Going to San Francisco
I’ve never ridden the Caltrain before, but I’d heard a lot about it. There’s something romantic about riding a train north through California to the city inlaid with the mystique of eighty years in ballads, movies, and novels.
The train itself is nicer than I expected. Two floors, tables at some of the seats (which I’m using to support my typing), and for the most part vacant. The lights are dirty, grocery store fluorescent tubes, and the car rocks back and forth, groaning like an old carnival ride. I’m looking out a long, dirt-stained window into the sunset.
The suburbs of San Jose drift in and out of view. Children play lacrosse on dark, grassy fields, and office parks mixed with warehouses show further signs of developers being given more than they can handle. I listen to the more hopeless tracks of Parklife and from behind my CIA sunglasses watch a fellow who looks a lot like a rugged Val Kilmer.
Hot in the Milky Way
Hadar Rigel Barnard’s Star
Antares Aldebaran Altair
Wolf 359 Betelgeuse
Stuccoed condominiums porch happy songs in Sunnyvale, as a mother sits with her toddler son waiting for the ride to San Jose. Everything is half-finished and imperfect, a chain of impetuous union-made majesties…
…Well you and I collapsed in love, and it looks like me might of made it, yes it looks like we made it to the end…
Drum, drum the median. Make a left signal turn, mind the construction cones. Fingers again and again on the dashboard. I must stop at KFC on the way home to pick up dinner.
There’s so much trouble
Your thoughts are just
It’s so much trouble
I am a manager
And I am in control
As the local delegator
(No calls today, dear
They’ll just have to wait, dear)
Railway ties stand like perforations, holes in the bind of a page that has no top or bottom; myself bounding up the spine, looking past the spirals on an endless and ever-changing fence, to the coastal world beyond the covers.
…La lalalala, la la la la. La lalalala, la la la la…
At Palo Alto I start to lose the sun in the trees, the music downshifts, and I sink in my seat quivering to the high resonating notes of the duotone guitar in Clover Over Dover.
I’m on the white cliffs of Dover
Thinking it over and over
But if I jump it’s all over
A cautionary tale for you
And when you push me over
(And when I come back)
Don’t bury me, I’m not worth anything
(I found that you took care to me)
Everyone climbs to the second story of the train, the grand admiral’s deck of commuter transportation. In the belly of the lumbering metal beast I spy out at parking lots and construction nets, Menlo Park and the software halls of giants, a revolution of technology mercenaries and minutemen.
…this is a low
But it won’t hurt you.
When you’re alone,
It will be there with you,
Finding ways to stay solo.
And the sun capsizes into a motionless, clouded sea.
From the bottom of the stairs I can see people eating box dinners and playing Game Boy. I move my rucksack up to the cargo shelf, making room in my slowly filling, office furniture-grey cabin. Parklife becomes The Great Escape, and I jump to The Universal, preparing for consumer salvation in a world full of empty corporate lives.
Moscow’s still red, the young man’s dead, gone to heaven instead. The evening news, said he was confused.
…they come to space save us, the space invaders…
He thought of cars, and who to drive them with, but there, there was no one, no one…
Pet stores and strip malls dot side of El Camino Real near San Carlos, and I remember the road that looks so much the same here as it does in Encinitas four hundred miles farther south. Winding and snaking through tree-canopied ranchlands, I drove back from Mexico with Nobue, stopping at Arnold’s for granola and dried fruit before my death eleven months ago.
And I reach Yuko and Hiro, an odd tribute to the life I’ve grown in to, now a stranger to condos, cars and commutes.
We work for the company
That works to the future
We work hard to please me
They will protect us
I never see you
We’re never together
I’ll love you forever
I drink in the evening
It helps with relaxing
I can’t sleep without drinking
We drink together
I go to my workplace
But Sunday we are together
Yuko and Hiro
Wareware wa kaisha de
Itsumo karela ga mamo’otte kureru
Issho ni hataraku mirai no tame ni
The sun, almost a memory, backlights the clouds falling on forested hills. My trip drifts on, moving north as the clouds head south, and I find myself wedged between more memories than I can stomach, on a coastline of broken promises and new beginnings long ended.