Tag Archives: Amtrak

Time stops on the train

CITY LIFE.TRAIN RIDESby Stacey Warde

A couple of guys in shirts and ties board the train in LA.

“Yeah, sure, we could probably add another million dollars in sales if she didn’t have such a volatile personality,” says one as the two organization men take seats across the aisle. “She’s a diamond in the rough. She’ll be all right.”

“You’re too soft on your people,” says his companion.

“Yeah, well….” the first starts to hem and haw, and concoct a story.

He is too soft, I think, just as his companion says. He’s probably a lousy manager, no worse than I’ve ever been. I hate managing people. I’m too soft too, like this guy who’s trying to tell a story about giving people a chance.

His companion stops him and counters: “If you create goals, with clear-cut objectives, and set a timeline….”

“I know, I know,” the other interjects, unwilling to hear what his companion has to say.

I try to listen over the rattling of the passenger car, the frequent whistle of the engineer’s signals, and announcements from the conductor over the intercom, but it’s impossible to hear what he’s saying. It’s better, I think, that I can’t hear. It’s all bullshit any way.

My instincts tell me he’s not saying anything; he’s creating another fiction, feeding the corporate machine that will eventually eat him alive. “What a waste of time,” I think, “put on a shirt and tie so you can spend the day making up stories and kissing people’s asses.”

Time stops for me on the train. I don’t’ do business. I stop, and listen, and watch people; and daydream, and try not to pay attention to dubious talk about diamonds in the rough.

The only diamond in the rough I care about is the one who’s supposed to pick me up at the end of the line tonight. She’s not happy with me; at least she wasn’t the last time we spoke several days ago.

I’m pretty sure she wants me to move out. I’ve been gone four days and haven’t heard a word from her until this morning.

She sent an email: “I’ll pick you up tonight. Will you be buying sushi?”

For a few days, I wasn’t sure I’d have a place to call home. Maybe I don’t, I reason, but at least I’ve got a ride back from the train station. I can always find another place to live. “You fly, I’ll buy,” I wrote back.

The suits, coats thrown casually over their shoulders, jump off the train at the next station, still yakking away about money and setting timelines and goals.

I stretch back my head and arms, reaching as far back as I can with my fingertips, almost touching the panel above my head where the light and fan switches are, and take a deep breath. “Jesus Christ!” I mutter, “what a shitty fucking life those guys…”

I could argue that mine’s no better. I mean, until this morning, I wasn’t even sure that I had a home. In any case, there’s really no need to worry about that now. The train, as it runs, takes care of all my worries. What else can I do but sit back and enjoy the ride? §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com

Blind love

Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison. Photo By Stacey Warde

Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison. Photo By Stacey Warde

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees. —Pablo Neruda

by Stacey Warde

At the Camarillo Amtrak station a young blind couple, walking arm-in-arm, slide the red tips of their seeing-eye canes along the platform next to the train.

The tips of their canes make a parallel search of the ground, tapping out the echoes of potential obstacles, swinging this way and that. Between the sliding sticks the pair are joined at their elbows.

I watch them from my vantage point above, through the window where I’m sitting on Train 777, or “Triple Seven,” as the conductor says in his announcements.

They have just stepped off the train heading north and west where the sun is beginning its low descent over the Pacific Ocean.

The setting sun casts an orange glow on their faces. Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison.

I’ve never seen a blind couple as this making their way together. When I’ve observed the blind, often they have been alone, or accompanied by a service dog or friend whose vision is not impaired.

The pair turns tentatively toward the road, scouting the audibles, as a yellow cab slowly passes by, and they pause momentarily as if to hail the driver but another couple flags the car for themselves. How do they know that it is a cab? What bit of information causes them to turn at the same time to pursue what they cannot see?

They walk so closely and intimately that their bodies and minds seem as one. It’s a stunning scene. It’s touching. How did two blind intimates find each other? What brought them together? Did they meet in school? At a support group for the blind?

Their closeness, their intimate knowing and safety in being together unseats me, penetrates the armor I’ve worn to avoid the history and hurt of broken intimacies. An aching, bleeding feeling, as if something has begun to melt, washes through me, beginning inside of my chest.

My eyes well up with tears and, like the couple below, I put on a pair of dark sunglasses. I don’t want anyone to see my eyes. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m having a breakdown on the train. I want to avoid the appearance of a touched middle-aged man.

As Triple Seven pulls away from the platform, I watch the pair in a final desperate attempt to see what happens to them, and feel the cauldron of losses bubbling inside of me, streams of tears burning down my face.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the idea of a blind love that isn’t blind at all but sees everything, knows everything, and moves in unison with the melodious voices of departing passengers, the low hum of cars in the distance, the passing of a cab, and the shared need to find a safe passage home.

Perhaps I’m a fool for thinking that such passage gains more from the company of another who is willing to share the risks and responsibilities of navigating through the darkness, guided by some other light that cannot be seen.

This coupling desire to be joined at the elbows and to walk in unison with another in a different kind of blind trust doesn’t go away easily, not even after one has passed his prime and love can seem so cruel and foolish.

“When does it stop?” I asked a friend once. “When do you stop wanting the company of a woman? When do you stop feeling like there needs to be another?”

“A great love poet,” he responded, “once said that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he realized the feminine no longer had power over him.”

It’s not merely the feminine, however, that haunts and wields power over me. Something more than charms and pleasure has broken through the walls of my resistance to love.

What moves me now is the formidable intimate knowing that is built on trust, the eagerness to hold space with another, even when there is darkness all around, the willingness to traverse obstacles despite the handicaps, to do with that one what spring does with the cherry trees.

The dark sunglasses do not hide my tears. I remove them to pat my cheeks dry with the sleeve of my jacket. Amtrak Triple Seven roars into the night and my view outside the window is blurred from blinding tears. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice

Let go, let Amtrak

Photo by Stacey Warde

Photo by Stacey Warde

by Stacey Warde

A couple of guys in shirts and ties board the northbound train in LA. They reek of the corporate office with their shined winged-tip shoes, dark slacks, crisp powder-blue dress shirts, and navy blue coats slung over their shoulders in a sort of “casual” way.

“Yeah, sure, we could probably add another million dollars in sales if she didn’t have such a volatile personality,” says one as he, and then the other find their seats across the aisle. “She’s a diamond in the rough. She’ll be all right.”

“You’re too soft on your people,” says his companion, as he neatly folds his jacket and sets it aside.

“Yeah, well…” the other starts to hem and haw, and concocts a story about giving people a chance, room to grow, management by positive incentives….

He is too soft, I think, just as his companion says.

He’s probably a lousy manager, even though he tries hard, no worse than I’ve ever been, I’ll bet. He means well, but he’s lousy. I hate managing people. What can you do with someone who’s volatile? Get rid of the bitch, I think, fire her, and find someone who can sweet talk customers and bring in the million dollars. That’s what I would do but I’m not cut out for the sort of heartlessness that’s required to succeed in the business world.

I’m too soft, just like this guy who’s trying to convince himself that giving people a chance in the cold corporate world of maximizing profits, increasing production and making quicker turnarounds really makes a difference, that the guys sitting on the top floor really give a rat’s ass about giving someone, even a diamond in the rough, “a chance.”

His companion stops him mid-story and counters: “If you create goals, with clear-cut objectives, and set a timeline….”

“I know, I know,” the other interjects, annoyed but conceding the point, unwilling to hear more of what his companion is going to say, looking through the window as if planning an escape, and then attempting without success to convince his companion that a softer, more humane approach will bring out the best in this volatile sales woman.

I try to listen over the rattling of the passenger car, the frequent whistle of the train, and announcements from the conductor over the exceedingly loud intercom, but it’s impossible to hear what he’s saying, how he’s trying to rationalize his softness in the face of the hard and fast facts of production, the cut and dry narrative of numbers, results and annual reports, the reminder that his only purpose is to produce, to whip people into shape or send them packing.

My instincts tell me he’s not mounting much of an argument; he’s bullshitting, a storyteller, like me, buying time, trying to find a shred of the humane in the inhumane and prefab world of corporate values. What a waste of time, I think, put on a shirt and tie so you can spend your days making up stories and kissing people’s asses. I feel my throat constrict.

It can’t be good for you, this life of stifling your humanity, of living a lie. Sooner or later, if you’re not cut out for it, as I’m not, corporate life, where you have to suck up all the time to people you fear and despise, whether you want to or not, will turn you into a shell of a human being, or worse, a raging sociopath.

I’ve never been a friend of the corporation. It represents just about everything I abhor: the attempt to be original despite sameness and lack of invention or originality, save for its branding; its flowery and false rhetoric; its brutal agenda to profit no matter what; and its disregard for everything humane.

More often it’s an enemy of health and well being, killing the soul, if not the body and its environs. It’s all about the money, getting rich, or more likely making others rich. There’s nothing wrong with earning a living, even making it big, but not at the expense of turning into another heartless cog in the system and destroying everything and anyone who gets in your way.

As the next station stop approaches, the organization men grab their coats to jump off the train, continuing to discuss their million-dollar problem.

“Maybe the thing to do,” the soft one says as he heads downstairs, “is to set a timeline, like you say….”

I resign myself to the ride north, relieved, five more hours of nothing to do but watch and listen, as the commuter train makes its way closer to home, where so many people like myself have removed themselves to escape this very same screwed up system that runs LA and most of the country, the one that makes us look out the window and see nothing but dollar signs.

In San Luis Obispo, the train’s final stop, and in Cayucos, in particular, you can rest assured you’ll find outcasts, escapists and “misfits,” as mom says, people like me who don’t want to live in LA, and some who don’t belong in LA, who have had enough of the corporate life and the hyper-reality of amusement parks and shopping malls that it creates.

They move up there to escape, mom adds disapprovingly of the people in my community. They couldn’t get along in the “real” world, she says, so they found a place where they could be slackers, hermits or just plain weird. There are plenty of slackers here, I agree, misfits, hermits and weird people too, many of whom, as I, would die in the “real” world, I tell her.

Still, I argue: “There are a lot of smart, independent people here too, mom, good people who just don’t want to live in LA.”

The train picks up speed as it winds its way north and the hum of the engine and wheels overtake me and time seems to stop and there’s nothing to do but let go, relax and let Amtrak Train 777 carry me home.

Then, a flash of my own life, a jolt of panic runs through me. Another diamond in the rough, my girlfriend, who is supposed to meet me at the end of the line, who also has a volatile personality, says she will pick me up at the train station in San Luis Obispo if I buy dinner. Deal, I say, knowing that our days are numbered. I can feel it. I’ve been living my own lie, pretending that my life is just the way I want it, staying in a relationship that went bad years ago.

“I’ve found someone new,” she says. “I think he’s the one. Can you move out ASAP?”

I assure her that I can, and make the painful realization that living a lie, stifling one’s humanity isn’t limited only to the corporation. It’s a household thing too, and I’m more than eager to move out. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice and lives like a hermit deep in the hills where no one can find him.