The Sunset Limited

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Mom hated flying. This was one of her newer phobias. Once, we were going to Indiana so we could have my birthday party with my grandparents. We even had tickets, got to the airport, and almost boarded before she turned around and went home. That was my first birthday that she was absent for; soon to be followed by many others. I had no idea life could have foreshadowing like in the books and movies. But this is a different story.

When I was about three or four, my mother decided that we just had to see New Orleans, and I guess I should thank her; I saw it a few times before Katrina hit. But we lived in Arizona. Mom wasn't a great driver, busses were too dirty for her, and she wouldn’t fly. There was only one option remaining. Trains. The route we took was known as the Sunset Limited. It traveled from LA to Orlando, stopping a few times in Texas, Louisiana, and finally Florida before it turned around and went back. It stopped in Arizona, which was remarkably convenient, and we boarded in Tucson.

The cabin was tiny. I was three, and yet I still noted its extraordinarily small size, if that gives you any idea of the scale. There was a sliding door, bunk beds, and no room for anything else. Mom slept on the lower bunk (she had a phobia of heights), and I slept up top, with a new hanging beside me in case the train jolted me off the bed. For three days I lived on that train, and since I hadn't yet read Harry Potter, I was not educated enough to imagine it was the Hogwarts Express. You could say it was a boring experience, but you'd have no idea. In 1997 not too many people had iPods, and most were still using VHS. The portable DVD player was still a thing of the future.
There were some good things though, I suppose. That was where I learned to play poker. Mom taught me in the dining car our first night, before we went over a bridge and she had a panic attack. Heights and water were not a great combo. And here she though she was escaping the terror on a train, but, as usual, she was wrong.

Our first stop was New Orleans. That was Mom's choice and we stayed there for maybe four or five days. we had every tourist experience there was to have. Horse and buggy tours, Victorian homes tours, cemetery tours, just a hell of a lot of tours, really. We had Cafe Au Lait, and turtle soup. We napped form 2pm to 8 pm so we could stay out all night, and our dinner reservations were for 9 and 10 pm. When we walked back to the hotel, tired, and near passing out from the long night we would see the silver painted street performers walking out to their designated street corners. That was where I fell in love with sunrise.

But the adventure had to end, or at least change cities. We hopped back on the train and rode it to Orlando, which was my stop. But in retrospect, Disney World and Universal Studios paled in comparison. They were just fake places pretending to be the happiest, and even as a child I could see how real the French Quarter was, especially when compared to "The Happiest Place on Earth." I guess it makes sense; druken people are usually far more honest.

We took the train home, and it all ended. Soon enough my dear mother decided that she should take me out of school for six months and move to New Orleans, but , obviously, that's ridiculous and it never happened. Secretly I wish it had sometimes. Six year olds need adventure, you know? But then it all fell apart; my parents marriage, my mother's small bit of sanity, my "perfect life", it all came crumbling down. But I guess that was the adventure, now wasn't it?





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