Saturday, December 12, 2009

3 Train Stories

1. I had flown into some Eastern city and on the way down (landing), my ear had a fit. I later learned this is called baro-trauma or something like that. The pressure within my ear did not equalize and we had some major pain. In fact, I took a cab to an ER in the middle of the night. I think this was in North Carolina. The doc lanced my eardrum (Ow!) and told me I should not fly home. – So, I took a train.
Since I felt sorry for myself, I got a little compartment. I would like to say I was cozy, but actually I was wierded-out on pain meds. As it turned out, I could not take the train directly to Ann Arbor, Michigan but needed to go to Chicago and then double back.
Somewhere in Ohio, I got off the train and rented a car and drove home. Remember there were no cell phones and it was just me and my ear. We discussed it and decided to adopt the straight line approach.
Planes, trains and automobiles. Not so funny.

2. I love the night train from Paris to Barcelona. This is a very cool trip. You get on in the evening in Paris, have dinner on the train and wake up in Spain. The track has many twisty curves during the night while you are rocked back and forth. Somehow the side by side rolling is comforting to me.
I like the whole ritual with the conductors that speak a dozen languages. The strange hallways outside the compartments as you roll through town with no lights and no traffic. Its allowed to just stare out the window even if it is night time.
On such trips, we always vaguely felt we were in an old movie.

3. My mother took me on the train from Phoenix to Kansas City several times. On most trips, as a small chatty boy, I met many older adults. In those days, I seemed to just wander the train and talk to people. If my mother was worried, I never knew it.
A particularly memorable person was a retired railroad man. He had a pass and could allowed him to ride forever. When we would pass over particular bridges or trestles he would tell me all about how they were built. He seemed to know about every place.
He told me that he had only 1 small bag and essentially lived on the road. He was not poor. When he needed clean clothes, he told me, he would just throw away an item and buy new things. I believed him. I still believe him. Cool. I often think of him when I am packing, fearful that I might forget something. “You can always buy it.”

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