Day 2: Seattle and on toward Reykjavík

May 27, 2010

Union Station (Amtrak), Portland, Ore., May 26

Everything has started lopsided, with the little tragedies and surges that underly the best and the worst journeys we take. Is David’s lost wallet an Ill omen or a charm?

David doesn’t lose wallets.

But his is most certainly missing, and now he is missing; I am sitting in Union Station in downtown Portland and we have already missed the train. I am sitting with my back to the platform because it is empty anyway on a bench like a pew made of a lot of wood. The floors and walls a stone, maybe sandstone or limestone, beige and polished. It has always looked the same in here.

I have no real idea of what is happening, which makes the vaulted archaic echo of the station all the more appropriate. Not wanting any dead weight for Europe, I switched off my iPhone and put it in a drawer. No one can call me to tell me what is happening. So maybe it is like waiting for a telegram or waiting for a horse to come with fresh news (maybe two weeks stale?) from the city. The frosted glass and oak in this place, the echoes, makes this feel appropriate.

The first thing that happens on our trip is that I ask David for something simple: $1.50 for a corn dog in the station’s food stand. I don’t usually eat corn dogs and I haven’t really been eating at all for the past several days–a hot and clenching nervous anxiety keeps me away from food. A corn dog. David fishes in his pocket for cash for my corn dog but comes up with a grimace and a realization: wallet gone.

He disappears, to find a cab. The gate attendants flirt with me and are helpful, maybe too helpful. The train leaves and when one of the employees loans me a phone (I didn’t even ask! Such industriousness!) and David is still stuck in traffic on the Broadway Bridge with a feckless, useless cabbie.

The train has left.

Sicilian chocolate in the Portland Union Station first/sleeper lounge on Flickr

Sicilian chocolate in the Portland Union Station first/sleeper lounge

Solo and empowered, I just bought tickets for us for the next train, 90 minutes hence. The fare was much higher. Another fifteen dollars, the ticket agent says, and we can have a private room, with dinner.

The decision was not hard to make.

View of the platform on Flickr

View of the platform

Union Station on Flickr

Union Station

Northbound Amtrak #14 coast starlight, pacific lounge car, wine tasting


Our "Roomette"

Wine tasting, led by Carmella, a Los Angelino who is giving us trick question trivia to win a glass of wine. I know some of the answers a bit too well and the others annoy me. But still, three nearly full glasses of crap wine and a plastic wood colored bowl full of cheese cubes seems like a mighty fierce deal for $5. Especially with the scenery (green and Columbian) and Carmella’s exasperation at our horrible guessing– we all get free wine. She hates us all and likes us a bit too.

David in the

David in the "Roomette"

The Columbia Crest shiraz is apparently good with the goat cheese that everyone already finished. Clamoring for more goat cheese to no avail.  

My father lives in Bellevue, Wash. Across the street he lives on–Lake Washington Blvd.–are the $3-8million mansions on the waterfront. His is a tiny cabin, former servants’ quarters. The neighbor’s chickens wander and coo. It’s adorable. He left us plenty of food for breakfast:

Breakfast Lox! on Flickr

Breakfast Lox!

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