Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Muslim beach bunny

Somewhere beyond absurd.

SCARCELY A DAY passes in which I fail to see a cringe-worthy photograph depicting the abysmal condition of women in the Mohammedan world.

This one, however, contains an extra poignancy.

When I saw the photo, my first reaction was that it must be a beached whale in Zihuatanejo. But it’s not.

It’s a Mohammedan woman or girl. Who can know her age, appearance, anything about her?

The poor creature is trying to enjoy a day at the beach.

The sheeting of women is not in the Koran. It’s a tradition begun later by sand-leaping, scimitar-swinging, bloodletting, towel-headed, camel jockeys who just want to keep their womenfolk to themselves, in their place.

Simple as that. Possessions of the highest order.

It’s no surprise that where actual slavery still exists in today’s world, it’s often in Mohammedan zones.

Mohammedan men’s attitude toward women make the most macho of swaggering, tequila-swilling Mexicans seem tailor-made for banner-wavers in a Gay Pride Parade.

* * * *

IRONY AND HYPOCRISY

And yet in the United States, dimwitted university students and nincompoop faculty stand ready to support Mohammedan cultures while mouthing anti-Semitism that would make Heinrich Himmler puff up with pride.

And 99 percent of them vote for the Democrat Party.

These are the same vacuous people who advocate freedom of choice and claim all cultures are of equal value.

Anyone who truly believes in women’s rights, freedom of choice and equality has to be a cheerleader for Israel, the sole Mideast nation that embraces democracy and religious freedom.

And then there’s the U.S. presidential race with a cackling crook in designer tents facing an arrogant tycoon* with a comb-over who can’t keep his hoof out of his mouth.

I weep for the future.

* * * *

* No matter. I’m still voting for the arrogant tycoon over the cackling crook. Ugly choices must be made. Meanwhile, I continue to mourn for Ted Cruz’s candidacy.

My Mexican holiday

WHEN I WED into a mob of Mexicans almost 14 years ago, I initially made an effort to assimilate. In time I discovered that I could not. I am of a different world, a foreign mindset.

New ImageThere are the endless hugs and kisses done to a silly degree that the word overkill doesn’t begin to describe it. I have learned to dodge those as often as possible.

And, of course, the fiestas. My new paisanos party hearty and at every opportunity. One occurs Christmas Eve, and my wife and I go different ways. This year was typical.

I spent Christmas Eve quietly at home with a smile on my face and peace in my heart. After a nice salad before the telly, I was in bed by 11, and I woke up Christmas Day refreshed.

She spent Christmas Eve downtown at her sister’s place — with about 20 relatives and friends from our mountaintop town, the nearby state capital and the city of Querétaro.

They whooped it up, karaoke and all, till 6 a.m. Then a contingent of 11 decamped to our Downtown Casita to conk out. Only a queen bed, a double and a cot are there.

So people slept on carpets, sofas, armchairs, etc. My wife was among them. At 10:30 a.m., she came home in a taxi, showered, napped an hour and headed back downtown.

tequilaThe mob was still there. She finally returned at 7 p.m.  last night. We ate our customary evening salads with Netflix. She lasted about 45 minutes before falling asleep in her chair.

Normally, they repeat the entire process a week later for New Year’s Eve.  All Night Long.  Simply amazing.

We all die

plaza

MORE OFTEN than some would prefer,* the bell in the steeple of this 16th-century church, not far from the Hacienda, begins a special ring. It is ringing at this moment as I write. It was ringing when I woke this morning, and it was ringing in the middle of the night.

What makes it special is its slowness. It gongs about once every 20 seconds and it goes on for hours. It is done by hand, and I often imagine that person, sitting down there in the dark, reaching up every 20 seconds or so to give a tug. Bong! Wait…wait…wait. Bong!

All through the night.

I also imagine a bottle of José Cuervo and perhaps some tacos or cheese and crackers are at his side. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I feel like getting up, dressing and going down there to see first-hand. Who and how. But I’ll never do that because I’m too old and lazy.

Later, during our morning exercise walk around the plaza, the church door was closed, and the bongs were continuing. It was a good time to check it out, and perhaps I would have done so had the door been open. But we just kept on walking. The door in question is that smaller one at the steeple’s base.

We talked about where my child bride will put me when I’m “promoted to Glory.” The neighborhood cemetery is a couple of blocks away from the church, across the highway. I would like to be planted there, the only American-Mexican, I’m sure, the sole, true paleface.

I’d provide a modish, multicultural air.

No, she said. She’ll keep me in an urn in the Hacienda. And that’s okay with me.

* * * *

* Especially those for whom the bell tolls.

(Note: This post was written yesterday. This morning I awoke, and the bedroom window was open. Birds were singing in the fan palm, and the bell was still gonging. Same deceased, or someone new?)