Elm Street Underpass

I love train graffiti, especially the type painted in letters so fat that I fail to map each to the right letter of the alphabet until it has rolled away. Watching a train pass is sometimes like listening to the tones of a foreign language I wish I knew but do not, and in my unknowing, the conversation sounds more like music than dialogue.

Railroad Flight

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In Lima, Ohio

Usually I govern my driving with all sorts of rules to keep anxiety at bay. Don’t drive at night. Avoid left turns if at all possible. Parallel parking? No way. There is one traffic situation in which caution escapes me: a railroad crossing with no threat of a train passing anytime soon. Maybe it was all the Starsky and Hutch I watched in the 70’s, but I do like to make my car take flight on the tracks from time to time. When I get the oil changed on my car, the tires usually need rebalanced, too.

There are so many opportunities for flight in my city since it is littered with all kinds of railroad tracks. Once I was taking a coworker home and punctuated a speech on how terrified I am at driving in ice and snow by flying over the tracks. It was two months before the threat of snow that year, so I had plenty of bravery left in me. I did not premeditate this flight or its timing. My moments of absurdity can never be contrived.

My daring in these moments is a tribute of sorts to the role the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad played in my genesis. Both of my grandfathers and one of my great grandfathers worked for the B&O. My maternal great grandfather was a close friend and coworker to my paternal grandfather. My mom needed a ride home from work, so Great Grandpa called my future Grandpa and asked him if he knew anyone who could give Mom a ride on short notice. Dad was chosen to pick up Mom. They were married six months later.

I wonder if he flew over the railroad tracks in his GTO on the way to pick up Mom.

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At work on the B&O Railroad – second from left is my great grandpa William Clinton Oard, second from right is my grandpa Paul Sheets