The Odd Mix

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Location: Virginia, United States

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday Thoughts

Thank you, bloggers!

Many thanks to all of you who left notes for Gabriella. We read them all to her and she appreciated them very much. So did I.

I know, of course, that I cannot shield her from all life’s hurts – nor should I try. I can only make her as strong a little person as I can and wipe off the tears when they come. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier for me to see her hurting.

And, as I suspected you would, all of you, my new blogging friends, came through and effectively eased the hurt. The next morning MDW called me at work to tell me that Gabriella got up and, without prompting, put her hair up in a ponytail – high on her head so her ears would show.

MARCing time

Three hours each day I spend sitting on my butt on a commuter train. On the North side of the Potomac the rail line is the MARC train. No one seems to be sure what MARC actually stands for – it’s not even on their own web site – but I think it stands for Maryland Area Rail Commission.

For almost a year I rode the first rush hour train out in the afternoon and pretty much everybody sat and talked quietly, looked out the window, read, slept (like me)… you get the picture. Then my schedule shifted and I started riding the “Blue Ridge Express” which is the first train that continues out to West “By Golly” Virginia. What a change! These folks are crazy. I estimate three quarters of the riders are drinking on the train – and a good portion of them have already started before they board. They stand in the aisle (and occasionally on the seats), they yell down half the length of the cars, they have birthday parties with hard liquor and food. And some of them sleep. Most of the people always ride the same train, the same car, even the same seats every day. They are an isolated community and there is a fascinating diversity of people.

There are law enforcement officers from multiple bureaus. There are doctors and nurses. There are locksmiths and mechanics. There are programmers and political appointees. Lawyers, musicians and salespeople. There is a nationally known sociologist and a senior Senate aide.

The relationships run the gamut from vague acquaintances and casual friendships to long term romances and (I am told) the occasional on board illicit tryst – sort of the rail version of the mile high club. There have been fights and arguments, kissing and cuddling, crying and laughing. Ladies get married, ride through their pregnancies, and disappear for maternity leave. The choices of beverage range from domestic beer and cheap wine to the products of microbreweries and mixed drinks. The conductors range from affable idiots to pocket dictators.

When I first started on this train the people were like cartoon characters, not real people. I sat down my third day on the train with my laptop and proceeded to write the skeleton of a cast for what I thought could be a Cheers type sitcom. Over time they became real and familiar; and real people are far less easy to categorize. But that initial shocking impression has stuck with me and, just for fun, I think I am going to start fleshing out the character sketches and then work up a few “episodes” for my sitcom. Some of my characters have faces – based closely on real people. Some are based more loosely on the first impression I got of an individual. Some are composites and a very few are wholly imaginary. I thought I could make dramatic use of the lurches as the train switches tracks, I could change scenes by “falling out” through a window and letting the train zoom by and then “coming back in” another window.

One of the most fun things about this idea is that there is effectively no “action” – it is almost entirely about the dialog. With one exception – three of the most one dimensional characters are “the runners”. These three really exist; Mullet Man, The Beige Lady, and The Dark Horse. They have a compulsion to be first out of the parking lot. They stand in the door as the train pulls to its final stop; jump out as soon as the doors open; and sprint to their cars. They leave their spots like dragsters off the line… just so they can sit at the train crossing for five minutes or more while the rest of us get off the train. The people who are still on the train call the race as if they were at the race track. “…And it’s Mullet Man in the lead, but Beige Lady is coming up fast. And now Dark Horse is making a break on the outside!” They actually put money on the windowsill to wager on who will get to the gate first.

I will post things here as I work them out and clean them up. Let me know if it gives you any good creative ideas. I think I shall call it Train Space. Or not. We’ll see how it goes.


Blogger WILLIAM said...

It will be interesting to see how you flesh this out.

2:50 PM, March 17, 2006  
Blogger Mom Underground said...

This oughta be good! Sounds like there's plenty of material on that train! I like exclamation points tonight!

11:24 PM, March 19, 2006  
Blogger Tink said...

"I sat down my third day on the train with my laptop and proceeded to write the skeleton of a cast for what I thought could be a Cheers type sitcom." When you have the first episode written you should post it!

I'm glad your daughter is feeling better!

9:45 AM, March 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARC stands for Maryland Area Rapid Commuter.

10:26 PM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger LotionBarBunny said...

I'm glad to hear that Gabriella put her hair up in a ponytail, looks like self confidence is back? :)

9:55 AM, March 31, 2006  

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