Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Rail Yards

Google Maps absorbs my wanderlust these days, what's not consumed physically by the 480 mile round trip run I make to Holbrook and back to Albuquerque five nights a week.

A few days ago I was looking at the overhead view of Pyongyang, North Korea on Google Maps and noticed a sizable rail yard going through the center of town. I took a screen shot of a section of it and posted it on Twitter, which absorbs what impulse I have to socialize, and wrote a little poem to caption it, something like Pyongyang rail yards, She was headed east, I was headed west, The rest is history. Which was universally ignored like everything else I post to Twitter. Twitter is kind of like an abbreviated Facebook. I switched over a few months ago because Facebook seemed like a big waste of time. It's basically a bunch of people commenting on things that are going on and doing nothing about them. "Oh that's great!" "Oh, that's terrible." That's Facebook and Twitter. People on a porch watching the world go by and commenting on it.

In Twitter you're limited to 140 characters in your posts and comments so it does take up less time. I'm not clear on the informal rules governing it but most people don't generally post things about themselves. They post headlines and links to articles and the more creative and well informed ones write quick takes on current news. Just like on Facebook. There are people who use Facebook to post things about their personal lives but the posts that come onto my page on both Facebook and Twitter are put there by the people I've associated myself with, my Democrat brother and people interested in Palestine and some US socialist leaning activists.

I was thinking about the Pyongyang rail yards today and looked up the rail yards in the town I grew up in, New Buffalo, Michigan. They're entirely deserted. They were always busy and provided some good union jobs. A friend, George Bates, got a job there after we put in our two years at Lake Michigan Junior College in Benton Harbor, but eventually he'd been transferred to the big yards 40 miles away in Gary, Indiana, outside Chicago. But there were still always hundreds if not thousands of train cars parked in the New Buffalo yards. They used it to store the kind of cars that carry shipping containers, and now those are gone, so it looks pretty naked.

I lived directly across from the New Buffalo Elementary School and it was maybe a quarter mile through the woods to the rail yards. You could hear the trains, especially at night lying in bed, the cars banging together as they made up the long trains, and feel the rumble of the switching locomotives when they put the fuel to it to get a string of cars moving.

In Pyongyang, North Korea, there's a kid lying in bed who has that. Maybe he can't leave, but he can think about it.


  1. Frank
    Hey pal, got back to Mt a couple days ago, adjust to life here, altitude, etc.
    The most recent issue here is the drought, and the dryness of the area, and the upcoming holiday, where fireworks are unleashed.
    The idea being fronted tonight is the city council might ban fireworks for the holiday.....and the reaction is unprecedented, from my experience. The banning of fireworks because of fire danger is an example of Obama's troops invading, black helicopters, and a further erosion, nay flooding, of our blessed constitutional right to do whatever the fuck we want, no concern to consequences.
    But I digress.
    Does anyone hit the rails anymore? I was friends with a woman in the 70's that said she went from Missoula to Chicago and back on them.
    I think my posts might be more interesting in the future, I've only thinned the herd by one so far....

    1. Great comment, thanks! As usual thought provoking - you got me thinking about what's behind the "do whatever the eff you want" impulse. Just to try to understand it. The consequences to society aren't taken into consideration or are suppressed or something in one of those rationalization maneuvers. Is it a lack of a conscience and good sense, or is the impulse just very strong? I wonder if these people feel powerless and so resist any infringement, or are just acting on the pleasure principle? And why do they lack a sense of community?

      Seeing how the issues of racism and gay rights have been playing out makes it seem useless to consider such things. Just get some power and make people do the right thing, is about all you can hope for, I think. And let behavioral psychology change people?