I grew up on Station Avenue in a small town in New Jersey. as a boy I could hear the horn and clack of the occasional train that crossed a few blocks up. I would run out into the sun and watch as it passed me by.
this past December I got on.
trains have always appealed to me by their pollution and presence. With their screams, the daylight reflections off the steel, the smell of oil and smoke.
they follow a straight line carrying their heavy burden.
my journey began with my friend Geoff as we went from here in Los Angeles up the Pacific coast and thru the Oregon and Washington woods to Seattle. i would continue on alone to Vancouver and east thru the rocky mountains to Toronto where I would fly to New Jersey to see my mom and sister Asha.
For days I watched as I moved south to north, left to right. there were clouds that looked like dogs, frozen waterfalls and one-street towns passing thru the scratched train glass windows. I was moving without moving. the static of my life slowly diminished as I felt pieces of my mind get stretched and coaxed into the landscapes I passed. bits of this past year were replaced with snow covered trees pointing up at the big country sky like white arrows - signs that should read “don’t forget to look up”.
I met a man on the train who failed and failed again at startup computer companies until one day he finally succeeded. not expecting to, he found himself without a plan on what to do with his life. so he rides the train because the train gives you time to think.
I visited sites of “Twin Peaks” and stayed in a room that smelled of burned oil where one of the murders occurred.
I walked the train trestle bridge and ate french toast and butterscotch sundaes at Norma’s diner.
I continued on to Vancouver where my b&b hostess made me texas sliced french toast with fresh strawberries, Canadian maple syrup & whipped cream on top. (a french toast and hugs gang shirt was sent to her promptly on my return)
in Vancouver, a beach path ribbons for miles as it wraps around the city’s harbor and into Stanley park. walking it I would stop to read the benches with their dedications to loved ones. the words spoke quietly of the people who watched the waters as they fell into love and families.
I continued on and stayed in the Rocky Mountains in a log cabin run by Elke, her son Jay and his pup Chinook. there I snowmobiled above the clouds in the great mountain bowls. these cupped white palms lined only by the tracks of other riders and their machines.
I headed back on the train east out of the forests and into the plains of Canada with purple skies and wispy grass stalks. Canada’s landscape, like my country’s, changed by the hour. I met Mike who is from Colorado by way of the Bronx. he looks and talks like Isaac Hayes, a full on black belt in karate traveling with his “Kung Fu” dvds and a strong love of pizza. we hit it off immediately.
two hours outside of Winnipeg our train derailed after a CN freight train broke the rail ahead of us. we were all ok and it gave me time to talk about music with corey who just graduated high school from my mom’s birthstate of Nova Scotia. we flew the rest of the way to Toronto where I headed to Ocean City, New Jersey to visit my mom, sis and longtime friends Jamie, Linda, Jimmy & Tricia. (Linda gave me a french toast scented candle complete with a wax butter wedge)
my sister asha is the best hugger I’ve ever experienced. she delivers both quality and quantity although she often uses your shirt as a napkin when you’re getting a hug.
she also has more attitude than any Hollywood bigshot I’ve ever met. my 2nd morning there I heard her slap my face IN MY DREAM it was so loud. I leaped up and she laughed in my face and signed that she wanted me to make her breakfast. confused and more than a little scared I did so. moments later there was a crash as I looked up to watch her giggling as she threw the food in the sink! such creativity! could a brother admire a sister more?! don’t worry I got her back, I thought it particularly funny since she has downs syndrome to get her a south park t-shirt for xmas with a crippled kid. on the shirt it reads “my mom always told me God has a plan… I guess I was plan B!” nice.
during my visit my mom showed me the bench she had dedicated to my father. I had forgotten she had done this. a pediatrician and a lover of children, I believe he would have smiled knowing it was placed in a children’s park. the last night of my stay I walked alone up the empty winter beach past all the deserted summer homes. benches dotted the vacant boardwalk for as far as I could see, each one a testament to someone who was loved. the Atlantic ocean to my left was churning as a bitter wind spiraled the sand around me. I turned to see my footprints begin to vanish. the sky was grey and the water black. an empty feeling began to fill me and I thought how good it would be to be named on a bench. to be a memory in the golden sun and a place for someone to rest.
Footnote: for me, 2005 was a long year. as I traveled out of the rocky mtns a thought entered me. it said simply “things will be good”. it was one of those sudden truths that is so accurate that you don’t argue with it. the words seeded themselves so deep in my heart that none of my fears or insecurities could remove it. i truly believe this year will be good, for me and for you.
I sure do love you all.
if you would like to see photos of my trip please go here: