“Excuse me, but do you happen to be going to Köln?”
“No, Mülheim. Why, you guys have a group ticket?”
“Yeah. But Mülheim shouldn’t be a problem, same direction.” I had just walked into the Koblenz train station, sheet wrinkles still printed on my face, disgruntled at my excess of luggage and lack of coffee.
“Well, I’d love to ride on your ticket, but I don’t have any money, I can’t pay you anything.”
“Isn’t there an ATM around here?”
“I don’t have an ATM card, and there’s no money in the bank anyway. See, I don’t have any money at all.”
“Well.” He turned his away. I looked at him, waiting for a more definite answer. He gazed pointedly off into the distance. “I guess that’s a no then?” He still wouldn’t look at me. Must have offended his fine capitalist sensibilites. I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and walked to the ticket machine to find out what train I needed to take. I typed in “Mühlheim” and got three different “Mühlheim (Main)”s, but no “Mühlheim (Rohr)”s. Crap. Had Mühlheim disapparated? Had I forgotten how to spell? (Yep.) Lame Miser Dude had said that the Köln train was the same direction, and so had my road atlas, so I went to the track, found some kind yuppie women with an extra spot on their group ticket and hoped that Lame Miser Dude would walk by so that I could give him a pointed, spiteful look that said “Look, there are lots of really nice people in this world and YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM.”
(Marauder’s Guide Note: See, there are these tickets in Germany called “Schöne Wochenende Tickets” that cost 35 euros for up to five people to anywhere (and back) on Saturdays and Sundays. So if you’re broke, you can walk through the train and ask people if they have a group ticket, and if they do, if you can ride along on their ticket. Train hopping of sorts, but less exciting, less dangerous, and 99% certain to get you excatly where you’re going exactly when you’re going there.)
The signs at each station said our train was heading to Dinslaken, Holland. “I could just keep on riding, and I’d end up in Holland,” I thought, grinning. Tempting. In Holland there were friends and beautiful squats and beaches and vegan pirates. But in Mülheim there was zinefest, and new friends, and vegan food, and maybe, just maybe, there would be a few pirates there too.
I got off in Düsselsdorf and, after 15 frustrating minutes, tricked the ticket computer into telling me how to get to Mülheim (by learning how to spell it correctly, oops). It was only 20 minutes away now, the computer said. There’s a big soccer match today, the crowds on the platform said. Sure you can ride with us, a balding, white-capped man and his two sons said. We crammed ourselves between the hoardes of soccer fans and empty beer cans and chugged off. (Marauder’s Guide Note: If you don’t like loud drunken holligans, I would recommend avoiding all trains and train stations near stadiums on game days. Then again, lots of people=lots of people with group tickets, even if most of them are drunk morons.)
“What is that wooden box for?” White-Capped Man couldn’t stop staring at it. “It’s just so strange to see someone carrying an old wooden box here on the train. I’m really curious.”
How to explain zines, zinefest, and the old wooden distro box I’d found in the trash to a person who’s probably never heard the words zine distro? Translate it into language he has heard, I thought. “Well, see, I’m a journalist, and I am going to a meeting of journalists. We all like to publish things independently, and I use the box to display my publications.” He nodded, genuine interest in his eyes as he spoke.
“So it’s like a filing system?”
“Yeah, sort of. A lot of people have been giving me strange looks today because of that stupid box. And then I went and leaned on it and the one end broke off. It’s kind of annoying to lug it around, but I think it’s kind of charming, so there it is.”
In Mülheim I took my box and my bags, thanked White-Capped Man, nodded at his kind-of-embarrassed-about-this-strange-beggar-person-riding-with-us, and fell out of the train and onto the platform. Hello, Mülheim. Hello, Nikki! Welcome to the Mülheim Hauptbahnhof, the attached American-style shopping mall, and the most expensive copy shop you’ve ever had the honor of copying your zines in because Local Copy Man won’t let you copy anything with “so much black” and because you are a chronic, incurable procrastinator.
I think what happened in the copy shop can best be described through the letter now serving as page one of my latest zine, Gefunden.
“Dear Readers. Once upon a time there was a page here. But on a last-minute copy-liberation mission I was forced to leave it behind as Pfand while I “went to the ATM to get some cash.” Rest in peace pages 1 and 42. If you would like to know what they said, you can probably find them (and a charming wooden box) in the Mülheim copy shop dumpster tonight. xxo ClickClackGorilla.”