life is good like that

by tobias crabtree

3:45a.m. — the sound of someone’s tongue slopping around in their throat while they try and suck in air. I sit up from my slump and look around.  I can seen into the the next cabin…a long, straight line of lights. Another weird sucking sound, I can’t understand how so many people could be sleeping so well. snoring is so annoying. in an ancient world, when daily survival was inherent, i’m pretty sure snoring was discouraged — or snuffed out.

4:30a.m. —  the train is stopped and I’m watching the security people kick two smokers off the train. I recognize the girl; she’s the one from last night that was all tooted up on meth. She left the observation car and came back with her face painted with a facial. She didn’t have full coverage. She was with an older fella that laughs real loud at anything. I heard him say he was from boston and has been on the train for 3 days.

5:34a.m. – I’m back in the less occupied observation car listening to some kid talk about his final year in eagle scouts. The lights in the cabin are still in long, straight lines. I can see the lights of Sacramento. People are milling about rubbing their eyes and talking like there’s marbles in their mouths. The train is a trip, literally and figuratively. It ain’t no greyhound, but the two have their crossovers. If you don’t know what I mean I’ll leave it for you to sort out. Just take a trip on the train and follow it up with a trip on a greyhound bus. Everything will clear up for you.

And now I can see the little, blue light of dawn. “A day, a livelong day, is not one thing but many. It changes not only in growing light toward zenith and decline again, but in texture and mood, in tone and meaning, warped by a thousand factors of season, of heat or cold, of still or multi winds, torqued by odors, tastes, and the fabrics of ice or grass, of bud or leaf or black-drawn named limbs. And as a day changes so do it’s subjects, bugs and birds, cats, dogs, butterflies and people.” –John Stienbeck

Perspective is a funny thing.  It’s so easy to be opinionated and talk as if your personal point of view is the correct one. When I’m not angry, or sad, or in love, I view life more clearly. I guess that makes sense as I sit here so calmly in the light of the rising sun, a cup of coffee sitting close. A group of older men are talking about American made cars, all things organic, and strong coffee.  One with his back to me is saying, “this word organic, man, it cracks me up. Organic to me is when granny walk back in the yard and scoop up some collareds by the chicken coop. that’s organic.” Talk turns to sports.  And the talk of games and teams and one guy’s brother who is crazy for the raiders.  The tall one is a warriors fan but wears the trappings of the giants.

This is life; so strange and different depending on where we stop along the way. I doubt the folks that are crouched over their wares in some village in Vietnam are talking about the warriors or the giants. Heartwise, I guess I relate to the villagers more than the group of old men next to me on the train. Geography does not control the pathways of the soul.  I am careful not to claim my place next to the people of “my culture”, after all, I am on the slow train to being one of those old guys hoping for a good conversation. I just think my mind would be better served by asking questions about the attitude of the soil; more enlightened by seeking out the heat of the fire that will best cure the skins; more satisfied by listening to the potter at the kick-wheel as she talks about pressure and form.  All these things will be there for my old-ass self if I use my mind to choose the path that leads to the feet of the teachers.  My personal growth is usually directly associated with how I’m using my mouth. If I ask questions and then hold my tongue, I learn. If I spout too much about why and how and where, I cannot hear the lessons that are being offered; and there are always lessons offered. Life is good like that.

7:00a.m. –- greg just sat down across from me and asked how my night went. He said he just smoked some good herb in sacramento and was feeling, “goooood.” He’s going to Salinas to find his brother. He said he needed to a phone and I let him call on mine. He couldn’t see the numbers on my phone so I dialed and then he couldn’t hear so I listened…no answer. He said he couldn’t see well anymore, “too much meth, know what I mean? Too many flash-burns in my eyes, know what I mean?” I told him I was reading Steinbeck, and he said he’d read a lot of Steinbeck before he ruined his eyes. I think he was telling the truth, which made me sad. I wish greg could still read Steinbeck, I mean, he’s going to Salinas and it would be great to read Steinbeck in the land he haunted. (I should know, I’m doing it.) greg’s probably 38, he’s made some tricky decisions in his day. He’ll probably wreck before it’s over. He left the table by saying, “I gotta go work something out, know what I mean?” and then he walked in two different directions.

I prefer a more simple way of living. One direction at a time and, with the oaks sitting in perfect repose on the grassy slopes, and with the sun running alongside me on the gleaming rails, I am paying full attention.