CHEAP EATS I love how, on the train, you can see into people's backyards. Backyards are so much more interesting to me than front ones. What you don't see from the road ... it's the same in California as Iowa as Pennsylvania: piles of colorful plastic trash, tarp-covered mounds of mysterious not-yet-trash, broken-down swimming pools with bikes sticking out of them, neurotic dogs and malicious children tied to trees ...
Sometimes, just outside of cities, between the tracks and the freeway, you see tent towns or hobo jungles, cluttered camps tucked into clusters of trees or just trying to hide in weeds and bushes. Sometimes there is smoke billowing up from a fire pit and you are free to think about coffee or a can of beans.
But litter is more beautiful than people think, especially blooming in an otherwise pristine "natural" landscape. Although ... I would argue that our trash is natural too, that Coke cans and candy wrappers are to rocks and leaves what Miles Davis is to wind and rain. We make stuff that outlives us, get over it. Or not. Either way, detritus makes me want to dance.
What I don't like about train travel, on the other hand, is the museum piece doofus who gets on in Sacramento and blabs about the Donner Party and this scenery and that history, PA system crackling, fracturing, and feeding back, all the way to Reno. I tried to drown him out with my headphones but Utah Phillips wasn't loud enough. But Abba was, thank you for the music.
After Reno it doesn't matter. You are too rattled and fuzzy to care about the sunset or canyons, or the Colorado River, or the Great Plains. Of course, without the voice directing you to look at this, look at that, you tend to notice every single thing.
Two nights in a row I dreamed about tornadoes. The first night I was home in bed, and the second night I was on the train. Only thing tying the two nights together was what I'd had for dinner: Zachary's pizza. So if I dream about tornadoes tonight, after eating Zachary's yet again, then we will know the cause.
I've got a little cooler and am the envy of this choo-choo train, because I'm holding Zachs.
My thinking: nothing packs more caloric and nutritional value per square inch than a slice of deep-dish pizza. One little piece is a whole big meal. Plus pizza is good hot or cold, as every rocker knows, and it travels well. Well, it travels well in a cooler on a train. Not so much so in a pizza box in the rain. I had to walk five or ten blocks in a downpour, trying to hold my little umbrella over both me and this two-ton pizza. We both got soaked, and the toppings slipped off of the pie and my hat fell off of me. But we made it, and reassembled, and dried off, and by the time I get to Chicago I will have eaten Zachary's for four straight days, and presumably will have dreamed about tornadoes for four straight nights.
But I mean to tell you about Christopher's burger joint, which is my new favorite burger joint by virtue of being a little closer to my house than Barney's. The burgers are made out of Niman Marcus designer cows, but the place itself has a lower brow feel to it, which of course I like.
And they have shoestring french fries, which I like.
Just be ready with the salt and pepper and hot sauce, because nothing, not even the spicy burger, was seasoned very much.
I ate there on a date (speaking of flavorlessness) with one of those guys who only really knows how to talk about himself. You know, the one with an hour-long answer to every question you ask, but he doesn't have one single question for you. While not exactly what I'm looking for, these dates always go well for me, because while he's talking, I get to focus on my burger. And fries. Which is ultimately what I'm more interested in.
My date said (among 9 million other things) that he'd met the owner of Zachary's and, ha ha, told him that Zachary's was the second-best pizza he'd ever had. And when Zachary asked whose he liked better he said his own homemade pizza. Dude makes better pizza than Zachary's! And I have no reason not to believe him, except that and this is pretty flimsy as well as retroactive I did not dream about tornadoes that night.
Mon.Sat.: 11:30 a.m.9 p.m.; Sun., noon9 p.m.
5295 College, Oakl.
Beer & wine
L.E. Leone's new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.