Awakening after my first evening on the “Empire Builder”, I am grateful to my green vintage coat , that used as a blanket , kept me warm in the chill of the night train . A train immense in its pounding power and gentle in its rhythmic rocking , the wheels touching fast the metal track sounding like a lullaby from outer-space , the velvet sky embracing the swift movement of the mighty train beneath it . I remember something … Sleeping , I had a dream , a dream of a train wreck with the luggage thrown all over and name tags I could clearly read , floating in the air with clothes flying about like the spirits of ghosts . And I saw my old friend too . I saw her young and on a beach holding a framed in glass photo of her and her now dead lover when they were young , young and very beautiful . She begins running away from me on the waters edge , her long , auburn in the sun , hair flowing down past her narrow waist …
The train is now somewhere in North Dakota passing thru Fargo last night where the plane was bound for when Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly died in a crash , known as ” the day the music died “. We passed on thru Devils Lake , a remnant of a glacial sea the Indians called ” Evil Spirit Lake “, believing the loose rocks were the result of a mammoth struggle between thunderbirds and water monsters . And on thru Minot , known as the ” Magic City ” because it grew overnight , like magic , the moment the Great Northern Railroad announced it’s route and too , where Al Capone used the town as a central hub for his liquor smuggling . Gazing sleepily with stardust still in my eyes making my sight blurry , I watch a rose colored dawn appear out my window as we pass by Fort Buford , the sad place where Chief Sitting Bull surrendered after the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1881 and I hear a melodious note of a crying violin .
The breakfast car is just opening , it’s 6:30 . The waiter seats me at a crisp clean table with three others who are already looking at the menu . We introduce ourselves … this is a very polite car … where the passengers seem on their best behavior . Let me introduce you to George , Cathy and Matthew , the following is what they revealed to me : George and Cathy have been married 45 years . George is Greek , retired and a sportsman who really wants his 14 year old grand-daughter , Isabella , to become a TV weather woman because she’s a wiz at math and could make a lot of money in this profession . But instead she already is a trained , professional ice skater who won’t listen to his good advice ! Cathy , as small and short as her husband is tall , wears no make-up and is naturally pretty . We talk about creative personalities and her career as a ballroom dancer . They tell me I would love Boston . And now as the food is served , silent Matthew comes alive . He is a rather plump , unassuming man in his 40’s with wonderful eyes that look directly at you with kindness . Living in a condo in downtown Philadelphia , he walks to work , owns no car and is traveling to Seattle just for the enjoyment of it . He asks us only one question , ” How are your pancakes “? and when Cathy says , ” delicious “, Matthew exclaims ,” Ditto”! ( obviously a foodie ).
The train of insomnia comes to a stop again in the middle of the North Dakota plain because of the right of way of the freight trains . As the four of us admire the beauty of a sparrow , outside the window , sitting on a tall blade , a sparrow out of the nest for the first time looking for a cricket in the tall grass , we say our goodbyes . Returning to my seat , still sleepy from the nights dreamland crossing , a message appears on my phone ….. “she died last night “.
All photos taken on the train