If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I read a lot of silly books. I am a toddler, so people give me silly books as gifts, not knowing that I’d prefer ‘The Atlantic,’ ‘Wine Spectator’ or the ‘New Yorker’ magazine so I could look at the cartoons. Since I have a lot of silly books, I like to throw them around and make towers out of them. Sometimes I chew on them, although I am supposed to be over that by now. I will stuff them behind the bed to see what happens to them. (They remain there until my mommy takes them out.) Or I will shove them between the glass panels of the shower door to see what happens. (My father will have to remove their soaked, ruined mass, which sometimes requires a butter knife inserted just so to do the trick.)
Lately, though, since I am almost two, my attitude about books has matured and deepened. For example, I have seen their value as a way to delay bedtime and nap time. I will make my father read my new library book about trains four times in a row, and then make him read my new library book about trucks three times in a row. I don’t think he’s on to it yet, what I’m up to.
He’s a nice guy most of the time, so he just keeps on reading, pointing out the wheels on the trains, the wheels on the tracks, the engineer in the cab. Little meaningless details like that. Just keep a straight face, make him read, delay sleep. That was the plan.
But I was wrong. So wrong. The wheels on the tracks – not meaningless. Engineer in the cab, important. You see, I had a revelation today. Baby mind = blown. Here’s how it went down.
This morning, my parents told me we were going to a place with trains ‘just like in your train book.’ Oh sure, I thought. This is no better than the usual gambit employed to sucker me into a long car ride to nowhere. Car rides like that are only tolerable with a lot of snacks. I’ve heard it all. We’re going to a park with swings. We get there, so what, there are swings. We’re going to a store where you will get to ride in a cart. We get there, there is a cart. In the store, with produce. So what. When you get to my level of experience with parents, you know the crap they pull. My assumption was we were going to a place with trains, but probably pictures of trains. Somebody’s impromptu train sketches, or some Cubist Picasso-esque train ripoffs, or an annoyingly derivative Calder-inspired train mobile.
When we got there, though, there were trains. Real trains.
I admit, I lost it. I started running up and down the paths between the trains lustily shouting ‘twains, twains, twaaaains’ and flapping my arms around like a fool. I think I was overwhelmed for a moment to see that the things in books can be true. The trains had wheels, just as they did in the book, and those wheels were on tracks, just as my father pointed out. We climbed up into the cab where the engineer would drive, and there were wheels to turn. I realized at once that this place was different. It hadn’t been sanitized, like so much of the experiences you adults present to us are. There was gravel, and tracks, and rust. There were sharp surfaces, and broken levers that complained when I moved them, and a delicious sense of danger.
Far off, I heard the mournful sound of a train whistle. My parents said, ‘Would you like to go on a train ride?’ I looked at them like, you gotta be kidding, right? We’re going to walk right into some kind of Johnny Cash song, listening to the lonesome whistle blow? What next? We kill a man in Phoenix, just to watch him die? (You need to know your Johnny Cash lyrics to get that.) I mean, this is a train museum. There are no running trains here. But there is a running train here. And we went on it twice. Here’s a short video.