself and the page.

  5. Jenice Silberstein Says:

    I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

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