May 18, 2011

The weather here in New Engand continues its slow gloomy march, but that didn’t stop me from taking the Lowell line commuter rail into Boston for dinner in the North End at Pagliuca’s, one of my favorite Italian spots. The bread was a standout (you simply can’t find good Italian bread in Phoenix), the sausage with marinara appetizer wonderful, and the veal was its usual fantastic.

The best part of the day, however, the train ride into Boston. I’ve always enjoyed taking the train as it makes its 40-minute leisurely run from Lowell into the city. As we passed swampland, the backyards of homes, and the backs of industrial buildings of various types, I couldn’t help but think how the rail lines traces my own life history to a certain extent. In Somervile, the train passes a house my mom used to live in. In Woburn, I pass through the city where I was born and had my very first apartment, and at the train station I can see the Logan Airport express bus I’ve taken many times when visiting here in the past. In Wilmington, I remember all those nights when my mom would pack us in the car to pick up my dad, who used to take this very same line into Boston for work when I was growing up. In North Billerica is where I went to church most of my years as an Episcopalian, where I had an apartment for a number of years, and where my wife Tracey lived when I first met her.

The surroundings themselves haven’t changed that much over the years, I don’t think. The cranberry bogs in Wlmington are now just wetlands and lots of the houses have additions and decks to mark the passage of time and the departures and arrivals of the families who have lived in them, but the Winchester downtown hasn’t changed all that much, I still don’t know what town or city the Wedgemere stop is in, and the industrial buildings and trainyards all look like they’ve been there for years. I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve changed as a person since I first rode these rails as a teenager. In some ways, a lot – definitely when it comes to age and appearance. But inside? Maybe not as much as one might think.

But I love the way the train moves and the muted sound of its whistle as we pass through grade crossings. Back in Arizona, we have a freight train that comes through up the street every morning around 2 AM. And even if I can’t sleep, the sound of the whistle soothes and relaxes my mind and speaks to the restless bones I’ve always had. With my eyes closed and snuggled in under the covers I can imagine the train working its way southeast towards New Mexico or northwest towards California, and from there who knows? It’s all left to the imagination.

And that’s what, in the end, is what I think makes trains the magical form of transportation they are. There’s something about trains that fire the imagination and instills in one the thoughts of faraway places that planes and cars can’t match. Maybe cruise ships have the same quality, but they’re not as accessible. Train travel is also more leisurely and deliberate than air travel, and train tracks wind through places you normally would never go and/or see.

Anyways, it was a nice day.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:00 | Comments (3)
  1. I miss the sounds I had when I grew up. We lived in Kenner, near the New Orleans International Airport. We could not only hear every plane take off and land, we could hear the Illinois Central and any number of freight trains heading into and out of New Orleans, and we could hear ships passing on the Mississippi. Very soothing.

    Comment by Rob — May 19, 2011 @ 3:57 am

  2. Rod McKuen loves trains as well and one of his more known poems is The Art of Catching Trains. Check it out on his website A Safe Place to Land and type in the title. Glad you are enjoying your time at home. When you get back we need to do a phone tutorial as I am still unable to post her because I cannot locate a “publish” anything.

    Comment by Jana — May 19, 2011 @ 4:50 am

  3. Trains, planes and ships. Sounds like you hit the trifecta growing up, Rob!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — May 20, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

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