Flash and Run

Another long day has just delivered me upon the same Westward bound train.   I sit to the window in mindless thought, contemplating how many times I might re-read the mundane newspaper?

Those around me have drifted off in fitful dose punctuated by lonely reluctant snores.

To my right, out the window, in the sun splashed splendor of this passing lush green land, there consumes my absent reflection. . . 

. . . It was just past dawn and while the sun had not hit my neck as yet, I knew it’s warmth was coming.

I am an optimist, so upon my third cast, I recited the morning’s offering which habitually, has always served me well.

Then, in the half light, a flash just beneath the surface illuminated a tranquil sea and the run was on!

So many years have passed since, yet I’ll never forget the sensation and fear of slipping along the jetty, that early June morning.

Imagine for a second, a silver BMW, just below the water’s surface screaming so fast and equally bothered by all the inconvenience!!  Pure muscle and Will.  

It went out first and deep.

Seemed to consider all available options while I looked, in a somewhat conceited way, for any onlookers . .. . . .  then it came back fast.

The slack to my line might have fooled me were it not for the massive torpedo, I watched before me.

He swam to the shallows of the beach and dove his nose into the bank and with a fury that was, to this day, most admirable thrashing the popper from his jaws.

                                               Time on the water.


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Going Home


A sound so loud, it can only be best described as hushed silence.

All along the platform, a collective breath has inhaled in cascading unison and like falling dominoes, it is quickly quiet.

The soft cool breeze that has gently tapped each shoulder has delivered an entrance.

At the doors of the station, stand six tall Marines and in their six strong hands, holds one of ours.

They walk at a glacial pace with purpose and no one speaks; shifts or shuffles.   The entire station is silent and staring at track eight, the 177 to Washington, DC. 

A father, a few back from me, finds the hand of his young son and squeezes gently as his eyes fill with moist. 

The door to the baggage car is ceremoniously opened, officers stand erect, canines sit and there is not a hat on in the entire yard.   The coffin is raised to eye level and three carrying with their left, salute smartly before entering.


So Blessed we are.



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The Unspoken Word


On perhaps one of the most travelled weekends of the year, I am fortunate to board early.   In the front seats of each rail car there exists extra leg room for the overflow of baggage or a wheelchair and on the right side of each, it is clearly notated:   “Seats Reserved For Passengers With Disabilities.”

I sit to the left, thinking learning and earning doesn’t apply.

Buffed out college kid quickly hefts his duffel topside to the right and plunks down in his newly found 2-acre seating arrangement, marveling at his sweet scoring maneuver!

I am slightly amused and while intrigued, tired and situated to shut my eyes.

Without so much as a doze, I am stirred by the weight of luggage on my lap, the smell of McDonalds and the view of ‘super-sized’ woman’s behind.   She is leaning in and really giving it to the pompous white kid wearing his earphones sprawled across the aisle to my right:   ‘You best get your butt out’a them seats and I ain’t gonna ask you twice ’cause I got my mama out there on that platform and she don’t walk no good and I got all these here bags…don’t you read that there sign…?   For the Disabled!!’ 

The kid has shrunk to the window at half his size and from his contorted purple expression he is mad, aghast and petrified all in the same instant.   I am suppressing my urge to laugh (should he attempt to somehow lunge at me) and he is long gone before the luggage is removed from my lap.

Pondering the unfolded excitement however, does little to quell the draw towards a little shut eye as we depart. . .

‘Hey you – fella, you – (authoritative, confident) we’re going to need that seat!’.    (once, twice and a third time)

As if from a blurred gray distant fog, I imagine not too dissimilar than that of hearing the banter of nurses and surgeons going about their business while you lay prone on the table … I slowly awaken….and my eyes rise to an inconvenienced and agitated burly Red Cap – but almost immediately, I am distracted to that closest to me.   Before me and inches from my face was the most beautiful black Labrador Retriever with understanding soft yellow eyes, a moist black nose and a patient pant.  There upon the harness on his back, held the frail hand of an elderly blind woman, who smiled in lasting frame … and in that brief moment, I think that we saw each other. 

The Red Cap, however, was having none of this and growled:  ‘let’s go buddy, what are you DEAF?!?’   (the irony of his comment lost in the moment)

I apologize, wish the woman a nice weekend, and pet the lab as I move on.   As I reach the door, she has half turned to the Red Cap and says: ‘hush, the boy couldn’t hear you’.

Then she smiles up towards my direction … before sitting down.



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I took an afternoon train, it is a short trip and sold out – so I stand.   

Conductor makes the usual public announcement over the speakers about a very busy train and asks that extra bags not utilize seats folks didn’t pay for, so others can sit down too.  He asks that the Quiet Car be just that and respected.  He asks that reserved signs not be removed and respected as well.   Additionally, seats designated only for the disabled be just that: only for the disabled.   The announcement is all very even-toned, polite and encouraging of cooperation.    

Another conductor several cars removed and near me, turns to nobody in particular and asks knowing the answer: “Did anyone hear that announcement? Hear it even remotely, one word of it?”   

His voice carries an edge of a silent answer already delivered.

A college age kid, sitting a few rows back, head down checking his phone in one hand and raising a beer to his mouth with the other, says: ‘nope, not a word of it.’    To which his buddy concurs, chuckles and looks out the window.   

The conductor adds again to no one in particular: ‘Fifteen years I’ve been doing this and every year, every year . . . it gets worse and worse.’   

The kids sense the rising tension and alter course with nods of agreement.  With this new found bond of alliance, the conductor continues with frustrated inflection: “people will sit in reserved seats and say: ‘I’ll move when someone comes and needs it.’   “No, that is NOT what reserved means!  Every year it gets worse and worse.    Every single day, I have to ask someone to move from the notated Quiet Car … unbelievable!    I just don’t understand it.”

More silent thoughtful agreeing nods from the seated two . . . perhaps guilty themselves on more than a few occasions.   

It is then that I hear my voice, most a matter of fact, punctuate the drifting silence from the corner of the car:    “Entitlement.  They feel entitled”.  

The conductor looks sharply my way and exclaims:  ‘Yes, that’s it!’ as if this word has been on the tip of his tongue all day and just now, he has found it.    

I nod and turn towards the doors as the train slow into my station stop.    


Sent from Rail 📞 . . .



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I got off the train halfway home and stepped into the sunshine of Spring’s warmth and a scent of a dissipated ocean fog, just lifted.

I was in no hurry, I had some time yet until my next appointment. On the platform towards the front, an elderly man of medium height stands in Native North American garb staring in closely at the locomotive engine, wheels and wires above. His clothing appears cotton, perhaps also made from agave or deerskin, I cannot tell other than it is authentic. I walk towards him in mindless curiosity and just then to my right, another is passing with a longer gait and widening arms of embrace. He is taller, far younger wearing a dark suit, rattlesnake boots and a raven black ponytail that rests on his broad youthful shoulders.

They embrace for a long moment.


‘Is good to see you Dakota, you look fit and your mom will be proud. How was trip from filthy city?’

‘It was just fine Father. The railroads are far more reliable now’

His father now looks right towards the slowly passing rail cars of the departing locomotive and just shrugs.

I am pretending to check my phone just to the side and behind and love the blood bond of the reconnected and am also instantly intrigued by the observed gap of generational acceptance towards the change of times gone by and all things within.

The tall younger(Dakota) asks: ‘How is Songaa? Does he have a game today? Can we still make it or his practice?’

To this, his father turns back swiftly with new found spirit and pronounces: ‘Songaa scored four goals yesterday against rich prep school … and plays another today from different religion.’

Dakota has smiled down to his father with some hesitation and reminds:
‘Father, that is great but we must not let ourselves speak in ways which paint men differently by wealth,race or religion’.

I am now not even checking my phone, just still and listening as if in wait for the next train to arrive in two hours.

‘You speak with reason my Dakota and truth has always come easily with you. Which is why I refrained from saying: Songaa beat the white man yesterday in our very own tribal game.’

To which they both, after a pause, laugh lightly and Dakota says:

‘Ok father, lets go.’


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Arrival From Departure


in the footless halls of air

all became clear

though mist and fog

muddled the slog

a streaking star at once illuminated

the half light and albeit brief

gave towards sight

of everlasting relief

with cupped hands and strained neck

each stroke furthered distance from the wreck

darkness given way to grey

such must be the way

onward upward onward

tumbling over thin crisp air

departure from all despair

vertigo lost in the sanctity of time

punching through into

the brilliance of the Divine


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       It was crowded, it always is.  It was rushed, hectic and splintered.  Folks going each and every way in their memorized anxious steps.  It was cold as well, unseasonably so for this early May afternoon.    

      More than the usual waited for their trains inside the old stone station, an ambient warmth given only by exhale and body heat.   The waiting stand and shift mostly stationary, staring aloft at the vast arrival & departure board, much like they might to the sky or a distant shore bank while clinging in shiver to a fallen tree in a fast moving river.    

     I have leaned to the station’s wall, in the gentle eddy of its soft current, in wait as well.    At the benches to the center, a business man stands and busily works an iPhone in his right hand while checking his Blackberry in his left.   On the bench, some two feet from him, lies another iPhone.   This one however is white, screen down and occupying an open and unnoticed space.   

       I pause.    

    Only when the busy man has hurriedly moved on with his two cell phones, do I turn right and approach the police stand.  

    “You mean that one over there?”   

     The officer sits in a high wooden perch, like a judge surveying a large courtroom and holding a heavy gavel.  He seems to welcome the distraction and shrugs while adding, 

    “It does happen.”

      As I move away towards my train, I look back and he is approaching the lone phone with caution while speaking on his radio.   Another officer, then another, this one with a working lab all approach it together.    

     After a purposeful sniff and a routine wag of the tail, the first officer then calmly picks up the white phone while concealing his slightly embarrassed smile.   To his apparent surprise, the phone is not locked and he starts to scroll immediately through it, before finding a number and dialing.    

     At my last glance, he is far to the distant and doing most of the talking with whomever it is on the other end.   Maybe, I imagine as I board my train, he is trying to convince some skeptical mom or dad, that he is in fact a Boston city police officer. . . 

    “It does happen.”



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The invitation was to a targeted audience only and said the doors would open at 10am and would start promptly at 10:30 ending at 11am. The Town Hall meeting, hosted by our CEO, was to take place in the grand Warf room in the glamorous seaside Boston hotel.   I RSVP’d immediately and got there at 10:05.   I was nervous, big wigs had flown in from NYC and London to speak to me!

I walked in and in a large room to the left, sat four distinguished older men at a reception table.

‘I am here for the meeting’ I pronounced, showing my ID and signing my name on the sheet in front of them.   I then turned to find everyone else (it was 10:10) but the hallway was empty.   I quickly turned back to the table realizing that I had a pair of gloves clutched in my hand.

‘I apologize, I must have picked up someones mittens when I signed in – do you happen to know. . ’

“Young man, those are sailing gloves.   You appear a bit nervous rushing about, pacing and all – why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself ?”

‘Well I work over at Beacon, where I am a conversion
manager for the largest onboarding endeavor in decades’.
Before me, there are only stares of bewilderment.

“Down on the docks, is that so?” the eldest inquires . . .”tough work that is.”
Now my expression is blank.

“Very well, never mind, tell us about your (looking down at the sign in sheet) sllng experience. . . John is it?

‘Yes it is.   Well I am quite good at selling myself.’  

No humor reaches the table of four.  

‘Further, I have repeatedly sold an array of strategic ideas across all lines of business and among multiple tiers of senior management!’   

On each word, my inflection rises with pride.

“Son, stop please (holding his hand up) SAILING not Selling.   Do you have any SAILING experience?”

‘Sailing?   Why that appears a fairly random question.’

“No son, it would be a perfectly appropriate question for the role to be discussed here…”

‘No offense, I just thought it odd coming from a large financial

“We are sufficiently well endowed,yes that is correct.”   He says with a pause and an expectant raise of his waiting, bushy white eyebrow.

‘Right, sailing then, like those boats out there with the tall poles sticking up.”(pointing out the vast window overlooking the bay).

“MASTS those are called Masts!”   Growls the man, leaning up from his chair as the other three chuckle.

‘I know perfectly well what they are called!’    I respond with a curtness that surprised even me but I was rapidly slipping off this deck and needed to find my footing fast.    ‘I grew up sailing from a wee little boy, (leveling my hand below the table)  ‘heck I’ve sailed everything: Sunfish, Bluejays, Explorers, WH15’s, 420, 480’s and 510’s. . . you name it!’.
I rattled a little fast and without total accuracy but I was rushed and more than a bit flushed by this odd maritime inquisition.  ‘Now please,’ looking at my watch(10:26!!)  ‘where is the Town Hall meeting?’

Oh that!”   he leans back, finally chuckling as the others follow him “why son, that is over in the Grand room, across the courtyard.   This is a yachting meeting”

I went running out the door and just caught the opening speaker . . . with the sailing gloves still in my hands!


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A cold spitting rain blew in from the East, spraying frozen spindrift left by Winters’ stubborn departure.  It is early April and under a numb grey overcast, the saturated stand with neither zippers nor scarfs dry, exhausted in wait. Four relentless Nor’Easters had just possessed four long weeks of their March and yet still, a frozen rain spewed down upon them.  

Boarding time arrives for train #177, The Sou’wester. 

It was unusually crowded in the dimly lit rail cars punctuated by musty odors and those finding seats, find them frustratingly damp.  I am mid car to the left, sitting on a found newspaper.  The seat beside me is empty as are the four across the aisle.  

Out the window, the sky has lightened allowing the sun to momentarily release a shaft of golden soft yellow across the tracks.   Down the aisle come a family of five led by the mother, then two young girls, a tall boy and a broad shouldered father.  The glowing shaft of sunlight follows them as the train slowly moves forward.  Both boy and father have removed their hats while the mother directs the girls into the empty seats across from me in a cheerfully efficient way.   They all wear traditional plain Amish clothes, head to toe.  Additionally, they all wear smiles of the most genuine nature.   

The boy has sat next to me, after politely asking if he could.  He has a pale complexion and beaming blue eyes.  A teenager, no more than sixteen or seventeen.  In thanking me for the seat, he extends his hand formally to shake.  I am instantly caught off guard by the vise grip that envelops my knuckles.   His hands are stone dry and his forearms are thicker than most calves.  His boyish voice and radiant smile however, disarm any recoil.   

A woman walks down the aisle and he leaps to his feet in offer of his seat.   She looks about, smiles and moves on.   The father is older, I guess late sixties but he too is built like an ox.   He sits quietly reading.  The young girls sit reading as well.   There are no smart phones, no tablets, no soda and cookies.  The boy looks about in marvel, I offer my window seat and he smiles, declining in an appreciative accented English.  Between pages,his father will speak and they converse in another language.  The boys inflection is high pitched and punctuated with laughter leaving the others smiling in the passing scenery.   

At the third stop, a major city, the boy has four times offered his seat to others.  As the train carves through the granite and steel canyons of the city, he stares intently towards another world.   

Conversely, at that very same moment, I am imagining life in the fields of Lancaster Pennsylvania – driving the horses in the noon day sun to plow some sixty acres, walking to school, no TV and one phone, on the kitchen wall.   The simple, contented life.   

It is now my stop.   With preparation, I extend my hand and do my best to conceal a grimace as he stands and receives it.  I ask what language he was speaking and he informs a mix of Dutch and German.   As I return his smile, I turn down to the father and mother looking up in admiration and tell them what they already know: ‘you have a  very polite and a fine young man here – well done indeed sir, ma’am.’

                                                  Sent from 📞 🚂. . .


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I had just closed the cabin door with a chosen deference to those already asleep, though I wanted to slam it.

The crew – my life blood, tether and pulse, had given all out and beyond in effort . . and sadly, it was not enough.

The squalls came first and the sky appeared to look down upon us in disdain before the storm was unleashed.

Eight long hours of horrific anguish, one soul overboard and now in the calm, drifting with only one mast – a despondent, sullen crew.

We were by the stars, some 200 miles off course . . .being pulled by an insidious ocean TIDE not found on any chart.


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