Saturday, November 12, 2011

A TGV Hobo

This is the French high speed train, the TGV:

We rode this twice on our recent trip, and it was certainly the best train ride of my life.  Clean, quiet, pretty much on time.  The seats were comfortable and compared to our recent airline seating were roomy and luxurious.  The French also have a nice sense of style, they had some very fetching young ladies as attendants on the platform getting people on and off in rapid fashion.  These mademoiselles were decked out in marvelous uniforms that made them look like Cossack officers with lots of pink trim.  I called them the Fashion Police.  Spouse forbid me to photograph them, pointing out that it might be illegal.

And the worst train ride of my life?  Oh, you have to go back a ways.  Once back in my Med School days my brother and I decided we would try being hobos for a trip out west.  We were influenced by a friend of ours, a certain "Shoe" whose relative sense of fun and danger should have been clear to us from his evident enjoyment of marijuana and his overseas work helping clear mines in Cambodia.*

There are a lot of details of that trip that are better left unchronicled, but I will always remember a train of vintage boxcars filled with what looked like nice comfortable cardboard.  We hopped aboard, only to discover that it was a train of cars headed to a repair facility.  They all had damaged wheels.  The train could only limp along with "relative" safety at about 30 miles per hour.  And as we were essentially running on square wheels there was an incessant racket and shimmy to the ride.  After many hours of "chunk-chunk-CHUNK---chunk-chunk-CHUNK" we staggered off this journey of the damned in Glasgow Montana, a community that I am unlikely to ever see again, but will eternally regard as a blessed, tranquil Eden.
*At a recent gathering of old friends I heard various tales of "Shoe's" fate.  He became a banker (probably false).  He still lives by a train yard (probably true).  He married a woman from Cambodia who later left him and joined a Buddhist monastery in France (yes, that seems plausible).

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