Dusty Boxcar Wall

Just got back from Eilen Jewell at Berkeley Cafe.

Music Tuesday was a good idea this week.  For the record, I did not drink at lunch, but caught myself looking at the clock and asking our office manager, “10:30 a.m. is too early for a beer, right? That would be wrong?” By 4 p.m. I had fantasies of setting the report I’ve been recalibrating for the last week on fire.  My boss told me that would be fine. He’ll provide the lighter.  But first we’re going to re-recalibrate it.

Thus, I needed a diversion this evening.  Eilen Jewell and band were just the thing.  They’re altcountrybluesgrittyjazzhonkytonkgospelswing.  Or, “Americana,” if you prefer a catchall.  Berkeley was packed; it was kind of an all-ages, all-types crowd.  There were songs about trains, and Loretta Lynn covers, and songs about love, and songs about drinking.  My favorites were the one about how wicked Cupid is (“I asked him if the gun had a sight, How can you hit your mark that way? Little cupid, he just laughed outright, He said I don’t take aim I just bang bang bang”) and the one called “High Shelf Booze,” and the one called “Too Hot to Sleep.”

The one that really got me, though, was her cover of “Dusty Boxcar Wall,” where the girl hears the train whistle blow and decides to run away from home, promising to write a letter in the dust on the boxcar.

My desk at work is half a block from the train station.  I hear trains on that track all day long, and never once do I hear that whistle without wanting to get on one.  Wanting to get on one, because I love trains.  Wanting to get on one, because I miss traveling.  Wanting to get on one, because I’d really, really love to change a few things.  Wanting to get on one, because who knows who I’d meet, and where I’d end up, and what I’d learn along the way?

But I’m not running away on a train.  Not this week, anyway. I’m grown up enough to know that changing your scenery doesn’t solve any problems; it just masks the symptoms.  And my symptoms are “January,” and “wanderlust,”  and “impatience”  and “longing.”  January will take care of itself, eventually, and there’s nothing to do about the impatience but log a whole bunch more intern architect hours and take seven expensive exams.  Wanderlust?  I’ll bet a train trip would help, actually. Longing? Maybe.

Oh, heavens, I did not set out to write about hopping a train and running away from home this evening.  I’ll credit all the Americana.  And music on a Tuesday night. And the train whistle is blowing right this minute, and I can hear it from my couch where I’m typing. Music and trains are probably a dangerous combination.   But they’re good for the soul, too.

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