Wednesday, March 27, 2019

I Took the Train Instead

So I went to Boulder to visit my beloved niece Rose, and her delightful boyfriend Lawrence -- and to meet their fabulous new kitty, Penny!
Penny is quite the conversationalist
and loves to be cuddled -- when she feels like it.

Penny is the first cat that I have petted in about 70 years.  I used to be terribly allergic and just recently found out that I wasn't anymore!

R&L took me to a beautiful view of the Flatirons, the rather astonishing geological phenomenon of Boulder.

It looks like I'm living in a different climate from the young'uns.

I was scheduled to FLY home on SOUTHWEST on Tuesday night.  Two days before, on Sunday, the second 737 plane crashed in Ethiopia.  I felt that, except for China and Indonesia, everyone seemed to have a rather cavalier attitude toward the event:  "Now, let's not get all excited.  Let's take time to figure out exactly what happened before we do anything rash like ground the planes."  I rarely find myself on the same side of an issue as China and Indonesia, but there it was. 

I phoned Southwest, discovered I would be returning home on the suspect 737, cancelled my ticket, and bought a ticket on Amtrak.  Admittedly, it cost four times as much because I was getting a roomette to sleep in, and would take 35 hours instead of 2 1/2.  But I felt I was worth it.

Little did I know I was going on one of the great train trips of the world --and I was going to make a new friend!

I was worried about being bored out of my mind, so on Monday I went to Red Letter Books, a great used bookstore, and bought a lot of books.  I think the total came to about $10.   The man gave me the Theatre Arts magazines for a reduced price  because I was a playwright, and he threw in BURR for free.  They really know how to drive a hard bargain at used bookstores.
The woman in the lower right hand corner is Muriel Miguel, my very good friend. 
Not often you discover a book with your friend on the cover!

The train left at 8 am on Tuesday morning from Denver Union Station, which is a very nice place to hang out or eat or shop.  This photo was taken in the afternoon on an earlier visit.

Of course the train was late.  I don't think Amtrak does "on time."  My friend Elliot says that for Amtrak, being late is a tradition.   The lateness allowed Dee and me to discover that we were both going all the way to San Francisco.  Dee was fleeing "Colderado," as she called it, in search of warm weather.  She actually intended to go to Phoenix, but the bus station was too far a walk.  

Only 45 minutes late, off we went!  Through Colorado, across Utah, Nevada, and California to the City by the Bay.

Golden, CO

There's a reflection of a table in the middle of this photo.  Lots of reflections in the photos that follow.

The Dining Car.   Meals were included with my roomette and I met many interesting people.

Winter Park Ski Resort

Arapaho National Forest


Many Cars Stuck in Snow in Fraser


The observation car where I hung out, except for meals and sleep

Miles and Miles of Snow-Draped Trees

At one point, we were stopped for an hour and a half by a giant boulder on the tracks ahead.  They had to bring in a big steam shovel to move it.  The boulder was as big as a car.  Hey, they don't call them the Rocky Mountains for nothin', right?  So we contemplated logs for a while.


Finally, we were off!  (I'm sorry, but I accidentally put in some of these photos twice, and the "Remove" function doesn't appear to be working, so you have to look at them twice.)


These amazing rocks were very difficult to get a good photo of. 
They're kind of like Swiss cheese.

White River National Forest, Glenwood Springs


This is the aforementioned Dee.   She was fleeing Colderado and throwing herself on the mercy of the cosmos, and she ended up with me!  She's been my houseguest for the last week and a half.  On the train, she mentioned that she had an interest in Buddhism but knew nothing about it.  I'm a member of the San Francisco Zen Center.  I would describe myself as having a toe in the river of Buddhism for quite a few years now.  I took her for a dharma talk, and she has made the most wondrous connection there.  

As we went into  the question-and-answer tea after the talk, she told me she's too shy to ask questions, but she learns from what other people ask.  Then she raised her hand and asked, "What is dharma and what is the purpose of the Zen Center?"  Wow.  The lecturer was inspired by Dee's question to be so much more interesting than she'd been in her talk!  

Then we sat at the newcomer's table for lunch, where a young resident in the traditional black robe answered the newbies' questions.  Finally, all the newcomers had left except for Dee.  The resident in was so moved by her.   He got teary-eyed over Dee's openness and intuitive understanding of Buddhism.  In every encounter there, people respond to Dee's warmth.  And she feels a sense of belonging and a love for the very tightly organized structure of Zen.   It's kinda like Dee was looking for the Zen Center and they were looking for her.  They immediately asked her to come in and  chop vegetables.  I mean, I've been hanging out there for YEARS, and they never asked ME to chop vegetables!  Not that I WANT to chop vegetables, but it's always nice to be ASKED.  

Next week, Dee is meeting the director of SFZC so he can answer her questions.  She's ready to move in and chop vegetables. I feel so grateful to be the channel that connected her with Buddhism.  I love being a channel.  I'm making the world better, and it's so easy!  It's not like trying to make the world better by electing a progressive candidate, which is so much WORK.  Phone banking, canvassing, schlepping up and down stairs in San Francisco to hang leaflets on doors.  I'm not saying it doesn't have its moments, but for me, it's work.  But channeling -- you just live your life and take the train and somehow wonderful things happen.  

Dee and I have the same birthday, so we're twins -- although she's 22 years younger.  Anyhow, back to the train:

Clifton.  This is a little better photo of those rocks.

Fruita.  Now we're following the Colorado River

Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness

Now we go to sleep. 

 We awaken in the high desert.  Lovelock, Nevada

The Truckee River.  Verdi


Donner Lake.  Truckee

Oops!  Same photo twice.

The good old Sacramento Delta.  Port Costa

And ending in Emeryville!  The train can't go over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.  So you have to take a bus.  I know, to be consistent, I should have photos of Emeryville and San Francisco.  But it was a long train ride.  

My true destination, my garden at 547 Douglass St. between 21st & 22nd St.:
It ain't the Rockies or the Sierras, but it'll do.