Grand Junction

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I’m racing against time; everyone is. I will not win; no one will. I recognize this struggle; many do not. When recognized, more can be done: remember and record.

It is hard to fathom, but sometimes I have nothing to say and don’t even try to speak: nothng is going on in my head. And then – WHAM! – out of the blue something crosses my path and there is a avalanche of recollections and new connections. It’s peculiar and sort of amazing how the train gets rolling from there.

This time the initial WHAM started with an article in The New Yorker about water problems in the western United States. A segment of the story produced a vivid recollection of a travel experience I had twenty years ago. [1] I had also been thinking about the derailment of an Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., outside of Philadelphia, another rail trip I had taken and my son takes periodically. [2]

When not at a stand still, or busy with a day’s practical matters, I am sucked into the vortex of past or future.

As with practically anyone’s vacation, I go about family travel just taking in what comes along, and then – WHAM! – I am completely euphoric: the moment seems monumental, significant, glorious. And it is all neither required nor expected. I confess that a single glass of red wine near sunset tends to magnify, prolong, and vaporize these revelations.

That is what happened outside of Grand Junction one June evening in 1995, as my wife and son and I sat down in the dining car on Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

FOOTNOTE:

1. David Owen’s article “Where the River Runs Dry” in The New Yorker on May 25, 2015.

Owen’s describes the Colorado’s headwaters:

“If you drive west on Interstate 70 from Denver, you pick up the Colorado at Dotsero, about a hundred miles east of the Utah border, and follow it west through canyons so deep and narrow that some stretches are engineered like double-decker bridges: one lane on top of the other. The railroad goes that way, too, on the opposite bank. Tunnels punch through buttresses of rock that the road builders couldn’t go around, and there are sections where the view above is so transfixing that you have to remind yourself to look back at the road….”

2. Wikipedia, “2015 Philadelphia train derailment”; URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Philadelphia_train_derailment (Updated: September 6, 2015).

3. Three days after publishing this story, I heard this on NPR’s Morning Edition about Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. Kirk Siegler’s report is entitled “Las Vegas, N.M., Needs Amtrak To Help It Draw More Tourists”; URL: http://www.npr.org/2015/09/17/441063247/las-vegas-n-m-needs-amtrak-to-help-it-become-a-bigger-tourist-destination (September 17, 2015).

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Shame on the P.O.

One hopes for a little protection for vulnerable people in an advanced society. But smart A’s will say that gullible people get what they deserve.

The elderly in the United States are scammed every which way every day of the week. An honored elder should be protected. People who do not protect their elderly will reap the same when their time comes.

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Oh, Now I Understand!

For those who fear that technology is taking control of our lives, or for those who believe that it will solve our problems, I offer this rebuttal. On July 13,2015, my father left me a voicemail message at 7:12 p.m. Microsoft’s advanced interpretive software translated the audio message as follows.

“Jerry this is dad I would today I stood.

There but I live at six days that you called and – to turn the computer loan and I did that in court today – dollars and – yellow drama ray mare and are made it clear – which mum my user name – and after that the password in court I don’t know – I work from do they do on this one sort out in meting renewing it – but if you’ll just let me know what what the deal is I’ll get back something some more either computer loan this cooler green – so in tickled which you’re one of that and I need to get the password.

Out calculator tape is bad seven thank you bye.”

The sad thing is that as I have dealt more with my parents aging, I understood the gist of this message. The sadder thing is that it more adequately represents the quality of our telephone conversations better that I could ever describe them.

Mid-America Crossroads

Passage to Memphis

Dear friends, we miss you and think about you. I want to account for our not seeing you and for our not hearing from one another in recent months. Public transportation, or the lack thereof, has frustrated me since I returned from Europe in 1972 with an intensified love of train travel. As I get older, and my friends and family get older too, the problem of safely and conveniently traversing Tennessee highways, amid a growing number of rude, dangerous-driving commercial truck drivers and an Interstate 40 strewn with large truck-tire fragments, has resurrected my dismay over the absence of public transportation. I see no good reason why there is no rail or quality bus travel between Tennessee’s major cities that comes close to what is available in northeastern states. But then again, given our politics of me first and let’s go it alone, I do understand why. Still I quietly rage against our fate and the status quo. I want to come to Memphis more often and more comfortably.

Yes, members of my aging circle still think of joints, rhythm, frustration, miscommunication, and alienation. But usually it is in the context of bodily and social-service malfunctions. Parental oversight, pop festivals, literary discussions, and idealistic political activism have been supplanted by power of attorney, hearing defects, healthcare plans, assorted pains, and lowly immediate topics, such as chronic funk and creeping forgetfulness.

This is the preface for a story that sets the stage for a few more stories about rail travel. My passion for trains goes way back and has not diminished, though realism has hardened and practicalized my life in many ways. This first history-laced story focuses on Memphis as a transportation hub. Others highlight personal experiences with train travel – life-altering experiences that I could not have had any other way nor done without.

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