I would have been alarmed if a small flaw hadn’t been woven into the basket of my trip, and I found it when I boarded the SW Chief in Albuquerque. The poor attendant must have been new or ate too many flinstones chewables that morning because she put everybody on the wrong car, in the same couple seats. We all discovered this together but I was the only one who thought it was funny.
Once we had clambered lumbered rolled and rocked back to our proper seats, I found myself cozy with the aforementioned grandfather who would later be eating sandwiches under his beach towel before his morning proselytizing, sitting in front of the Luceferian-obsessed gonna-crack-at-any-minute dude. Naturally I fled to the lounge car only to be told to pack it up – ol Loungey had busted a spring and she was getting yanked. We’d be getting a replacement right? Nope! I walked a dispirited Charlie Brown walk back to my seat, noticing along the way litter and ruin, unusual on the typically tidy trains. It seemed I had somehow slipped and jumped someone else’s train (Pandora made The Cure sing that right then, so I frickin typed it right up!). This train was like that one cat that just doesn’t bother to bathe itself, getting dreadier and more prone to random hissing and biting, always leaving behind little granules where it has splayed itself.
This was underscored when a young woman approached the conductor as he was checking my ticket and asked if she could move since the man next to her was being inappropriate. What’s he doing, asked the conductor. Well, he’s just sitting there staring at me and stroking my face. The conductor cursed and moments later was on the intercom yelling that this was a family train and that anyone drinking, smoking, or cursing (he left out stroking people’s faces) would be dropped off in the desert. The Luceferian got more nervous.
Thank goodness I had plenty of snacks and sleeping bag and movie and that I awoke with the morning commute into LA. After breathing my layover into the vaulted art deco ceiling of the LA train station, I boarded the last train in name of my trip, the Coast Starlight.
Where the SW Chief out of Albuquerque was mangy cat, this was mumsy’s beloved manxy brushed constantly and fed chicken livers. It’s interesting to me that rich people aren’t satisfied with buying their unobtanium cell phones and hot tub airplane seats; they have to have the point made that nobody else gets to share their toys. There was wireless on this train, but they had it contained to the rich people’s lounge car only, where they also had a private movie theatre and wine tasting and probably hot tubs.
Oh well, I was happy with my Twix and ill-informed docents.
I hopped off in Santa Barbara and rented a car, drove it to my hotel then drove it to see grandma at the home. I busted her out of her room and wheeled her to the dining hall for a metamucil-infused dinner. Her catch-phrase this visit was“how did you get into that”, so when I told her I was having the chocolate chunk ice cream she said, “Oh. How’d you get into that?” She also gazed out over the sea of diners, once filled with friends, now all strangers, and said, “There sure are a lot of silver heads in here.”
The next morning I went for a run, jumped in the ocean, and happened to swim out to a pod of dolphins. Oh California, you charmer.
All photographs by Noel Tendick.