Apr 18, 2006

MONFALCONE'S MEAN STREETS
Italian-Slovenian border – I don't wake well. Especially under a flimsy sheet, strapped onto a top train bunk.

We've arrived safely, despite the conductor's fears. Ever the pesky reporter, I catch him in the corridor-of-doom.

"So what was the threat exactly?"

He's sly. "You speak Italian, how fantastic!"

Si, certo. And I'm trying to get an answer. But, as often happens, the marvel of a fair-haired foreign woman overrides proper conversation, especially with a Ferrovie dello Stato employee who, perhaps, said too much last night.

My gumshoe-hack routine – the whole Raymond Chandler fantasy – dies in the dawn light of Monfalcone. I slip on my sunglasses and join the commuters, all huddled around the marble bar counter.

Soon I'll be in Slovenia. After five transfers, I'll arrive at Podcetrtek, near the Croatian border. Although the spa resort I'm reviewing is 100m from a station, the hip, young marketing team has no knowledge of this archaic mode of transport.

Moments like this, I have a little safety check, the usual internal dialogue:

A1: "This is bloody crazy."

A2: "Better than death by cubicle."

A1: "What? You're eating potato chips for breakfast and drying hand-washed socks on your suitcase! Alone. No clue where you're going. Crap catastrophic health insurance. Don't speak the language..."

I clutch my notebook, where I transcribed the schedule, gleaned online in Seattle weeks back. No, a lifetime ago. The solo leap into eastern Europe seemed impossibly scary then. Now it's a gradation, a small shading from the staid to the new.

Yawning, I search for my place in Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, a gift from Louisa before I left Ischia.

Night trains, new countries, pig-ignorance: weirdly, it's just another day in the office.

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