January 17, 2012, Morning
I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I knew I had to get my double on the road, see her on a greyhound bus, on an amtrak train. The double was constructed by the sassy and talented Jessica Scott for the play Sex in a Coma, but the play was over and the double had plans of her own.
At the moment she was in one of my favorite places, the red-velvet lined soundproof recording box in my rehearsal space. I went in to pick her up, to see if she could fold in half and fit in a large army bag. I had my arms around her, and then just ended up laying there on top of her for a little while, the solid weight of myself on the solid weight of myself. It was comforting, it felt like any trip with her wouldn't feel lonely, considering I was bringing myself along. When I carried the bag with her, I thought how I had been carrying this bag for years, it was my stilt bag, but my stilts were metal and had sharp bolts jutting out at all angles, the were always bruising my hips and legs, and were no comfort on a deserted subway platform at three in the morning. My double on the other hand, feels soft and comfortable, important and solid, like someone who needs my protection.
The train was announced, and I shouldered the bulk of the army bag that held my double, padded with some pillows and sweatshirts, with a pillowcase to protect her face. The straps cut into my shoulders and neck, and as I go down the escalator to the platform, one of my arms starts to go numb, but I know this is the only way I'll make it with my wheely suitcase and pocketbook and computer and camera in tow. They shuffled the passengers going all the way to miami to the very last car. I pump my hand in and out of a fist to keep the blood flowing. As the final amtrak woman checks my ticket before the step of loading everything on board, I see a pale red haired woman who looks like she has been crying, with a child and several large bags. She has a bottle, a jacket, a blanket, that she is trying to maneuver along with all the suitcases, and is saying, "Mommy told you it was going to take a little while longer. " My hands are full, I get on board. I sit next to a woman with a great rugged smile. People walking up and down the aisle seem to be in on the secret. The 26 hour train ride.
The double has been brought out of the bag. She sits at the window. The woman with the rugged smile is Claudine, she is a French chef, who is moving back to Miami. She came to New York with all of her belongings five months ago, and now is taking everything back. It was too hard to find work. She is a great sport, helped pull the double out of the bag, and then filmed me sleeping next to her. Some other people come over and meet her. I tell them I am taking her on a trip. A man comes over to take the seat that she is sitting in. The amtrak workers agree cheerfully to me laying her down in the luggage rack. Two older women have been chatting in spanish behind me the whole time, one is a native speaker, and the other speaks fluently but with an american accent. The american suggests I should take her to the beach, and set up drinks for both of us. "You're going to have a lot of fun with her", she says, "the possibilities are endless."
I ask Claudine why people take the train, is it just because it's cheaper? Yes and because you can transport so much stuff. She had the attendants load all her stuff on, everything that she moved to New York with five months ago when she thought she was moving for good. It is true, the trains are a place of people whose lives are in true transition.
We all go outside for some fresh air when we get to Washington DC. The pale redhead is there smoking a cigarette, with her kid on her hip. She rotates in the wind, trying not to get the smoke in the kid's face. She is heading south to her mother to get her life together because her boyfriend is abusive. She says she has gone from a size 5 to a size zero. She says if she doesn't take zanex she cries all the time. Her mother has never met her two year old, they're going to her now. I notice we have the same piercing on our upper ear, and she tells me she has done all of her piercings herself. "With a needle?" "No just with the earring. I just push it through. I can't stand needles. I don't have a problem with pain, I just can't deal with needles." An older man comes out of the train, does a double take and says, "Hey, I saw you sleeping in there." I explain to the redhead whose name is Theresa, that I have a double. She says she would like to see it, so I show her when we go back inside. I think it is overwhelming to her, trying to wrap her mind around the reason that this double of me would be here.
The lady behind us who has been speaking Spanish is named Marie, and explains to us that she may talk and scream and move around when she sleeps. She has been known to do that. The other lady, the native speaker, Amalia, has white hair and dark rimmed glasses, patterned scarves, jewelry and a cane. She sways with a solid and precarious weight when she moves around the train, and goes up and down the stairs for a cigarette like a loosely moored boat. I don't think her eyesight is very good, because she has been standing next to the double a lot without registering anything, but she nods approvingly when I stretch outside the train, "Very good, I used to do that."
12:49pm, January 18th, Day 2.
Some sleep during the night. A little girl coughs all night long. The big jolly face of Marie behind me is perched in a blow-up leopard print travel pillow. She makes amazing laughing moaning noises and facial acrobatics in her sleep and I get out my camera, but after a few moments of filming I start to feel unethical. In the morning some people asks if the double has slept well. I say I hope so, but it looks like she still needs rest. I take her down, figuring I should get some footage with passing landscapes before all the seats are full again. A guy with dreads down to his waist and an oscar the grouch t-shirt that says I LOVE TRASH, in the seat behind slips a pillow between the seats to behind her head. The man next to him asks, "What are you doing with that girl?" I say she wanted to see the country. Though right now she seems to be sleeping through it.
I go to the bathroom and when I come back to my seat, everyone is cracking up. Someone called security and told them someone was sleeping in the overhead luggage compartment. He came over and was saying, "Ma'am, Ma'am, excuse me you're not allowed to sleep up there." Finally he tried to shake her awake, and thought she was dead. "We like her a lot", the amtrak people tell me, "She got us awake this morning, got all of our blood flowing."
I go get lunch in the cafe car. A heavy girl with a scrunched up face, bleached blond hair in her eyes, and glasses, stumbles through the car and sits down across from me. "They really got me, giving me an epidural before this train ride." Her speech is slurred, she has MS, she explains, and the medication is making her talk a lot. She asks if this is the kind of place where they go through your bags, because she has some medication in there that she doesn't think she would be able to explain. As I eat my veggie burger, she explains that she started being bolemic when she was about nine or ten, "But it wasn't the way you think, it was because I wanted to keep eating, if there was food around, I wanted to eat it, you know, there wasn't a lot of food around when I was growing up. "
At the other end of the car, two women in their sixties sitting across from one another have discovered that they went to high school together.
Back in the passenger car. Someone smells swampy. They have since the beginning of the trip. In front of me an older Italian man talks to a middle-aged woman. He throws in a smattering of Italian. I am not sure if she speaks Italian, but they have been talking since New York. The friendly older lady behind me grew up speaking Spanish in New Jersey, her parents were from Spain. Two seats up, one amtrak worker is trying to explain to a woman, "Miami is the last stop, last stop, you won't miss your stop. Last stop." He summons a Spanish speaking amtrak worker, but it turns out the woman is Hungarian. I am having fun overhearing the spanish behind me, the french next to me, and the italian in front of me, but the only thing I know how to say in Hungarian is malocz vouyouk, ruf ruf, which means "I am a pig, oink, oink."
There is a group of Amish people on the train, parents and a group of men and women in their early twenties. The women are in dresses and bonnets, the older man has a beard, and the young men have dress shirts and suspenders. One of the young men is missing a hand, and has a hook. He walks up and down the aisle fairly often.
Outside the trees get more and more jungly, with stretches of dry sandy soil, mobile homes, and now suddenly orange trees.
The man with the hook hand is Paul, he is old order Amish. He and his wife and family are on the train from Indiana to Florida, 48 hours, to go on a cruise for several days. He has never been on a plane or seen the ocean. He says he might be afraid to fly and also it is not really done, they do not use electricity, and ride horse and buggies. His hook hand is actually two opposable hooks, one of which is attached to a cable which wraps around to his opposite shoulder, so, he can open and close the hooks to grasp things by moving his shoulders back and forth in opposition. He lost his arm when he was four years old. He asks what I do and well right now I am traveling with her, pointing up to the luggage rack. He is uncomprehending for several moments as he looks up. Then processes and says, I saw that earlier, and I thought it was a good idea and was thinking of doing it myself. He asks me with an intense look if I am familiar with the laws of attraction. I'm not sure. He explains that it is the idea of being the cause of events, or situations, as opposed to just being affected by events or situations. Basically the difference between making things happen and having things happen to you.
In the cafe car, I talk to Brandon, who does not like to be anywhere for more than two months. He was recently in LA where he was in a movie. He has an inheritance and so is able to travel. This is his first time traveling by train. HE is 25, and has tattood names of of his seven year old daughter, and his other daughter who he lost, and his grandmother who passed away. He brings his daughter in Ohio peanuts from airplanes whenever he visits. She likes that, and his grandfather used to also do that. He is always alone he says, or always with new people, so each person he talks to is like everyone else. He says he is the kind of person who might feel like Bufallo wings, and so he would decide to go to Bufallo and try the wings. He loves Vegas, and the last time he was there he woke up on top of the Plaza hotel in his underwear. He then gambled with the last of his gas money, but luckily got it back. He is of Italian descent, he asks me what about me, and he says he can tell about the Russian part, that he noticed me, that he thought I was not from here. He says he looks young because he just shaved, he says he looks better when he showers. He is handsome and has a playboy belt buckle, and looks a little bit emotionally damaged.
Dennis is from Jamaica, and manages property in Florida, and has a five bedroom house to himself and all the time in the world, which he does not seem happy about. He wants a body double of his own.
Towards the end of the ride, a newcomer to the train got on board and asked if we are a group traveling together. Then I get off, and it's just the two of us again. I sit with myself in the empty terminal of the Miami Amtrak station for a little while, until Kevin arrives to pick me up in an enormous red chrome pickup truck.
We went to the beach and had some beers.
We took in the sun.
We stayed in a RV with a small team of independent film makers.
Everyone made us feel at home.
At one point a repair man came to work on the RV, and Kevin was the only one there. As well as a body in bed. The repair man thought it was a dead body. Kevin uncovered her face, to clarify the situation. The repair man's face changed, and he backed off. Clearly this was just a man in his RV with...
You can take yourself anywhere.