refriedgringo

Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Palomar Street Trolley Station

Frequently, as though the perfect randomness of the natural world has somehow been invaded by coincidence and purpose (as though love and war or any human conditions have anything to do with anything at all), I am able to not be so cynical; a dark and depressing fatalist. If only for a moment or a few moments, I feel a bit human. More often than not, other people are not only involved, but also are very crucial in this metamorphic circumstance.

Sometimes, especially in such metamorphic circumstances, I actually feel more like a human being than a bookmarker between pages in the great big novel that might one day be called, "The Entire Miserable History of the Planet Earth". I can only make guesses as to how the book ends, incidentally, but so far it looks like we are going to need some sort of a miracle to get out of the cosmic undertow. I am also going to venture a guess that many people throughout history have made the same guesses about the ending of the book that I do.

Others have been far more optimistic.

* * * *


"May there be an end of raids and exile, and of panic in our streets. Happy the nation of whom this is true, happy the nation whose God is Yahweh!"

- The Holy Bible, Psalms 144:14 & 15


"National Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions. And it wants peace also owing to the realization of the simple primitive fact that no war would be likely essentially to alter the distress in Europe... The principal effect of every war is to destroy the flower of the nation... Germany needs peace and desires peace!"

- Adolf Hitler, 1935


"Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life."

- George Engel, 1887

* * * *


Somewhere north of this house, below in the street that parallels the one that I live on, a fiesta filled the warm night air. Last night The Who was loudly blasting throughout the colonia, in English, on some compact disc in a very loud music machine. Imagine that. People here do not speak much English. Conversely, I can’t imagine the Americans that I grew up with suddenly cheering for Lola Beltran singing some classic Ranchera tune, but the Mexicans at this party were screaming for joy when Behind Blue Eyes started playing.

This is yet another thing that gives me hope, however misplaced, that the human race might somehow affect its own mundane destiny in some way.

Who knows?

I even have it on good authority that we are still searching for a cure for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We are making headway, one white mouse at a time, so I am told.

Never mind the dead laboratory rats, full speed ahead!

* * * *


The trolley platform at Palomar Street station was crowded, and becoming more crowded as the moments passed. Friday, at almost eight in the evening, we all stood uncomfortably watching the distant light move slowly toward us, so slowly that it appeared that the train was making no headway at all. The air was finally cool, breezes fanned us as we made room for each other.

People shuffled and impatiently gazed at one another.

"It’s been at least a half-hour since the last one," said a man behind me.

He held three bags of groceries, the bags tied together so that he could alternate between holding his goods with either hand or slinging the cargo over either shoulder, which he did frequently. He was older than I was, wizened and gray-bearded, and he reminded me of a friend who I miss. I adjusted my pack, and noticed the light coming closer, people on the platform lining up to squeeze in to what would surely be three large red sardine cans overfilled with human sardines. I stepped back in order to get a perspective up the tracks and saw another light directly behind the one approaching us.

"There’s another one two minutes behind this one," I told him.

He seemed disgusted by the impatient crowd as the crossing gates lowered to impede the flow of traffic on Palomar Street. People crowded the yellow line, the trolley honked in protest and slowly pulled in. I stepped back, and so did he.

Two minutes would not make a difference to either of us.

It took so long for the trolley to pull out because people were attempting to defy the law of physics, the one that prohibits matter from occupying too much volume in one place without variation of temperature that might change solids into liquids or gasses.

People were attempting to redefine their own molecules in order to get into that trolley. For some reason, getting into this particular trolley was so important to some people. Imagine that.

* * * *


We sat in the next trolley car, there were plenty of seats for everyone. I was reading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., which is a book about the importance of volunteer firefighters, the ugliness of rich ignorant snobs, and the true definition of sanity. After a brief conversation with the gray-bearded gentleman about the nature of the book, and so on, he commented that he recognized that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, was a science-fiction writer. I laughed.

"The Sirens of Titan," I told him, "was probably what you read."

The Sirens of Titan is also a book about the importance of volunteer firefighters, the ugliness of rich ignorant snobs, and the true definition of sanity, except that some of it takes place on other celestial bodies. Some people confuse that with science-fiction.

Vonnegut might disagree, but I think this is a perfectly acceptable error to make.

Some people, for example, think that Star Trek was all about outer space.

In fact, Star Trek was also all about the importance of volunteer firefighters, the ugliness of rich ignorant snobs, and the true definition of sanity.

The aliens were of no consequence in the end.

* * * *


After our conversation, I turned to my book, and overheard his broken Spanish to the pretty Mexican girl sitting across from him. He lives in Tijuana, and his Spanish is coming along just fine.

Good for him.

The trolley moved along, clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack.

She seemed charmed and delighted with the conversation, and he was polite and friendly and enjoying himself. We did not exchange good-byes as the train pulled into San Ysidro, but I silently wished him well. I hope that his newly chosen country will delight him every bit as much as it has delighted me over the years.

Suerte, amigo, good luck, friend.

I left the trolley and went to a cash machine, since I have caved in and subjected myself to a bank account and I need to occasionally get some cash. One machine was out of order, and the other one told me that my account had no money in it.

This is not true, by the way. According to the bank’s webpage, I have one hundred and eight dollars and thirteen cents that I can withdraw whenever I want to do so.

But last night, the machine told me that I was broke.

Broke as a joke.

* * * *


This afternoon, there is no clue that a fiesta was in full gear last night until at least three o’clock this morning, when I went to bed and it was still just as loud and happy as it was when I came home at about ten o’clock last night. Too bad, really. I just heard a wonderful song, a song about triumph and peace. While there isn’t anything in the lyrics to hint at the importance of volunteer firefighters, it could be construed to include the ugliness of rich ignorant snobs and certainly says a lot about the true definition of sanity:


I am still living with your ghost
Lonely and dreaming of the west coast
I don’t want to be your downtime
I don’t want to be your stupid game

With my big black boots and an old suitcase
I do believe I’ll find myself a new place
I don’t want to be the bad guy
I don’t want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to see some palm trees
Go and try and shake away this disease

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

I am still dreaming of your face
Hungry and hollow for all the things you took away

I don’t want to be your good time
I don’t want to be your fall-back crutch anymore

I’ll walk right out into a brand new day
Insane and rising in my own weird way
I don’t want to be the bad guy

I don’t want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore
I just want to feel some sunshine
I just want to find some place to be alone

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die


- "Santa Monica" by Everclear

* * * *


Lucky for me, I stashed back a twenty-dollar bill, a twenty-dollar bill that will keep me in Tecate and Pacificos until I can find a machine to withdraw some of my one hundred and eight dollars and thirteen cents. Mexico is generous that way, twenty dollars will buy a lot here sometimes, at least when it comes to Tecate and Pacificos.

Somewhere north of this house, there is probably someone who was not so frustrated by a cash machine, yet still cannot manage to recover two-hundred and twenty pesos for some creature comforts.

And certainly, we are both far luckier in the end than was George Engel. He was hanged by the neck a moment after he uttered his immortal words about it being the happiest moment of his life.

Some people are made happy by the strangest things. Like maybe cramming into an already full trolley car at the Palomar Street trolley station. Or maybe even waiting for the next trolley to arrive that isn’t so full.

Or even Tecates and Pacificos.

2 Comments:

Anonymous ugly said...

gringo, I just started a new blog called Ugly Blog, so I've been looking around for ugliest related blogs. Anyway, I found this entry (Palomar Street Trolley Station) during my search so I thought I'd make a quick post to let you know! I'd be happy to trade links if you're interested. Have a great day - Eric

9:49 PM, October 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,
I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog :-)
Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day :)

11:58 AM, January 29, 2007  

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