And My Train Just Ran Through it

{In returning to my people and my place after a 3 month sabbatical, I desired to look at it, and my book that celebrates it, with a new perspective. A good friend encouraged the thought and pushed me to be creative in the way I did that. In chapter 2 of You Are There we speak about the train that shapes and defines our little town, just like every town is defined by some landmark. What must it be like for big city folk who travel through on that train and just get a glimpse of this ideal life?}

I fell asleep before we ever left Jack London Square. The frantic morning took way too much out of me. Waking up before dawn to catch a train ruins the romance of a fancy city center hotel with all the amenities. The amenities were still tucked up in bed. Wake up, clean up, dress for business, dash to the cab, sprint to the station and drag my tired self to the upper level car hoping for a seat on the coastal side – none to be found. It’s the port side for me.

My L.A. advertising company has been doing business in the bay area for generations. I’ve come to discover that I do old business in the old way and they’ve discovered it’s best to let me. The chugga chugga of the Coast Starlight gets my creative juices flowing – and the hurry, wait, hurry, wait of the airport security line arrests my soul, gives it a good pat down and hands it back to me, along with my belt, my shoes and my dignity.

I slept southbound through San Jose and Salines, waking up with a shake somewhere in the grassy hills of San Luis Obispo County just as the train made a grand, sweeping turn to the left. We rounded that curve on what had risen into a glorious summer morning and entered a small town whose name could have been Shangri La for all I know…or Radiator Springs…or Mayberry. The school was empty, quiet and the grasses touched here and there with the golden color of drought. Not a sign of children there, but then we bent around towards a little commity park where time stood still…and it did again for me, just long enough to take it all in.

A playground built like an old west storefront was presently home to a swarm of children running wild. Swings swung high and swings swung low. Little ones streamed down the slide, roughly one by one, like the drones in line for the TSA – only with shoes and dignity. At least with dignity. One young boy stood king of the world on top of the play structure called the  merchantile, just like a Sheriff patrolling his beat.

A local fire truck was letting kids spray the hose  while other kids were having their faces painted. A group in yellow vests  bbqed hamburgers for a hungry crowd. And some pickers and grinders in 5 gallon hats crowed out from the gazebo while locals sat, tapped or danced under the shade of mulberry trees.

That’s right, its July 4 and this is a true American celebration of the true American life. Somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles a Norman Rockwell painting has come to life. Some little town enjoys the life I sell in ads to city slickers in either direction…and my train just ran through it.