Rhythm of the Rails

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There have been songs, poems and stories written about train travel and railroads since they became a viable mode of transporting freight and people across fast stretches of land throughout the world. Some of the most breathtaking scenery can be viewed from the rails. I have fond memories of trains since I used to be a locomotive engineer in my previous life. So, I caught myself singing this 1972 Arlo Guthrie hit that I would like to share  with you. If you so desire, I recommend listening to him sing it, as it is very pleasant. It was composed by Steve Goodman, a singer-songwriter in 1970 as he and his wife were riding this train to visit her grandmother, and she fell asleep. Steve witnessed all he wrote about. He produced eleven albums before he died at the age of 36 from leukemia. His songs were recorded by many famous musicians, and in 1984 Steve was posthumously awarded the Best Country song when Willie Nelson made it a #1 hit in 1984. Arlo Guthrie was also a prolific singer-songwriter, but he didn’t write this one. Arlo’s father was the legendary folk singer, Woody Guthrie.

Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central Monday morning rail. Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail. All along the southbound odyssey, the train pulls out of Kankakee-rolls along pasts houses, farms and fields. Passin’ trains that have no names, freight yards full of old black men, and the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America, how are you? Don’t you know me I’m your native son? I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans; I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin’ card games with the old man in the Club Car, penny a point-ain’t no one keepin’ score. Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle-feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor. And the sons of Pullman Porters and the sons of Engineers, ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel. And mothers with their babies asleep are rockin’ to the gentle beat, and the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.

Good morning America, how are you? Don’t you know me, I’m you native son? I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans; I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Nighttime on The City of New Orleans, changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee. Half way home, we’ll be there by morning, through the Mississippi darkness rolling down to the sea. And all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream; and the steel rails still ain’t heard the news. The conductor sings his song again, the passengers will please refrain; this train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night America, how are you? Don’t you know me, I’m your native son?

I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans; I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

 

 

 

D A D

Funny thing, dad is one of few words when spelled backwards is still spelled the same. One can invert the word: start it from back to front or down to up and vice versa. Not sure why I started this post that way, except to lighten how I feel.

Dad, we miss you; your daughter and I. Cheryl, too. You left us too long ago…so, so long ago. Yet, our memories of you are alive and your blood pulses in our veins. We bare your name, and your imprint is stamped on our hearts acknowledging we are your possession.

Valerie reminded me that today commemorates the anniversary of your passing. Your grandchildren were so little then. How you loved them. And, how they would have benefitted from your presence in their lives for years to come. But, that was not to be.

We were fortunate, though. Too many don’t know their dads or are mistreated by them. Fond memories for these are far and few between-if ever. So, in that respect, we are rich to have know such a grand gentleman as yourself. Perfect-far from it, but we can take solace in that we bare the same imperfections as you. We also carry within us some of the more grand characteristics of lives lived with a sense of integrity.

To dwell on the sorrow is okay for a moment, but our lives move on. Everyone knows this truth, but it is sometimes difficult to accept. So, I conclude this more serious than usual post by simply saying this. I honestly hope that when it is my time to vacate this mortal body, my loved ones will know the same love I have for them as you gave to us.

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Stained glass from the chapel where dad’s last tribute was made by his family & many friends.

Mayan Faces

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Several years ago we visited an ancient Mayan complex in the Yucatan jungle of Mexico called Chichen Itza. I wanted to visit this site since I was a small boy. I finally did as a man, although the boy is still in me. We visited the pyramids, the planetarium, the sports arena, and miscellaneous other structures. I regret that I didn’t purchase the handful of small towels that grandma was holding. I knew they were inexpensive and she probably could have used the money, plus it would have given her the satisfaction of selling her wares.

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In addition, we viewed many types of colorful clothing, beautiful pottery and assorted trinkets-all made by the local Mayan people. As I revisited some photographs, the people stood out as much as the ancient structures we witnessed on that overcast day. I began to recognize the faces I viewed were direct ancestors of the people who created these magnificent and sophisticated complexes. Along with their keen astronomical abilities, their advanced farming techniques, along with the death rituals made to their Gods, this civilization almost vanished. However, the Mayan people and their culture still exist, but without those gruesome rituals!

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From the old to the young, a story lies within each person’s heart and is displayed upon their face. What will these children’s stories be like as they grow old? Only God truly knows. Have you ever thought about your own story? If you are reading this and don’t like it, there is still time to change course and alter your story so it has a better ending. I wish you well.

Appreciation

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Something about seeing horses as I drive past them really attracts my attention.  In some ways I am fortunate to live in a part of a city which still has outlying swaths of land that have not been swallowed up by developers. These healthy horses are a testament to animals adapting to the sprawl of suburbia, yet still enjoy the fruits of the good earth. I sincerely hope you have such a blessing around you. Whether living in an urban jungle or enveloped in total solitude, one can find beauty amongst the environment. However, one must have eyes wide open to see, and a heart to appreciate. I am most fortunate, indeed.

 

Aqua en Movimiento

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With a fury the waves crash into the submerged sand bars just out of the dry shore’s reach.

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The sky reflects upon the ocean its personality in cobalt, turquois, and misty white colors.

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Local tradesmen stroll the beaches as if in stride with the water’s waves. And, they are.

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As the tide completes its rhythmic motion, calmness returns for a moment. The cycle continues relentlessly, and sublimely.

 

Smoking Tails

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These birds were performing aerial feats above our heads. They were certainly fun to watch as they lit up the blue sky on a warm summer day at a local air show. Sometimes they were in precise formation….

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And, at other times they drifted apart in helter-skelter fashion……

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But they always seem to come back together, kind of like people’s lives after a petty disagreement. Once they got back on course, they moved as one. At least that is the plan.

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Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

In a world that seems to have gone mad, much like millions thought during the world wars, it is often difficult to be happy. I mean really happy for an extended period of time; like for an entire summer. As I thought about all of the fighting, the political posturing, the violence, the poor and the refugees, the over-worked, ill and depressed, I wondered how many folk are truly happy. Without answering my own question, I decided to share a bit of nostalgia which resonated with me. For a moment, set aside all that hinders and relax as I share the following. Idyllic? Of course it is. Anyway, try to enjoy the moment.

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I bought this advertisement about a year ago at a garage sale for fifty cents. I thought it represented a snapshot of Americana during a more blissful-although imperfect-time. As you will note, this ad was meant to appeal to the white, middle class segment of the population at the time…1963 to be exact. The sixties was a decade of immense change in America. The younger generation wanted to separate themselves from their parent’s generation-and they did in many subtle, and sublime ways. Inequality among color and gender was brought to the forefront on a daily basis. Without boring you with the facts, I simply want to share a happy moment. The following lyrics were sung quite successfully by Nate King Cole, a black entertainer with a most beautiful voice. I urge you to YouTube his rendition of this song. BTW, he recorded it in 1963-the same year as this car ad!

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer.

Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies; then lock the house up, now you’re set. And, on the beech you’ll see the girls in their bikinis; as cute as ever but they never get ’em wet.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; dust off the sun and the moon and sing a song of cheer.

Don’t hafta tell a girl and fella about a drive-in; or some romantic moon it seems. Right from the moment that those lovers start arrivin’; you’ll see more kissin’ in the cars than on the screen.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; you’ll wish that summer could always be here.

You’ll wish that summer could always be here; you’ll wish that summer could always be here.