Wide, open spaces

zone

IF YOU STEP from our house out to the street, hang a right, walk about five blocks and look sharply over your left shoulder, this is what you’ll see.

Mountains, some humble homes, trees, wide open spaces and a railroad track that heads to the Pacific coast and the commercial shipping hub at Lázaro Cárdenas.

I took the shot during a 30-minute exercise walk I made yesterday morning with my child bride and our closest nephew, the one I once called the Little Vaquero, the Little Cowboy, but he’s bigger now and no cowboy. He’s a soccer goalie and nearly 15.

He had spent the night with us, which he does every now and then, but not nearly so often as he did when he was much younger.

I’m not sure why this scene caught my eye. Maybe it’s the new year, and this wide-open space represents possibilities to me. To me, a new year is like a clean slate.

And then we walked  home and ate waffles.

Train times

WE MAY HAVE iPods and iPads and iTunes and even flaming Samsungs today, but we do not have trains. Freight trains are nice, but passenger trains are lovely.

One advantage of being vintage is that you had trains in your life, and now you have trains in your mind.

A railroad track passes directly behind the house across our street. Freights thunder by day and night. My favorite is the 5:45 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock?

Most passenger trains are gone, and we’re left with the occasional line that transports tourists. Alas.

As a child I boarded trains at the huge station in Jacksonville, Florida, and rode 200-plus miles northwest to Sylvester, Georgia, where I stepped down onto dirt.

Grandparents picked me up in an old Ford, and we drove to the farm on rutted, red-clay roads.

new-imageOne evening in 1962 a staff sergeant deposited me at the station in San Antonio, Texas, handing me a ticket and ordering me aboard.

The Air Force paid for a solo sleeper to Rantoul, Illinois. I woke the next morning and watched a forest of white-barked birch trees passing. I’d never seen birches.

Also courtesy of the Air Force, a few months later, I railed from Rantoul to the San Joaquin Valley of California, via Chicago. All the way across much of America.

From New Orleans I would ride the elegant Southern Railway to Atlanta to visit my parents. “Southern Railway Serves the South.” It surely did. But not anymore.

Traveling solo with two bottles of tequila, I rode in a sleeper from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez. I stood outside on the bucking platform between cars and watched the desert mountains in the distance, which was romantic.

With the woman who’s now my second ex-wife, I took a train from the English Channel to Paris, and a few days later an overnight sleeper to Barcelona.

The following year found me on a train alone from Edinburgh to Inverness and a few days later, with a new traveling companion in the form of a lovely American anthropologist, aboard a train from Inverness to the craggy coast of Scotland.

From there we ferried to the Isle of Skye.

I stood outside, six days later, as my traveling companion, leaned out the train window (just like in the movies) as it pulled from the station in Chester, England, taking her to Wales. My ride, an hour later, went to London.

I never saw her again.

Again with my second ex-wife, I took a train from Los Mochis, Mexico, to Chihuahua with an overnight at the Copper Canyon. After a following night in a Chihuahua hotel, we took a jammed, third-class train to Ciudad Juárez.

That was in the 1980s, and it was my last train ride.

Trains running again

THE VAGABOND sound of passing trains has returned.

We live just one block from the rail line, so it’s long been a part of our daily lives. But the sound vanished for more than a week till the day before yesterday.

Rail traffic had stopped due to a blockade just up the highway, “teachers” unhappy with a reform of the educational system recently implemented in Mexico.

The unhappy “teachers” had set up an encampment, blocking the rails with rocks and logs.

The economic loss was reportedly vast.

“Teachers” down in Oaxaca and Chiapas have been blocking highways now for weeks, causing economic and other forms of chaos. These are “teacher” unions.

The educational reform, like the energy reform, is something new in Mexico, something good. The energy reform is opening the energy sector to foreign competition. We will have options for gas stations like in the United States.

For decades, there has been just one gas station in Mexico, the government’s omnipresent Pemex.

Left-wingers, of whom we have many in Mexico due to the high percentage of ignoramuses, oppose the energy reform because they oppose choice and the free market.

Plus plenty of xenophobia.

And no group is more left-wing than “teachers” who have a number of unions. They also have their “teacher colleges” where “teachers” are made. These schools are communist indoctrination centers that sport murals of Ché Guevara.

No joke.

“Teachers” in Mexico are the most disruptive element in the nation, constantly causing problems.

What has their Red panties in a twist about the educational reform? A number of things, but my favorites are that they will have to take exams to show competence.

Oh, my goodness! Imagine that.

starAnd they will lose the right to hand their jobs over to a friend or relative when they retire.

The “teachers” are so numerous and have so much support among the lamebrain population that the government is afraid to take action against the protesters. Its tactic often is wait-and-see. This has worked in the past.

And example of this wait-and-see took place a few years ago in Mexico City when electric service was taken from the hands of a union and handed over to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) that runs service outside the capital.

The union went berserk and set up blockades outside the CFE high-rise downtown. After a few months, they wearied and went home. Electric service in Mexico City is run now by CFE, and it’s immeasurably better than before.

Even an old lefty like Franklin D. Roosevelt said unions have no place in the public sector. A union fussing with its private-sector employer is one thing. Interrupting services like police, firemen, education, electricity, etc., is quite different.

It should be illegal.

In the meantime, trains are passing the Hacienda, but how this education reform ends up is yet to be seen. Will we modernize, or we will continue swimming in seas of corruption?

Will the government buckle?

The energy reform is being phased in with more success, and we’re already seeing gas stations in some areas that do not fly the once ubiquitous green colors of Pemex.

There is also a legal reform that will lead to open courts. Left-wingers haven’t tried to block that yet.

They’ve been too busy blocking highways and railroads.

These “progressives.”

* * * *

(And meanwhile.)

Carnival leftovers

morn

SEE THOSE hanging flags? They were placed there for our Mardi Gras festivities —  in February.

Folks put them up, but nobody ever takes them down. Eventually, the lines break, and they fall, little by little over months. But the banners keep us ever in a party mood.

The photo was taken about 7:30 a.m. Monday. Though it’s mid-April, it was just above 50 degrees, bracing, especially for an old coot in a black T-shirt. There was a bit of morning fog.

I came back in from that terraza, developed the photo and deposited it here. The sun rose more, the flags grew more colorful, a train passed, and another day began.

Bagels were served, and birds sang.