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(Most of this is about autism and belonging and not trians.) Though I titled it "Hopping" I really just wasn't called in today to 'work on the railroad' rather than illegally riding freight trains. So I thought I'd explain that.

I spent tons of time today in a coffee shop because our car is still dead, the new car is not yet bought, and at least the coffee shop was on the right side of the train tracks, so I could be sure to get to the rail yard on time if I was called in. But I was not called in, so I waited and waited and waited in the coffee shop and nearby until 7 or 8 hours later I gave up, went home, and found that I would not work today after all. I guess this is the downside of this kind of work, but I am keeping optimistic. This could still be a job for me to love. I hope!

I am a terrible eavesdropper, and I heard someone talking about a person who is autistic, and that happens to be what I am thinking about tonight. (I also just watched this season of Atypical on Netflix.)

The person was talking about autism, but my thoughts have nothing to do with that actual person or context. It is entirely about me tonight.

I am about 100 percent certain that I am somewhere on the autism spectrum, though its mental illness that I have actively been thinking about and treating my whole adult life. I have self administered a few autism tests and I came up with high numbers every time.

I never have talked to a medical professional about autism. I wish I could bring myself to have time for that, but when I am with a doctor or therapist, I am trying to heal my diagnosed condition instead. Questions come to mind that I wish I knew the answer, for sure. An early question is I wonder the difference between being "on the spectrum" and being "autistic?" A deeper question is, if I am autistic, am I doing things that are socially inept or wrong that I could/should/might benefit from learning not to do?

Then I come around to the answer that has always kept me avoiding pursuing this too much farther. I like me. And I don't think it generally is healthy for me to try to avoid social ineptness. That's because a huge part of my life is spent trying too hard to please others, being anxious about what others must think about what I have done, and not enough of my life has been about CLAIMING WHO I AM, BEING PROUD OF MY DIFFERENCES, and DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF ESPECIALLY IF I THINK SOMEONE MIGHT BE UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE OF ME.

But I am reading "Belonging" by Toko pa Turner. It is my new favorite book but not lightly. It is the best book I ever have read. And I hope it helps me figure out how to be more proud of who I am, no matter what.

Posted Thu Sep 20 00:30:29 2018

3 AM, a different whistle collides with a 'dumb' alarm on a smart phone. Did I hear every train last night? My bed is a quick walk from the tracks and I think so. I am preparing for work on the railroad, as I call my job transporting train crews. I tell myself the first day of waking up at 3 is the hardest. I really don't get called in until 12:40PM, but I am on call at 4A.

Hey! There is another whistle. Have a good trip, boys! (And amazing woman?!)

One week ago, I had no idea that there even were "train people." Oblivious, I walked over the tracks, waited for the cars to pass in a car in Bristol TN or VA, or all over the place. You'd reckon a person would think about the crews running Freight Trains. But, not me until a week ago. I try not to admit that too much today.

In a flash, my last night's dream returns to me. I am the conductor on my first day, and I am the wrong person for the job, completely unprepared, little ol' me! Thank goodness that is not reality!

I would love to talk of everything that happens today, but it is simply too many beautiful, rainy, intriguing moments. Two formations of Canada geese intersecting pathways, the manual derailment of a slow moving single engine pulling one car, the myriad yards common folks like me never new existed, yards in places I thought I knew with entire islands of tracks and gravel, the uncertainty of the daily plan, the fact that today and Wednesday I am still in "train"ing. :)

At Wythville we pick up an engineer and conductor whose train derailed today, a terrible luck but alive, now our (bleary eyed) passengers. What a duty we have.

Like many, I used to say "it's the economy stupid" as a phrase to explain things. But as we drove today, I started thinking that the ultimate driving force in our world is not the economy, it is hunger. I was thinking about the infrastructure of the railroads and the highways and how I have been told they were built to go everywhere with military needs in mind. Of course, it is the military industrial system, among systems, that everything "goes" for. I don't know why today made me think about hunger. (I did eat a ton of lasagna when I got home this evening. But I don't think that is it.) Really I think it is important to mention the reason for the economy though.

I guess why I am mentioning this is I sometimes have to justify my employment area. Like, for ten or 20 years I refused to work for any corporation. I worked for nonprofits, schools, individuals, small farmers, so forth. Anyway, this is by no means my intended thesis, of my hopeful train memoir, but the need behind capitalism is real. Call it hunger.

So when an engineer said something to us about "Jihad" it was super easy for me to turn the other cheek. Actually, I have so much respect for these railroad workers, I just cannot explain it, and the drivers.

They are well aware that they are driving something vulnerable to danger, and bleary eyed from occasional derailing or long hours, it doesn't seem to me that I would do that particular job for any amount of money, but everyone uses at least something our freight trains deliver. (I looked up on the Norfolk and Southern website earlier and confirmed this.)

I write this to Tom Waits train music, to Bob Dylan, and Marley.

This day has been incredible but it has been long. So I bid adieu.

Posted Tue Sep 18 00:44:31 2018

If every man considered himself a feminist,

every woman would be considered a sensible equal,

every girl would allow herself to carry away on her wildest dreams,

every boy would know to respect women and girls.

I try to be specific but it becomes like a description of a foreign utopia.

Descriptions become jagged statistical comparisons with our present.

If all genders were paid equally,

power would spread equally,

leadership would be for actual leaders

with merit based elections.

There are male feminists today.

It's why the world hasn't completely ended.

May they learn to multiply.

Posted Fri Sep 14 19:38:26 2018

I go in to sign paperwork for a job opening at Station 143. The job is as a shuttle driver, transporting railroad workers to and from home. "Meet me at noon in the rail yard," says the voice on the phone. I don't really know where I am bound exactly, but I walk from my home for a stretch of limbs. Ten minutes after leaving my porch, I am crossing the tracks, following the railroad under the roof of the train station. A car would go down hill then up hill again, but I figure the way I am heading, if I just follow the tracks I am bound to find the office. Five, five line lizards scatter in the dry rocky terrain underfoot. It feels wonderful to be walking. I run through my mind the highlights of my personal narrative, my reasons for wanting the job. Mostly I am just interested in the story of the railroad workers. How do they feel on the train? Is it exhilarating or a just huge responsibility?

As expected, the office awaits me. I am ten minutes early, but one of the vans of the company I'd drive for rolls into the yard, so I approach the driver to ask him if this is the right place. He says wait a couple minutes and the boss lady should show face. Almost a heartbeat later, she rolls in in a black car. She hands me a packet of paperwork through the window. Drug test, background check, extensive application. The boss says I can go in the building and sit to fill it out. Inside, I interrupt a lively conversation to ask if there is a seat. It's a thrill to go in and feel the bustle of the office, with all the crew members talking about the train they then boarded. I am filling out forms, but glance up at the workers. They are all men except one woman who enters saying it is good to not be on a train. Two men discuss the "tonnage" of the train in the yard.

I feel I am somewhere entirely different, something of the trains of Harry Potter, how stepping into one of them can pull you out of the human world directly into a fantasy. Finishing up my papers, I am a bit self absorbed, and fail to notice the trickle of workers leaving the office, until the sudden moment of absolute quiet, when it is just the boss and me left behind. We are finishing things up, and she photocopies my identification, so it is not until I am standing outside the building that it becomes clear to me, the screaming sound of the train on the tracks, I see that all those people have pulled away to some Southern destination. I follow beside the train, as I head back homeward. Probably the same lizards scatter.

3AM the whistle blows again.

Posted Fri Sep 14 12:34:06 2018

Everyone is born with the potential for creative genius, to be a creative genius. There are writers, inventors, artists, gardening, computer developers, designers, humorists, culinary artists, musicians, play writers, actors, dancers, crafter makers, many other imaginable kinds, and the unborn. Those whose great potential has not yet been tapped into, who don’t yet have confidence or belief that they have a creative bone in their bodies are called the unborn. Their skill is most necessary.

Everyone is born with the ability to earn income from their creativity. Together we could make up the creative economy. Our world could be about something more. The very word "more" could have a quality to it, rather than sheerly being quantitative. Creating is one way to heal the Earth's ailments. Creativity is perhaps the best therapy, redirection of material oriented desire, and creativity is positive and constructive. As creatives we should build off of the ideas our friends have, instead of inventing wars over whose is the smartest.

Inventive thinking admits humility first off, so that as swiftly as possible, the next person can suggest to build and grow our instinctual idea. This is what creative people call brainstorming. Creators pay each other just to sit together thinking out loud about cumulative projects. Human suffering and environmental demise reduces in part, as a course of natural action.

The capitalist model has it all wrong, because Earth resources are finite and money is seen as infinite though based on oil, food, raw material goods. Creative economy thinks about improving whole Earth. Creative economy aims for wealth of Earth, so human gardening is one part of creative economy.

Fresh water currently runs low. Ultimate goals of creative economy aim at refreshing aquifers, ending corporate ownership of watersheds, and keeping water clean. These are early thoughts. Humility admits all thoughts are early thoughts, as these are. Onward and upward, creative economy grows.

Posted Wed Sep 5 19:03:38 2018

Me at 18 to the tune of The Office A Comedy by Maggie Hess


Friend from back home (1): It wasn’t like she was crazy or something.

Friend (2): She always was a little different but aren’t we all.

Friend (3): I just remember her being excited about moving to the city. But it was because she said she was imaging ghosts.

Friend (1): She had a really big heart, you see.

Friend (2): She was like any one of us.

Friend (3): But we all swam in the river so much after the toxic spill.

ACT I Poppy’s Hotel

Minga has been staring at Manny for a long period of time, across the staff meal table while he Manny reads the paper.

Manny: So Minga, have you explored the city much since being here.

Minga: Oh come on! You cannot fool me!

Manny: I am not trying to fool you in any way. I frankly don’t know what you mean by that. I just thought since you are in the city you might want to get out.

Minga: This city was founded hundreds of years ago. There is a map on the wall. You can’t convince me I could discover a new district.

In walks the hotel manager..

Minga: Hey Poppy.

Manny: (sitting up taller) Hey boss.

Poppy: Don’t call me boss.

Manny: Yes sir.

Poppy: Don’t call me sir.

Minga giggles.

Manny: Oh, yes Mr. Hersh.

Poppy: You know you can call me Alfredo, don’t you Manny? (exits through the door to the staff kitchen where the comanager Mr Primavero is cooking.)

Mr Primavero: You harassing the new intern?

Poppy: Me? (chuckling)

Minga: (reads the reverse side of the newspaper that Manny is holding)

Manny: So you just got back from Mexico right?

Minga: Don’t play stupid.

Manny: Really, Minga. I am trying to be your friend. I promise I think you are nothing but cool. I really had heard you were in Mexico like last week. That’s why I asked.

Minga: I was in the mental hospital.

Manny: (mouth drops and pushes up newspaper so she doesn’t see his expression) Oh sorry.

Minga: You don’t have to be all weird about it. The doctor says if I take my medicines I will stop having the visions. (But cries a little.)

Poppy: (comes quickly in) Are you upsetting my daughter?

Manny: No sir. I didn’t mean to sir.

Poppy: Don’t call me sir!

Manny: Yes, boss. (ahem) Mr. Hersh. (ahem) Alfredo.

Poppy: Did he? (to Minga)

Minga: What, Poppy?

Poppy: Nevermind bumpseedoo.

In walks Alfredo with a pile of boiled Artichokes.

Primavero: What in the world is new?

Manny: There’s an Flaming Lips concert tomorrow night.

Primavero: Good luck collecting the change for that!

Minga: I wanted to go.

Poppy: My little girl wants to go? I’ll be sure to get some tickets for us.

Minga: I will go if Manny comes.

Poppy: I thought you wanted to go?

Minga: I do. But Manny has to come too. That’s okay isn’t it Poppy?

Poppy: I don’t know. I’d have to chaperone.

Manny: ahem

Primavero: Then it’s settled. Hope you three have a wonderful time.

Manny: (gets up and leaves the room in a huff)

Poppy: (calls after Manny) You like your job, don’t you, Manny?

Manny: Yes, sir, Mr. Hersh, Alfredo, that is.

Minga: Are you hiring another intern, Poppy?

Poppy: We are, yes.

Minga: I would like to try for the job.

Primavero: That might be a conflict of interest.

Minga: What is that?

Poppy: Don’t mind him. I don’t think it should be a problem, honey. You are so much brighter than most young people, Minga.

Primavero: We are really going to have to agree on this Alfredo.

Poppy: You’re hired, Minga. You can start tomorrow morning.

Minga: But I saw that Manny is working the night shift.

Poppy: Right. And that means you will work the day shift.

Minga: But I’d never see him that way.

Primavero: You know what Minga, you are hired!

Posted Mon Sep 3 18:27:11 2018

Water cold enough to cool us down

we idly floating passers by

bobbing gently to the sound

a warm perspective gained beneath her sky.

Posted Sun Sep 2 02:21:45 2018

Yes, slow was the theme today, floating down the Clinch River with 4 family members, 3 inner tubes and a canoe. We decided to go the short stretch which meant, 2 miles, instead of up to 8. We imagined it would take 2 hours, but not with tubes! It took 4.5 hours because our tushes were dragging in the water, or in my case, I swam a lot of it, and others did too.

Wildlife spotting: one small snapping turtle, two great blue herons, neighboring birds, tons of rare freshwater mussels, minnows, bigger jumping fish, nesting habitat for swallows under Kyle Ford's bridge, and mystical wafting, water grasses.

At one point, my sister Dani and I were swimming towards the end of the group, holding our inner tubes, and Dani decided she didn't want to get so close to the slithering creatures lurking in the water grasses. She went to the bank to maneuver her bottom into the tube. But I chose the grasses, deeming them magical. I lowered my glasses lenses into the water, and watched the grasses swim and dance next to me.

This day was the most magic I have had in a long time. We even ran into old also out of town friends at the store/ meeting place. On the ride home, Mom and I drove under a rainbow that had all the colors and even was a double rainbow in parts for over a half hour without ceasing.

When I got back to the house, my jaw dropped. There was another rainbow of sorts. In my mailbox, an EARLY birthday card to me from Daddy and Barbara. Remarkable and I'm not going to say why!

I am so thankful for this day, because of Joey who threw it together, because of Dani and Richard who paid for it, for Anna and Mark who funded the car rental, and because of Mom, because Labor Day wouldn't be a day without Moms. (At least not for me it wouldn't.)

Posted Sat Sep 1 23:29:54 2018

In the lap lanes,

I remember the sweet sound a swim coach makes

deep in my inner world

I am screaming at me

kick harder

pull harder

this is a work out

not a lazy out!

I conclude my swim with a decision

I will keep on

when the lengths have seemed to end

push harder when my body starts to lax

I will remind my heart

teach my heart to beat harder

so it has a memory of this strength

tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrows.

Posted Thu Aug 30 22:07:03 2018

Roots reaching

into the mystery

in all directions

touching stars

caressing sand

feeling God.

Will you be alone with me a little longer whispers the Robin to the Wren?

Posted Wed Aug 29 02:04:16 2018