When I lived in Vienna I could take an overnight train to Venice, just so I could play with Pigeons and have a Bellini at Harry’s Bar – after washing my hands of course, after dinner I’d take another overnight train back home.
Athens, Greece. Spring 1996. I’d just returned back to Europe from a weeklong hospital stay at Lacey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. My Crohn’s disease had flared again. Real Bad. I’d flown from Vienna to Boston, checked into the clinic and spent a week, nothing by mouth, being pumped intravenously with cortisone to relieve the inflammation in my digestive system. After returning to Vienna, I took a few days off and flew to Athens to recuperate. I needed the recuperation time. I was about to take a countrywide assignment to Russia.
Athens was amazing. Dusty, gritty. Ancient. You knew you were in one of the central places of European history. From the Parthenon at Acropolis to Mars Hill to the Plaka to the Agora to watching the changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square and much, much more.
I enjoyed the food. My favorite greasy spoon dish was Moussaka. I know. Moussaka and Crohn’s disease, was that really wise. I did have plenty Greek salad with plenty Feta though. Retsina wine and Ouzo aperitif I tasted a few times.
Athens was one of my favorite places to visit and hopefully when travel restrictions are over, I will visit again.
I took a 12 hour train from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. I rode in a private car, therefore I could remove my mask as long as I kept my door closed. Private car tickets are at bargain prices if you ride on holidays.
I loved the ride. The steward (not my words, that’s what they called themselves) brought my meals and beverages to me and turned down my seat into a bed so I could sleep (I actually fit in the bed and I’m 6 feet 4).
What amused me though was my private toilet -see pic 1. That was the first thing other passengers and I saw when we boarded. We all laughed and we all —took pictures!
Nonetheless, we could close the cover of the private toilet and hide it away from our sight. See pic 2. There is a private sink too but it too has a cover. Once I closed it and the toilet up, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the long ride.
June 1994. Katowice, Poland. I get a lot of grief for this picture and a lot of teasing. No, I was not in the CIA.
My company was expanding in Europe. I was part of a 4 person start up team. We were tasked with bringing four, new distribution centers online and enabling selling, distribution and financial processes before summer’s end.
Therefore, the start-up team decided to survey all four Poland locations (Kielce, Rzeszow, Lublin & Opole) in one day. This would require us to travel all over the country from southern Poland to central Poland, to eastern Poland, to western Poland and back to southern Poland. We could not do this in one day by train, hence
the need for a helicopter.
Just so you know, I dissented to that mode of travel. I hated riding a chopper when I was in the military and my attitude about riding in a chopper had not changed.
Nonetheless, I was out-voted and there you see me standing in front of it about to board. The word reluctance did not begin to describe how I felt about that journey.
We left from Katowice, Poland, visited all four cities, mapped out our strategy and flew back to Katowice. The pilot was very talented. He did buzz jobs over the rolling hills. Many people on the ground cheered us on. My team had fun looking at my face turn beet red as we sped up and down over each hill. They asked if I would need a stretcher when we landed. I told them I was okay. I was, after all, okay.
We finished our project that summer in record time largely due to the assessment we made on that day.
On December 25th, Christmas Day, I took a train from New York City to Charlotte North Carolina.
Since we are in the middle of a pandemic, I decided to purchase a ticket for a private room. I could go mask-less in a private room as long as I kept my door shut. I kept my door shut.
I like riding trains. A lot of my poetry writing and blogging takes place on some type of train. For my day-job I took Metro North commuter train from Brewster, New York to White Plains, New York on weekdays. I wrote during the morning ride. I usually slept during the afternoon ride. On weekends I would take a train from Brewster to Manhattan in New York City. I wrote a lot on the way down to the city. I usually slept on my return.
Often, I take a a train from New York to Washington, D.C. I also take many trains from New York to Charlotte. I write during these journeys as well. The trip to DC is 4 1/2 hours long. Writing makes the trip feel like 15 minutes. The trip from New York to Charlotte is 12 hours long. Writing makes that trip feel like an hour. Along with my writing there’s also reading that takes place. I’ll usually read for a half hour to an hour and then I’ll pick up my phone and start writing.
I used to write in a tablet with a pen. For a long time that was how I wrote all of my material. One weekend when I was in Washington D.C., a friend asked if I could give him a ride to Reagan National. I picked him up from his hotel and I noticed that he was very busy writing something on his smartphone. He was typing away with his thumbs. I thought to myself, “man, there ain’t no way I would write on a smartphone.” A few weeks later I read a wonderful piece written by about his favorite guitarist in an online magazine. I wondered if that was what he was working on during the ride to the airport.
About a month later, I was on a flight from Chicago to New York. Yes. I write while traveling by plane too. It is a little harder to write while seated in a plane. You don’t have a lot of wriggle room on a plane. Now if you are seated in First Class or Business Class that is a different story. All of my day-job travel is in coach.
I digressed. Let’s go back to the flight to New York from Chicago. I boarded. I put away my jacket in the overhead. I pulled my writing tablet from my carry-on, placed it in my lap and stowed the carry-on underneath the seat in front of me. After a long time on the taxiway the plane took off. We reached cruising altitude and I was ready to start writing. I opened my tablet and to my surprise and consternation I had no more blank pages.
My jaw dropped. I asked myself, “How did I miss this?” I was in the mood for writing. I thought about my smartphone. I pulled it out of my pocket. My plane was just very Indiana at that point. I navigated to the Notes app and with my thumbs I started typing. I typed all the way to final approach to the runway at LaGuardia in New York.
I still write in tablets but most of my writing is done on my smartphone. I’m using a smartphone now to type this piece, I am on a train, I’m in private quarters and I have plenty wiggle room.
———————————————— (c) 2020, Jerry T Johnson
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I was on assignment in Torrance California, a suburb of Los Angeles. After several days of work, I finally got some me time.
Here I stand at Manhattan Beach Pier wearing my Mickey Mouse jeans. Yes, you guessed correctly. There is a story behind the jeans.
Prior to my Torrance trip, I was working in Orlando. I arrived at Orlando on a Sunday and was scheduled to meet coworkers at Disney’s Pleasure Island for dinner. After dropping off my bags and heading to Downtown Disney, I was burning up. Orlando was hot and I was still dressed for the Northeast where winter was not quite finished.
I walked into a Disney shop, purchased a T-Shirt and the jeans you see me wearing in this picture. I actually changed clothes right there in the dressing room of the store. When I walked back outside in the burning sun, Wow did I feel better.
It was a Friday in mid-December, 2014. I’d just finished a long tour of duty on a project in Chicago. I had a late lunch at O’Hare at a restaurant that overlooked the outside gate areas. After I finished my meal, I sipped my Cab, gazed outside and penned this poem: