Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Train in the Distance

This post was composed primarily during two train trips over the weekend, although I haven't been able to editit until now (Tuesday). In the beautiful and elusive words of Paul Simon, "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance; everybody thinks it's true." He goes on to explain:"What is the point of this story? What information pertains? The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains." Basically, "the grass is always greener…" Only more poetic.

Mind you, it's a song about a failed relationship, but it's really about hope and romance.

I'm reminded of it because I am on a train to Boston, for the first time since Jamie and I took a train toBoston for my original surgery (not the sequel). It's a big deal for me now, not just because of those memories, but also because this is the first time I've really set out anywhere on my own since my stroke. So it's a step into the void for me and for Jamie. It's certainly for a good cause -- my friend Jamie Boy's (Jaimz to me)40th birthday. We were going to trek as a family, but it was just more practical for me to go by myself. Not to mention important for me to try new things. Yes, it's a reminder of my limitations -- I'm slow, I can't afford to be jostled in a crowd, I need an easy path up to or down from or through train doors, I can't walk on a moving train. But it's also a nice reminder of how I used to feel every time I got on a bus or train to New York (when I was"commuting" from Maine to New York, circa 1996-2001). I’d think about just riding and riding and seeing where the ride took me. It wasn't about being unhappy where I was -- it was about possibilities. Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance. I learned recently that Siddhartha -- the original Buddha – named his first child "Fettered”. It's somewhat callous, but true that choices we make regarding family, career, home ownership, etc. can bind us as much as they ground us and enable us to experience things we never would, floating through the ether without them. No, I'm not comparing myself to Buddha, much as I would like to be on a path to enlightenment. My recent journey, including this trip, has focused on regaining freedom and independence. I'm reminded a little of an essay contest I entered in high school – sponsored by the local branch of the Optimist Society -- with the theme, "Freedom: our Most Precious Heritage." I won, which If ound somewhat amusing at the time, and even more so now, with an essay which argued that freedom is a privilege, not a right. Back then, and I guess now as well, I resisted ideas of entitlement. So as fortunate as I've been in my life to live with so much freedom available to me, I appreciate the privilege even more now that my freedom has been restricted. I'm still not sure how my argument falls underthe umbrella of optimism, but I've never considered myself much of an optimist. Even though I probably could be, I don't think of myself as a pessimist either. More of a realist. In answering thequestion, "Is the glass half full or half empty," I will usually be difficult and say, "it's half full of air".

Time has passed. I'm now on my return trip to Maine. What adventures have you missed? First, matzoh ball soup and cheese blintzes at S&S(Jewtastic!)on Friday night with Jamie and his wife Stephanie, a good night sleep, Saturday brunch (chicken hash Benedict) with Jamie Boy's family, mini-golf at Kimball Farm, including getting caught in the rain (how's that for romantic?), board games back at Jamie andStephanie's (Apples to Apples, anyone?), Indian takeout, homemade cakes a la Stephanie, a home-cooked pancake breakfast Sunday morning with Jamie, Stephanie, and Jamie'sbrother Rob's family. Then lunch with my very real virtual friend Jeniene, before hoofing it to the train station. I've walked more in the last two days than I have in a year. Imean, I've walked plenty for therapy, but this time I was actually going someplace. So, in summary--good company, good fun. What more could I want?Jaimz, I could never have asked for more in a best man or in the man I would later marry (as in, I officiated Jamie and Stephanie'smarriage in 2009).

And...now the train's stuck behind a broken down freight engine. So it goes.

So I wouldn't call this weekend a grand adventure in the traditional sense. No lion taming (though thecircus was in town), no bushwhacking (though I did hike through what at times felt like a rain forest on the mini-golf course), no epic battles (though Jamie Girl and the boys did watch The Princess Bride in my absence). And I will get the girl in the end. What I did have was the adventure of testing my boundaries a bit and discovering that they're not insurmountable. Makes me want to stick my thumb out and hitch a ride at the next station. No, Mom, I wouldn't actually do that. Romance has its limits. And I'm a realist, remember?


  1. Beautiful, Ken. I am so glad I could be even a small part of your epic journey into re-independence. It was wonderful to see you and inspiring to be with you.

  2. That's awesome, both the writing and the doing. Buddha would be proud Ken. I disagree about freedom though, in my mind it's a natural state of being which is usurped by others and ourselves but we can leave that for another time. Big love from A&E

  3. What, me worry? Just because you had a Jack Kerouac moment? My worry wasn't that you'd head for the open road, but how you'd manage the logistics of navigating the train trip and your stay in Boston. You're amazing. And so is Jamie girl for staying behind, probably doing the same kind of worrying I did. And so is Jamie boy for being such a wonderful friend. I love you. Mom

  4. Thank you lord in heaven and Ken for Jewtastic. I am singing inside of myself. In fact, I was so delighted that I called you on the spot to invite you out, but, alas, you were already booked. Another time? I won't type here what I really said to J on the phone. Much love and adoration and gratefulness (not for my non-strokeness, though that is grateful-worthy, but for your friendship).

  5. Don't know how I missed this one. Beautiful as usual. I always think of you when I hear that song.