Monday, September 13, 2004

Train I Ride

All Aboard
I went to see my Aged Parents over the weekend. Being car free, I decided to take the train, just to see how stressful I can make my life.

What I’d forgotten is that there is nothing remotely stressful about trains. The ride to my folks, about an hour and a half in duration, was supremely restful. I spent the time in the bar car, of course, drinking coffee, reading the Sunday New York Times, and daydreaming.

People kept approaching the server to tell him how much they loved riding trains. I found myself suddenly thinking that I’d joined a cult. It was a very nice cult, however, a cult of people who like looking out windows, and taking catnaps.

Romance Dead?
Trains have been the subject of countless songs. They are forever taking one’s baby away, taking one away from a horrible situation, delivering one into horrible situations, crashing spectacularly, playing host to hobos, Casey Jones’ ghost, or just churning by as one watches it wistfully.

Airplanes never quite had the same panache. There are a handful of songs about airplanes - “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Early Morning Rain,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” come to mind – but they just can’t compete with “City of New Orleans,” “Mystery Train,” or “Love in Vain.” And plane crashes, unlike train wrecks, do not resonate mythically. Well, they probably do, but we don’t like to think about it.

Communication dead?
And telephones! Songs include “It Must Be Him,” “867 5309,” “Call Me,” “Marie,” etc. In popular culture there was SORRY, WRONG NUMBER, the story, the play, the movie. Shady characters in melodrama are forever silently picking up an extension to eavesdrop on a conversation. The warden calls seconds before the execution. The heavy breather on the line? He’s there! In the house!

Before that there was the telegram. Wiring for help. Wiring to alert the sheriff that a killer was on the train.

Before that there was the message. Romeo got his message too late. Remember? That led to tragedy!

The king blames the messenger, and kills him. The message floats in the bottle, waiting for a sailor to pick it up.

The Pony Express!

Sorry, but e-mail just doesn’t have the same panache. And the wounded dispatcher, riding hell bent for leather to the fort? I can guarantee you he was carrying a message that the Commanches were about to attack, not an offer to increase your penis size.

Win Free
Celebrating her show’s 19th season, Oprah gave each member of her audience a new car. 276 Pontiacs in all. She also gave a 20 year old formerly homeless woman a scholarship, a makeover, and $10,000 worth of clothes. And a family that was about to be evicted from their home was given $130,00 to renovate and repair. I guess I love her, that’s all.

My New Aphorism
Where there’s smoke, there’s someone’s ass up which it is being blown.





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