trains

1.

To write about traveling by train is to force myself to choose what to say.

How do I reflect those long moments, minutes stretching slowly into hours, just sitting and staring out the window, hoping I will remember to blink once in a while, to keep my eyeballs moist, not let them dry out and die in the withering glare of endless miles…

How do I represent the slow change of land, from rolling hills and stiff canyons, to endless flat lands stretching out toward the horizon…

How can I tell you what it is like to travel in a long tube full of seats and people, some of us desperate for a moment to get outside and walk up and down the station platform, before we must be shepherded back onboard for another hour, two hours, or more, of endless rolling and rocking, and staring out the window, or reading a book, or playing with our telephones and computers, or just plain talking with another human being until…

Until the time goes by.

How can I adequately share with you the simple understanding that the most important thing that happens is you get to sit down and eat…

Once. Twice. Again, and again.

This is not like flying on a plane.

Oh, no.

No.

And, some of us like it much better.

 

2.

I must admit, however, that driving can be better.  You can go so many more places in a car, just drive right out there and stop for a picnic. On the train, you are virtually a prisoner in the tube, only allowed off for a few minutes at a time.

But you do not have to pay attention to the road. You can look out the window and daydream. Even close your eyes and take a nap.

Nor do you have to worry about gas or oil or air in the tires or anything except what you will do when you get off… or, wait, when is dinner?

Driving is different than traveling by train.

Yes.

In some ways, driving is much better.

But, as the French say, vive la difference.

 

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after the ides

2017 March 16 – Thursday

Yesterday was the ides of March. It makes me think of the ancient empire, and Julius Caesar, who traditionally is said to have been assassinated on that day, two thousand sixty years ago or some such number of years ago. I can remember sixty years of my life, now. But not two thousand. He was killed nearby the place where hundreds of cats live now, in Rome. They say.

We don’t have assassinations in the internet world. We ban and shun and block. Rather like exile, I suppose. The man without a country. The nerd without a social website.

Even the word website is weird to me, still, and I have been around the internet for twenty years now. It has completely transformed my life from a man who used to go to the library to a man who sits in the kitchen and types on his minicomputer while listening to the birds chirp outside in the garden. This is a garden house. We have flowers outside the windows and a big tree. A drought resistant cypress.  We cut off a big piece of it several years ago because it was pushing the house back and threatened to shatter the front wall. The kitchen window wall. The lovely morning wall.

It has not rained for two weeks. Almost time to start watering the yard again.

 

a million memories

2017 March 11 – Saturday morning

It seems such a cliché to say, but it is true, yes, that sometimes it “seems like yesterday” – yes, any of a million memories – I wonder now if I could actually sit down and set down on paper a million memories, and how would I divide them up into separate quantities? I say I remember our trip from Washington D.C. to San Diego, in February 1977, but is that only one memory? Or more than one? Is not each and every detail I remember, in itself, a separate memory?

Well, I meant simply to say it seems like yesterday, but it was much longer, yes, forty years ago last month.

A million memories. What an extraordinary project! To number and categorize them all! Already I want to split them into boxes, pile them up in orderly, organized, files, yes, piles of files, like that old song from my youth except it was not piles, I think it was miles. And now, to suit our great computer, you’re magnetic ink! Or was that magnetic tape? Oh dear, another memory goes slipping and sliding into changes and subtly transformed words of one or another variety oh yes it does.

A million memories. One of the files which would contain a number of memories, well, I have already mentioned it. The trip from Washington to San Diego in February 1977. Within that one file folder could be counted each and every separate remembrance from the road and perhaps before and after. How we returned all my old library books just as we were driving out of town that morning, the 12th I think it was. Saturday. How the gohonzon, however it is spelled, shifted slightly on the wall when I saw it and realized I had forgotten to pack it. No, it said in my mind, moving slightly in the breeze. But was the window open? That I do not remember. I do remember we were leaving the splendid apartment on 19th street, where we had lived with James.

I remember James. There could be almost a thousand memories, simply about the few years I knew him, there in D.C.

The more I think about it, the more I realize it would be quite possible to tabulate a million memories. If I can imagine a thousand for only one person, whom I only knew, factually, for less than three years, then how many more thousands would I have for someone I have known for many more years than that? My mother, my fathers, my sister and brothers, my son. My friends, one by one by one by one. Cousins. Work partners and associates. Or even people I know about, but don’t know.

Why, there could be a million, merely in the media, all those things I remember but never actually experienced, but which were on TV or radio or movies or books. How many words are there in a single edition of the San Diego Union Tribune? How many days in my life have I at least read a thousand words in one newspaper?

But one word, perhaps, is not the equivalent of one memory. Perhaps it takes more. A complete sentence, at least. But, there I go again, forcing order and categorization upon what is perhaps not a category, not an organized system.

What is a river, flowing, or a creek? What is water? A stream or a collection of drops? What is the air, the breeze, the wind blowing? What is a cloud? How many are there on any one day, filling up the sky, or only scattered puffs of vapor, here, there, one, two, five, eleven, twenty-nine? These organic phenomena have more in common with memory and the brain than with a pile of paper in a file folder, or a neatly organized structure built from bricks or blocks of stone or hammered beams of wood.

There is a difference between the basic, organic reality – except perhaps a river is not organic, but then again, it is a medium of life, yes – and… and… well, there is a difference between the organic, and natural, and a man-made construction, like a wall, or like a page with words upon it.

Language. That is where we make the organic come face to face with the constructed.

Except that the chambered nautilus is organic, and it constructs its own shell, layer by layer, chamber by chamber… oh dear. I am in, deep in, far over my head. Yes.

A million memories.

If I wrote down the verbal details of one memory in a minute, then I could write down 60 x 8 memories in an eight-hour work day.

480 detailed memories. Then, if I did that every day, in one year I would have written down 480 x 365 memories. 175,200 memories.

In six years I would have written down 1,051,200 memories.

If I wrote down one memory per minute for eight hours every day, and did it every day.

So it is possible.

If you want to do it.

If you can STAND to do it.

Or sit.