The week that was: September 7, 2012

Due to the holiday last week, we skipped a cycle of reader comments. So here’s an attempt to catch up. Oh, and I had another John Cheever-like experience, where my post, Working 9 to 12: What a way to make a living, caught fire on Reddit. It created a nice spike in my page views and a couple of people made interesting comments, which are reproduced at the bottom of this wrap-up.

On A tale of two railroads:

  • “As a veteran Penn Station commuter, I can affirmatively state that it still sucks after all these years. However, LIRR trains do generally stick to the same track. I always walk down before posting, and a track change is pretty rare.”
  • “Love this. I commuted from NJ. All I can say was thank god the bus line and the boat was a better option. :)”
  • “Thanks for making me feel better about my commute!”
  • “Oh, this affirms how thankful I was for my privileged Fairfield County upbringing and the pity I used to feel for those who had to commute through Penn Station.”
  • “I never had the (dis)pleasure of commuting through Penn Station, but did do the Grand Central thing. I have to admit that if you are going to commute an hour by train, Metro North just seems a more pleasant situation. That is until you figure in the cars where the air conditioning dies, the delays when snow weighs down the electrical lines and the standing on Friday nights when there aren’t enough seats. All kidding aside, the comparison is very amusing and just reinforces that the northern ‘burbs are better than the southern!”
  • “The bar car is such a ‘Conrail’ institution (for those of us who remember it as that). And of course, the guys playing bridge with the cardboard posters as the card table (usually on the New Canaan line).” [ED NOTE: Bridge happens on all the train lines I’ve ridden. I actually wrote about bridge players in Son of a commuter.]

On Train tracks: Downtown Train:

  • “What a fantastic way to start my morning. As you know I’m a BIG Tom Waits fan. In my mind there’s not a better songwriter out there. A guy who can write the most bizarre, macabre and haunting songs, and then rip out a lovely ballad like ‘Downtown Train’ or ‘The House Where Nobody Lives.’ As his wife once said about his music, ‘…they’re either Grim Reapers or Grand Weepers….’ Well said. And I like both kinds. What makes you brilliant is finding that one great train song of his and tying it to your commuting blog. And you nailed it. Tom perfected his downtrodden hobo thing while working as a bouncer at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. It’s been said that Tom used to sit on a stool outside the front door and draw a larger crowd with his patter than the band playing inside. That doesn’t surprise me. The guy can tell a story. So, in the spirit of your ‘train blog,’ I want to share a story Waits once told early in his career (1974) at a show in Denver, Colorado. It’s easy for one to believe that Waits really was roaming the railroad tracks that day, and this story could darn well be true. (I took some artistic license to clean up some of the language since this is a family blog). So the story goes…..

Introducing ‘San Diego Serenade’ (Ebbets Field, Denver/ USA. October 8, 1974): ‘You know, a funny thing happened to me this afternoon. It was eh… ’bout the same thing happened the last time I came to Denver. It was down at the… well it was Seventeenth and Wazee. Right down at the railway station, and it was like… Well, I went past the station, way out on the tracks, and I found a couple of hobos out there. And so I watched them for a while. It was a little… short little sucker, bout that big, he was kinda bent over. And they were both passing a can of Hormel beans back and forth between ’em, you know. One of them took one look at that can of beans, looked down at the little sucker, and he slammed it down on the track and said, ‘That’s the last ever can of beans I’m ever gonna eat!’ Buddy looked up at him and said, ‘The hell you wanna do that for, Al? You threw away all the beans!’ ‘Didn’t you notice about a mile back, at the farmhouse, a nice young lady, a whole pen of Rhode Island Red. I’m gonna go back and eat chicken dinner!’ Buddy said, ‘She ain’t gonna give you no chicken dinner!’ But he’s down the tracks and he’s back in half an hour and he’s got mashed potatoes aaaaall over his face. He’s shaking a big drumstick, says ‘What do you think of that?’ Buddy says, ‘Now how did you get that chicken dinner?’ ‘I told you ’bout that nice young lady down there with a whole pen of Rhode Island Red. I told her a Bible story.’ ‘Bible story? My Lord, I don’t know no Bible story. Which story did you tell her?’ ‘I just told her ’bout Samson and all the strength in his long black hair. How he slew five thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.’ [a BURP that’s been a long time comin’] Buddy says, ‘Hey,’ and heads down the track. He’s knocking on the door and a nice young lady comes to the door and he says, ‘I’ve come for my chicken dinner. Fix it up nice and hot right now!’ She says, ‘All you have to do is tell me a Bible story, sir!’ He scratches his head for a while, then he looked up and he said, ‘Well… Christ, I only know one. It’s about Swanson. Now, Swanson was a hairy motherf*#@ker, he ate down five thousand Filipinos, stuck ’em in the arse with a jawbone. Now where’s that chicken dinner?’

Okay. I know this isn’t train related, but this Waits song, in typical ballad form, has always stuck with me. It’s also reminiscent of the whole film noir thing you mention above: 

On My train was delayed a half-hour because of what?:

  • “I saw that news on my Metro North Alerts.  It seems those ‘delay’ announcements have been coming every day.  Funny.  Your immediate thought, when hearing it was police activity, was terrorists.  My immediate thought was…..VESPA MAN!  I’ve been out of that commuting game way too long.” [ED NOTE: I love the idea of a vengeful Vespa Man sabotaging the Metro North commute. It has been tucked away as a possible story line.]
  • “I saw that story, sheesh!”

On Another scene from an Italian restaurant:

  • “I thought it was Brenda Rinnetti. ;)”
  • “In MA we say Brendah, whilst drivin’ around with the cah top down and the radio on.”
  • “My favorite song EVAH. You are so cool.”
  • “We neva knew we could want moredandat outta life.”
  • “That’s all I heard about Brender and Eddie. Can’t tell ya more ’cause I told you already.”
  • “Here we are wavin Brendah & Eddie goodbye”
  • “So what’s the rest of the story?  I guess this is going to be like one of those old time magazine serials….” [ED NOTE: Using a blog like an old-time magazine serial. Interesting…]
  • “I’m surprised they split. The last I heard, Brenda and Eddie were still going steady in the summer of 75.”
  • “Yeah, but they started to fight when the money got tight, and they just didn’t count on the tears.”

On The best of August 2012:

  • “Am going to find me that Cheever short story!! Nice job!” [ED NOTE: There’s a link to the Cheever story in that post.]

On Student commuters:

  • “OMG.  My brother spent two years living in Cobham while working in London for Aramark. On our visit to them there we took that train twice into London at that very train station. Both my brother and sister-in-law commuted on those to trains to London for work. Loved the pub we went to in town. It was across from some lake/river area, I think. They also had a really wonderful farmer’s market. My nephews went to the American School in Cobham as you suggested. It seemed the epitome of suburban English life. It brings back memories of a very nice and special trip! Talk about a small world.”

On Train tracks: Peace Train:

  • “After taking Islamic studies in college, my take-away was that Islam and Christianity have more similarities than differences.  I like his songs no matter what his name is, and so does May.  We listen to Moonshadow almost every night at bed time.  I loved this one!”

On Train flix: The Lady Vanishes:

  • “It’s a good thing Hitchcock reconsidered his original title for Psycho: ‘The Lady Gets Hacked to Death in the Shower.'”
  • “Last Halloween we all watched the original Frankenstein from 1931, which I had never seen before. (It gives you a new appreciation for all the spoofs we’ve all seen.) My kids liked it so much we watched Bride of Frankenstein the next day. Also, when my daughter was about 7 she watched The Searchers, with John Wayne, and loved it.”
  • “This brought back memories of my train commute from Elizabethtown to Connecticut some years ago! When I look back, I’m pleasantly surprised that I did it! Going away for school was a great experience & I believe it made me who I am today on many different ways. I changed trains in Philly & remember running from the top floor track down to the underground track to catch the right train. Very stressful!! And once I missed my connection… well let’s just say there are some pretty ‘interesting’ people in a train station! Thanks for the walk down memory lane!”
  • “I was raised on old movies because my dad thought I would enjoy them. My favorite movie is still All About Eve. Slowly, I have done the same with my kids and now one of my 13-year-old’s favorite movies is To Kill a Mockingbird. Keep at it, they will appreciate you for it and it doesn’t hurt that it often helps with the NY Times crossword puzzles. Haven’t seen the Hitchcock you mention, but maybe now I will.”

On Commuter cocoon:

  • POLL RESULTS: 71 percent of people surveyed said they’d buy the invention mentioned in this post; 29 percent would respectfully decline. This poll has no scientific validity whatsoever.

On Working 9 to 12: What a way to make a living:

  • “Theoretically we can can use improvements in productivity to either have more stuff, or work less and have the same amount of stuff, or somewhere in between. Or we can let a small segment of the population appropriate all the productivity gains, invest them overseas, and get rich…”
  • “People could do this if they wanted. Work at a supermarket 15 hours a week. Take home pay is ~600$/month with no benefits. With this you can live at a similar level as a person from the 1940s. You can have a crappy apartment, a crappy car, non-fresh food, and can eat at a burger restaurant once a week. No insurance, no Internet, no retirement savings. If you get in trouble rely on charity. Bam, you are an average person from the 1940s.”
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