Thursday, April 25, 2013


  It sounded feasible. Only two nights, three days, plus the drive to Chicago, the bus to Eugene, a flight to the coast, and then the drive to my parents house. The kids were young, I was capable, the price was reasonable for traveling across half of America. I bought three tickets on The Empire and crossed my fingers.

The train did not rock us to sleep like Utah Phillips preached. We eventually slept, restlessness even in our exhaustion, our clothes crumpled from slouching, messy things leaked, and sticky items coated our assigned seats.
The train was not as mysterious as Hitchcock illustrated. We studied every bolt, hinge and angle of our car. We rolled marbles down the aisle. We would have noticed if anyone disappeared. We noticed everything.
The train was not as luxurious as Duke Ellington, or President Truman touted. No long angled lenses for our photographic mementos. I handed my son the panoramic camera and let him record our ride. His snapshots make me smile: torso's attached to cut off faces; blurred landscapes; the door to the restroom; myself, slacker mom, feigning consciousness; the frigid winter landscape of a moonlit station in Montana; Grandma greeting us with arms open.
The train was not the speed of a Casey Jones adventure. We poked along, and the rhythm swayed us side to side, moved us like the sands, like the ocean tide, like returning, like home on the edge of a new day. The train delivered us.

Utah Phillips
The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush 

The bum on the rods is hunted down 
As the enemy of mankind 
The other is driven around to his club 
Is feted, wined and dined. 
And they who curse the bum on the rods 
As the essence of all that is bad, 
Will greet the other with a winning smile, 
And extend the hand so glad. 

The bum on the rods is a social flea 
Who gets an occasional bite, 
The bum on the plush is a social leech, 
blood sucking day and night. 
The bum on the rods is a load so light 
That his weight we scarcely feel, 
But it takes the labor of dozen of men 
To furnish the other a meal. 

As long as you sanction the bum on the plush 
The other will always be there, 
But rid yourself of the bum on the plush 
And the other will disappear. 
Then make an intelligent, organized kick 
Get rid of the weights that crush. 
Don't worry about the bum on the rods, 
Get rid of the bum on the plush.

1 comment:

  1. This is some of your best writing yet. I love this post, even though I managed to preserve some of my train romance despite my own cross country trek with a toddler.