The great/terrible thing with catching the random ride down to Los Angeles was the fact that I had no set time to take off, or even mode of transportation to leave with. In the back of my mind, I knew that there was a train that runs up the coast daily, and I figured I could probably get on it. And so I did. I took the fabled Los Angeles subway from North Hollywood to Union Station downtown, and I hopped the first train headed north. Ok, I actually bought a ticket for the first train headed north, someday I’m going to actually hop a freight, On The Road style, but I haven’t quite found the gravitas or done the research yet. Soon.
I love taking the train. Everyone is in it together, much friendlier than a plane, the rules are a lot looser, there are smoke breaks. The Observation lounge turns into the game room or the main hangout for people craving a little social interaction, everyone is outgoing and fun. They sell beer and wine, and while bringing your own supply is officially frowned upon, everyone does it anyway, and everyone shares what they bring. I played UNO for six hours with a 12-year old from Semi Valley who was headed up to Eugene with his step-mom for a family get together. I drank wine with a 22-year old from the Bay headed up to Seattle to meet his biological mother for the first time. I met two stoners from Santa Cruz who were headed all the way to Wisconsin to catch Phish at Alpine Valley. I played dominos with two grandmotherly types until one got mad at the other, packed up her dominos and went to sulk back in her assigned seat.
Sleeping on the train is somewhat easier than on a plane, the seats are bigger, they recline better, there is more room to stretch out. Some people are clearly professionals; they bring pillows and blankets, sweats and pajamas. I am not one of those people. I wear the same clothes the entire thirty hours, and I sleep sitting up. Usually everyone is in the same boat, everyone is quiet, and things are peaceful.
Not this time.
This time, sitting two rows up and to my right, was Abby. Abby is probably 3 or 4 years old, and only has one voice, loud. My seat mate commented that “that little girl is wired for sound,” and my seat mate was not exaggerating. Her voice was loud and clear, when she speaks, it is with authority. She kept me up, she kept us all up. Her grandmother was extremely patient, but there was only so much that could be done. I had been thinking of a way to strangle this little girl, not strangle to death, but strangle to the point where she couldn’t speak anymore, at least for the night. And then I heard her grandmother tell the woman across the aisle Abby’s story. It seems that Abby was a crack baby, or a meth baby, or whatever it is you call the offspring of degenerate meth addicts. She was removed from that environment when both of her scumbag parents were sent to prison, and went to live with this grandmother as a temporary foster child. Apparently Abby arrived crying, and cried for days straight, cried until her little voice went hoarse, and then cried silently. She would have no doubt died in that home, but it was still the only home she knew, and she missed her degenerate scum bag parents. So the fact that Abby speaks loudly now, but doesn’t cry is a major step forward, and the grandmother feels “so blessed” to have Abby in her life.
And I felt bad. And I felt happy for Abby. And I still like taking the train.