Wani’s Journals, Day 3-5: Travel and Recovery

Dearest Geiger,

I cannot always wax poetic. Sometimes, I must simply get my drink on.

On the train to the Yo-Se-Mites:

At the Yo-Se-Mites:

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Wani’s Journals, Day 2: Food Follies

Dearest Geiger,

Our second day of travels brings many experiences, some planned, some unexpected. I will try to recount some of them for you here.

We began our day in a spacious and inviting rental room, where once again the Chancellor was sluggish to rise. However, the gravest error was mine. I wear many hats on this voyage, from surveyor to documentarian and everything in between.

Perhaps chief among these duties, however, is the procurement of food. While we were instructed to make meal requests by midnight for the following day’s breakfast, I fear that in my inebriation I failed to carry out this most basic of tasks before retiring for the evening.

This led to a strained and embarrassing scene with our host, who politely explained our folly. Looking over, I saw the Duchess’s left eye begin to twitch, a sure sign she had taken offense to some perceived slight. However, before she could speak and potentially blow our cover, I interjected and rightfully accepted blame for our error.

Not two full days into our trip, and twice already our noble entourage has nearly been exposed. I fear the Chancellor and Duchess are not as in touch with the common folk as previously believed. That said, I am certain in their wisdom they will be able to adapt accordingly.

Taking our leave, we reconnected with the Duchess’s sister, the aforementioned Cultural Attache to Artists No One Has Heard Of, along with her manservant, who continued to impress us with his knowledge of Odnarotoop’s cultural history.

But first, official state business: Powell’s City of Books. If ever there was a nation in need of stories, the city block-sized Powell’s has them in abundance. In fact, within their walls, we found the works of three citizens of Chamandia.

Here, an aside. Many citizens of The Ham have observed a peculiar phenomenon upon living in our nation’s capitol for extended periods. The sensation is subtle at first, like the curious tendrils of a vine snaking up a terrace. Eventually, this feeling manifests itself in a distinct, but perhaps troubling thought.

Citizens describe the thought in different ways. However, the common thread appears to be an unshakeable feeling that nothing exists outside of The Ham——at least, no world worth noting. Residents have described this phenomenon as “Hamsterism,” and no immediate means of lessening or alleviating this feeling yet exists.

So imagine our surprise then, dear Geiger, to discover that a world outside The Ham indeed exists—a world that recognizes and celebrates the works of our capitol’s great literary minds.

What a time to be alive.

Next, at the suggestion of the Attache’s manservant, it was off to tea and various comestibles at Odnarotoop’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. I cannot say anything more about this feast that the enclosed image can’t say better.

Our meal adequately consumed and enjoyed, we once again boarded a train and headed south to the State of Cally Forny, destination: The Yo-se-mites.

On our journey, I gazed out the window and eavesdropped on a long conversation between two passengers, a traveling bicycler from Odnarotoop and a recently retired immigrant. Separated by age, nationality, and lived experience, the two nevertheless became fast friends during the long journey, sharing tales of their childhood, their careers, and their hopes for a better life.

Geiger, these are the moments we were meant to discover. The stories flowed easily and naturally. The camaraderie and trust were immediate. The meeting may have lasted but a moment in the grand scheme of their storied lives, but I doubt either will ever forget it.

As I write this, a great part of this grand continent is facing down a hurricane, with thousands losing their homes—and some their lives. Wildfires in other parts of the continent are producing similar results. And two belligerent dictators are pointing to their nuclear armaments and waiting to see who blinks first. Everywhere we look, whether from home or abroad, I see more questions than answers, more consequences than stories, and I feel helpless in the face of it all.

Seeing these two men didn’t change any of that. It didn’t answer any questions or provide a healing balm four our wounded lands and scattered psyches. It did remind me, however, that different stories are possible than the ones fill the mornings with over coffee.

Day 1: These Are the Journals of Wani Menehune McSnifferson

Dearest Geiger,

It has been but a day since this undertaking began. Though my cockles warm at the thought of serving our honorable Duchess and Chancellor, my apprehension grows at the prospect of such a prolonged journey into the unknown. But, oh, what a great honor to be selected as the Emissary of Chamandia as we survey the people and their local customs, as well as the native flora and fauna, of our outer territories!

I know that you instructed me not to, dear Geiger, but I have brought along with me my favorite photograph of us.

It reminds me of simpler times, times when resources were abundant and every monster knew its purpose. One can only hope that this expedition into these outer realms can help restore the glory and lustre of our great nation.

As you know, Chamandia has long relied on stories as our primary means of commerce. We can only pray that these travels yield previously undiscovered caches of this once-abundant narrative resource. Otherwise, I fear that our nation will continue its descent into the tedium of John Grisham books, Jeff Dunham jokes, and Triscuit crackers.

The first day brought hints of an outer realm ripe with stories, but I dare not get my hopes up just yet. Instead, allow me to recount for you the following experiences.

8:30 Departure

We arose at dawn bleary-eyed and befuddled. The Duchess prepared her usual breakfast of oats and boiled water whilst the Chancellor traipsed about their marital home muttering under his breath. I suspect he may not enjoy the day’s first light as I do.

Upon reaching the train station, the lady at the check-in desk noticed the Duchess’s peculiar necklace—a solitary serrated tooth hanging from a thin silver chain—and inquired of the tooth’s origin.

“It came from our enemies,” the Duchess replied, lifting her eyebrow.

We checked our bags, boarded the train, and embarked on our voyage.

11:20: The Woman with No Imagination

We must discuss the unusual seating procedures of our nation’s rail service. First, I found it highly peculiar that the Chancellor and the Duchess—the highest nobility in the land—were given neither deferential treatment nor preferential seating upon boarding.

I suspect this is due to their dress. The have chosen the attire of commoners for this voyage and, as the introverted and literary masses of Chamandia are wanting in their ability to make eye contact, have thus far blended in with nary a second look.

This suits our purpose. Our voyage, after all, is neither diplomatic nor celebratory. Quite simply, we must secure more stories for Chamandian commerce, lest our crocodilian republic become too weak to fend off the explosive allure of the next Transformers sequel. For such a future, I am not yet prepared to weep.

I digress.

Upon our arrival from the north to the village of Seatown, I feared the Chancellor and Duchess’s cover may be blown when a woman of permed hair and floral cardigan clambered aboard our rail car. She approached us in great visual distress, gesturing to a handwritten slip of paper and explaining that we were in her seats.

We explained that this was impossible, that we had boarded at the Chamandian capitol and had received clear instructions not to change seats upon our arrival in Seatown. Not wanting to cause a row and inadvertently reveal our identities, we assured the permed woman we would abdicate our seats should the conductor require us to do so. In the meantime, we gestured around the half-empty cabin and explained she was welcome to any of the many other available seats.

Three times the woman raised the issue with three different conductors. Three times the conductors explained that the Seatown station had incorrectly and unnecessarily assigned seats. A peculiar situation indeed, but certainly no cause for alarm.

Even three rows back and jamming to the new Queens of the Stone Age record, I could feel the side-eye cast out by the permed woman.

The rest of our journey continued without incident.

Evening: Odnarotoop

You must forgive me, dear Geiger, for my memories upon our arrival to the land of Odnarotoop are hazy from drink and ribaldry. However, during dinner with the Duchess’s sister (the Cultural Attaché to Artists No One Has Heard Of) and entourage in this coastal hamlet, we may have encountered our first story.

As it turned out, the Attache’s manservant had recently returned from the country, where he worked at a festival designed to observe the recent eclipse. There, he told us tales of forest fires, hundred-dollar schwarma, topless lost-and-found workers, children mistakenly drinking acid, and twenty-hour traffic jams to depart the campgrounds.

It is by the glory of the Spaghetti Monster that her manservant survived. Such tales riveted our near-inebriated Chancellor and Duchess, and we knew in that instant there may be hope for Chamandia yet.

The rest of the night, however, can only be summed up in a single picture with the Chancellor, which I have enclosed here.

Fare thee well for now, dear Geiger. I will resume our correspondence when able, though I fear we are in for some grueling days ahead.