WAITING ON A TRAIN

November 1, 2007

It's been a quiet week on the Island. The Cineplex monstrosity procedes forward with barricades and blockages and lawsuits continuing. The Southshore Mall continues with its own nonsensical set of changes invvolving bigger and better as the Walgreens moves from a reasonable space to a far smaller one with fewer resources in the name of progress. And at least as of this individual, fewer buyers.

Over in the Offices, Denby has once again drawn the short straw, according to Tradition, and once again is enjoined to take that mournful walk along the Beach of Dreams.

Severe illness has struck this House, resulting in delayed publication and truncated issues for several of the past months. We have gotten familiar with foley catheters and morphine drips and the wierd echoes in ICU wards which are redolent of European train stations, all these people arriving and departing at odd hours of the night.

"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"

Imagine. A crowd of people all waiting upon a platform. Something is behind the curtain.

"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"

A bureacratic voice anounces from the PA. But no one understands what is being said. When one's perception is given the borders of pain, the Conductor is a severe German and the border patrol is more than usual cruel. Today's medicine had forgotten even Checkov's flickering humanity beside the bed of the invalid.

In echoing halls, comes the eternal command to prepare for final departure.

"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"

In Denby's case, the patient was ejected, that is a better term than "discharged", without further complications beyond the removal of morphine drip about 48 hours too early.

Others, however remained there waiting upon a train. A train with only Endstation as its Terminus. Endstation is the last point of exit any of us can expect.

"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"

The Attendant, with eyes like wheels of fire, bends at the waist to examine the ticket. Most unusual to examine a ticket upon entry, where one is expected to be carded after seating. But for this train, that is the way

"Dieser Karte erlaubt kein Zuruckfährt. Bitte wissen Sie bescheid."

This ticket is a One-Way passage. Be so notified. This train does not return.

And that is the way it is. One starts out and has no guarantee of return. And so those waiting patiently upon the train platform begin to board even as the overhead PA system issues its eternal message.

"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"

Those passengers found themselves deposited upon the fire-lit sandy beach already described here. They pass through a little gate to the fires below and behind them, the world grows dim, forgetful.

Others found themselves like our collegue, deposited with scant resource back upon the sandy beach of our times in a strange room cluttered with beeps and muttering televisions and the echoes of passengers making ready for departure.

The Attendant speaks again. Dieser Karte ist nicht für diese Reise gültig. Zuruckkehren und steigen Sie bitte ab.

This ticket is not valid for this trip. Please turn back.

Denby turns back and, stepping through the broken wall along the Strand, puts his foot on the solid world of everyday reality. Soon, his hair is wet quite through from the weather as he walks back to the Offices.

Outside, night has fallen and the air blows cold but with a hint of approaching spring in the fogs roiling in from the Bay. And there it is: the distant wail of the through-passing train as it ploughs its way through the darkness of sleeping Jack London Waterfront. And a gentle rain falls, falls softtly through the universe, falls upon the uneasy waves of the estuary, falls upon the quiet Island Strand, falls upon the long stretch of Lincoln Avenue, falls upon the silent guns of the gated and closed Navy Base, falls upon the Bay Bridge with its modest string of pearls lights and upon Treasure Island, falls upon the Ferry Building that withstood the Great Fire of 1906, falls upon the somber bulk of the notorious 101 California pillar rising forty stories above the street, falls upon the upsweep of California Street itself, rain falling and falling down upon the Twin Mansions Hotel, falling upon the feet of Parnassus where students prod among the donated bodies even at this late hour at UCSF, seeking knowledge always more knowledge, falling upon the Panhandle and its sleeping tramps and hookers and junkies huddled in doorways, falling upon the glass Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, glowing like a jewel from the interior lights, falling upon storied Speedway Meadows, falling upon the little windmills and the Beach House, falling upon the beach itself and so out to the poorly named Pacific Ocean with its mountanous waves roiling over the countless shipwreck tombs, silently falling upon all of the living and the dead.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.