|November 28 2021|
Because of my childhood tradition of riding trains in Buenos Aires I have always had an attraction to all their charms. But the train sometimes intrudes darkly in my dreams.
From my Coghlan train station I would hop on the English electric train and go with my mother to Belgrano R. The American high school where she taught physics and chemistry was there and nearby was my grammar school. On other occasions I would go with my parents or just with my father to the cavernous end-of-the-line Retiro train station that was downtown. From there, without leaving the station we would descend in escalators and take the Buenos Aires Subte to the Lavalle station to go to the movies. There were two blocks on that street with side to side movie theatres.
But now at my age of 79 those rosy memories are part of my rosy past and the reality is that my friends are either disappearing or dying.
So I have equated that to a railroad theme. I get on the Coghlan station, and as the train stops on the subsequent stations on its way to Retiro, people get off. By the time it arrives at Retiro I am the only passenger.
Not all of my disconnection is by death or losing track of people. Some of it may be a result of a combination of the technology of the 21st century and the Covid pandemic.
When we all had black dial telephones in our homes I would answer the phone. It was an imperative. There was no display as to who the caller might be. Now I have two phones, a black Panasonic (3 of them, one in my office, one in the kitchen and the third in my bedroom) and a Galaxy 5. Few will call me during the day (or night) but all I have to do is answer one of those phones (if I get a call) and the other will also ring. And then you are in that communication conundrum.
There are a few people that I call in Vancouver which I will probably stop calling. I get the impression that I am taking them away or interrupting their TV viewing. I believe that is what they may do all day. Another friend, when I call by Whatsapp is always about to eat, about to go to the super market, etc. A local editor I worked with many years, when I call, has said to me several times, “ Alex why is it that every time you call I am about to go to a zoom meeting?”
I guess I am getting the message and I will refrain from calling any of them as my train is about to arrive at Retiro.
It would be easy to feel sorry for myself and consider what I tell many people that I am obsolete, redundant, retired and inconsequential. Or perhaps I have bad phone odour or I talk too much. My youngest daughter has advised me to consider that I do have some friends that do call or answer when I call them.
In this 21st century with no Kodak, Packards, Studebakers, Oldsmobiles, brand new film cameras and black dial phones I feel out of place, but not only of place but also time.
Stability of routine is important when one lives alone in such circumstances. One very important one is that on Saturdays (today is Saturday) at 9:30 in the evening I open the door and there I find that pink plastic-wrapped Sunday New York Times. Rosemary and I started getting it daily delivered at least 20 years ago. We had it with us by our breakfast-in-bed tray most of the days of the week (unless we were traveling). Now I read it alone. With the Sunday on Saturday edition I start with the Literary Review and the Sunday Review (full of opinion pieces).
And, yes, it is a comforting routine for me in this alien world I live in.