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In which John takes the slow train to Antwerp, Belgium in order to spend a day with no Internet working on the revision of his new novel (which comes out in March). During his brief time in Antwerp, he visits the zoo.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, Hank; it's Friday. I woke up early yesterday with nothing to do but write and thought, "I think I might just go to Belgium today." So I walked down to Amsterdam Central Station and bought a ticket on the slow train to Antwerp. I wanted time away from the Internet and my life, time to write. Hank, watching people write is boring, and in my case at least it doesn't even involve that much typing, but writing does, at least for me, require quite a lot of concentration, and to concentrate you must be prepared to face the terrifying specter of boredom without fear. In that respect, at least, both the reading and writing of books have become kind of countercultural activities in the social media era. Books don't lend themselves to multitasking; they don't automatically update. And as much as much as I love the Internet, I'm happiest when I'm writing. Got into Antwerp knowing nothing about the city, except that there are Winkles to the left and Winkles to the right, and emerged from the train station into this central square. My general strategy for visiting a place I haven't done any research about is just to find someone who looks like a tourist and follow them to wherever they're going because I figure they did the research for me. Then I just stop at any old buildings and/or zoos. This dude had a guidebook in his pocket so I followed them, and sure enough, they led me to two sweet old buildings, although neither was open. So I returned to the train station to find more tourists to stalk whereupon I noticed, "Holy crap there's the zoo." At the zoo I saw little monkeys, and big monkeys, and swingy monkeys, and this monkey with pants picking up sticks for the presumed purpose of building a nest, and this monkey with pants planting ferns in some kind of primitive experiment in agriculture, and almost puppy-sized elephants, and tigers, and zebra-giraffe-horses, and this penguin that appeared to be decapitated but was in fact just sleeping, and badass fish, and a shark chatting with a seahorse - okay, that was on television - and this tortoise! I tried to tell him that he needed to go on and brush his shoulder off, on account of how his shoulder appeared to be storing the fecal matter of a different tortoise, but he either didn't understand me or he was making a fashion statement. I also saw these giraffes who were separated from me only by a ankle-high fence and a tiny water fountain. Hank, I filmed them for like ten minutes, and they kept looking at me like, "No matter how long you leave that camera on, we are not going to mount each other." Then I went back to the station where I rode the worlds coolest escalator, up and then straight, and up again! How are these miraculous escalators only in Belgium!? Did the Belgians patent them? We must wrest this technology from their tiny polylingual hands! Minutes later at my train platform, I learned that my train was "afgeschaft", and I was like "I hope that doesn't mean delayed". Since everyone is leaving, I think that was bad. It means abolished. But another train came an hour later, and I wrote all the way home. And that, Hank, is how I lived for a day without the Internet. I'll see you on Monday.