It doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you’re from, the train still rolls the same.

Aside from that year when I lived in Las Vegas and was quite certain my soul was dying a little more with every day that passed, there have always been trains in my life. I spent the first 27 years of my life in a town that was literally named for the Illinois Central Railroad and was founded in that spot because it was a point of convergence on the railroad’s two original branches. There were a lot of trains.  Always. And trying to beat them or figuring an alternate path around them was an essential tool in the driving arsenal of everyone I ever knew. Successfully doing so in my hometown (where getting stuck waiting on a good size train can easily cost you 20 minutes) is–without a doubt–something of which to be proud.

The first engine of a 3-engine train rolling through Irvington, Illinois in summer, 2006

I am a train dodger from way back, and I’ve sat at crossings cussing and waiting more times than I can count, but the truth is, I love trains. I love the sound the whistle makes on foggy nights at 1am when you shouldn’t be awake but you are and it seems like even the train understands your lonely and mournful mood. I love that even when I’m sleeping less than a block from the train yards with every window in the house open, my slumber is not (and has never been) disturbed either by a train’s loud and sustained whistle or the rumbling thunder of a car coupling and the impact moving all the way down the line. Perhaps most of all, I love the numerous ways in which trains have acted as similes for so many people and situations in my life: you can’t ignore a train with any measure of success, and expecting it to be anything other than itself is both pointless and ridiculous.

There are lessons to be learned from trains is my point.

The constant presence of the trains–and the fact that they have routinely put themselves in my path–has served to remind me that nothing is ever easy.  God gives us obstacles–that’s what the trains taught me. There are times when you can neither outrun nor go around the train that’s coming…needless to say, this is analogous to any number of things in my life. Sometimes you just have to sit still, wait it out, be stuck, and hope to God you fare better next time. Also, the trains of my life have virtually assured my ability to pre-plan for catastrophes and delays. Shit is bound to happen, my friends. It’s best to leave yourself time to deal with it and have a little contingency action going because goodness knows there’s not a damn thing you can do about it when it’s barreling full speed through your life.

So yeah. There are some lessons to be learned from trains. But for me and mine, they are also a security blanket of sorts.  No matter what happens, there’ll always be another train, and for the most part, it’ll look and sound exactly the same as the one that came before. Hell yes they’re inconvenient (and sometimes downright calamitous), but buddy, that’s life. Plus which, trains make me feel cozy and comforted like a winter day indoors with a fire and a cup of coffee. They are home to me and always will be.