Set the stage: It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting in an uncomfortable twist at the back of a commuter train that is just one of the five legs of my commute to downtown Portland. The commute is for my job, and the uncomfortable twist is so I can try to type these observations on a stable surface as I am having them. As the Goeyverts String Trio‘s “Simeron” crescendos loudly in my ear, everything changes – in anticipation for the next two minutes of the ride, I straighten up and face forward, temporarily forgetting about my writing attempt. In response, the warehouses and asphalt of northern Salem melt away from the sides of the tracks and are replaced with the dappled greenery of the marsh. My ears can only hear the violins dancing with the singers, and all I can see is grass, trees, and lilypods crushed under the gentle weight of perpetually localized fog. This is my world, transported, for a glorious two minutes.

And then I’m back, as the train resigns itself to delivering it’s groggy cargo to the Tigard Transit Center and not kidnapping us for some grand tour of the Pacific Northwest.

This is only one section of my commute, but it makes the entire thing worth it. Two weeks ago, in order to add another day to my office time, I found a way to hop cities without having to rely so much on Amtrak; I have nothing against them, only against spending that much money on a regular trip. For those of you that might be interested in this, it’s simple: take the 1X bus from the Salem transit center to the Wilsonville TC, get on the WES train (where I am at the moment) to the Beaverton TC, and MAX your way downtown. Reverse the process for a return trip; I’ll put together a joint timetable [here tonight].

Greetings from the MAX Red Line, to the tune of “Stabat Mater” – the only other song on this album. Each song is around 24 minutes, and I have designated them as the best thing to listen to when I want to wake up peacefully, which is most days. Once I get to the office I’ll play something energizing, and on the 1X I usually listen to the sound of my head smacking against the window as I drift in and out of consciousness; but for now, I’m at peace.

This is ultimately why I chose to start writing again. I have been given what I consider to be an opportunity in all this: two hours to just sit, every Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, and twice on Mondays. I enjoy reading, but I need to make space first; I enjoy technology, too much, but the reception on the ride is spotty. There is a blog of mine that has been effectively defunct, and I feel a twinge of guilt whenever I visit another author’s site. Am I cheating on my partner? Reading around behind their back, neglecting them for years, because I assume they’re not going anywhere? I want to make amends.

Similarly, I’m trying to get more in the habit of correspondence – as in actual letters. I have an entire separate ranted about modern communication that feeds into that, but all I’ll say at the moment is that snail mail is the perfect pace for me to keep in touch with my friends who are all around the world. Who doesn’t love receiving letters? Yes, this is a shameless plug to be pen pals, message me if you’re interested.

We’ll conclude with one more greeting, this time at base camp – the office where I work. 50 Cent and Yo Gotti are telling me to not worry ’bout it, so I’m not going to. The highlight here is always my favorite coffee shop – Lotus & Bean, in the same block as my office and between the MAX and the front door.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m picky with my cafés, teahouses, and bistros – but since I invest significant time and money in them, I reserve that right. Lotus & Bean has everything I look for in a coffee shop (technically, espresso bar) – good house drip; nonfat milk options; an impressively diverse assortment of couches, tables, counters and outdoor seating; delicious pastries as well as substantial food; good music; great location – but most importantly, character. With a good initial investment and some research, you can make a functional and even fashionable caffeine depot, and I think most of us have been to what feels like a pre-fab reservoir; but no amount of money can create a sincerely welcoming atmosphere. I’ve tried a few other places in Portland, being a fan of shopping around, but I’ve found that the majority of those places are characterized by an elitist vibe – yes, thank you for making my coffee, but I’m not going to kiss your ring. Lotus & Bean is really more of a community space that just happens to sell coffee and brighten my day.