The Neutering of America

it is what it is

If you're on a fishing trip with someone, chances are that the majority of the conversation that transpires during that activity is related to fishing. I would imagine that the same is true on hunting trips you talk about hunting. At a baseball game you talk baseball. But when you're hanging around a jungle waiting for a train the range of subject matter is considerably greater, and emerging from a much more diverse group of participants.

One conversation that comes to mind was not really in a jungle but a place in the old Roseville freightyard that was popular if you were waiting to go north. Under an overpass known as the Rainbow Bridge it provided shelter at one time or another for countless tramps. One rainy night I had a reasonably well-dressed mission stiff as a companion to pass the time with and he offered up a surprisingly original description of a recent dream. It began where he was riding a motorcycle naked with Sonia Brava. I asked if she was naked too and he said he didn't know because she was riding on the back and he couldn't see her. I asked how he knew it was Sonia Brava and he said that a cop stopped him for speeding and he recognized her and asked for her autograph. He said he was very nervous because he didn't know if the cop was going to give him a ticket for speeding or being naked. I said that the dream certainly had potential and asked what happened next and he said he woke up after passing over a bad section of track and couldn't remember anything else.

This was enough to get the ball rolling, and we shared a jug of Hearty Burgundy as the rain continued to fall and late night turned into early morning. We were about the same age and therefore might have had similar experiences to fall back upon. Thus began a period of comparing how it was "then" to how it is "now". We began with cars — they used to have names like "Mustang", "Ramcharger", "Fairlane 500"... and had fire-breathing V8 engines with lots of horsepower and even torque (whatever that was). Now, they have names like "Volt", "Fit", and "Toureg" (?), along with teensy 4-cylinder engines and 13-inch wheels.

They also used to have big, honkin' metal bumpers. If you hit something, it just left a dent... no big deal. Now if you hit anything larger than a chicken you have to replace the entire body of the vehicle. And just try to jack your car up by the "bumper". Not happening. It used to be that after learning to parallel park, it became something that you did even if you had no reason to park there in the first place. I remember driving around the block a few times merely looking for a single parking spot that I could use as a showcase for my parallel parking skills to anyone nearby.

Thinking back, it might have been the language that we used was the last straw added to the camel's back. Maybe calling the "dump" a "refuse disposal site" was the first. Maybe a "used" car now being a "pre-owned" car. I've even seen some advertised as being "certified pre-owned". They swear (and have the paperwork to prove it) that somebody has owned the car before. What if they're telling a lie, and the car is really a new car... can you return it for a refund? "Firing" becoming "downsizing". I "Lied" about... oops, I mean I "misspoke" about this or that. Get my point? I honestly believe that a 300 pound woman is fat, not "plus-sized", "big boned", or anything else... just, plain FAT. If a baseball player has a batting average of .083 he isn't "due"... he sucks! If a pitcher walks 10 batters in an inning he sucks... he's not having trouble finding his "release point".

Imagine a "perfect world" where we look at the big picture and see the inevitable end result. If a guy is sitting in a stopped car on the side of the road, it doesn't matter if he's out of gas, has a flat tire, or whatever... he's "broke down by the side of the road". Plain and simple. He's not "moving". That's the problem... that's what's wrong. What he would like to be doing is driving down the road. What he wouldn't like to be doing is sitting still. Moving=good. Sitting=bad. There doesn't need to be any "in-betweens". You're either moving or you're not moving.

At that time it was us who were not moving, and I was seriously considering rolling out and waiting until the rain stopped to catch a train when I heard some power coming out of the yard. Struggling to my feet after sitting for the last few hours, I watched as three units slowly pulled out of the departure yard, stopped, then slowly backed down onto anther track. This meant it was train time, as three units were assigned to trains going up north, while eastbound trains used four or more. Silently we packed up our gear and seeing that the rain had let up a bit, I asked my companion if he wanted to walk into the yard and look for a ride while the train was standing still. He declined because the Bull had hassled him the day before and he didn't want to press his luck. I thanked him for the pleasant conversation and headed off into the yard, with the rain now just a steady drizzle. After climbing over a couple of rain-slick strings of cars I found an empty boxcar on the string behind the power and climbed inside. Since it was only open on the side opposite from our spot under the bridge I wouldn't be able to see if the other tramp caught out on this train or not. Walking over to the doorway to pee after rolling out my gear I noticed that the rain had stopped and the stars were no longer visible, meaning another day had begun and I was ready to leave town headed north...