... Plus vague et plus soluble dans l'air, — Paul Verlaine  
  Third Edition, 31 October 2011  
Cross-Country Reality Check

By Louis Martin


The trip begins in Emeryville, across the Bay from San Francisco. I came over the night before to catch the California Zephyr. It runs to Chicago. I was then planning to take the City of New Orleans train down to New Orleans.

It is 9 AM. I am relaxed in my economy seat which, despite the low cost, is large and comfortable. I look around at the few other passengers settling in. I note the clear weather, the day; it is a nice one. There is an indeterminate buzz in the air, like bees in a garden on a day when you don't know what you're going to do but don't care.

Then I feel a nudge. The train moves slowly out of the station.

A nudge, not a jolt. A gentle beginning. We are leaving the city behind. Gladly....

Putting My Feet Up in New Orleans

By Louis Martin


When I got to New Orleans, I was so exhausted I thought it was all over for me; I felt sick and feverish. I was also sticky-dirty. It was now Thursday evening around 11 PM and I hadn't had a shower since Sunday. I bought two cold bears from Anna, who runs AAE Bourbon Street Hostel with her husband, Adam; drank both of them, took a shower, then slept for twelve hours. When I woke up around noon I was fine.

I had decided to come to New Orleans for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to add an extra city to my regular rounds, which took me from San Francisco to Paris to Shanghai. Second, I had had a feeling for some time that San Francisco and New Orleans had something in common. I felt that both had a laid-back feeling that other cities lacked, and that both had a spirit of fun or joie de vivre. Well, I knew that San Francisco had but was curious if it were really true of New Orleans....

Swan Lake, Puigcerda
By Louis Martin


I'm off at last to Puigcerda but it is not easy.

The woman at the United desk has decided to be a bitch.

"Where's your return ticket?" she asks in a very critical tone.

"I don't have one because I don't know when I'm coming back," I say.

She tries to turn this into an incident but fails with her supervisor; there's no requirement to have a return ticket.

I'm not your Joe Blow American on vacation. Joe Blow's an asshole and it's not illegal to not be Joe Blow and an asshole, at least for now.

It takes two flights to get to Dublin when I don't want to be there in the first place.

It's 10 AM now and I'm waiting for a 6:30 PM flight to Barcelona.

I feel like I've been sitting next to an industrial air cleaner for the last 13 hours. Or in a laundromat with all the machines going at the same time....

Having Doubts in Berlin

By Louis Martin


Paris in August: hot, muggy, occasional downpours.

It is not the Paris I know and like. It is the overpriced Paris for the tourist with big bucks. Henry Miller—if he could afford to get there—would be writing his smut on the streets. That other manly fellow would be drubbing it A Damned-Expensive Feast.

I'm waiting for check-in time at the Le Regent Hostel Montmartre on Boulevard Rochechouart. But they haven't fooled me. It is not in Montmartre; it's in Pigalle where the ladies hang out. I used to live there and hangout with the ladies. And I am probably the only Regent "guest" who can say "Rochechouart."

"Hey, dude, what the fuck, Roche...che ...?"

There's no poetry here, just the expletive-adjective monotony of bored and boring minds.

I'm tired of the international pub-crawler, imitation-backpacker, inane conversations. I'm becoming a self-described recluse.

I'm tired of traveling to nowhere on nothing but a piece of bread and cheese and watching others eat....

Fact Checking in New Orleans

By Louis Martin


My next stop was New Orleans but it was not easy getting there. These days discount tickets send you all over the planet getting from point A to point B. If only physicist Richard P. Feynman had lived long enough he could have had a real challenge doing what he did for explaining the behavior of subatomic particles: developing Feynman diagrams that explained the travel routes used by airlines. And had the great hip Nobel prize-winner lived even longer, I'm sure corollary A would have been: don't expect convenient connecting flights.

To get to from Point A, Berlin, I was first routed to Reykjavic Keflavik in Iceland, where I waited 11 hours for a connecting flight to New York City. And at New York I had an 8-hour wait for my connecting flight to Point B, New Orleans. The whole thing seemed like a hoax but not of the type conservatives talk about these days regarding climate change and evolution. It was more of a hoax concealing a scheme concealing a boondoggle concealing ...

Going Home & Other Delusions

By Louis Martin


At last I'm on my way home. But what makes me say "home"?

There wasn't any, hadn't been for a long time.

What did the word "home" mean, anyway? Did the words "my" and "way" complicate that statement even further?

Home was where it was quiet and I could hear myself think. Home was where I could afford to buy something to eat along with a beer or a glass of wine to go with it.

To put it more abstractly: Home was undisturbed consciousness of self wherever I was.

Home was the mind free to roam. Let the existential philosophers think about that.

And I didn't need an exotic vocabulary to say it. Just a few simple words worked.

The train nudged out of the New Orleans Passenger Terminal. It was a good feeling and a pleasant thought, whatever "feeling" and "thought" were.

I was tired of the roar of jet engines. I was tired of meaningless conversations. I was tired, I was tired, I was tired. And I was tired of being tired....

  Second Edition