Songs About Trains
I have a longstanding crush on trains and train rides. I wistfully gaze at trains as I pass them, and exhale a sigh when I cross tracks thinking how I wish I could just take off on a train for a spell of time, read and write while riding the rails, finding my own version of a Kerouac trip across the country. I would love to take a train ride up the coast, starting in San Diego and ending at the tip of the Washington border.
Just thinking of the time passing, the ocean just out the window, the stolen hours of nothing else to do but think and dream, turn pages of books I’ve meant to read, and fill stacks of composition books with inked confessions and poetry lines. Maybe someday I will take a train ride sabbatical, maybe someday.
I miss the city trains in Chicago and San Francisco, and the year I was able to ride the rails to work everyday when my office was in West Hollywood. The daily commutes in both the Windy City, and Los Angeles, as well as the short stint I did in Salt Lake City, were so different than the stress of freeway traffic. I read stacks of books, visiting the library weekly to keep enough on hand.
I would let my mind wander and relax, finding inspiration to pen my thoughts and story ideas. I miss the rhythm of the rails, the way it felt standing on the platform in the cold, holding hands and kissing before the train came, or that one magical trip to Santa Barbara I took with a past lover, the way we said we felt like we were starring in an old movie.
“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.” ~ Anna Funder
“Like you’re riding a train at night across some vast plain, and you catch a glimpse of a tiny light in a window of a farmhouse. In an instant it’s sucked back into the darkness behind and vanishes. But if you close your eyes, that point of light stays with you, just barely for a few moments.” ~ Haruki Murakami
“My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
“I know you have it in you, Guy,” Anne said suddenly at the end of a silence, “the capacity to be terribly happy.”
~ Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train
“When the railroad trains moaned, and river-winds blew, bringing echoes through the vale, it was as if a wild hum of voices, the dear voices of everybody he had known, were crying: “Peter! Peter! Where are you going, Peter?” And a big soft gust of rain came down. He put up the collar of his jacket, and bowed his head, and hurried along.” ~ Jack Kerouac
It’s been too long since I’ve rode on a train. I need to remedy that soon. In the meantime, here are my top five train songs for this week’s Friday Five. What are yours?
1. Venus Stopped the Train :: Wilco
“I kept my distance because she fell in love with everyone,
smoking grass and taking Christmas trees,
she fell in love with me.”
(Thank you, A, for the reminder)
2. Train Under Water :: Bright Eyes
“And don’t act strange,
don’t be a stranger.
It happened to me,
now it’s happening to you.”
3. Engine Driver :: The Decemberists
“And I am a writer,
writer of fictions,
I am the heart that you call home,
and I’ve written pages upon pages,
trying to rid you from my bones.”
4. Me & Bobby McGee :: Janis Joplin
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
5. Train Song :: Feist & Ben Gibbard
“Nothing at all in my head to say to you,
only the beat of the train I’m on.
Nothing I’ve learned all my life on the way to you,
one day our love was over and gone.”