I bought Finn a train table when he was a baby. With your first kid, you buy ridiculously stupid things like wipe warmers and penis tee-pees and single-purpose train tables that take up huge amounts of floor space. I gave my second kid a few months with the train table but by that time I’d been eyeing the real estate that sat under the table for a couple years. And Tate seemed generally disinterested in the table, and trains. So I gave it to the kids’ school.
He didn’t even notice at first. But then, two weeks after I gave the table away, Tate looked up from his Cheerios one morning with his lip curled into a snarl. “Where my train table?” I pretended not to hear, and slowly slid the cereal box between us. “WHERE MY TRAIN TABLE?” I looked up to find him standing on his chair, peering over the cereal box with his hands on his hips. Shit! “What train table?,” I ventured. Wrong answer. Tate really hates it when I play dumb. He grabbed his milk glass and held it high in the air over the sisal rug. Checkmate. “Oh, THAT train table! Right,” I said. “Dunno. Maybe Handy Manny needed it for his shop? You should ask Daddy.”
Soon thereafter, Tate became completely obsessed with trains. He builds the tracks and puts the trains on them, all day long. He builds the tracks on my kitchen floor, right under the boiling pots. And in the entryway, right in front of the door. And in the hallway to the bathroom. I have slipped on innumerable trains in the dark. Some of them play songs when you step on them. Songs that you can’t turn off. So you have to throw them out the window to stop them from waking your kids.
I have trains on the brain. There is a road (Naito Parkway) that runs almost directly from my office to my kids’ school. It’s a great road. It has almost no lights on it, and it traverses the entire downtown grid, so it allows you to get from one end of downtown to another in speedy fashion. In theory. In reality, everyone I know avoids the North end of Naito because it’s bisected by train tracks. On a good day with no trains I can get from my parking garage to the school in two minutes. But that never happens. Sometimes I feel like the trains lie in wait under the bridge until they see me coming. Because I always catch a train. Sometimes, I get stopped twice by the same train, as demonstrated in these photos.
Sitting in front of a train for 20 minutes while your kids are waiting on the other side will get you thinking. Why build a thoroughfare and then cross railroad tracks over it? Why are we still transporting things by train? We don’t use stagecoaches or burros anymore. How efficient can trains be when they move so goddamn slow? Could I run faster than this train? How much faster could I run than this train? Is this train even MOVING? Can the person in the car next to me hear me screaming? Why aren’t they screaming?
My friend Kathryn works for the Port of Portland and she really loves it when I text her pics of the trains from my car, asking “Why can’t you make this stop?” Anyway, first world problem. God I hate that phrase. It really diminishes the significance of my grievances.