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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oh this is terrible, just dreadful, why can't you write about something more pleasant?

Some of you may be wondering about the cryptic post "Death Train". I'd almost rather leave you in the dark, to imagine what you may. That would doubtless be more entertaining than the mere "factual" account I'm about to provide. But I am a journalist, so I must be a Fleshy Vessel for Incandescent Truth. Sunday evening 'round 11pm I was coming home from Evanston on a Metra train. It had already been a rather bad day since I'd discovered my bank account several hundred dollars in the red due to a screwup with my landlord. They hadn't cashed my rent check, so I called them and asked if they wanted me to send it again. They said yes. Then they cashed both checks. "Rascally" is the word that comes most prominently to mind. Rascally in its most malicious possible connotation. Rascally in a way that Bugs Bunny never was. He just wanted to live...Like me...God damn it, I just want to live...

Anyway, back to Sunday at 11, just as the automatic voice said "Now approaching Ravenswood" (my stop) The train skidded to a halt and I heard a crunching sound. The conductor immediately announced that a man had just committed suicide by throwing himself in front of the train.

What a foolish thing to do. People whack themselves all the time, it's not an unusual thing and yet, it's very odd to be close to it. To be a passenger on a vehicle that killed someone. A rider on a Death Train. Suicide is baffling. I get depression. I get it on many levels. I handle it through, among other things, the companionship of a small plush baby gorilla named Mike, but I don't get suicide. Sure I've thought about it but never truly seriously. I mean, one of the things that depresses me in the first place is impending mortality, so suicide really is fairly counterproductive if that's the quandary you want to solve.

No matter how miserable their state, and I know people in some thoroughly miserable states, trust me, just about everyone I know has a pretty strong sense of mammalian self preservation. I know people who despise life and themselves, utterly, but by omission they all say "Yes, I want more." What is capable of making anyone say otherwise? What's capable of overriding that biological hunger?

The authorities weren't going to let anyone off the train until their investigation was complete, ("We can rule out natural causes") so we had to sit motionless for over two hours. I suspected briefly that I was trapped in a fairly trite one act play about death and peoples various reactions to it. You know, nice cross section of the population: backpacking, bearded college student. woman with baby, rowdy teens, couple of middle aged guys. Awkwardly, we would all use the incident as a trigger to start talking about our own lives and form an unlikely collective bond. That didn't happen to any noticeable extent.

I didn't have anything to read, just an out of power laptop on which I'd been doing a bit of playwritin'. So I did something I often do, serial phone calls to friends, any of whom I thought might be awake. In the course of that, I once again discovered that I have some extraordinarily loyal and loving friends, which is something I find very odd, as I am in large part, a surly and unpleasant person. The first call I made was to my friend Tom which went like this:

ME: I'm in a rather odd situation...

TOM: (Urgently) You need to sleep on my couch!

ME: No, nothing like that, in fact right now I would have a hard time getting to your couch...

TOM: You need me to come pick you up!

What a great guy, just one among many that I know. As I said, I'm unclear as to how this happened. But it may help explain why my own sense of self preservation is working at full capacity.

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Replies: 7 comments

Tom is pretty great, although he's also Sam's ex-boyfriend. If that would make you feel weird about being friends with him, I also know many other people with couches.

On a tangent, Sam has been accusing me of "uninviting" her to my party last summer because her ex-boyfriend was going to be there. In point of fact, I only left a voicemail noting this, and also that the only other mutual friends of ours were unlikely to make it, therefore I said "I understand if you don't want to come". I don't think that's an uninvitation. An uninvitation would be like "Don't come because I think you suck."

Why am I using my website to vent this topic? Because the record should be made clear, damn it...

does Tom want more friends? because he sounds like a person I would like being friends with. I am fond of people with couches, you see.


I have spent approximately one third of the waking hours of my life waiting at Howard Street but really, overall it's worth it. Chicago is definitely worth it.

Whilst earnestly trying to prove to my husband that Chicago is, indeed, a worthy place to live (at the very least more worthy than Greenville, SC where rednecks outnumber anything green, even the foothills of the mountains) and that moving me back to my beloved hometown is the best way to continue our union, I decided that taking the red line down to the Taste was the best way for him to see how the Windy City is divided up into small neighborhoods. So I gathered my husband, his best friend, and my best friend Tova, up and we waited at Howard. For 45 minutes we waited. 45 minutes of waiting with itchy crackheads, suburban families dressed in Crosstown Classic gear, college students with dyed hair in the heat and urine-stenched air while an outbound train sat tantalizingly at our platform. "A short delay due to a power outage between Lawrence and Morse is taking place" we were informed by the "voice." Tova then joked that someone probably fell on the tracks, which led to a discussion on why people choose to off themselves in seemingly very painful ways. David and Robert, being from a land stuck in 1925, joked about the mystery of the 3rd rail. Finally, we were told that we could take a bus from Morse and be re-routed all the way to Fullerton, and I decided that going back to Skokie and getting on the Blue line at Jeff Park would be a faster notion. On the way back, we heard that someone had jumped on the tracks. And so much for my reasoning that public transportation is one of the best ways to get around the city...

You're a horrible person, Marc.


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