I take the train every weekday morning from the East Side into Union Station, then change trains there to the West Side. Often, as I stand waiting for a train, I can hear Johnny Cash in my head singing Folsom Prison Blues.
As I wait, that song plays in my head, those guitar strings twang and I’m smiling as I wait. There have always been these train tracks in my life it seems. When I was little, I’d cross the tracks to go to school. My mother warned of the hobos. When my grandfather brought me home to the grandparent’s home on Goodwin Avenue, we got off the third bus we’d taken that day to get there and cross the tracks to get home. In junior high, the tracks in Maywood and Huntington Park were where the fights were. Whether we were walking home, minding our own business, or being lookers on, those fights took place on the tracks. I took a train from Los Angeles to New York with a man I loved and my children and we saw the country. I can’t tell you how many Amtrak trains I’ve taken to San Diego or Santa Barbara an then there was the trolley in San Diego I’d take to San Ysidro before crossing the border into Tijuana when I lived there. I did that every day too.
So here I am gazing down at the tracks, humming a sad tune and smiling as I go about my day. Sometimes those tracks have stories to tell and I, well I listen. Sometimes I’ll write them. You’ll find train tracks in a lot of my stories. Now you know why.