On Automatic

I am some 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia on Amtrak #138. I am going home. For 12 hours. And I will admit straight up: I have some beers in me. Three, to be exact. And a turkey sandwhich.

Here’s the back story. Michael Penn is playing the Point in Bryn Mawr tonight. (In 28 minutes, to be exact.) I played The Point on the “Summer’s Gone” Tour three years ago. It’s a skip, hop and a jump from where I grew up. So I bought tickets. And I invited an old friend to join me. Ok, an ex-girlfriend.

Optimistically, I purchased an Amtrak ticket for the 6pm Metroliner, knowing full well that on Monday we launch Overdrive with its F ton of promotion. And knowing full well that Fridays are a bear to begin with.

Yeah, so, 5:45 — I kid you not — the sh*t hits the fan. A colleague blows a gasket (on email, no less). A project remains unfinished. Make that three projects. And there’s no way I’m making the 6pm.

I set out for Penn Station at 6:45, reminding myself en route to remain calm and be patient. I get to Penn Station just before 7pm and get a tickety from the kiosk. Miracle! I’m going to make the 7pm Metroliner!

Alas, when I reach the platform, the train is gone. Next train? 8:35pm. Arrival? 9:55pm. Michael Penn’s show? 10:00pm. Fifteen miles from the train station. Ugh.

And here’s the punchline. The long awaited couch is to be delivered between 10-1pm tomorrow. Genious! I get to step right back on Amtrak and head back to NYC!

True, true: I made this bed, I’ll lay in it. But sitting at some Irish pub across from Penn Station trying to problem solve the evening (1- Call will call 2- Call neighbors to leave out key 3- Call Heather 4- Plead for favor), I had to ask myself: why not just cancel? Stay in NYC? Is it Michael Penn? Or the ex-girlfriend?

A few answers occur to me.

1) Momentum. The ball is rolling towards Philadelphia, and I’m going to roll with it.
2) Michael Penn. One great song is worth the trip.
3) Amtrak’s Cafe Car (see lead).

4) The ex-girlfriend. And kharma. Yes, I wronged her numerous times almost fifteen years ago. Now’s my chance to make it up to her, and to demonstrate that, at last, my word is good.

Reason number five (or four and a half) occurs to me on my second beer: Make it up to all of the women I’ve wronged with this one little gesture. My sole motive? No way. I knew she liked good music (it’s why we fell in love in high school!). My unconscious? Probably. Just a little bit, anyway.

Yeah, so I can see I-95 and all of its billboards just out the eastward facing window of the train. I am almost there. Wherever “it” is, and whyever I’m there (or getting there), this is it …

So … here we go.

Post Script, 1:04am: I arrived on time. My friend was waiting in her green Saab station wagon. We made it to The Point in time for Michael’s entire set. I love the guy. He’s like a laser. His focus is intense. He turns a song on a dime, and twists a phrase with grace and wit. But I have to disagree with him on one statement. “I like to think of optimism as the pretty side of denial,” he says. I like to think of optimism as confidence that things will turn out alright. Because they do. Take the couch delivery, for instance. After series of cell phone calls somewhere along the rails (Heather, Christofer, Dana, Heather), I arranged for a friend to greet the (no doubt grumpy after five flight delivery) couch movers. And so, I can sleep in just a little bit.

See? Things turn out alright. You just gotta’ work your ass off, roll with it, and for Heaven’s sake, be optimistic.

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