My favorite song this week is “Between Trains” by Robby Robertson written for the “King of Comedy” soundtrack back in 1983 and for me to hum to on my recent train trip aboard the Pacific Surfliner to Solana Beach station.
Following a sleepless night, I wanted to close my eyes and wake up to the sight of the ocean hearing the twang of Robertson singing “There ain’t no place …Where there’s a home I could claim ...And I’m still between trains…”
It’s hard to sleep on the train knowing you are waiting on a train conductor to ask you for your ticket. I am also self-conscious about other people watching me sleep. My move is to put my jacket over my head, and hope for the best. It’s also a great way to ward off chit-chat. No one with any social intelligence will start a conversation with the guy covering his head with a Starter jacket.
After handing my ticket to the conductor, I reached for my jacket when the elderly lady applying masquara sitting next to me asked, “Are you from the Middle East?”
“I’m from Pittsburgh.”
I then covered my face.
Instead of sleeping I wondered if the elderly woman was a secret agent of the Department of Homeland Security. She sees I have a five o’clock shadow. I’m not smiling. She asks one simple question about my ethnic background and then I hide under a jacket. I could hear Robby Robertson singing “But I’m on the run from these chains….And I’m just between trains.”
It’s a lot easier to commit a felony and board the Surfliner then it is to book a flight, print your boarding pass, present ID, go through security. The conductor didn’t check my ticket until we arrived in Irvine. I could have robbed a Credit Union and hopped off in Fullerton.
Across the aisle I could hear a woman yapping to someone named Jennifer. “Just take a deep breath, okay Jennifer? Breathe in. Now breathe out.”
I pretended I was Jennifer so I could take a few deep breaths en route to falling into a deep sleep.
“Jennifer! I’m not going to tell you again. Get a hold of yourself and take a deep breath.”
Either Jennifer was in serious danger, or the lady across the aisle sucked at teaching Yoga.
I lifted the jacket from upon my face and saw the elderly woman had left her seat. I covered up again and I closed my eyes.
In an hour I would be in San Diego. The next day our family would visit my grandmother’s grave site, almost year after she passed away. Initially my Aunt Barb wanted to put a picture of my grandma on her grave stone along with one or two quotes. Between the picture and the quotes it would look less like a gravestone and more like a Facebook page. It was hard to believe it had been nearly a year since I lost my grandma.
I texted my mom to see what she had planned for the day. “Vietnamese and beer tasting,” my mom replied.
I have to come home more often, I thought to myself. At Solana Beach my mom greeted me by saying “Guess what we did last night?”
Before I could guess, my dad boasted, “We saw Maroon Five, and Kris Kalifa. As we were leaving an 18 year old girl patted me on the back. She said, ‘I just have to tell you that you were the coolest people here.’”
“I’m sure you were the coolest Kris Kalifa fans.”
After Vietnamese we visited three North County San Diego breweries. It was nice for us to drink beer together as a family until my dad started unleashing his jokes on unsuspecting bartenders.
“Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. Bartender says, what will you have?‘Olive or Twist?”
At dinner my mom bugged my dad about finally starting his blog. Because my dad spends so much time in the bathroom, my mom is making him write a blog called “The Bathrooms of San Diego.”
“Just be careful that you aren’t taking a picture of anyone’s dong,” I advised.
My dad took a photograph of the urinal.
On the morning of the unveiling my mom was not pleased that I would be wearing my vintage Pirate Starter Jacket to the cemetery. “The deceased don’t judge,” I argued.
I felt better when I saw that my Aunt Barb, Uncle Larry and Cousin Ari came toward the gravesite with their two Bedlington Terriors. It was a casual family affair, the way my grandma would have wanted.
We said the Mourners Kadish and each shared something nice about my grandma. After brunch we all went our separate ways. In just a few short hours I could cover my face again.
“I guess I’ll always be between trains…”