A Cast of Thousands

Not really an official post, this is a reflection collection of some of the rail folk I met, or didn’t, on the way back. Can you believe I finished this trip a month and a half ago and I’m still blathering on about it?

Riding out of NYC the kids are ca-razy. They’re all about the Xanex. They’ve never flown or they have extreme anxiety about it, they love pot too, they’ve worked at the horse races giving tips on the sly, and of course they’re in the process of getting wasted. One of them, the youngster, stops by to watch V for Vendetta with me.

The lounge car attendant is Al Pacino. Not looks like Al Pacino, is Al Pacino in appearance and manner and voice. I really want to ask him to quote Scent of a Woman.

I’m starting to feel that talking to strangers is over-rated. You get a couple little gems here and there – I loved it when I was crammed in with the Amish and retired couple and the old man described the small German town they visited years ago as rinky-dink – but by and large folks just love to talk about the most boring shit and don’t notice you not being interested. The little Filipino grandfather, who was adorable eating the sandwich his son made for him while keeping warm under a beach towel, quickly wore that off going on for half an hour about the bizarre church he belongs to that he thought I should write a book about.

Eavesdropping is more fun, because you can gather what you like and let the rest flow by. My ears prick when the guy lowers his voice and begins to talk about being a regular at CIA headquarters. Guy in the station next to me tells his lady not to fry the chicken until he gets there. Crazy Dan thinks that 90% of Americans are Luciferians, including his bruja sister who used to be a nun.

A man bald of hair and eyebrows posts up in Harley shirt ready to chat. He’s got a backstage pass around his neck which is his Amtrak ID, giving him free travel and the ability to tell stories about being a train mechanic. Turns out the most vulnerable parts of the train are the brake lines. Every time they hit something great or small they have to stop and make sure none of the lines are leaking air and therefore setting up a Denzel Washington movie.

A kid is writing his raps, saying how talented his whole family is, how they’re all going to be rich and famous. A million kids are saying that this very moment with sorrow in their eyes.

More funky docents. This one calling them snowy plowvers and noting the importance of the US military in protecting the environment and endangered species because Vandenburg has so much undeveloped land, next to the pads where they launch rockets and missiles.



2 thoughts on “A Cast of Thousands

    • The human madness is unavoidable, but I suppose when you encounter it on Haight you have quick refuge in your home. On the train you’re kinda stuck, especially if they’ve stolen the lounge car.

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