Random Acts: Ask and Ye Shall Receive
August 8, 1998

I was on a train from Holyhed, Wales, to Edinburgh, Scotland. Christine and I were to separate there: she to the Fest, me North and farther North. I'm sure we each had the same thought: "finally!"

I was in a train funk. Not terribly comfortable and none too patient with the numerous small inconveniences of close-quartered travel. Yet I was lazy enough not to be a pain to others. It was an in-between state.

Across the aisle sat a family. Father, mother, sons, daughter. There was the usual chaos of young people talking and pull hair, etc. One son was reading a book about The Simpsons. A gorgeous, full-bleed color tome, fairly dripping with Simpsony goodness. Oh, how I longed for something like that. Comforting pop culture to take me away from this purgatory. I was openly, but silently, covetous.

I tried to put it out of my mind, like a starving man tries not to think of food.

I stared out of my window, roiling and railing against my fate. Stuck on a train in the beautiful North Wales countryside. Stuck with a bad attitude and no prospects except the passing of time.

The train had stopped at a station. I didn't care or pay much attention. Slowly my eyes regained the world. I saw the station sign and knew where I was: this was the famous station in North Wales that has a name about 50-some characters long. Even Welsh folk have trouble with it. There was a song produced to help people pronounce it.

I managed to grab my camera and snap the picture. This put me in a good mood. Funny how travel is about the small moments at least as much as the big ones.

The train slouched forward and I settled back to enjoy my smile. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the family was gone: this had been their stop. Ah, a bit of solitude as well.

And then I saw it.

It was closed, lying flat, the cover oriented so I could read it, on the table end near me. The book!

My first instinct was to run with the book for the door: they had obviously forgotten it. But I knew deep down that wasn't true. It wouldn't have been placed so perfectly. This had been done deliberately.

I shivered in spite of myself. It was a transcendent moment, and sound faded away. I was alone. With the book.

I read it like a bible over the next week: in scattered moments waiting for people or things; in the tent while it rained; in the dark waiting for the train to London. On the plane home.