I have over ten word documents open right now filled with random stories and ideas I’ve never finished. Most of the tales and actions of my life are unfinished --which seems to be a terrible character flaw of humanity, and so by default, me. Some of the stories are good, most bad, a few memoirs, "all are mine.” I confirm this out loud, in a selfish childish tone, that gets me nowhere,
I close my eyes, trying to think of a reason to finish at least one story. I drift off into my memory banks (which currently have dangerously low funds, and terrible fines for being negative).
I find the click and clack, of the slow roll of the track, of the jam packed, southbound City of New Orleans --rolling through the warm summer air, confident of its destination and purpose; through its windows I see the great majestic flat lands of Illinois. Chicago, where I boarded, where I was birthed, and where I will die, is now a long gone memory of shattered lives, yet broad shoulders of the homeless veterans, and hopeless hookers. The city of wind blows, and blows often.
I become lost in the wonderful visions, the train window offers me, as we roll through the corn fields and amber waves of grain that I dreamt about as a child, growing up in concrete jungle. I knew of its existence --now I breathe its air so sweet and clean, traditional, calming, and cooling. Soon dawn smothered the day, as stars filled the skies, with magnificent portraits of something clearly outside our simple understanding, and our limited comprehension, of concept and reality. The cows grazed the grass, the grass housed the insects, and the insects dug everything, like a juiced up jazz junkie, with an IPOD full of Monk, listening meticulously in a midnight moon lit motel room, with his loving mate, in his marked up arms. – I watch the telephone lines of an obsolete technology from a now obsolete generation fade, and fade, and fade, then it all becomes darkness, lots of darkness, but the steady sound of the train wheels clicking and clacking reminded us all, that progress is being made, we’re rolling forward, home is on the horizon, for us lucky fellow travelers on this historic train route.
My mind keeps bringing me back to the bizarre moment when the soothing sound of the train was interrupted by the old Negro woman sitting next to me who started talking at me uninvited. I’ve always preferred silence, but never can pass up a conversation, so speak on and speak often, and speak of substance. It’s an addiction, one I love, one I seek, one that destroys me, as I take every word, of every soul who speaks seriously and to heart --straight to mine --and I feel it all.
Listen to me now
only a lifetime to speak
so little then gone
Maybe she thought I could help her, maybe I could have, perhaps in time and tempo but not now, I needed to help myself first, and that wasn’t happening anytime soon so I nodded and noted what intrigued me as she continued to jabber and jive to my sleepy soul. Her son lived in Chicago and being a proud mother she had spent a few days visiting him –her face glowing with pride as she bragged of his steady work, her heart beating for him, her mind thinking of him. She found out I was a radio man, so she spoke boastfully of her days fighting alongside her best friend Rosa Parks. The protests, the anger, the civility, the legality, the humanity, the mutiny, the understanding, the resolution --those two saw it all, buying the ticket, taking the ride, and getting thrown off the bus. I wasn’t in the mood for getting off the train, in any kind of protest or otherwise, but I was interested in her words, and I was glad fate sat us next to each other on this ride of reckoning.
She was kind, and spoke proudly of Hazlehurst, Mississippi her home, her existence --her hair was old and white and in a bunion, her clothes were straight off the racks of Wal-mart, she didn't know that she was judged by her clothes, and she's better for that, and she doesn't know of the mockery, the wise-well-dressed of the city, sneered toward the fly by dwellers, in their smog spirituality and self righteousness. I needed a shower to get the city’s complexity off of me --a warm wetness, privacy, patriotism, pies, and then all down the drain.
She told me she sang gospel, and wrote songs. A fellow traveler of the arts, I smirked a shy smile with a raised eyebrows. It was getting late, so I closed my eyes while I listened to her rhythm, rather than her words, now in synch and tempo, with the rail road tracks beat, chatter-chatter, and a click and a clack, I drifted and dreamed…AMEN…the clapping, the swaying purple….JESUS…the purity and harmony…JEEEESUSSSS…my toes tapping, my heart pounding, my faith as pure and perfect as music, and as simple and proud as a rock standing, watching, remembering it all silently, while nobody notices the humor in it all –except the laughing rock, who’s seen it all from the dinosaurs to the unexpected of tomorrow. Humanity is as smug as a Chicagoan. My life story.
“Can I sing you a song I wrote for Rosa Parks on her 8oth birthday?”
It’s two am and every light in the train is off, including ours. I wonder how long she’s been talking to herself? I wonder if anybody was listening? I wonder if God ever blames him-her-self for this dazzling destructive dimension we dwell upon?? I wonder. I wonder. The old activist is not shy like me, as her voice starts belting out a gospel sounding song –the wave of sound flows forward in a natural tide of spectacular energy –lights start to turn on, one after another, right down the train car, as bushy eyed fellow travelers are awaken and confused, soon it starts to look like a landing strip at an airport. I bite my tongue hard as laughter fills my belly like a ripe jolly old elf ready to explode. It’s too damn funny not to laugh, but I resist and smile nodding my head to the sound of her voice singing. Yet in my inner laughter, I realize how spiritual a moment I was witnessing. I suddenly become serious, as tears fill my poverty blue eyes, as I come to the realization, that this is, as close, as I’ll ever get to heaven.
Here are the top ten things trending right now at 10:45 on February, 19th, 2010. Here are the things I should be writing about as they are what are relevant to my generation, and what would gather me the most readers.
1. Tiger Woods
2. Mary MacKillop
4. Andrew Lloyd Weber
5. Olympic Skeleton
6. Lindsay Lohan
7. The Ghost Writer…
8. John Mellencamp
9. London Fashion W…
10. Spring Training
But really, tonight, my thoughts are of Hazlehurst, Mississippi: a place where God may still indeed exist, a place where a rock is probably laughing at us all.