Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A night in California.

Tonight I am taking Metrolink train 318 from the California ex-urb of Claremont, the town in which my younger daughter Hannah goes to college, to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. The train is sounding its whistle every 45 seconds or so, because the trains run through various towns at street level.

I remember a great bit of dialogue from Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," a conversation between George Bailey and his Uncle Billy.

GEORGE:  You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?
BILLY:  Uh huh. Breakfast us served, lunch is served, dinner...
GEORGE: No, no, no, no! Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

Tonight, it's constant train whistles and, as we pull into a dirty California town, the hollow clanging of bells warning off cars and that almost extinct California species, pedestrians.

We are speeding past West Covina, past neon towns and waving fields of asphalt. A Toyota dealership the size of Rhode Island. The landscape is a cyclotron of fast food joints accelerating into each other like something out of particle physics. 

The whistle blasts a sound from the 19th Century. 

But there is no going back.

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