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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Sea songs and sandals

Bright birds sing of life

In a faraway land where

One finds no strife

Steady the waves rhythmically

Lull one to rest

No wonder so many say

Here, it’s the best!

Beauty abounds and

Art’s seen in all

Nature and man-made

Both having a ball!

Doors, walkways and steps

With fountain or pool

I’ve fallen in love,

Costa Rica’s so cool!

Time to chillax!

Gracias, Dios, por tu creación y por nuevas aventuras. Tu belleza está a nuestro alrededor, esperando ser descubierta.

Hasta mañana, amigos!

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The towering man came tripping through the door of the club car, his commanding appearance combined with his unsure footing demanding everyone’s undivided attention.  We all assumed his awkward entrance was due to the speed of the train on the unkempt rails on which the steel wheels rotated and rattled us northward, as sightings of alligators in the sleepy bayous gave way to fields of blooming cotton and peanuts. But Arlo Guthrie’s song about this train didn’t quite capture what happened next.

The man, with scraggly, long hair clear down below the belt line, made his way through the club car, stopping at every table and lounge chair to shake hands with the good people trapped in the car with him. He lurched over the booth where I sat trying to go unnoticed, thrusting his leathery hand in front of my chest. One piece of really bad rail would have rendered his paw in the wrong place altogether, so I defensively met his uncontrolled arm with my hand, less to shake it and more to seize control of it. “H’lo, good to have you on board,” he bellowed, assuming an authoritative Love Boat captain’s role. Before I could return the greeting through the vodka-tainted fog enveloping us both, a strip of rocky rail caused him to lose his balance backwards, abruptly removing him and his breath from my personal bubble, and forcibly encouraging him to move on to the next victim across the aisle.

As he gyrated his way through the car, the pattern of voice levels were like a stadium-wide wave at a football game…anticipatory silence prior to his proximity, obligatory but awkward social greetings and gestures in his midst, followed by murmuring upon his immediate passing, giving way to outright gossip in shameless normal tones. It was clear that he would not have absorbed what was being said, anyway.

The man jammed his fist into the automatic door button, clumsily exiting the car and proceeding through the coach cars, doing the same thing, row by row of reluctantly captive passengers. The conversation in the club car varied between a mix of amusement and concern, with one man very audibly confirming that he had witnessed the man taking double shots of vodka in the dining car earlier. His BYOB turned into our SOS.

Not long into the afterglow of the experience, a new player strutted through the club car with great speed: it was the sleeping car attendant seeking the conductor, who came barreling through the opposite door about the same time. They met in the aisle of the club car, where we politely pretended not to be present for this impromptu crew meeting that could not wait for privacy. The attendant unhappily informed the conductor that a very unmistakably inebriated man had violated the privacy of every sleeping car passenger in the car, stumbling into every room to also welcome them aboard, gassing their enclosed rooms with double shots of his toxic fumes.  Attendant and conductor proceeded to go find the man elsewhere on the train, where the man was told in no uncertain terms to remain in his assigned seat and to especially stay out of the sleeping car. This was followed by another wave of conversation in the club car centered upon the drama unfolding within the confined community of our silver bullet. Questions arose over law enforcement on a mobile jurisdiction; theories were made as to how the story would end. Having worked on board before, I knew where this novel-train was headed and what the next chapter-station would be, but it was fun to quietly listen to everyone else’s ideas of achieving civil obedience in this situation.

The doors again yawned open, and in faltered the drunken man, starting to make his rounds again, completely unaware that this was not a car he had not already visited. His stupor led him to believe that there were several more cars in the makeup than actually existed – a miraculously long train to him, and he approached us all afresh, quite happy to remake our acquaintances and infuse our environment with more of his fog. He managed to pump hands with the occupants of the first two tables, before something in the next car caught his attention, and he suddenly wheeled around with double visioned-purpose, and quickly exited the club car from the door from which he had stumbled. When the door clapped shut behind him, the opposite door opened and the conductor came hustling through at full speed, in hot pursuit of the man, with the brakeman hurrying behind, trying to keep up with the conductor. The man must have hallucinated that there were four men instead of two coming to apprehend him, and he likely ducked down the stairwell of the next coach car. The conductor returned shortly afterwards, empty-handed and clearly annoyed. They muttered something about “only so many places he can hide” and they retreated back into their “office” in the dining car, where they had their briefcases and radios occupying one of the tables.

In what seemed like the inevitable colliding of space junk on misaligned orbits, the spectacle suddenly climaxed in unrivaled live entertainment. No in-flight movie could have topped this railroad ruckus.

The man, now clearly out of control of himself, again came staggering into the club car, focusing more on maintaining his balance than on pressing the flesh. In his heightened state of stupor, he was utterly unaware of the force flying through the opposite doors, the angry conductor. The two met clear in the middle of the club car, with the audience stunned into silence to behold the main event. “Oh, hi, Misthrr Condukkor,” the man slurred, as he tried to right himself, brushing his long hair out of his worn face. ” The conductor, unable to contain his emotion, raised his voice in a tone just short of reportable, in order to establish the way it was going to be. “You were told,” he fearlessly blustered, “to stay out of the sleeping car, to leave all the passengers on the train alone, and to remain in your seat. I warned you that we would not tolerate your behavior; you are not staying in your assigned seat, and you are interfering with the safety and comfort of everyone else.” (Here, a couple of brave souls in the back of the club car emitted muted applause under their table.)

The man was incited to anger, but only insofar as his dwindling senses would allow. “I wanna schpeak to th’ pershon in sharge,” the man spluttered. The conductor countered, “I AM IN CHARGE. There is no one over me, and I am putting you out at the next stop.” “Yoouu cand doo  dad, I’ll go siddown now…” the man offered. “Too late,” the conductor informed him, “we’ve arranged for a ride for you at the next station.” The man pleaded with the conductor to allow him to ride on, but the conductor stood firm. Eventually the man expressed gratitude and appreciation for the nice train people who were helping him “make his connection” at the next town by providing him with transportation.

Within minutes, the cotton and peanuts gave way to houses springing up, turning into a small Mississippi town with a commanding courthouse on the square. We rolled into the station as the conductor and brakeman escorted the man downstairs and off the train. From our vantage point, we could see police car parked behind a boxcar-turned-decorative feature near the station, but this would not be visible to the man as he fell out of the train and into the arms of the law awaiting him on the platform. Forgetting all social decency and manners, we crowded at the windows on the west side of the train, like children watching a schoolyard scuffle before the teachers come to shoo everyone back to where they belong in the initial efforts to restore order.

We gawked at the sight of two burly Bubba-officers on either side, roughly locking arms with the now-handcuffed man, his gait on solid ground still rocking and rolling as though he were still riding the rails. The unseemly trio disappeared around the side of the bedecked boxcar, where he was manhandled into the back of the hidden squad car. Once secure inside, they pulled out into the intersection to take him to his next destination, blue lights broadcasting to everyone that sumpin’ was goin’ down, y’all. In a painful pause before the train pulled out of the station, the man was forced to watch his train leave and to wait for the railroad crossing arms to go up, as he sat locked in the back seat, seeing us rolling away. He saw us watching him; we couldn’t pull ourselves away from the window, and then the entire car erupted in applause as the train faded out of the man’s sight and back into the sunset.

Over blackened catfish in the diner, the discussion followed, ranging from the politics and religion of the event, to the personal emotions evoked as passengers processed their perceptions. All were in consensus that everyone looked forward to a peaceful ride, as well as mass sympathy for the man as he faced the brand of justice most often exercised in small, Southern towns when it comes to long-haired strangers with short-lived attitudes. “At least the vodka will numb him a little from it,” one observant lady drawled.

And so the culture of our rocket on rails was restored to status quo and we went back to the business of enjoying our trip, which from thereon was indeed peaceful, but not nearly as entertaining as the first hundred and fifty miles.

Hey, God…thanks for that experience. I suppose we all are not unlike that man in many ways. I hope that man gets the help he needs, and that he winds up in Your station for his last stop.

What a trip.

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