Train Tales

People entertain me.

This morning a young woman with green hair and brown roots got on the train. Her head looked like a tree was growing out of it, except the green was more the color of fizzy pop rock candy. She sat where everybody could see her. For the rest of the ride she kept her head bent down so her hair covered most of her face like a veil while she stared at her smart phone.  Jade

The person who sat next to me was someone I couldn’t quite identify at first. Man or woman? Hard to tell. He/she wore black pants, black shirt, black shoes and carried a black backpack. Her hair was blonde and cut close like a man’s. She wore no jewelry or make-up. She yanked out a book, the hardcover kind with rustling pages, and stuck her face in it all the way to the city. At the first stop she got up and bolted out the door. At least she reads.

Two women, who boarded with me, spent the entire trip talking about the dogs they owned. Then they went on to the different breeders they’d known, the different size dogs, and the weaknesses and strengths of the breeds. It was a steady commentary of opinions and judgments until they arrived at their stop. That’s when one said to the other, “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

There’s a man on my car who sits next to the train operator’s booth and welcomes everyone on board from his seat. He’s friends with every operator on that shift and knows them by name. He knows many of the passengers, too, and says good morning to each. He irritates me. I don’t know why, but he does. Maybe because I can’t be cheery that early, or make small talk with a stranger who wants to draw me into his routine, which would obligate me to acknowledge him every morning. I think it’s presumptuous of him to think I’d capitulate to his charms.

Calvin says, “It’s not him, it’s you. You’d like the whole car to yourself.”beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” beagle

Digging in with My Bare Heels

I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to submit to the full body scanners at the airport.

I’m convinced all that radiation is bad for my health no matter what reassurances we have been given.

So I waited my turn in line, barefooted, beltless and breathless. I moved closer to the dreaded machine.

When it was my turn, I said, “No!” with conviction.

“No?” said the TSA agent. cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

“Yes, I mean no,” I said.

“It’s the law,” the agent said glaring at me.

“It’s not the law for my health,” I said.

“Very well. That means a pat down,” he said.

“Fine,” I said.

The agent stretched out both arms barring me from moving away and held me there. He called out, “Female agent. Pat down here.”

The other passengers in line were getting free entertainment even before boarding.

I didn’t care.

A female agent appeared. She put  on a pair of latex gloves with a fanfare and gave a little snap at the end. It was clear I had interrupted her coffee time.

“This way,” she said and motioned for me to follow her.

“Do you want to do this in a private room or here?” she asked.

“Here,” I said and smiled. I wanted witnesses.

“Very well. First, I have to tell you what I’ll be doing,” she said.

“Skip that. Just do it,” I said. I smiled again.

“I can’t. It’s the law.” Then she slanted her head upwards to show me a camera that was recording everything.

Witnesses! I loved it. I smiled even more.

She asked me to stand with legs apart and arms outstretched.

I complied.

I smiled at my audience in front and above me.

The agent ran her hands all over me, from head to toe, in a professional manner.

“You’re free to go,” she said when she finished and removed her gloves with another snap.

After reading so many horror stories in the media about pat-downs, I was prepared for the worst. Instead I was shocked at how decent an experience it was.

Calvin says, “If that had been me, I would slobbered all over her face.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Private Showing

This weekend was Fleet Week in San Francisco. It was also the Final of the America’s Cup World Series.

While skippers navigated the Pacific waters, Madonna rehearsed her tunes for her evening performance in San Jose, and heart-throb Justin Bieber practiced giving teen girls liver shivers for his show at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. The Giants played their first game as division champs, the 49ers had a game as well, and there was even a Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco was hopping!

But nothing tops the Blue Angels show.  

I missed seeing the Delta formation, the diamond roll, the Fleur de Lis and the many other heart-in-your-throat maneuvers, but I’m happy anyway. I had my private showing at Baker Beach while I organized a picnic. While grilling salmon and keeping the tablecloths from blowing away in the wind, I was serenaded with supersonic booms from those blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets. They were so low I could see the pilots screaming their way across the Pacific, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then disappear into a fog bank only to return a few minutes later and do it all over again.

They practiced right in front of me. I waved. I clapped. I ran after them. “Take me with you!” I yelled.

The tablecloths took flight. The salmon got charred. The nude sunbathers flipped over.

Another roar and soar across the ocean.

This time was the last, and the gulls returned to the beach.

I came back to tablecloths wrapped around tree trunks, crispy salmon, and potato salad with a new crunch from the sand.

Calvin says, “You hate heights. You’d white knuckle it with your eyes closed. Now me, I would bay my way across the city and fog up the windshield.”

How To Do Your Real Work

Every so often I write about resistance. You know, the distractions we give in to that pull us away from our real work.

In my case, it’s writing. In yours it could be designing the next space vehicle.

Whatever your calling is, you’re familiar with the pull to distract.

Distractions allure you. Out of the blue you long to learn Latin. Or free-fall from an airplane. Or take tango lessons in Buenos Aires.

Maybe it’s not such a large vision that compels you to drop what you’re doing. Maybe it’s bull-riding lessons, finger painting, or singing with your canary.

Sometimes the distraction is even closer than that.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Pinterest.

Blogging. (Checking your analytics every hour)

Text messages.

Skype.

Video games.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The social media platforms are massive distractions! They will absorb you. Consume you. Smother you.

They  also:

Stall you.

Numb you.

Suck your energy.

They’re only a worthwhile investment when you’re building a posse of fans for your work.

Otherwise it’s death to your creativity!

Go on a diet.

Make a pledge to look at these platforms only after you’ve done your work.

Tell a friend to hold you accountable.

And then notice your productivity and creativity soar.

Calvin says, “Yep, when I get pulled off a scent, I end up in a ditch with thorns up my butt.”

 

 

 

 

What Your Grandmother Missed on This Subway Ride

I schlep the subway into work everyday. Public transportation is always drama. You never know what might erupt in front of your face.

For example, this morning a couple, in their 50’s, came on board. There were no seats for both of them together, so the woman sat in one row, next to a young buck in dark glasses, earphones, a baseball cap and a hoodie, drinking a large coffee in a paper cup. He draped his arm on the backrest of the seat invading the wife’s space.

The husband, in the row behind her, leaned over and told the kid to remove his arm. “Don’t tell me what to do!” the kid said.

The husband barked the order again. Then he repeatedly swiped the kid’s arm. The kid wouldn’t budge. He only got louder. “Take your hands off me!”

This was reality TV happening before our eyes. I looked around to see if anyone was filming this on their smart phone. Others were rubbernecking to see the oncoming explosion.

Not me. I prayed. I didn’t want to arrive at the office with blood-stained clothes.

“I”m calling the police!” the kid shouted.

We stopped at another station. More people got on, mostly elderly women. The kid leaped up to give his seat to one of the women, and stood hanging from a strap staring at the husband the rest of the way.

“Let me see your eyes,” the husband said.

The kid pulled out an ear bud. “What did you say, old man?”

“Let me see your eyes,” the husband said.

The kids yanked his dark glasses off and glared at the husband.

We made it thought the tunnel and into the first station in the city. Lots of people got off leaving several empty seats. The kid sat down behind the husband.

The husband turned around to face the kid. Here it comes, I thought. Do I call 911?

“I’m sorry for getting angry,” he said.

The kid shrugged. “It shows you’re taking care of your mom.”

“That’s my wife,” the husband said.

Oh no, here it comes, I thought.

“Okay, it shows you’re taking care of your wife.”

And with that the kid got up and got off at the next stop.

Calvin says, “Wow. Close call. I’d have circled the kid and bayed at full volume until the cops turned up.”