Dateline: Connellsville, PA

It’s lovely winding down through the Cumberland Gap in the wee hours, and when the train’s slightly behind schedule you might be fortunate enough to have the sun coming up as you do.  Some of the best sunrises in the world can be found here, overlooking the narrow stream from halfway up the side of one of the adjoining ridges.  The sun sparkles off the icy waterfalls coming down the sheer rockface; it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, a view reserved exclusively for us.

Another of the fellows in the Lounge likes the sunrise in Jamaica, and who am I to argue?  After all, he’s been there and I haven’t.  We’ve been up half the night talking food trucks and pizza and native cuisine; I’ve just clued him in on the best Jamaican food truck in Washington D.C. (down by Nationals Stadium) and he’s told me all about Little Mexico, the food truck hangout just off the tracks in New Haven.  That’ll be worth a special trip when I go up to try the pizza at Frank Pepe’s.

We’re here in the Lounge because most of the rest of the train is asleep, and it’s poor manners to chat right next to them.  One poor fellow was escorted off in Pittsburgh for annoying his neighbors; the attendants take that seriously.  I say “poor fellow” not out of pity for the long cold walk he’s got ahead of him but rather with respect to the addled mental state that could lead someone to think he can rant endlessly and annoyingly without consequences.

…why are you looking at me like that?

Anyway.  We were talking about the sunrise in the mountains of southern Pennsylvania.  Or at least I was; Napoleon (that’s the fellow I was riding with) was telling me about Jamaica.  Apparently he’d had to cut his vacation short after falling out of an island hopper into the water some fifty feet beneath.  Broke ribs; bruised his spleen.  He was amazed at the absence of any real doctors at his Ocho Rios hotel; I observed that “Surely, no one expects a Spanish inn physician.”  Didn’t even draw a pity laugh.

Conversation moved on to sleeping rough; the pillows I brought to put under my bruised ankles were a topic of derision but also, I think, of envy.  (I may be wrong, but so what?  Leave me my illusions.)  One poor lady had left her pills on the checked luggage that unaccountably had been left behind in Chicago between trains.  Leela mentioned waking outdoors in the Colorado mountains to find two feet of snow on Thanksgiving; that topped everyone else’s tall tales right there because we knew she was serious.  She’s hoping to maybe work as summer help up in Bar Harbor this year and save some cash.  Tough kid; I wish her well.

As the conversation drifted, Napoleon turned to me and asked my opinion on what’s going on in Iran and whether there’d be war.  I sighed and told him; the lady across the way pretended not to listen, but her lips kept getting tighter, and when she dropped her cell phone it was only a matter of time.  Her opinion differs from mine, somewhat — though we parted amicably enough, hoping that “cooler heads would prevail”.  Smart, mind you; teaches theology and “Peace Studies”.

After she left we tried to figure out why someone would take a class in “Peace Studies”.  I confessed myself at a loss; after all, in my entire life I’ve only known a few months when we weren’t at war.  We couldn’t find her again to ask her, so eventually we narrowed it down to a kind of consensus opinion:  “How can we ever achieve peace if we don’t study it first?”

I don’t know if it’s the real answer, but it worked for us.

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