a year of trains part 2 (1 Viewer)

Rob Nothing

I'm a d-bag and got banned.
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begin excerpt

CLOCKWISE YEAR, Part 2 of 2, AUSTIN to PORTLAND

So I’m in Austin. It’s new years day. The rain isn’t freezing but it stings. It’s new years day and I couldn’t care less. I am walking the upwards end of town where I’ve been sleeping over work days for close to a month, between the railroad and the highway. I am flat broke, waiting out the holiday for a deposit into my account so that I can eat a decent meal, conjure up a new game plan and moor myself in it, and then hedge all bets against it over a cold beer.
So I’m in Austin, it’s new years day and I am climbing tiredly up the southern portion of one far west blvd. I am thinking about how I’d come to be here in Austin and why, when I get a phone call from a guy I’d known in high school. I don’t even know who it is, but I push the little green key and give the warmest greeting anyone can manage when they are chilling like a cold headless fucking turkey in a basin of water. The ensuing conversation is dull and mildly irritating and just what to expect from an ex sorta-kinda-best-bud ten years whence. But there is a point in every conversation that we make a judgement call and say or don’t say what nature of beast is really riding our ass and so I do. I start into it and I kind of sort of open my heart a little bit, if for nothing else but to clear up my head a stretch for the coming day.
The cold is enough that my thinking is thick and I am jittery — but early enough in the morning too that I can’t tell whether it’s more cold or sleep that I am convulsed with. *Not sure that seven elevens gonna be open, dammit*, is all that ricochets in my skull. And the dumb words roll off my numbed mouth right and left blubbering and bouncing hollowly out like billiard balls onto the pavement before me and I can’t seem to connect in any real way with this fellow anymore.. notwithstanding I aim to suit myself and I get into it about this girl I am crazy about and how long it’s been. He tells me, in his own innocuous way and straight out that I’d better get to it as soon as possible or she’ll likely be getting married before long. And although these words are unexpected and quickly brushed off, it burrows into my brain like a captive bolt pistol into the brains of a helpless steer. *He’s right, fuck me running he’s right.. FUCK*.
So I am in Austin, it is new years without a care in the world, etc and etc. . but here was this random phone call that was so instrumental in my decision to leave. The following week I am on a wbd for one far west farther than any far west blvd ever was or could ever be. Highway 101, Far West, Motherfucking Mendocino.

//B Temple TX

After getting all my shit together and consolidating and regearing with what money I have I take the first train north to Temple TX where the yard is situated on a wye that sweeps directly west. I wait there a week, learning the town and having a tough time of it as all of the trains seem to be exclusively north and south and never west bound and I am hit by dysentery for five days. I remember doubling over in agony every 50 feet across town one day as I made my way to the grocery store to restock. I feel like a bitch post-rut unable to oblige 30 meters without a drop of blood. There I buy a bottle of grandma’s honey mint green tea and there is something in it that calms my stomach almost immediately thank you christ. Let me never rouse heavens wrath again or so help me god kill me outright please amen.
Chowing down on a sandwich and a bag of chips behind the store there is this old guy comes and sits on the parking bumper next to mine and opens up a 40. Old 40 here says he rode bulls in his day until something happened to his hip and now he’s got this limp in his step and does construction work to pay child support and get himself by. Being that I don’t pick up any gay vibes off this guy I take a liking to his sorry ass after a while. I don’t remember his name or the details, but I don’t remember his face either and this is always saddening… that my memory can’t even forage up enough to put together a clear image of these characters any better than a hazy approximation out of some cartoon network shit. But never mind that because it was and always will be the things that went unsaid that were what made the company welcome and what made the person memorable to me, and these things lodge themselves deep down so that I carry them with me even after I no longer recall the words or their character or aspect. So it comes to pass that I’ve finished my lunch and ready to carry on, and Mr 40 oz bullring bootscootin badass motherfucker here tries to tell me where I can find such and such, and I try and tell him that I am passing through and not interested in such and such and I kindly appreciate it anyways and we bid farewell and yes, why, isn’t it a nice day to have a beer in the sun? Cowboy booted and clean shirted and leaned against an afternoon warmed cement wall cursing Abelard through Zion and content as a beached foal.

I finally make a ride out on a local 3 hours out to brownwood and from there think to hitch but change my mind, after surveying the state of things along the highway there, and head back for the yard where I bag another local in the wee hours just as it is kicking forward for Slaton. Brownwood isn’t even listed in the little book and so I am somewhat impressed with myself in making it out on another train in less than 24 hours.

In Slaton it is frigid and gusty and snowing in brief interludes as I make my way to the other side of town for a burger. For no particular reason every scrap of visible clothing on my hide happens to be black and my carhartt hooded and my wool scarf tied round my face from the wind and I suspect I must look like something wandered out of a charcoaled dystopia or some fevered dream out of the 1001 arabian nights. It is so cold and gusty and destitute, but I am warm and satisfied.
Making my way back again into the yard where there isn’t a sign of life to be heard or seen from for over 5 hours until twilight closes in and I finally hear a flickering voice on the scanner and a line nearby jolts eastward. Clambering over a few strings, near the end of it I find an old 3 hole to squeeze into gasping for air.
So far I have had my scanner on constantly and it has done me some good, but is often just as much a source of confusion and wasted effort. Too much guesswork begins to drive you mad and sometimes it’s best to shut the thing off and resort to intuition and instinct. That’s all it ever really comes down to, and I thank my stars every day that I seem to have no impediment in this regard.
This empty grain train stops and starts like a wild ass horse, and I swear to fuck I have a couple of bumps on my head before I walk away from it again. We stop in Lubbock for forever, it is dark and before I can crash for the night I am jumping up and down on the ballast to keep from going crazy from the cold, pretending I’m at that DJ shadow show at the box office one more time and wishing I at least had as much vodka as I had had that night now long past. Singing through the hours, every song I can think of, partially or completely I am screaming it out and even composing additional stanzas to each of my own.

//C New Mexico

This old blue 3 hole carries me across NW TX and out over the east of New Mexico to Belen. When I wake around six or seven my one asscheek and one foot feels like so many pounds of dead meat and I sit upright for a little food and water. Looking out to see the sun spreading over the nearby mountains like gods gleaming ass cheeks over gomorra and onto a frozen snow and sage brushed desert floor and I am inspired to pull out the android phone. Activating the camera, there is a message that comes onscreen saying that it is too cold for the camera to function and I almost throw it out off the train instantly. The first time in weeks I have need of a camera and it says it is cold.. If I’d kept the thing for a fucking thermostat I’d just as well sold it off and bought a goddamn thermostat. Is this technology, really??
So I roll in and explore both Belen and Albuquerque for a bit and the next day I hit up a farm up north beyond espaniola, against the Colorado border.
Albuquerque is crawling with homebums. It feels like Seattle all over again, only in the desert. Tepid, and only mildly homicidal. Seattle because Seattle after a matter of weeks begins to give off this arid, acrid desert-like stale piss of the washed-up seamonster kind of gray and grayer proportionlessness, like a salt-blurred mirage that is veridically broken by a dozen anomalous scuttling lizards and bizarre buzzards, palsied basilisks and bats, flagging jackrabbits. . . The guy on the phone sounds irritable and impatient and keeps talking over me but he is sane and sensible enough that I take the job and head out straightaway. I spend the following 4 weeks in this peculiar but beautiful DIY establishment high on a hill overlooking a valley in between one spine of low mountains and another and a canyon there in the midst of it, at the bottom of that a stream, which opens up an arms length out and directly below my balcony. I see Elk and wolves and owls in intervals passing through, three-hundred four-hundred feet below. I read 6 books and I sew up all the holes in my pants and I even sing in this hermitage, but I never write. Writing is like talking to women, you just have to be in the mood and if the mood never comes then all one can do is wait.
For all of it’s beauty there are nights I have these horrific and grotesquely detailed dreams and at times there are dull steps and thuds and cracks from the roof of my hut and I never fully managed to shut the proximity of the legendary town of Dulce from my mind… I am accustomed to sleeping in strange places everywhere sure, but here in this particular part of the country I feel again at times like the traumatized boy after a late night showing of fire in the sky one night years and years before. It is still winter and at this altitude still plenty of snow.

//D Pheonix

On leaving I make it to Albuquerque within 8 hours and the same night find an IM in belen which carries me directly into phoenix..
Because I miss my initial bus I have to hitch down as far as Sante Fe, and the guy that picks me up, a native coming from Dulce, is headed to the airport there to pick up a friend from florida. What luck.
This man is unusually reserved and almost timid but I soon learn that it is something else, a humility that is fairly rare on the road which I mistook. Conversation is nearly inexhaustible as he begins to divulge on who he is and the more that he does the more questions I have and all the while he has all these questions for me because as he admits it is few and far between that he takes on travelers on the highway in this area. He is the chief and spokesperson for his nation on the Apache reservation there in Dulce, and he has a lot to tell. His friend at the airport happens to be a representative of the publisher for his autobiography, and the three of us grab a bite to eat and browse around town for a couple hours before I have to leave off for the rail runner south.
I don’t know what it is today that defiles men and whips them into these innocent puppies trying to be like saints. I don’t even know if it is right or if it is wrong. But there is something in it notwithstanding, or so I decide after this encounter, that is self-indulgent and which all the humility and politeness in the world cannot not erase. Vanity has too many faces, and cowardice is only one. Thanks for the helping hand, Rey.

So I roll into Pheonix.. and, well I don’t even care to write about Phoenix except that my time there totaled approx. 36 hours and I walked practically nonstop through it’s bowels it’s extremities, it’s broad streets and it’s front streets and it’s state avenues with about 15 widdle doll hairs of foodstamps in my wallet…

*O lord above you know *
*how much I love the smell *
*of diesel and *
*hellfire in the morning *

*but why dost thou *
*douse me in it now*
*setting me ablaze*
*like liquored cedar smoking*

*like thine own arterial lobes *
*of creosote and damned hopes*
*choked out or dazed*
*by that dreaded blacklit dream*

*O lord above you know*
*there is no better land or gown*
*for thy mad smiling brow*
*than this trash-bin asphyxiation*

*Fuck this swill and*
*Fuck this heat to hell*
*where lays phoenix *
*like a dried up well*

*(x3)*

//E California

Making it back out of phx to Winslow via bnsf I grab an IM to LA and wake up 12 hours later to that signature rock littered tropical oasis unique to socal.. the sunrise at larboard is a great radiant exodus of heat trailing me over the sands and valleys all the way from that south land I’d left a month previous.
Chewing hungrily on some of the bear root I’d been gifted by the farmer in Tierra Amarilla I lay back anxiously wondering when the time to gtfo the train will present itself.
After getting smacked by the bnsf police I make my way 4 miles to the station and call my dad. I spend a month there with him and his sister and her family while I set up for the next move and file my taxes and wait for a new pair of boots to come in the mail. In the meantime I read, sleep, and do my best at honoring the family I haven’t talked to much at all in so long.

So here is the landfall of the arc of my flight west out of this first grand foray east, this clockwise circle that was the summit of all the wonderings and ceaseless drifting and working and inward calculation of more than two years. Stepping into it I wanted to make sure I covered all the bases before finally marching into that hallowed terminus toward which I had marched, subconsciously, inexhaustibly, effortlessly, every day since that one windy november afternoon. I want to make sure it is a trial. . .
Instead of hitching directly up the 101 I make a detour out to Nevada first for the couple of weeks prior to heading in for this farming gig I found north of the bay. So I amtrak it first to west colton and I expect the worst, but here there isn’t a soul to shatter the silence and all spots are vacant, all railroaders look the other way, and even the stray dogs seem to be blind. The entire week it is as though I were a ghost. The plan is Las Vegas way, but I wind up with a manifest to RV instead and from there a bucket on another GM through Donner Pass and onward. The terrain I am met with is vast and empty, and the towns.. littered along the way, can they even be called towns at all? More like aborted affairs and vestiges from days long gone. The emptiness is somehow alien and I suspect that it is because it is new terrain, and also that for whatever reason I was expecting more trees than this. I reach Elko and hit the brothels for a little hanky panky for a few days before catching back west via alkali flats and feather river.
Feather river is a wonderful ride, but it did not quite top the hellish expanse of the black rock desert nor that later interval of extraordinary geographical variety marking the transition up the grade from the salt-choked lake beds into the mountains and in for Portola. What amazed me most though is that I didn’t even plan for a train taking that line, it just happened to be the one I’d seen stopped when I opened my eyes that morning out in Nevada.

Portola is incredibly small and I don’t make two blocks out from the yard when I am halted by the sheriff and the fucking ant-eater questions me as though I am already cuffed and, not so foreign anymore to copper bullshit, I break his balls in every way convenient. He warns me away from the yard, and for this at least I am grateful that we met as soon as we did.
So, I am in portola and that same night I make my way down to a spot remote and away from the yard and away from any road, on top of the river and covered in ponderosa, and I realize what a good thing it is that I decided to stop off in little Portola after all. Lying upon the needles that night with the song of the river not 20 feet to my left and to smell the clean pine scented mountain air, so close to the sky which I can clearly make out between the trees… In the twilight of the following morning I have a grainer west and laugh like a stark raving lunatic as I am carried out of the yard and past all possibility of detection. Victory.
Back in rv I attempt to find an IM west but end up in stockton and blow most of my remaining finances riding commuter trains and busses over to san jose and then north in time for work. An anti climax, this final leg, but all the journey before drowns that out in it’s brilliance, even still.

//F Petaluma

When I arrive.. it is like I’d jumped out of a helicopter into enemy terrain and my eyes and ears are opened to every voice and every face or car that passes. I cris-cross all quarters, looking into shop windows and markets and gas stations and restaurants. The rolling hills are green and the oak everywhere, the town is vibrant and beautiful. There are young people everywhere and many of them sauntering alongside the river that cuts through it all. In those three days I try every bar and every promenade and strip mall and grocery I can find and I find nothing.

I spend 3 months and in that time I finally cave and try a few phone numbers, and I learn from these mutual acquaintances that she is to be married before summer is over.

. . .

After the farming is through with, I take a landscaping job in Santa Rosa first, from where I can see clear over the valley and over the coastal range to the ocean on many days. The nights I sleep in a magic tree net 30-50 feet up in the air like a fucking gorilla, from where I can watch all the city below through the canopy of the oak and contemplate always which beacon in that valley of light the person in question could be residing beneath.
Soon I am on my way again and hitching up the 101 for a fishing gig in Newport OR. The day that I start off is a bright white summer sunday, and that low-lying morning coastal fog has yielded finally to the apex of the afternoon sun. I am watching the weekend traffic there in petaluma, getting ready to tell myself outright to quit this fools errand and throw out my thumb for good or for bad, when my eyes light on this passing dark grey sedan. And there she is in the passenger seat looking as well and done up as helen of troy and for a brief second our eyes meet and I know as sure shit who it is just as I knew who it was that day 2 years before climbing up the stairs of the hollywood station in portland, and I see all over again that it was all idiocy.

The vast scope of our most ambitious undertakings alone is not enough to cleve to success.. nor justify the cause, however encumbering the weight carried or the purpose. Love is an idiocy.

I went on up the coast, and later, cut over the cascades and up the oregon trunk, stopping in eugene, klamath, bend, wishram, pasco and up to yakima washington where I find employment at a freight repair shop 10 minutes south. But when spring hits again, I am again like a freed bird, and this time flying east.
 
We sell all kinds of other stuff in our Etsy store!
D

Deleted member 2626

I deleted myself
Read both sections. Great entertainment. Got soul and pride man. Like your little Intel on gals too. As someone as well who doesn't have a woman too often to have one now desire thouth can be almost bizarre
 

Rob Nothing

I'm a d-bag and got banned.
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life with nothing is not intelligent and it is not entertaining to anyone but a few, save me when I'd nothing to do but write it. shit just is what it is and I've got to loving it that way and no other way. if you found it a pleasurable read then great, and maybe that means you've got a little soul and pride and I'm glad I'm not the only one.
 

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