Boxcar Children

If there's one thing I've learned from taking the train it's that I never need to talk to anyone ever again. If I'm there, people will talk to me. Take for instance my seat companion Tumbleweed, a very nice self-identified hippie from California who hopes she'll be reincarnated as a house cat someday.

"You know what raccoons really like to eat," She said, "corn. They love the munchies."

This, for once, was a conversation I was actually very much interested in.

Tumbleweed was traveling from Eugene and Portland after visiting friends and family. I'm not really sure who was friends and who was family because everyone was referred to as brothers and sisters. Knowing that this in turn made me a brother was kind of cool. I once tried calling people this for a week in college after watching a bunch of LOST episodes with that Australian guy, but sadly could never pull it off.

"I just got back from my sister's place." Tumbleweed told me, speaking very quickly. "Man, I couldn't get out of there faster, you know she ditched me at the bar last night? Yeah, just hopped in a car with a bunch of guys. Her fiance's gonna be pissed. I was pissed too, some girl bought a nugget from me last night for 20 dollars and this morning I realized it was a one dollar bill."

As the conversation turned to this I began to realize that people are really very complicated. Or at least their lives are complicated. They themselves are just happy if you listen about how complicated their lives are. Take for instance the sweet elderly man who told me about his extended family.

"My son, I just don't know what his problem is. He has all sorts of issues." He told me. "And he's a psychologist so you'd figure he'd be able to fix it himself."

Then other things are just downright scary. I was exiting the train in Sacramento and watched a young black girl run screaming out the doors. She and her apparent boyfriend were running in circles, and I wasn't sure it was some sort of weird game until he outright punched her onto the curb. Once the security guards swarmed I was told by another passenger that it was an argument over a cellphone. I spent the rest of the time waiting for the next train in the brightest lit area possible. Had I still had my car keys they would've been poised and ready in case I needed to defend myself. Somewhere deep within me I hoped I had absorbed some knowledge from the self-defense segments on Nate Berkus.

For the most part though people just want to get along. I was sitting in the lounge car when a woman started praising the Bloody Mary's Amtrack serves in the cafe.

"The forest is so pretty!' She said, "It's a real shame those people out there are spoiling it with their above-ground pools."

In a way, I had to agree.

"I'm not a hippie," She sang, "I'm just trying to adjust."

I'm not really sure what that one meant, but it sounded interesting.

"I can't wait to get off this train and self-medicate." She continued.

I smiled, nodded, and put on my headphones although my ipod had run out of battery long ago.

Once she had enough she retired to her seat, but meanwhile, outside the window, rolling fog revealed trees, rivers, mountains, through tunnels and over bridges, against cliff walls and under boulders, and just kept moving until someone else took my place. I'm sure whoever it was had something else to say as well.

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