Riding the Night Train= Part II (with guest spoken-word poet, Bryce Gladfelter)

China 1810

China 1808


Nothing happens exactly as planned in China. Nothing seems to go seamless and smooth. After our first leg on the night train and the fantastic sleep we got, we were expecting more of the same on the second leg, and forgot this rule of China.

In order to get tickets, Sierra’s boyfriend Eben, found a program to type up your words in Chinese. “I want 4 tickets – hard sleeper beds- on the night train from Xi’an to Beijing.” Pretty self-explanatory. When Sierra and I went to the station, we stood in a very long line for over an hour (one of 20 lines) , only to find we were in the wrong line. Stood again in another line , only to find out that the tickets were not available for sale until the next day. Back across town on a taxi- eating up half the day. Next morning  day we return and the ticket counter girl says ‘Come back at 2 pm.” And so we cross town and return again. On our third try, for some reason, she says no again. Sierra has an English-speaking fit, just for effect, altho no one knew what she was saying. The woman brought in the manager who also could not speak English, but they understood she wanted SOME tickets. We finally were successful. THIS should have been an omen.

When we moved all the tremendous luggage, back backs, suitcases etc onto the train car at 11 pm, we arrive in a car with seats. “Where are the beds?” I ask. “We are supposed to have beds. We bought beds. We must be in the wrong car.”

Of course, the attendants could not speak English. No one in the car could. And there were not only no beds, but no seats that matched our numbers . Every seat was filled. The train began to lurch forward and make me motion sickness quickly. That and the fact that we had zipped up down jackets on, scarfs wrapped tightly around our necks, hats and gloves on, as well as backpacks weighing 50 pounds, front day packs wearing 35 pounds and it felt like 80 degrees in there.People wanted to go by and we were hogging up the entire aisle.

Before long, a family got up, with their baby and left. They had high jacked our seats. So we had seats finally but no place to put luggage. The overhead racks were full of little bags and coats and no one offered to stash them under the seat to  make room for our packs. We shoved them at our feet. Propped them up in the aisle.

I was so completely distraught that we did not have beds for the next 13 hours. It was incomprehensible to me. The seats were arranged in pods and faced one another. The bright overhead lights, like an operating room, would remain on all night. How in God’s name, was I going to get through this night. I had already taken two Dramamine’s to knock me out but the only state I was in was delirious exhaustion but sleep never came.

Bryce was stuck between Sierra and Eben and was awake all night and miserable and wrote the following poem. It was a night to remember. There are inside jokes but you should get the gist of this hilarious poem.

China 1804China 1803

The Night Train

by Bryce Gladfelter

On the night train

But where the hell is Adelaide?

At first we had it made, but that shit had to fade.

Are these seats actually concave?

Did you just catch the look Mom gave?

She’s a toothy pirate, turning in a tumultuous sea.

Too bad she’s not as in tune with the culture as me.

Cause I have a lot in common,

For instance a love of hot beef Ramen.

Are you feeling a little sickly Bryce?

Maybe it’s an excess of prickly spice,

But when I get home my water is going to be strictly iced.

Enough of this hot shit, and chopsticks. Back in New Ringgold

Dad never rested his head on a can of Pringles

Or mingled with Asians well.

A couple seats away some people are raisin’ hell, causin’ a racket

One guy has an imprint on his face from the sleeve of his jacket.

I tried to find sleep, but settled for my journal.

These squat toilets make me wish the Chinese heard of a urinal.

The pain is infernal in my tailbone.

Never again will I ride the rail home.

Mom should just be happy that she has two seats.

I have nothing to do but compose rhymes over new beats.

No Newsweeks to read, so Dad eats more Oreos.

What’s the perks of living here? Maybe Adora knows.

A man surely goes insane here. How can he bear it?

I should probably ask Eric.

But I’m collapsing on the table. I could stay awake long as I’m able

But it’s more of a waste than Asian cable. Did anyone ever hear of a ladle?

Or spoon or any eating utensil? It’s quite essential.

I’m just tired and cramped like I’m pre-menstrual.

I’d rather be strapped in a plane, bucklin’ my belt.

I doubt Sierra will stay, even if Buckland will help.

Too much pandemonium, spices and sodium.

So they’re leaving for Cambodia with Imodium.

Just so you know you owe me some

Meatsticks, for putting me in the aisle seat.

Why is every single file line nearly a mile deep?

I’m feeling crazy. Crazy enough to scream Baby Lucas.

At least I’m not Dad, who knows what Hot Pot-puke is.

But we’ve all seen mucous, and spit happens.

You got us the wrong tickets so own up to your shit, Captain.

I’m joking Sierra, I know you got Bronchitis.

Eben is not in heaven. I wonder how Mom’s night is.

Hopefully not in pain from her tooth or blister.

I wonder if Mister Toddy noticed it when he kissed her.

Now my sister is slumbering, but I still got a numb back.

Dad is relaxing, dressed up like a lumber jack.

Are you done with that? Can I have a muffin with custard?

I’m toughin’ it out, but this was all the strength that I’ve mustered.

Plus I just heard, the train is late arriving in Beijing.

I honestly can say that I hope that the day brings

Nothing but “a nice rest,” in the words of Eric.

Why am I the only one awake? I deserve to share it.

I need a new start. No, I need a renewed heart.

Not to get run over again by the damn fruit cart,

Or hear the same damn ring tone.

Is a terra cotta warrior the kind of shit we should bring home?

500 yuan?

What kind of drugs are you on?

I could get a taste of Asia, sitting at home and watching Mulan.

Oh that’s a new one. Part wolf, part leopard.

How about the parts of a dozen German shepherds

Severed and skinned for dinner? This jewelry is jade?

For only five yuan? These really are the noodles you made?

Classy, but I’ll pass on Lassy. What else is there to pick to eat?

I’m sick of zip-locked dumplings and I’m steering clear of chicken’s feet.

And you can keep your meat floss. I’m sleeping with my feet crossed.

I’m looking forward to home, though this experience is neat, Boss.

Terracotta by the bath tub. A sculpture I only half-love.

But I doubt I’ll hang with Asians, outside Ping-Pong or the Math Club.

No more birthday cakes from Add Love.

No more spicy beef noodles.

No more street-hockering.

No more dressed-up poodles.

No more heavy clouds and light rain,

Mispronouncing the right name.

All my joints are in slight pain.

Delirious on the night train.

3 thoughts on “Riding the Night Train= Part II (with guest spoken-word poet, Bryce Gladfelter) Leave a comment

  1. Just have to say THANK YOU again!  My God the talent in your family – Bryce’s poem is wonderful!  Barbara

  2. I feel for all of you. But please don’t think that all of Asia is like that. Korea is very efficient – the trains, planes and subways are great. I could imagine Bryce rapping that poem 🙂

    1. hey cutes- so glad you are having good experiences. Sierra has been certainly challenged in China and when it comes to world travel and living without creature comforts, she is no stranger. Miss you and hope you are happy and well. Maybe I’ll get to visit you someday!

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