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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

On My Way to the New York Tolkien Conference after an ... Interruption

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

On My Way to the New York Tolkien Conference after an ... Interruption

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I am presently on the train to New York, for the New York Tolkien Conference, stopped in Brattleboro in sight of Whetstone, the excellent nanobrewery that changes their beer menu daily. My train left Waterbury ... at 10:20, more than four and a half hours ago.

No, Vermont is not that big. The train was slowing down to stop in Brattleboro, people were standing in the aisles collecting their luggage, when the brakes went on hard. I heard one of the conductors say, "Uh oh, what happened?"

Remember last time I was on the Vermonter, when the train in front of us derailed? I didn't think we'd top that.

A few minutes later, the conductor came over the PA system. The train struck a "trespasser" (their words; I detest it in this context, although I understand the legal reasoning for it), who was pronounced dead immediately.

This was at 1:30, so two and a half hours later, we are just beginning to move. You know what? I don't care. I keep thinking about the poor person on the tracks, the "trespasser," and wonder why they were there, did they not hear the train? Or ...? To be fair, everyone was really decent about it, at least in my car, even though quite a few people were destined for Brattleboro, which was just a short walk away. No one complained, although the people seated near me for some reason misunderstood universally (maybe hopefully?) that the train had hit an animal. Ever the Mary Sunshine, I corrected them.

I did get a lot of work done while waiting, and some non-work too. I remember reading someone once remarking that many academics write their conference presentations on the plane to the conference. I couldn't do that! Anyone who knows me knows that my inner Hermione is hyperventilating at the mere thought. Of course I am not an academic and don't really aim to be! But I did do much of the Powerpoint on the train, so maybe that qualifies me to move up from baby-scholar status to wannabe-scholar. (I'm never sure what to call myself. The s-word seems fraught.)

I'm going to get something to eat. And a beer. I was expecting to arrive in the city in two hours and we just crossed into Massachusetts. I'm hungry, but I couldn't bring myself to buy pizza and beer while a person was dead under the train.

This week was pretty busy, mostly with getting ready for the conference (I think Oshun will be happy to not get any emails from me for a few days! I clicked the wrong button my phone today, and she was listed as my only Frequent Contact, which sums up my last week quite succinctly!) but also continuing to work on the house. We painted the living room and hallway this week, which involved a lot of taping and finicky, detailed work and so took longer than I wanted to spend on it.

We had fun too. On Sunday, we climbed Mount Pisgah, the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom, with both dogs. We didn't mean to. We thought we were climbing the more modest nearby Bald Mountain, but Vermont played a joke on us and had two identically named roads on opposite sides of the access area, with both trails blazed in blue. The only clue was to "walk east" from the access area, and I guess we walked west. (We did, I realize now that I'm thinking about us in relation to nearby Lake Willoughby, but I honestly wasn't thinking about it. I saw the road name, Bobby found the blue blaze, and we were both like, "HERE.") We made it to the top--even Lance! our little old man--and the view was as stunning as one would expect of the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom and overlooking Lake Willoughby to boot. We only figured out that it was the wrong mountain because there was supposed to be a fire tower and wasn't!

Oh am I out of shape! Remember when I was snowshoeing up mountains this winter? Four months of thesis-writing followed by all the chaos of moving (and making it to the gym maybe twice per week and usually copping out and doing weights when I did) means that ain't happening unless I get back to work.

On Wednesday, we took our trusty old inflatable Sea Eagle kayak out on the Barton River that runs near our house. We rowed (and floated a good deal, enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, and some incredibly scented flower that we never identified) for three and a half hours and made it most the way to the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog and back. We now know that if we row more than we float, we can easily make it. (If we cross the entire South Bay to Newport, we can treat ourselves to a nice lunch as well, but our neighbor says that it is ten miles from the access area near our house, so we might have to build up to that.)

We saw and heard these massive brown birds and assumed, they're massive so they'll be easy to identify, right? And it's Vermont, so it's not like there are hundreds of species of things. We've struck out utterly. Anything that lives in Vermont that looks like them doesn't sound anything like them.

Yesterday was Lancelot's ninth birthday, so we took both Goldens to Prouty Beach on Lake Mem in the evening and let them get in the water. It was Gwen's first time in the water, and she jumped and splashed with such unbridled joy that, when she'd stop, she had to catch her breath. Lance frolicked a little too but mostly acted like an old man in a pool and stood belly deep in the water. Gwen also treated herself to a nice roll in the sand that left her filthy. (Whose birthday was it again?)

I have so much catching up to do--including pictures from our various adventures!--but for now it is pizza and beer time.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • OMG! She didn't even out me publicly for harassing her all day about my conference presentation. If she is a baby-scholar or a wanna-be scholar, I am an outright fraud! Oh, well, whatever! It will all be history this time tomorrow.

    Terrible thing to have endured. Calling the victim a "trespasser" is pretty upsetting--who knows how it happened! If she is Mary Sunshine informing everyone just how bad the accident was, I did not forego the opportunity to tell her how I grew up in a small town with lots of railroads where people were killed on one of the many railroad crossings from time-to-time. Those were among the local horror stories everyone talked about, in addition to coal mine disasters.
    • There is a fine line between harassment and collaboration! Remember what I do for a living! I'm used to needy people, and you ain't it!

      You're also far from a fraud. You actually did the scholarly part of this paper; I realized today that aside from alluding to a couple of scholars, I didn't have to look in a single book for my part. Yeah yeah, I had to do hours of eye-splitting math, but I actually like doing that so ... And then I got to run off at the mouth about my ideas about what it all meant!

      I wonder if it wasn't a suicide. How does one not hear the train hooting as it comes into Brattleboro? Unless one is wearing earphones turned up waaay loud. Mary Sunshine indeed!
    • You would be surprised to realize how many times I saw children and adults on foot go around those arms/barriers that come down at railway crossings and try to run across the track!

      People took that risk so much that my parents constantly warned us to never try it.

      It's horrific to think about! Poor Dawn!
      • I detest seeing people do stuff like that! (For me, it was always the dumb, needlessly risky shit people would do while driving back in Maryland. Like their lives are worth the three seconds they'll save.)

        I don't think we were anywhere near a crossing, so I suspect the person was walking on the tracks.

        Our road crosses the railroad twice and it doesn't have a signal, and the trains don't hoot when they go through. (There's like maybe ten houses on a three-mile stretch of road.) I always look twice when crossing there!
    • I forgot to say thank you for that nice remark above. And, yes, we are still friends. I will be eternally grateful for all of you help and patience. I know I am difficult!
  • Lake Memphremagog -- What a marvelous name! I grew up northeast of Philadelphia in an area replete with wonderful Native names like that.
    • It definitely inspires a lot of, "How do you say that again?!" :D

      It's a beautiful lake, too. I need to start posting pictures ...
  • Having been on a train where someone threw him/herself in front of the train to commit suicide: it is horrible. It is a sound you never will forget, especially once they do tell you what has happened. So I suppose your traincar is not at the front? I also have a friend who is a train conductor and knows stories.. brr.

    I saw the photo's of the walk on Bobby's FB wall. Gwen has grown so much, wow! How are things between her and the ol' man.

    And oh, I am more than a week behind with my e-mail, but I guess you already suspected that (RL stuff with my brother really threw us off).
    • Aww, no worries ever on emails. We both know what the other's life can be at times! Trust me, I am never sitting around tapping my toes and wondering what's keeping you. ;)

      I'm not in the front car, thankfully, so I didn't see/hear/feel anything when the person was actually struck. The brakes just went on fast and I heard that fateful "Uh oh" from the conductor ...

      I feel for the driver too. It must be a terrible sense of helplessness in a situation like that.

      The Goldens get on very well now! Almost overnight, Lance decided that Gwen was a suitable playmate after all. They're going a bit stir crazy now because they want to play and romp with each other, but we haven't put up the fence in the backyard yet (we are waiting on the materials to be made by a local logger), so they are on-leash when outside. Bobby and I do sometimes look the other way when they roughhouse in the house ... ;)
  • I feel horrible for the person's family. There's no words. (My guess is the person didn't hear it thanks to headphones; that's what happened on one of the tracks near my house. But it makes me wonder why the vibrations weren't a warning, though maybe they're not as obvious as I think they are.)

    Good luck to you and Oshun at the conference tomorrow!

    Reading about the mountain mishap made me laugh a little. And the dogs! :D
    • I just checked, and there is nothing in the local Brattleboro news yet about the accident. (Vermont, it seems, is not yet on the 24-hour news cycle.) I suspect headphones or suicide. I don't know how obvious the vibrations are either; Bobby and I hike trails sometimes that run along train tracks, but we clear off as soon as we hear a train.

      Thanks for the luck! I figure the worst part is over: We've each more or less completed our sections and worked together constantly all week over email and are still friends! :)

      We've been snickering over hiking the "wrong mountain" all week. That seems a hard thing to mess up, but Vermont does have a lot of mountains!
  • 'Trespasser' does seem awfully disrespectful as a way to speak about a person who has just been killed. :(

    Here, when it happens, they say 'a person has been struck by a train' and leave you to assume suicide (which it generally is - train tracks are by and large kept inaccessible here in a way they're not in the US, so someone who is on them is really trying to be on them). I've had the good luck to never have been on a train where that has actually happened - I imagine it would be deeply traumatising to witness and I'm glad you were spared anything beyond the sudden braking. The poor driver, though!

    I hope the rest of your travelling there and back go smoothly!
    • I hope so too! At least arriving at 10:30 PM instead of 6:30 PM means I won't have to navigate Penn Station and the subway during rush hour. (That's like a pathological level of pie-eyed optimism, but it beats despairing that I'M NOT ARRIVING TILL 10:30 PM NOW!! D^:)

      I still don't feel like I can complain, though. I didn't die or witness someone getting struck by a train. I'm reminding myself of that to keep my spirits up that I should be walking into my hotel room with my (hopefully) nice comfy bed right now!

      I expect it was either headphones or suicide. The Brattleboro news hasn't picked up on it yet. Apparently, this same train killed a couple of people last year, also in Brattleboro, who were trying to cross a railroad bridge and didn't get clear in time. Yikes.

      Edited at 2016-07-15 11:09 pm (UTC)
      • arriving at 10:30 PM instead of 6:30 PM means I won't have to navigate Penn Station and the subway during rush hour

        I used to work with people who would regularly work late in midtown to avoid rush hour! Looking at the clock--you must have disgorged from the iron beast just a few minutes ago!
        • Praise whomever you want to praise, I am sitting on the floor of my hotel room, eating cheap Indian food and enjoying the half-assed AC!
  • OMG--how horrible. That's one of the things I've (thankfully) never experienced but have nightmares about and am very, very nervous around train tracks as a result. I once read an article about the psychological impacts of train suicides on the engine drivers and remember feeling on the verge of tears for the rest of the week.

    The hike sounds nice! Definitely looking forward to the pictures. And happy birthday to Lancelot! Have fun at the conference!
  • Oh, how awful!

    Accident, suicide or reckless stunt, it's still awful to think of! And the poor engineer, and what he (or she) will have to live with.

    I can understand why they say "trespasser"--the RRs try very hard to make sure people know how dangerous is it to be on the tracks, and making it trespass and therefore illegal gives them a tool to make their point. Someone who thinks walking on the train track is fun and doesn't mind the little thrill of danger might actually think twice if his or her wallet is threatened by a fine.

    Hope your presentation goes well, and looking forward to the video of it when you are all finished!

  • Glad to see in the comments you made it to the hotel all right--I hope you're not still exhausted today, after all that.

    (Also, good to hear that Lance and Gwen are getting along okay now!)
  • Lake Memphremagog amazing! Is it Native? It looks like those marvelous Welsh names full of lls and hs.

    The only trepasser, so to speak, I experienced after a lifetime of commuting by train was on a 24th of December about noontime, with fewer than 10 people on the train. I think the guy got injured but the train had to wait until he was removed from wherever he was and the ambulance arrived - not easy since the place was pretty inaccesible. Not good.

    Good luck with the presentation!
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