Posted by: facetothewind | June 4, 2011

Melancholy journey

Thursday night I set forth on my summer’s travels. This year I’m going to San Francisco, Mendocino and Portland. A handful of friends joined me for a farewell dinner at Hotel Congress in Tucson and then the train pulled in and off I went. This year’s journey was not as joyful as in the past. It’s the first time I’ve done it alone in a few years. My last few journeys on the Coast Starlight were with Sebastian and then the year before that it was Norbert. So this was my chance to reclaim this favorite route as my own. I think I succeeded in reclaiming it but I can’t say it was easy sitting alone in the diner car with my iPod on. The scenery as always is stunning going from city to ocean to coastal prairies to wine country to central valley and then finally to San Francisco. The food was excellent, free champagne, wine tasting, great desserts.

But the melancholy persisted through the champagne haze.  I sat in the parlor car and met a lovely native American nurse named Anita who was on her own personal journey to reclaim her life after both her husband and son died. We both looked into each other’s misty eyes with the ocean whizzing alongside. It was a lovely moment to bond with someone in their grief. I dunno, grief is such a great teacher to me. It just peels off all the veneers and gets to the core of what’s real. So I was sitting there talking about my romantic loneliness to Anita. She’s telling me of her son’s slow and painful death to lymphoma. And we’re drinking wine and looking at pelicans flying by the ocean.  I was trying not to just burst into tears over her pain intermingling with my own. And isn’t there something about the train in general that’s sort of sweet and poignant?

Then my phone rings with a number I don’t recognize and I pick up and it’s Sebastian. He never calls me, so it was a surprise that here I am feeling the memories of him on the train and then suddenly we’re talking. Well, this just kind broke open the clouds. Listening to Sebastian’s deep and caring voice just kinda melted me…perhaps like the first time. Only this time he was comforting ME and being the strong one…if we could say that crying is weak. Let me re-state that. He was being the steady one and I was feeling a little shaky. There’s a line from Bruce Hornsby’s Mandolin Rain that I really like:

I’ll do my time
Keeping you off my mind but there’s moments
That I find, I’m not feeling so strong

Then I lost the cell connection and that was the end of my teary conversation. So I lay in the room just thinking, listening to Brahms, Schubert, some choral music. I love lying in bed watching the scenery. The train is two-story and so you’re sort of gliding along in a tree top bed. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to being able to ride a magic carpet. And it was magical. So, Tom Truss, YES, sometimes my blog is sad. But that’s what’s up for me right now and as Trish my housemate says, “This too shall pass.” It will but for now let’s call my blog a full accounting of life without the expected American sugar-coating.

Now, lest ye think it’s all tears and gloom, let me show you this hilarious billboard I saw recently in the Las Vegas airport. OMG, what have we become?

And so now back to the regularly schedule gloom! Here’s a weather satellite pic of the West Coast of California today. Seems I’ve arrived in the middle of a crazy summer storm that leaves it feeling like January…er June-uary:

It is good to be in SF. The melancholy has lifted and I’m gearing up for a fun summer of doing things with Simon and other friends here.  Happy summer to you, wherever you are and thanks for watering the plants in Tucson where it’s 105, Trish. Here’s it’s 55. What a shock. Welcome to climate change.



  1. Beautiful essay, David.

    There’s still some hope in our world (notwithstanding that INSANE poster — what it should really say is, “America — Where Every Goober With A Grudge Can Get A Gun — And Has!”

    Anyway, folks, have you taken the pledge?

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