Train Catalogue #6

I realize it’s nothing astonishing, at this point in time and technological development, to announce that this particular edition of the Train Catalogue is being written from an actual train. But I’ll beg just a little indulgence for a person who 1) still has no desire to own a smart phone and 2) who grew up in the ’80s, and fondly remembers teen movies in which a hapless protagonist pulls into a drive-through and speaks into the receiver of the fast-food establishment’s telephone, in order to impress the person on the other end of the line with the fact that he’s calling from his car (!).

At any rate, today’s update is brought to you courtesy of Amtrak’s wireless service (which, however, is not allowing me to download any pictures to add to this post).

This misty morning, standing by one of the carriage’s doors, I could see no evidence of any passenger with his or her nose in a book. I did look down to find a paperback hidden in one young lady’s half-open bag; I’m unsure what The Hidden Monster is about, but it apparently wasn’t as interesting for its owner at that moment as was the information scrolling down her phone.

But as I was about to call it a loss, as I was streaming toward the door along with the rest of the masses at my stop, a bit of the wave parted on my way out, and a hidden reader (to all appearances not a monster) was revealed, crunched into a corner between a passenger and a metal barrier and giving the impression of not being at all disturbed by the hubbub going on around her.

Unfortunately, there are no books to be seen thus far in my long-distance carriage, and my attempts to avoid cell-phone gabblers by sitting near the over-seventy crowd have backfired disastrously– for I’m now caught between the high-decibel declarations of Arlene (who’s announced herself by name to everyone she’s been calling) and the apple-pie assertions of the rural curmudgeon a couple of seats ahead of me, one of those people eager to lament with strangers the state of the world, and who will complain about any noticeable change, regardless of its nature, simply because of the fact that it is change.

But at least I’ve finished How to Cook a Wolf (more on that later), and have also completed a section of Nabokov’s Lectures on Russian Literature. If my eyes can survive, and my ears block out tales of the distressing lack of discipline in the contemporary military, the ills of big cities, and all manner of anecdotes starting “When I was there back in the early ‘seventies,” I might just have the end of that one in sight as well– and have to buy some more literature for the return trip home. (Sigh.)


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