Riding Amtrak 2151-2172: Baltimore.

Five days gone. 4 memories remain. Freeman Dyson’s memory: Unreliable. Selecting. Rearranging. Forgetting. Embroidering. Inventing.

Scene 1: 

My assistant. So grateful to have an assistant. So grateful for her. Two introverts in well plowed furrows. “Are you sure, you want to go there and back same day? 7 hours on train, in 10 hours?” I look up. She knows the answer. There. Back. Exhaustion traded for sleep, sleep in my own bed.  Book it.

I’m waiting on the platform for Amtrak 2151 leaving at 7:54 am to Baltimore. It was for Dickens, and it was for me:  “One of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Scene 2:

She boarded at Penn Station. Student. Maybe 20. She’s determined, bangin’ away on an old model MacBook Air. Wireless white earpods pumping in music, she’s bobbing her head. The cover of her notepad: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Biomed? Engineering? Medicine? She snaps the laptop lid shut, turns her head to the window, leans back, closes her eyes and lets the morning sun warm her face. Confident. Ivy leaguer. At peace.

It’s Thursday, three days later, and I’m deep into Irvin Yalom’s Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir. I wouldn’t be caught dead seeking therapy, but this, ‘this’ memoir is well within bounds.  I’m back on the train, Ms. Johns Hopkins sitting across from me, and me, I’m so Irvin Yalom, so wanting to repeat that trip:

“I remember often being impatient and jittery, perhaps from culture shock, perhaps from not knowing how to live without grinding and studying. This sense of not feeling comfortable in my skin plagued me during my early adulthood. From the outside I was doing splendidly…and was performing well in every way, but deep inside, I was never at ease, never confident, and never grasping the source of my anxiety. I had some unclear sense…that I didn’t belong, that I was not as worthy or deserving as others. How I would love to repeat that trip now with the serenity of my current self.”

Scene 3:

“Where you from?” It’s the Uber driver looking through the rear view mirror at the suit.

“New York City.” Not sure why I said NYC and not where home is. Quicker, easier, but I’m pegged. La de da. Big Shot.

He doesn’t say another word.

Nor do I.

Scene 4:

Uber on way back to the train station. We stop at light. An older Vietnamese man, short, slight, limping badly on a gimpy left leg. He’s grimacing, and staring at the Walk Sign countdown…7, 6, 5… His Grandson clutches his right arm, trying to stabilize Grandpa.  His lips moving, encouraging: “It’s OK Grandpa, we have time. It’s ok.”  The light turns green, I look back through the rear window. They’ve stopped and rest on the other side of the street, Grandpa is hugging his Grandson. I bow my head, eyes watering. Good job Son. Good job.

And here I sit, Saturday morning. Replaying the scenes. Baltimore, March, 2018.

So wanting to repeat that trip now, with the serenity of my current self.

Serenity now. Serenity Prayer now.



  1. Whether Scene 4 is a real memory or not, it’s an image I’ll keep in my mind as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For a few brief moments, in that quiet of quiet, I was inside your skin.
    It looked good on me.
    I wore it well.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Reading along, as you on the train…me – Hopkins PhD program – yup, Yalom – one of my heroes…dissertations and doubts. I stop at the last image and linger – this.this.matters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Mimi. I’m about a 1/4 way through his memoir. It and he are something special. And yes, it does matter. And maybe the only thing that matters.

      “Make of all these stories what you want. But I’ll say this: Unless we help each other, who will? Being kind is easy. It has taken me 65 years to learn this, and how desperately I wish I’d known it sooner.”

      ~ Bob Brody, from “Random Acts of Kindness? Hardly.” (wsj.com, November 22, 2017)

      Liked by 4 people

  4. David, I always love these types of posts from you. You have us there with you along for the ride and it makes your blog so you, so delightfully you! So glad we are friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re from New York? I would never say in from Chicago. No one would believe me 😁

    Memory and Nacre have a lot in common. The lattice structure. A lot hidden that flickers just under the right light. And you wrote this under the right light…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Two phrases struck a chord with me -summer in the light, and winter in the shade – been there!
    And haven’t I had this same thought – How I would love to repeat that trip now with the serenity of my current self.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d like to store scenario four… It’s the only one worth it. I’m forever READING, it keeps me sane. No phone uploads, no music (and I’m a music lover), no games, books and the occasional brain game with a pencil in my hand – gotta keep those grey windings working!
    Beautiful text

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i love the assumptions you most likely made of each other – you, the student, the uber drivers, the grandfather and grandson. you are the only one whose perspective we know for sure, and assumptions can be so off. i love #4 the best, helping, connection, patience, compassion, and gratitude in one sweet scene.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kudos to you for appreciating your assistant – and I have no doubt you let her know.
    Memories are indeed fallible, aren’t they? And I love how our perspectives are all different. We can be three people participating in the same event, and not one of us has the same memory of it years later.
    And oh, how many trips would I like to retake with today’s serenity. Well, not exactly today because I’m not feeling so serene as another problem has crept up but you know what I mean… 😉
    You know these are my favourite posts of yours!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Simmering in the quiet of your words, savouring each flavourful burst of memory.

    Ah yes. This, this is what life is made of.


    Liked by 2 people

  11. Christie says:

    “it’s all about finding the joy and blessings in each day”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ahhh, pal, like many others have noted, these are among my favorite posts of yours. (Though I have to say, they’re neck in neck with your running (the gauntlet) posts, which we haven’t been treated to in some time, I might add — no weeping blisters, no screaming quads, no bile rising in the throat — but I digress.) Your incisive comments, your moments of searing reflection, master strokes all. And yes…serenity now….

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Memory is an illusion isn’t it? Great captures Mr K. May we all find serenity in this moment 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post David! I’m looking forward to catching up with your new serene beingness 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  15. AbSoLuTeLy. That Yalom quote strikes a nerve, as well it might for anyone in touch with their authentic emotions, back in those tumultuous days of youth. I would like to say – have said – that I have no desire to return to those tortured times. But honestly? With the ‘serenity of my current self,’ I gladly would. Can you imagine?! (But I’m also a realist …) ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Loved this. You are definitely pegged. In a good way, Mr. Serenity.

    Liked by 1 person

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