– by William Cooper
If you choose to listen to this episode of Up and Overcast, and honestly why shouldn’t you, you’ll hear me tell a story of a sleepless night on a cramped, fast-moving train. As a bear-sized individual, fitting into small spaces has always been challenging. Eating airline food on tiny trays involves a series of minute, precise contortions that cause watchmakers to weep with envy. Taking off my coat in a restaurant requires me to dislocate both my arms so as not to accidentally crush any normal-sized humans at the tables next to me. I’ve gotten stuck in lawn chairs and worn them around like suits of armor rather than call attention to my struggles to escape.
In short, any form of public transportation, or as I read back on the last paragraph, public seating, usually holds some kind of challenge for me. I don’t like challenge when it comes to travel, or food, or social interactions or sleep. And that’s, in short, one of the many reasons despite all my yearnings and dreams about being a travel writer that I’ve realized I could never be one.
As a kid at a state fair, I once rode an elephant. After riding that elephant, swaying from side to side with nothing to hang onto but very elephant-smelling elephant skin, always at the point of nearly toppling off the beastly business end and into steaming piles of elephant leavings, I decided that elephant riding was not something I was going to do again. A travel writer would decide that riding an elephant was so uncomfortable that they should try riding an ostrich because it’s bound to be worse and will make a great story. They decide that the night on the train was so disruptive that they should try sleeping on an ostrich, because apparently ostriches factor into travel writing quite a bit more than you’d imagine.
You only live twice, or so it seems, once for yourself and once for your dreams. So, I’ll let that dream part of me fly to distant lands, battle pirates off the coast of Whassit, eat fried Whangdoodle soup, befriend large flightless birds on the savannah, and have all the hilarious conflicts that make for a good travel story. Me, the real me, will stay here. Like a bear, I have simple needs. Give me a salmon, some berries, a warm spot to sleep in, and a good book and I’m happy. Stay downwind and don’t startle me and you will be too.
In this episode, transportation gets the better of us. As we recover from our respective weekends, we establish some clear friendship roles before launching into our surprising 25th podcast outing. The Bad Parenting Series continues as Scott’s duplicate daughter loses a fight with a pizza crust. Vigorous chewer or magical twin teeth connection? Whatever the case, she’s a chip off the old tooth. Then, we receive an actual email with an offer that seems too good to be true, mainly for our listeners. If only we had eight bucks! Send your money orders to firstname.lastname@example.org and we promise less of us. Scott brings us a sorry tale of ignorance as the beloved Murder Van meets a slow, drippy death. It’s a swan song full of smells, noises, liquids and a last heroic journey to a four-digit fatality. The omens were there if only he could have remembered what he already knows. William commiserates with a mouthful of poison and in turn forgets what is already his nose. Looks like it’s finally the end of the Murder Van, kids… or is it? Beyond the Porch returns as William takes an ill-fated train journey to Middle Earth over Memorial Day, or was it Labor Day? William’s lack of calendar-sense once again sends Luke Pez over the edge. Listen as a romantic trip in a sleeper car turns into a 600-mile, slip-sliding, whistle-blowing, urine-holding dark night of the micro-hotel rocket sled. Duck Dynasty turned friendly but grizzled country folk, smallest closet in the universe, a bare bottom, and some shaky security prison mattresses are only a few of the stops. And what’s all this about time zones, anyway? They are always one step ahead! Luckily Jo knows how to build a proper pyramid. After his Apollo 13 capsule experiment and with a new nickname, William enters a vast, stunning, mountainous world of beauty and wildlife on a no-expectations weekend that may have changed him and his wife forever. Keep Manhattan, just give him that countryside! We end with a musical palate cleanser as Soft Cell goes inside the Soul – a bit TOO far inside the Soul as William’s flashbacks can attest to. Thankfully, it’s nothing that a decent Bond song cover and a good wiping won’t fix. Not as good as Razzle Deathgrip and the Coolant Raccoons, but what is? Not this mint, I can guarantee you that.