A Train of Events

20 Jun


 “Today I’m taking you on an adventure,” Baba-Luba (Grandma Luba) whispered in my ear at my bed-side.  That word, ADVENTURE, was enough to pump the necessary levels of Dopamine and other happy chemicals into my brain and wake me up instantly.  I remember my response as if it were yesterday: “Where?! Where are we going? To the pool?  To the Playground?  To the doughnut shop?” 

“I don’t know where we’re going yet,” Luba said with a grin.  I could tell my sneaky grandma was hiding some really exciting news, which would be revealed in some tactful way.  I gave up hope for instant gratification and just decided to go along with her plot.  I got dressed, brushed my teeth, put on my glow-in-the dark KEDS sneakers and we walked out the door. The sky in San Francisco’s Sunset district was eclipsed by a grey pother of fog.  She held my hand as we walked up to a platform next to the train tracks.  My heart leaped and missed five beats as my brain was concluding its final calculations of possible answers to the ADVENTURE equation.  Then I saw the two bright headlights of the Muni train car approaching our platform.  “Aw shit, grandma!  That’s fuckin awesome, dawg!”  I exclaimed in excitement.  Not really, but if I were a hard core 4-year-old gangster kid, maybe I would have said that.  I did jump up and down and screamed in a high-pitched voice like a happy 4-year-old white boy.  Finally, after months of wonder about these things called trains, I was finally going to ride on one!  I ran into the train car and glued my nose to the window.  There was something just so damn cool about riding in such a huge machine that carried all these people down a pair of tracks.  And then when I thought my life couldn’t get any better, it did: the train entered a dark tunnel.  Where the heck were we?  I had no conception of space.  In my 4-year-old mind, we were in the underworld, miles and miles away from civilization.  I watched the darkness through the window as the train whizzed from station to station.  I was in ecstasy.  I was in love.   Life only got better: Luba took me into the heart of downtown San Francisco for a field trip to Woolworth, a huge department store full of toys.  Incidentally the one toy I decided to get was a small blue plastic train with a bell attached on the top.  It was enough to fill my juvenile heart with endless joy for days.  For years my grandma would take me on the same N-Judah train, with the same itinerary. 

That was 27 years ago.  Just the other day I shared the news with my grandmother that I would be going on another adventure.  This time it would be on an airplane to teach elementary school in Thailand for at least one year.  My grandma then said, “You’ve always loved to travel, Allen.  All your life you were so excited to go places.  And I know where it all began.”   She paused to give me a few moments to think about it.  And my heart missed five beats as I was trying to figure it out.  But I couldn’t. 

Luba said, “You became a traveler the first time you rode the train.”  She explained how I didn’t care about the destination, how I never asked for toys, and how I never complained about not getting any.  “All you wanted to do,” Luba said, “was to ride in that tunnel.  This is how it all began.”

I expressed my gratitude to Luba for not only helping me understand the roots of my excitement for travel, but also for being the one to introduce me to it. 

I leave for Thailand in two weeks.  As every day draws nearer, I reflect on the insurmountable flow of emotions that pop in and out of my consciousness.  Most of the time, the emotions are deeply insulated by love.  Love for my grandma, and all my family, and for my friends, and for my students.  I have yet again a new and deeper understanding for the silly four-letter word, LOVE.  Love is felt when the present moment is so damn real that words get lost at sea.  And often it’s the tears that do the talking for you.  If you find your eyes dry and your voice completely mum, your heart surely makes up for the silence by jabbing you where it hurts most.  It’s fucking love, man! It often hurts like a bitch.  But it’s crazy-beautiful. 



One Response to “A Train of Events”

  1. jaimebecktel June 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Lovely Allen. Have an amazing adventure in Thailand! Change some lives, spread some love and perhaps I’ll come for a visit! I loves me some Thai food!!

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