Riding Metro North. One Car Short.

Thursday morning.
33°F. Feels like 23°F.
Out the door at 4:50 am to catch the 5:01.


Directly across the street: new Neighbors. Young and DINK.  First things first. No curtains up, yet bright, white lights were carefully hand strung and evenly distributed across their bushes. The evergreens throw shadows on the front door. I pause. What was that? That softening, that load lightening ever so slightly. ‘Tis the season.

I board train. No open seats. At 5:01 a.m.?  Conductor announces that the train is one car short and apologizes. $15.25 for a one-way Peak ticket to Grand Central (Yes, Peak at 5:01 am.)  $15.25 and you get the privilege of standing. And standing for 55 minutes. Sigh.

I stand in the aisle, as the vestibule overflows with commuters. I set my bag down between my legs, grab the seat support, being careful not to brush against the passenger sitting in the seat.  I hover over him. He feels it. Nobody likes this.

We’re five minutes into the commute. I’m restless. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m not going to make it.

I’m hauling around yet another lousy night’s sleep. It’s been a 4-day consecutive string, each night with less than six hours of sleep and what sleep there was, was littered with bursts of devilish, unsettling dreams. A scene in Berryman’s sonnet captures it: “Troubled and drumming, tempting and empty waves.”

I glance left and catch the headline on the poster: How Big is the Perfect Family?

Family. Hmmm. Interesting.

I lean forward to read the rest of the ad. Maze4men.com. Men’s Sexual and Reproductive Health. Is your testosterone decreasing…Well, Are You a Man Over 30?  Is your diet killing your sex life? What happens in the Lab, stays in the Lab. 

Jesus, help me.

I turn to surfing the smartphone. Headlines….

Trump. Trump Jr. Hearings. Mueller. FBI. Investigations. Russia. U.S Embassy to Jerusalem. (Why?) North Korea. Russian Doping. #meone. #metoo.  #methree. Franken. Weinstein. Roy Moore. USA Gymnastics Doctor Sentenced to 60 Years in Child Pornography Case.  

I begin to turn away from this sewage and my eye catches the final headline: Hellish fires continue to burn in Ventura County.

Ventura County.


Ventura Highway.

I sync up the bluetooth to my earbuds, snug up the right and then the left by twisting them gently in each ear, and search for America’s Ventura Highway:

Chewing on a piece of grass
Walking down the road
Tell me, how long you gonna stay here, Joe?
Some people say this town don’t look good in snow
You don’t care, I know…

‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air

I close my eyes.

The train rocks forward.

And I hit repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.


  • Post Inspired by: “There is in the soul a desire for not thinking. For being still.” By Raymond Carver, from “Radio Waves,” All of Us: The Collected Poems
  • Image Credit: Arthur Brower (via Newthom)
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series.


  1. It is a apocolypse..

    I did however, have the same immediate reaction the other day. My band used to cover that song.

    So you spend $152.50 a week to ride the train back and forth? That’s crazy. (stated in a polite, sympathetic way)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You express beautifully, what life is like most days for people all over the world. And I felt like Mary Oliver would like to reply. 🙂

    “You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.”
    ― Mary Oliver

    Liked by 8 people

  3. Sometimes the only way to get through (& get to Grand Central) is by ratcheting the music down and repeating rhythm and lyrics until it infuses the mind with something to hold on to…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. There must be an alternative to this. You and this I mean.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. These are my favourite posts of yours. Not that you were stuck standing for 55 minutes ! Really? 5:01 is peak? What the he’ll is this world coming to? But because you have such a fabulous way of sharing what goes on in that head of yours when you are on the rails…

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Don’t you just live the perfect life? N.O.T….. not knowing you for long (in fact, just a few days or weeks) I have no idea at all why you are doing this Every.Morning. and IF you must do this. But it sounds, to me, the surest way to hell with a one-way ticket. I shudder just reading your daily grind…. The word ‘this sewage’ doesn’t go amiss.
    You know what; we have had it. This week, one morning over breakfast, we have decided to chuck it all in, sell our beautiful house and move back to our home country. Après moi le déluge! There is only so much sewage/craziness/gutterstuff one can take. When it starts affecting your mind, you gotta stop it. Sorry, if you just moved to a new place and work somewhere else. But there has to be some balance.
    But maybe I’ve got it all wrong and you do that for the fun of it. In that case you’d be a masochist. Which you aren’t. Masochists don’t write such achingly, terrifyingly beautiful posts…. So, if I had the time now, I’d definitely have to go back in your blogs to see what made you put upon yourself all that suffering.
    Your writing is S.O. V.E.R.Y. G.O.O.D….. I feel privileged to be able to read you (now…). And I ache for all of the above. The few times I had to take the 5am train to anywhere, I felt dead. Every time. I couldn’t do it anymore on a regular basis. There is s.hit we cannot avoid. But we are not obliged to eat it too.
    Have a GOOD day.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I was feeling your pain. Good job

    Liked by 1 person

  8. glad you were able to find your zen zone in the midst of all going on around you, both near and far. that is the sweet spot.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Not sure what I can add to the beautiful sentiments already shared, pal. I, too, hate that this is your normal, though just as coal placed under pressure creates a diamond, you, when pressed thusly, pen beautiful prose.

    Tis the season for reflection. Maybe time to take a step back and grab the long view…what’s going well, what would I like to change, where might I carve out a bit more space and time for ME?

    Personally, my dream for you is that you awake each morning at a sane hour (after a sound night’s sleep), roll out of bed, snap the leash on the dog, and go for a nice morning walk or jog — perhaps waving at the folks on the commuter train as it sails past — before returning home to spend your day writing or working via a telecommute. Life’s too short….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What’s up with lack of sleep? I know the feeling.. How much longer can you put with that grind? Wow … and I am complaining about my 1 1/2 hour commute drive.. It will come to an end soon. That is what I say to myself everyday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Paco. I commute to the city on the train at most 1-2x a week. And most days, the train ride is a wonderful refuge where you can catch up on your reading. (Not all days, like this one) Otherwise I drive to the office which is 20-40 minutes away which isn’t bad.


  11. “…Alligator lizards in the air, in the air……”

    Go with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Didn’t get back from work til midnight last night. I started reading this more than once but couldn’t focus.
    Had to come again and read this morning.

    Most days work is only 3 minutes away from home. I don’t get to listen to a whole song.

    My husband’s ex-wife always says, “Mercury must be in retrograde.” When things are off. I called her few days ago to ask her if it is in retrograde now. It’s been a weird week. Sure thing, it is.

    Beautifully written, as always, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. awesome

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Two moments of diversion…dream of these dream cabins, perfect for relaxing and sitting cozy by the fire to read…. http://suburbanmen.com/rustic-cabin-in-the-woods-20150323/56226/2/
    Just yesterday, I saw the commuter train on tv going through Darien…such a pretty spot…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Two things: Why would anyone want to live in a big city? and Thank God for Ventura Highway and the repeat button.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You can escape or transform the train ride by googling cabins around the world…while listening to Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft…or Christmas music while looking at Winter location cabins…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. ” Alligator lizards in the air ” Seriously ? I never understood that lyric. That’s all I’ve got…

    Liked by 1 person

    • America member Dewey Bunnell wrote this song. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times October 1, 2006, he explained: “It was 1963 when I was in seventh grade, we got a flat tire and we’re standing on the side of the road and I was staring at this highway sign. It said ‘Ventura’ on it and it just stuck with me. It was a sunny day and the ocean there, all of it.”

      Bunnell’s father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara. They were on a trip in the Oxnard area of southern California when they got stranded.
      Regarding the lyrics, “Seasons crying no despair, alligator lizards in the air,” Bunnell said: “The clouds. It’s my brother and I standing there on the side of the road looking at the shapes of clouds while my dad changed the tire.”
      There’s no official “Ventura Highway,” but Ventura is a county in California, and Highway 101 runs through it.


      Liked by 1 person

  18. What a great piece of writing, I felt like I was riding that train with you …

    Liked by 1 person

  19. …and repeat. I had to listen to that song as it didn’t immediately ring a bell – my band didn’t cover it. I always love to read your “privileged” reflections about commuting … thankfully there is portable music to take you through whatever suffering comes your way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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