"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Friday, May 22, 2009

5/20-5/22/09: New Mexico to New England

Time management is not my strength. I had spent Monday and Tuesday obsessed with editing pictures, so by the time Wednesday morning came around I had much left to do before my 2pm Southwest Chief from Santa Fe to either Boston or Springfield.

Laina dropped me off in Lamy at about 1:30 and after the goodbyes I found myself plopped down on the platform next to the tracks just as I had the year before on my way to Santa Barbara. It was a beautiful afternoon, as May afternoons in New Mexico tend to be, and as the train pulled in the realization that I was about to ride from the Southwest to New England provided an always welcome rush of adrenaline. Also adding to the intensity: this was the first anniversary of Chris dropping me off at Jackson Lake State Park near Ft. Morgan, CO beginning what was a very cool 2008. A good day to be hopping a cross country Amtrak!

Lamy, NM
Beginning of an epic trip.
Once settled into my window seat, I noticed a film crew on board. Soon, they were in my car shooting some sort of a movie. "39 Miles" was the working title and I recall a distinct twinge of disgust as they proceeded to create a supposed electronic reality out of the limited view of their camera lens with re-take after re-take! I kept picturing Bill O'Reilly as I watched all this! Keith Olbermann too...

The ride to Chicago was gorgeous through New Mexico and Colorado before the sun set and the rest of the ride was mundane. After 24-hours we arrived in Chicago the Thursday afternoon at around 3pm and I had six hours to kill at Union Station. I took advantage of the lockers to lighten the load and managed to embrace my adventurous explorer side and...walked around the block. That was enough Chicago sight seeing. Growing up only a couple hours away, I've never been impressed with Chicago and don't get all the fuss. The Red Wings were up 2-0 in the NHL's Western Conference Finals against the Blackhawks so I thought I'd wear my Wings cap to annoy the multitudes. Did it work? No one let on.

Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited departed at 9pm for both New York and Boston. I learned that Albany, NY was where they would first separate the cars then add an engine to the back half of the train taking that group of cars to NYC while we continued on toward Boston unimpeded. Clever, these train-folk.

The ride through northern Indiana and extreme northern Ohio was nostalgic. Being raised just over the state line in Michigan, this landscape is embedded in my DNA. Sometimes painfully. Although it was the middle of the night, I clearly recognized the roads and towns as the train sped along. South Bend. Elkhart. Goshen. Bryan. Defiance. Toledo. Defiance was particularly odd because that was where we had taken the "older kids" to buy us beer when Ohio's drinking age was 19. Ahhhh. The wholesome, drunken good ol' days.  

We then passed within spitting distance of Shelly's house in Delta, a little town between Bryan and Toledo. I caught myself thinking that THIS was where we, only a few days ago, were discussing getting off the train. This was also my destination. There it was! I could see it! Yet I was training another 600 or 700 miles to get there! I loved that.

Once thru Toledo, I slept. All the way to Rochester, then to Syracuse, then again almost to Albany. Dammit! I missed Sandusky, Cleveland and...Erie! Missing Erie pretty much devastated me, as you can no doubt imagine, but I'm also quite sure Sandusky appreciated my low-key arrival and quick departure this time.

You've heard that story, right?

Past Albany, the Adirondack-filled landscape gets intensely beautiful and I realized that I had made a wise choice. This was the type of country we'd missed down south and I wanted to swim in it. Western Massachusetts was just as beautiful with more lakes and rivers as far as I could tell.

I hadn't met anyone of note on the entire train ride. This was my fault as I was introspective most of the time, however a couple of prime specimens quickly presented themselves past Albany.

The first was a uniformed soldier. I never spoke with him but he was apparently on his way to or from Iraq. "How do you know this?" the perceptive reader may ask. It was easy. He kept reminding a pretty young lady of it... at every single opportunity. For instance, while outside smoking (hush!) in Albany she mentioned "snowboarding boots." He then proclaimed in a pathetic, over-amplified, "far away" voice, "These boots have been to IRAQ... and they're gonna go...again." What was worse? Sgt. Major Erection using that line, loudly, or that it seemed to be working! Whatever. Maybe I was just jealous. And maybe a nice case of syphilis would do him good.

But on the pathetic scale, the other character put him to shame. I only spent the short time between Pittsfield and Springfield chatting with this pasty, red haired, obese 20-something and have long since forgotten her name, but she was the poster child for why we should require licenses to reproduce.

Immediately after plopping down, and without using the changing station provided, she thought it appropriate to wipe a good dose of collected #2 from her infant daughter. The poor teenager she'd pinned between her and the window had no choice but to watch. And smell. All the while, Mommy Dearest repeatedly declared that she was ready to "end all the pain" and go get "all fuckered up"

Really. She really said "fuckered up."

After her formidable poo-cleaning skills were exhibited for all aboard to see, she then looked at this poor kid and asked, "Do you mind?" while pushing her child out toward him! This teenager was a good sport and took the little girl and successfully occupied her while Mother of the Year got her shit together. (Intended and loved.) If this was that poor boy's first train ride I hope he gives it another shot! 

My mistake? Letting her bait me into conversation. I knew better. But alas, I was suckered (not fuckered) into hearing all about the "asshole boyfriend" who only "wicked fucks with her head", and how everyone is conspiring to take her child away "only" because she has "no job, real home, or no money", but only "for right now". Oh, and, "Yeah, I used to be a crack head, but gave dat shit up."

She couldn't comprehend why everyone was just "out to get" her. "They just don't understand the shit I been through and how hard it is!"
Lest you think I make shit (intended) up!

Then came the cliché "suicide" innuendo.

Then came the abrupt end to our little chat.

The train eased into Springfield about 6pm Friday. I had gotten a ticket all the way to Boston, but exiting in Springfield quickly proved to be far more practical. Chris was waiting for me in full backpack at the tracks when I stepped off and after 11-days we were back at it.

I spent nearly 45-minutes arranging my pack and enjoying being off the train (and freed from Trailer Park Barbie) then out of the blue, as we made our way toward The Magic Gus, we unexpectedly found just how "back at it" we really were!

Friday's story wasn't finished...