These layovers in the Bay area are always fun, I try to get them whenever possible. I get to see my old friends from Austin who have transplanted themselves here. Pixie and Trey D. both live out here now. This time I opt for Pixie and her new roommate Delia. They pick me up from the San Jose Wyndham and off we go, into San Francisco, down Haight, passed Amoeba Records, until we came to a row of bars. This one is called Noc Noc. The crowd was modest and the atmosphere was relaxed. Nobody seemed to mind the joint we were passing around, but you know there would have been hell to pay if it were a cigarette, damn Californians.
With a healthy buzz in our heads, we collectively decided that this summer eve should be enjoyed outside rather than in a smokeless bar. We find our way to a lonely playground, across the street from a train line. The swings were in excellent condition and the slide was one of the slipperiest I have ever slid down. The seesaw was too short but the merry-go-round was well oiled. Pixie and I left Delia on the swings and floated over to the railroad tracks, dodging the cars like Frogger. Once across, we lie across the tracks, stare at the skies and listen to the throb and bustle of the busy city somewhere over those hills. Nothing was said, we were lost in our thoughts, which was much better than the stoned blabbering we usually have. Every few minutes we’d feel the track for train vibrations, ala Stand by Me, but tracks always seem to have a vibration in the city.
We give up the paranoia and just lie there motionless. After a good while of absent reflection and pondering, Pixie sits up and laughs, “You know Attan, the way the street and the tracks are parallel, you know,” she starts to explain.
“Well, because the road curves over there, it looks like those car headlights are on the train tracks instead of on the road. Crazy.”
I sit up and try to see what she is talking about, mainly just to humor her. Nothing is worse than when you are high and start talking crazy, but in your mind you make complete sense. I understand this and look down the tracks, squinting to differentiate the streetlights from the car lights from the stars. After a good thirty seconds of accustoming my eyes, I realize in horror that those lights aren’t on the road, they really are on the tracks. The Amtrak apparently runs by here at midnight. This realization is echoed by the train’s whistle, surprised as much by us as we are by it. I jump up, completely sober at this point, and grab Pixie by the arm, running purely on adrenaline. It would be a shameful death to be hit by a train. That’s what I’m thinking as we jump into the gravel and thorny weeds as the train whizzes by. Pixie and I are holding each other as tight as we can, half laughing and half crying. In an instant it’s gone, as quickly and quietly as it came. About that time Delia stumbles over to the tracks and we tell her what had just happened.
“How the hell could you not hear a train?!” she demanded.
“I have no idea, but you couldn’t hear it. Maybe they have noise laws for this time of night. We are in a residential neighborhood, you know. I’m sure there’s some kind of noise ordinance and these trains have to be neighborhood friendly.” I rationalize.
“Attan that is ridiculous! You almost got killed, not because of some fucking noise ordinance, but because you are fucked up, lying around on…”
Just then another train dashes by. We all scream as it passes the same direction the Amtrak did. It was only a few cars long but it made my point.
“See.” I say mockingly, “I’m telling you, these are the trains of the future, silent as the night itself.”
We leave at this point; I have to be on the plane early tomorrow morning. They drop me off at the Wyndham.