The track went unnoticed when we bought the property ten years ago. But I’ve come to love the train and its proximity. It passes in the middle of the night now and then, but the sound is no big deal. We sleep through it.
The locomotives often read Kansas City Southern de Mexico. It’s an expatriate train.
* * * *
If you follow our track northeast in the direction of San Miguel de Allende, I imagine you’ll get to the spot where Neal Cassady stupidly ended his life in a cold coma alongside the rails in 1968.
Neal, as you may know, was a friend of Jack Kerouac and the model for the character of Dean Moriarty in On the Road. When I was far younger, I admired these people of the Beat Generation.
Now they simply seem cases of arrested development. Kerouac, for instance, who died at 47, ended up a blubbering drunk living with his mommy.
* * * *
Movies about trains are great. One of the best you’re likely to find is Runaway Train from 1986. It stars Jon Voight, an excellent tough guy; Eric Roberts, Julia’s often-forgotten but talented brother; and the normally sexy Rebecca de Mornay looking here like a tomboy.
I have the DVD on the bookshelf behind me. If you want to come over and watch it sometime, let me know. You bring the popcorn.
* * * *
Mexico City to El Paso
In the mid-70s, I was working on a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The union, run by a pack of clueless communists, went out on strike in spite of already being paid more than almost everybody on the island.
It looked to be a drawn-out affair, so I packed my bags and headed to Haiti.
After a few days in Port-au-Prince, I flew to Mexico City. It was just a jaunt with no destination firmly in mind.
I paid for a sleeper cabin on a train to El Paso with two bottles of tequila which I polished off during the two-day trip and which also explains why I remember so little of the passage.
One memory: standing on the landing between two cars at sunset and looking at rose mountains in the desert of northern Mexico. Plenty of metal clanging and fresh air.
From El Paso I flew to New Orleans where I learned the strike had ended in San Juan. Pretty sweet timing, so I wasn’t a vagabond after all. I returned to Puerto Rico, tracked down my Argentine girlfriend and went back to work.
* * * *
I like living near the track, and I hear a whistle right now. It’s the 7:30 freight south to Uruapan or maybe to the beach at Ixtapa. I’d love to hop on.