Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ti Jean, long walks and subway tokens. . .

Tonight I was planning on writing about Kerouac's On The Road. I've started reading the recently released On the Road - The Original Scroll and it's given me a chance to take a second look at a book that shaped my youth. Unfortunately, it just isn't there. I have some ideas of what I want to say but I'm going to let it bounce around a little more before I let it go.

I'm heading to Sarnia this weekend for my friend Ezio's wedding. It's shaping up to be quite the event with well over 200 people expected. For a man who spends so much time claiming to be a hermit, he sure knows a lot of folks.

Anyways, I'll be doing my usual and taking the train down, much to the exasperation of my mother. Every time I go down, she asks if I'm going to rent a car. Every time, I have to tell her that it probably won't happen. It's not that I'm really against renting cars - I've rented them before and I will again. It's just that I rarely see a need for it. I enjoy the train ride and, when I get down to Sarnia, I find that a combination of walking and the occasional taxi will get me wherever I want to go.

I've always liked public forms of transit. Even before the aneurysm, when I drove a lot more often and had a car of my own, I often took transit when I could.

Now, I'm a regular transit user - a connoisseur of routes maps and schedule arcana - and I like it that way. It just suits me. I get to sit down, pull out a book and still get from place to place. Now that I've gotten used to commuting via transit, I can't imagine going back to any other way. Where I once spent my commute angry at the jerk in front of me and worried about the idiot tailgating me. While transit does have its drawbacks - grocery shopping by transit is rarely enjoyable - it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

One by-product of this travel choice is that I also walk a lot more. I walk holes into my sneakers quite often nowadays. This is good for both my physical and mental health. I mean, it was while walking home tonight, listening to Elliott Brood above the rustle of wind-rattled leaves, that I started thinking about On The Road and what I would write here. On days when I have something less trivial to worry about, I find I can process it better while in motion. With my sneakers on autopilot, my mind roams free, far freer than it's ever been when behind the wheel of a car.

Of course, this is just what works for me. While I wish people would take transit more often, I know a lot of people who just can't handle it. I remember my first trip after 9/11. I took the train to Montreal for a few days. I was on the fastest train going to Montreal, a surprisingly quick 4 hour jaunt. The train was packed with people whose companies chose to have them take the train rather then risk a flight. It goes without saying that I was prepared for the trip. I had my mp3 player and a couple of good books on the go, so I was more than set. My fellow travellers? Not so much. They were used to a short one hour flight, the sort of flight where the flight attendant finishes his take-off spiel just in time to start the landing spiel.

Stuck on the train, you could see them get this stir-crazy look in their eyes as they reread the Globe's business section for the 4'th time because it was the only reading material they had. As much as I enjoyed the train trip, I'm not sure my fellow travellers did.

Well, I'm sure I could ramble on a while longer but I really shouldn't. It's late and I've got stuff to do before work tomorrow.

So long for now.

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