Sunday, June 26, 2011
Breakfast by Starlight
This morning found me in a train, tracing the Sacramento River north towards Mt. Shasta. After boarding the train at around 1 AM, it had been a very cold and fitful night of trying to sleep on the floor of the Sightseer car. I’m not built for travel (or rather, travel isn't built for me; it's built for people seven inches shorter than me), exactly, and although I was fortunately placed behind whatever the train equivalent of a bulkhead is, sleeping near vertical next to a stranger was a pretty unlikely scenario.
5 AM brought the first slivers of daylight, illuminating a beautiful forest, the first shadows of Shasta, and the ice cold Sacramento, Six AM brought sweet, sweet coffee. Still a little groggy from the melatonin I’d taken to ward off restlessness, I picked up a coffee, a sausage sandwich, and a cinnamon bun. None of the food was sensational, but the view made up for it. The Sightseer car reminds me of the vehicles of Jurassic Park; automated with large viewing glass.
Almost immediately after finishing this little breakfast and stowing most of my belongings, I stumbled into the dining car, and sat down for a real breakfast. I sat by myself at the first table I came to, then was admonished that it was communal seating, and was sat next to a pair of elderly Roberts. The man to my right was a pungent 82 year old, a former teacher at the University of Washington and halfway houses. He was quick to inform you that he was not judgmental, not anymore, although he didn’t understand how men he admired (a category which seemed to include me, and, indeed, most other men) for their physical advantages in our society would end up in jail. He also mentioned a number of times that he’d had a hard life.
Well, I ordered the Rail Way French Toast, forgoing the additional three dollar “breakfast meat,” despite how tasty that phrasing sounded (does that read sarcastically? Because it should). The other Robert takes twenty-day train trips once every couple of years, and seemed to be well versed in the schedule. He was very sharp, and definitely seemed like the type of guy I wouldn’t mind sharing a train ride with. He also ordered the French Toast, so he obviously was of substantial merit. We briefly discussed a number of things, that sort of “light conversation” that so rarely seems to exist nowadays unless it’s the person ringing you up, and I enjoyed my French Toast. Again, it’s a meal that’s obviously not worth the ticket price alone, but given that it’s essentially lower-altitude airplane food, it was pretty darn good.
One of our topics of conversation was drug abuse in the younger generation. Teacher Robert related a story about asking a young man he admired why he turned to drugs; the young man answered that he essentially had no choice, that was the environment he lived in. Teacher Robert didn’t judge this. Other Robert, who it turns out works as a counselor, explained that there is a choice, and that it’s fairly simple; addiction (ie; death) or life. When the train pulled into Klamath Falls (where I write this now), they both hurried off so that they might have their smoke break. Ah, irony.
It seems a little unfair to pit the train against my rating system, since I severely doubt anyone is going to be taking the train simply to eat. If you do, then you're obviously not going to care about my opinion, anyway!