The story of a boy, who enlisted in the Navy, who became a man, who still retained the emotional maturity of that boy, yet convinced a woman to marry him.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

1976 Part V: Next Time Take the Bus

In our last episode, we bid farewell to our families, our friends, and, soon, our hair....

30-31 AUG
Somewhere between New Haven and Great Lakes

    “Welcome to Hell!”

    I suspected this wasn’t the first time the conductor had escorted a group from Chicago to the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center.

    And, from the grin crossing his face as he slid open the door, it wouldn’t be his last.  It looked like he was having too much fun.

Naw, this is much
better than flying.
The ride across country wasn’t too bad, actually.  Since virtually no one rode trains anymore, there were plenty of open seats to be had.  Which meant I had a window on parts of the country I had never seen.

    Growing up, a big trip for my family was
He may have smelled like low tide,
but he said he knew where
we could get lap dances.
Whatever they were.
taking the train to Manhattan.  There we would aimlessly wander around, gawk at skyscrapers, munch on roasted chestnuts, and badger our father to explain why that man was pushing that shopping cart full of cans.

    Occasionally, Dad would live life on the edge and take us to see his brother in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Usually that resulted in hours spent plopped in front of a black and white TV while staring at westerns through blizzards of static.  Or listening to both sides of my cousin’s one Doors record. 
"The sign said
'Deer Crossing,' dumbass!
And, seriously, was the
graffiti really necessary?"
Sometimes we got lucky and scored some custard ice cream or spotted a deer.  A slow deer. 
One not fast enough to cross Route 9 without holding on to its head.

    So, you see, I wasn’t exactly a seasoned traveler.

    NOTE:  Dear Poughkeepsie Chamber of Commerce, 
    The preceding is not meant as a slur to your delightful city, which I’m sure is a wonderful place.  I’ve no doubt you’re much more than ice cream shops, cow pastures, and roadkill.  For instance, there’s that place which sells wicker chairs and plywood cutouts of ladies bending over in their garden.
"Hey, at least we're not Wappingers Falls.
Wappingers Falls sucks."
    It was during our trip from New Haven that I first met people who weren’t from Connecticut.  From Massachusetts to Illinois, our train took on new passengers like it was the Pied Piper.  Well, that’s an unfortunate comparison.  They weren’t rats.  Unless you count that guy from Indiana.  He kinda looked like one.

    I welcomed the chance to better know this diverse collection of humanity.  From the Maine lobsterman’s son who was allergic to seafood to that Ohio farm boy who once urinated on an electric fence, I marveled at the rich diversity which is America. 

"Be honest.
Do these tattoos make my boobs look big?"
    Heck, even that guy from Bridgeport had something to offer.  I’m sure that knowing how to hotwire a car or self-tattoo with a Zippo, clothes hanger, and ballpoint pen would come in handy one day.

    My two day trip had other benefits, as
"Hey, is that
the railbed?"
well.  For instance, I learned that it’s never a good idea to stick your head out of the window of a moving train.  Because, when I saw the moving rail bed through the toilet in the lavatory, I realized I wasn’t getting hit in the face with water vapor.

    Not water you could drink, anyway.

    It’s also not a very good idea to change your underwear in front of an unshuttered window in your berth.  Especially as you’re coasting to a stop at the Cleveland train station.

    I just hope those poor people waiting on the platform were able to get that image out of their minds without too much therapy.

    “I’m tellin’ ya, officer, it was a white, pimply, hairy monster with no eyes and a shriveled nose!”    

    However, as much fun as public
And people wonder
why train travel is down.
transportation can be, our trip had to end eventually.  As the conductor’s mad cackles followed us onto the platform, we were buoyed by an optimism sure to carry us into our new adventures.  That, and excitement we could finally shower.

    Traveling grime and face piss can make a body feel grungy, after all.

NEXT:  The Chief....    


  1. Blah, my ocd just had a fit. face piss, blah again, never sticking my head out of a train ever. I pissed on an electric fence once too, got zapped a time or ten as well, the two never occurred at the same time.

  2. I would still be washing my face hourly with anti-bacterial soap, some 40 years later. Great post Ken! Ah, the joys of traveling by rail.