My buddy Herman Hess and I were taking
a trip through Russia on the railway line they
ride on in that movie with Kate Mara. At
least I think she’s in that one. I really don’t
know, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing
but the truth, so help me God. Anyway, old
Herman and I were on this train, right? And these
idiot brothers were macing each other
in the face, screaming “I love you, but…” – Yeah, right.
I’ve always heard everything before the
word “but” is a bald-faced lie, but who knows, right?
We crossed a bridge spanning the Tom River in
a massive tourist mecca called Tomsk. A few
people got off there, but Herman and I stayed
on, along with the unholy trilogy.
About the train: it smelled like pepper and spice
and when the moron triplets weren’t running
around like maniacs it was a nice time,
but then Herman tried to tell me Bob Dylan
is a better singer-songwriter than Miss
Taylor Momsen … I just stared at him for hours
while he awkwardly watched the three brothers hold
feathers in the air and ask where the dirt was
because they thought they should be buried somewhere.
I don’t know what was happening, really. I
couldn’t get over the audacity of
Herman and his flippant disregard for a
beautiful, intelligent woman who plays
guitar and writes all her own lyrics. I mean,
Bob Dylan’s great and all, but when you get down
to lovemaking you don’t want to hear his voice
in the background. You want the soothing tone of
a damsel-siren, singing to you through the
eternal void of nothingness we call…” “Now
that’s the most pretentious goddamned thing I’ve heard
in my life,” one of the brothers cried, and just
like that, out came the mace again. “Holy hell,
this trip is a Trip. Too bad Ken Kesey’s not
here,” I mumbled and the guy next to me laughed.
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed. “Are you Tom Bosley?”
The man just shook his head with a quick eye roll
indicating this had happened more than once
and he was sick of saying no. The train came
to a halt in a town called Bogotol. “Off!”
yelled a conductor. I shot him a look: “Me
too?” it asked. I was nervous. See, I hadn’t
paid for a ticket. My friend and I had jumped
on board in Beijing after running away
from Kublai Kahn and a whole mess of Mongol
warriors. The conductor had helped us climb
aboard before the business end of a
sword sliced across my femoral artery.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t remember.
Or did he? The man paused for a moment, then
said, “How far does your ticket take you?” I grinned.
The conductor did too. I smiled and put
one finger to my lips. “I’ll be back,” I said,
rising to my feet. “How long will the train be
staying in this station?” “About ten hours,”
was his reply. “You have enough time to stretch
your legs … take a walk around the parapet.
Maybe see a man about a dog or two,
but if I were you, I’d follow the path down
to the river and see what you see. It’s nice
this time of year. Not too cold. Not too hot.”
“All right,” I said. “Thanks for the advice, buddy.”
The conductor straightened his back, snapped his heels
and said, “The name’s Harold, sir. Glad to have you
aboard. Anyone who can get Kublai Kahn
that pissed off is a-ok in my book.”
I just shrugged and nodded at Herman. “Are you
staying here?” He nodded and smiled. “Have fun…”