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Thursday, July 12, 2012

[Norma Photos] #3, Trainride


It is not uncommon to feel fond attachment to one's town. It was 106 degrees in our town yesterday, so I was unencumbered by this sentiment. I worked outdoors for forty years in this hot valley and it had an effect on me. When I began, I was slightly over nine feet tall and had the figure of a discobolus but got worn down by heat, life and labor to the toughness, appearance and intellect of beef jerky. I spent my last iota of mentality in a decision to retire. Had I the mind-power, I would have moved to San Francisco as two of my sons did decades ago but it was beyond me and I content myself to visit.

It was time for a trainride.

Norma took pictures. The one above finds us settled with coffee and newspaper, pulling out of the depot. Construction on our town's station began early last century and has not stopped. One can look out at work being done in infernal heat as one departs. There is only one other place in the universe where a strenuous, soul-killing job hectored by incendiary, demonic heat may be begun and be still underway a hundred years later and that is Hell.

Much as I love my town, I felt a sudden need to find the funny pages.



As we made our way over the bay, it was time to look out again and judge the weather. Fog rolling in from the west, people boating and all the wavy heat lines over everything had disappeared behind us. This was promising.



Even more promising was how far the fog progressed and how comfortable the city looked by the time we gained the middle of the bay. This meant sea wind inland, locking the temperature at maybe 65 degrees tops, proving once again one does not escape damnation by conversion so much as by rail.



Cab took us to The Beanery at 9th and Irving, where we rounded ourselves up and hiked into Golden Gate Park. This park was the idea and retirement plan of a remarkable man, John McClaren (1846-1943), who sold the city on his certainty of getting things to grow on 1000 acres of sand dunes. He imported soil-building shrubs like rhododendrons from Australia, fertilized it with horse shit collected from a million horse-power city, built windmills to water it and pinned it to the peninsula with eucalyptus trees. For this horticultural miracle he was awarded title of Park Supervisor In Perpetuity and a salary of $60,000 a year --which he collected from ages 70 through 96. But that's not all, John McLaren's stipulation before taking the superintendent job was, "There will be no 'Keep off the Grass' signs." Now THAT'S a gardener.

We headed for Stow Lake.



Stow Lake is mid-park, beautiful and quite haunted. A lady in white emerges from its water and asks if you've seen her child. This is true. There is a statue of her there. But we were more interested in the row boating, turtle watching and other Stow Lake recreations on a brisk summer day. The chief supernatural wonder of the place is that it is built on shit, dross and offal laid from dray wagons onto the restless, insubstantial sand of California's coast.



There are many statues in the park, even one of John McClaren who didn't like statues. He called them stookies and planted things to hide them. But Norma couldn't resist photographing at least one. We posed. Unfortunately, she has an old-style camera that doesn't label the names of things electronically. It carves them in stone. Sometimes, as in this picture, it gets our names wrong and mistakes in stone can't be corrected. We have learned to take it philosophically.

13 comments:

  1. A philosophical attitude to such things always helps.
    Speaking of home towns, I find myself here in Oklahoma in a summer of 100 degree temps and raging humidity wondering why or how could I have ever left San Francisco. Is home really such a draw as we age? It does seem so.

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  2. Thanks, Rubye Jack. I spent several childhood summers in Okmulgee and remember it raining hard sometimes --which is weather, at least. Here we get more nothing-- but yes, I remember the humidity too!

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  3. Ah, so Mr. and Mrs. Enigma finally took their trainride, eh? (You'll have to tell us sometime about the significance of your blog title.) Fun post. I especially loved the line in the beginning about it being 106 degrees, so you were currently "unencumbered by the sentiment" of loving your town. I think a lot of us all over the country are experiencing the same kind of heat and sentiments this summer.

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  4. Thanks, Susan. I don't remember exactly where the title comes from but I think it was both in protest to the practice of "Falò delle vanità" and in approval of a Tom Wolfe novel. And I just like tranrides!

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  5. I have a friend who used to live in the Bay Area. Every time I'd go to visit her, I'd have a wonderful time, savoring all the luxuries I don't have at home - bubble tea, racial diversity, Japanese dollar stores... She'd always ask "Don't you love it here? Don't you just want to live here?" Love it there? Absolutely. But much as I'd like it not to be, Ohio is my home, irrevocably. I spend half my time here dreaming of being somewhere else, but whenever I visit another place, I know the whole time that I am not where I belong.

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  6. Thanks, Brigid, and welcome! Indeed, that feeling of belonging, of where home is, is something of a mystery in us, isn't it? We can visit places that shine like jewels in the sun but there's this feeling, too fundamental and intense for analysis, that calls us elsewhere --calls us home. An enigma.

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  7. I loved traveling vicariously with you & Nora on the tracks. And the photos are great. I admittedly haven't been on a train since I was a child. That was, of course, before the Transcontinental Railroad was completed.....

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  8. A very nice post indeed Mr Schiller. I do not have a home town to be wistful about and the place where I spent most of my childhood has been torn down. I have always enjoyed train journeys whether coming or going. Sometimes in my navy days not knowing which.

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  9. Thank you, Jon and John. Should I insist on "Herr" Schiller until we get the camera adjusted?

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  10. Ahhh a train ride to SF no less. My home town has a population of 100 and there are some amazing memories and some I'd like to forget. Regardless I still feel a gravitational pull to visit every 10 years or so.

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  11. Thank you Tesha, and welcome!

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  12. I decided to look at your blog because of the title and ended here with the first post I saw about train rides (I've rode on a few trains in my past including those around the Bay when I was in the area for one of my stints at school). I didn't know the history behind Golden Gate Park and haven't really spent time there as I used to head to the Marin Highlands, just north of the bridge--that was a wonderful place to hike. Enjoy your train rides--I'm looking for a new possibility of my next one.

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  13. Thanks, Sage. The Marin Headlands are truly beautiful.

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