Oct 20Zacatecas, MEX
So, here we all are, train wrecked, chatting with each other as people do in these situations, when they're stranded together. We left Juarez yesterday evening; I was put in a Pullman car with two young women traveling together, one older woman with a little baby boy who never uttered a sound, only smiles, and one woman alone, and right away the women started gabbing. I couldn't understand everything, just a word here or there, and one of the women, the older one traveling alone, spoke a little English, so I felt included, not that I particularly cared one way or the other - I had thought I was getting a private car. We rattled and snaked through the night; I didn't sleep too well because the temp dropped considerably and I didn't have enough clothes on. This morning they were up and talking by 8:00 at least, so I didn't stay in bed as long as I wanted. We had a fairly long stop around 9:00, and I met a Danish boy - 21 years old, antsy and cynical - with clear blue eyes and a taught body. We got to talking, waiting for the train to leave. His name is Loren, I think.
We stood and talked for a while outside, at the back of the train after it took off, then I went to study the Berlitz Spanish phrase book he loaned me and promptly fell asleep. I woke up to a guy selling soft drinks, beer and water, and I bought a water. A little later, I went to stand between our car - the last car - and the penultimate one. Standing outside like that is kinda like being on the back of a motor cycle, except you can't see where you're going. And if you stick your face out the side you risk dust in your eyes or sewage splashing your face from people flushing their toilets on the tracks. I counted the cars - 10 with the engine - as the mounds of bushes and cactus with dark red bulbs slid by. I was thinking about letter writing, which is near impossible while the train is moving, and about my mother, and thinking I might go get Loren to walk up to the engine car or see if we could get that far, when I was smashed against the back of the next to last car, the side of my head hitting first, then my entire body. Before I had time to recover, or even realize what was happening, I was slapped against the car again. The noise from the whole thing was enormous - a collision for sure. The wind was nearly knocked out of me and my head was pounding and ringing like a freshly struck bell.
Griselda, the other lone woman - by now my new buddy after breakfast together practicing our respective weak languages together -was standing on the platform on the other side and she, too, got whacked pretty good. We looked at each other in complete shock and confusion. The first question in one's mind is, that didn't just happen to us, did it? She kinda reminds me of my Tia, so I guess I have a special fondness for her. So, we all got out to look. Our train had had a head-on collision with another, longer train and derailed its engine. Our train remained on the track with barely a scratch, but the other one was on its side, with pieces of it strewn beside it.
Loren and I got a few pictures, that was around 6pm, and it's now past 10:30 and we're waiting for another train from Mexico City, sent special to come and rescue us. Griselda and Loren and I went into town and had dinner and watched a couple soap operas that were on the T.V. and peed in their relatively clean toilet. Even with knowledge of the fact, one is still shocked and repulsed by the first look at those gargantuan cockroaches!
Here is an excerpt from a letter to Sweeney's:
The Blue Wonder is holding up, though aging rapidly. It started slowing down by 5 mph every day after Kansas City and I thought it was because, the farther I went, the closer we were to parting company, and the Blue Wonder hates goodbyes. But after the oil change in Phoenix, it perked right up and sped back to an easy 80 mph. The police have managed to ignore us mostly, I guess, because of the illusion of decrepidness we create. One cop did stop me in Kansas, though. I was doin' 75 before he turned his lights on me. Just a routine vehicle inspection, he said, and I ought to have my exhaust checked. He also advised me to wear my seat belt while in Kansas . . . so the wildish west is just the way it looks on TV: land, lots 'o land, $699.95 per acre, large white clouds, a shrub or tumbleweed here or there, and hundreds of big billboards advertising some roadside attraction for 40 miles! Bowlin's Teepee! Indian Jewelry! Chili Dogs and Milkshakes! Authentic Indian Design! Belgian Rugs! Velvet Mexican Paintings Made in the U.S.!
I don't know how I resisted, but I rolled right past Bowlin's Teepee and Bowlin's Continental Divide and even Bowlin's Running Indian! It has been a fun and eventful trip thus far, and I am pleased to find that I'm not such bad company after all. I miss you all very much. The Twin's game last night almost made me cry from homesickness, so I didn't watch the whole thing . . . m73.
I sold the Blue Wonder in El Paso for $125 to a nice man named Tony of Jet Autos. I thought it would be a sad moment, but didn't even look back. I hope the Blue Spirit doesn't come back to haunt me.
[What I didn't include was that Tony not only bought the car, he let me sleep on his couch and he and his wife drove me to the train station the next morning]
Just so you know what happened (I have to tell the story quickly because the train is starting to pull out and then I won't be able to write from all that juggling!). A train was sent. It arrived at about a quarter to 3:00 and we were back moving by 4am. I dreamed that Dudley Moore was staying at our place (restaurant? hotel?) and I was going to ask him to dinner. A couple of big dogs of ours started figuring out how to walk through closed doors, but needed to learn to take less of themselves with them because I had to open the last of three doors for them.
I'm in the Hotel La Marina, downtown Mexico City, with the built-in radio on. My feet are filthy from walking around the train. I spoke with my Tia's friends here. They are quite nice and I'm having lunch with them tomorrow. That pack of mine is pretty heavy and there's nothing but clothes in it! I hope I didn't make an unwise choice and buy a pack that's too heavy to start with. Too late to worry about that now, I guess.