December 21, 2008

Dear Clowns,

As I sit here on the train, gliding through the 3am dark and snow, I wanted to share a story that I think you will all enjoy.

David and Emily drove me to the train station today (thank you!), and we passed lazzi on every street corner — the lazzi of the snowed-in car, the lazzi of the lost bus, the lazzi of the snow angels. David's sturdy little car, with its brand-new tire chains, navigated the streets deftly, and before I knew it I was standing in front of King Street Station, bidding David and Emily goodbye. I crossed the street (where the only traffic was a cross-country skier) and arrived at the ticket counter… only to find out that my train had been cancelled.

The poor, beleaguered ticket agent offered to transfer my reservation to the train that was supposed to have departed at 9:45 this morning. He couldn't guarantee its departure but since I had to make it to Portland eventually, I decided to take my chances and settled in to watch Heroes on my computer.

The whole train station was full of irritation and tension. Most of the people had been there for many hours (some had been trying to get out of Seattle for days), and grumbling and pouting and foot- stomping abounded. Every so often the speakers would crackle and someone would announce that no one knew anything except that it would be a long time before anyone went anywhere. Tracks frozen, switches malfunctioning, snow and more snow, etc.

Seven hours into my station sojourn, three Heroes episodes, a newspaper, and a dying cell phone later, I started to feel it too – that nagging, creeping, pervasive feeling of, as Mr. McCleary puts it, the Stink. My bench neighbors began to bug me, I had nothing left to do, and the vending machines were empty. I felt that I – and my station mates – were the butt end of a stupid dumb weather joke.

Those who were supposed to have been booked in a sleeper car were given dinner and, when it was clear that there were more food items than passengers, everyone was given sandwiches and chips and fruit. The sandwiches and chips were gone in no time, but much of the fruit was left uneaten. Everywhere I looked there was an apple here, an orange there, resting on benches, abandoned.

So then one guy, sitting in his seat, began to toss an orange up and down. A person across the aisle also began tossing one around, and soon the pair were giggling and passing the oranges across the aisle to one another. Suppressing my stranger-shyness, I moved to sit by them, holding an apple. They smiled and welcomed me into their game of catch and, slowly, people began to turn their attention towards us.

And then one of my fruit-tossing partners asked me if I could teach him to juggle with fruit.

And I said, well, as a matter-of-fact…

And before I knew it, I was in the midst of a six-orange juggling pattern as a hundred or so people began smiling and gathering around us, offering more fruit when one of the oranges split. We were unexpectedly busking in a train station, orange juice running down our arms, as people cheered with our successes and laughed uproariously when one of the oranges was launched into orbit.

The whole feeling in the room changed. People forgot about the weather and the delays and the holiday stress and picked up some fruit and threw it up in the air and began exchanging names and comparing tricks and making orange juice and applesauce.

There is simply nothing like a bit of silliness to turn a train station into a circus.

I wish you all the very best holidays. I genuinely miss you all already, and can't wait to get playing again next week.

sticky-handed and open-hearted,

PS… All of the people from the train station are coming to the show.