Page 76 - Litteratteur Redefining World December issue
P. 76

Litterateur redefining world                      December 2020




                                                               Training  way  out  here  is  not  like  passing
                                                               through  the  Adirondacks,  no  matter  how
                                                               similar  the  surroundings  may  sometimes
                                                               seem. This terrain remains, for all intents
                                                               and purposes, mostly barren of towns and
                                                               people,  making  the  train  a  moving  oasis,
                                                               and  it  is  exactly  that  contrast  which
                                                               provides  balance  and  makes  anyone  on
                                                               this  ride  aware  of  each  nuance  of  the

                                                               journey, and it is that vague “barrenness”
                                                               which  keeps  us  from  forgetting  exactly
                                                               where we are. Certainly, closer to the city
                             Dining car
                                                               when  we  first  left  St.  Petersburg,  the
                                                               surroundings seemed more suburban than
                                                               either city or rural, but once we pass Lake
                                                               Ladoga  just  a  few  hours  later,  any
                                                               semblance  of  towns  slips  into  the
                                                               shadows  and  we  quickly  discover  this
                                                               train remains  the most essential  element.
                                                               In  most  of  the  stretches  of  this  ride,  the
                                                               population onboard is indeed significantly
                                                               higher    than     the   residents     in    the
                                                               surrounding territory.
                                                               “Slow  Train  by  Dylan,”  I  say,  and  Michael
                                                               smiles. He knows the tune, and he knows if
                                                               he can’t retort within a minute, he buys the
                                                               next round in the dining car. I throw it out
                                                               there while he’s playing “This Land is Your
                                                               Land,”  figuring  it  difficult  to  call  up  a
                                                               different  tune  so  quickly  while  playing
                                                               another and a third on his mind. It’s one of
                                                               our  games;  this  one  “train  songs.”  He
                                                               continues  to  play  for  half  a  minute,  then
                                                               says,  “Midnight  Train  to  Georgia,”  and
                          Hallway of the train
                                                               returns to Guthrie without missing a beat.

          “The other Georgia,” he adds, and I laugh.
          The  narrow  hallways  in  the  carriages  are  often  crowded  with  Russians  looking
          out the windows which run along the length of the corridor. None of it is overly
          confining  or  claustrophobic,  but  on  a  week-long  journey  across  wilderness,
          sharing  a  cabin  with  businessmen  whose  dialect  is  hardly  recognizable  as
          Russian, we find respite here between cars where we can hear the rails beneath
          us  and  feel  some  coolness  coming  in  the  moving  floor.  These  carriage
          connections are something akin to tectonic plates sliding back and forth so when
          we stand against the walls facing each other one of us might be moving in the
          opposite direction of the other, but not too much and it is all so much smoother
          than we had expected, and some passengers passing through to the
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