Page 85 - Litteratteur Redefining World December issue
P. 85

Litterateur redefining world                      December 2020

                   he watches the dark outline of trees rip by, and I take note of how good
                   he  has  become.  The  disappearing  sun  lay  flat  behind  me,  catching  a
                   glint on his harp, and he looks older, like he belongs, like I am another
                   Russian  passing  between  cars,  and  he  is  simply  here,  and  it  makes
                   sense  and  I  listen  to  him  somehow  keep  Guthrie’s  repetitive  melody
                   from being boring. He nods toward a blue shack with a solitary guard
                   and keeps playing, a talent he apparently managed to master while I was
                   passing through his youth on my way to work. We’ve been riding this
                   metaphoric  train  for  twenty  years,  I  think.  And  so  far,  it  seems  we’ve
                   managed to stay on track. So while I desire to experience all aspects of

                   our  pilgrimage,  from  meeting  passengers  in  third  class  to  conversing
                   with the dining car attendants, I can’t help but admit how much more I
                   value  our  moments  in  the  gangway  connections,  the  music  and  quiet
                   conversations.  He  is  carrying  his  harmonica  and  I  have  my  journals,
                   separate  arts,  different  means  of  communication,  his  more  immediate
                   and  spontaneous,  mine  more  permanent  and  reflective,  but  in  our
                   individual ways  we  come  together  here,  in  the  passage,  in  the  arts,  in
                   this larger place we will forever remember as “our Siberian journey.”

                   Michael dips his harmonica. “’Take the ‘A’ Train’ by Ellington,” he says,
                   familiar  with  the  tune  I  whistled  for  years.  He  plays  louder  to  make  a
                   reply more difficult to conceive, and he is right. Tonight’s round is on
                   me, even though I quickly recall a half-dozen compositions. Downtown
                   Train,  Crazy  Train,  Casey  Jones,  and  that  Springsteen  one  which

                   escapes  me  at  the  moment.  There’s  something  about  the  train  motif
                   which  all  artists  have  borrowed  and  shared  to  satisfy  our  common
                   metaphor. “’Everyone loves the Sound of a Train in the Distance,’ Paul
                   Simon,” I say, but he shakes his head. It’s too late. We laugh.

                   These times we spend together in this passage have become our small
                   shared American space. When we enter our cabin or the dining car or
                   stand in the hallway looking out the wall-size windows at the landscape,
                   conversation inevitably occurs with other passengers and then we are
                   separate, he and I, two American travelers who happen to be father and
                   son barreling through a foreign land. But in the passageway, quiet, we
                   find something familiar. It is normal to need some place like this when
                   traveling—a pub, a church, a coffeeshop—a place to find one’s bearings
                   and catch one’s breath. It doesn’t need to be for long, the length of a
                   tune, perhaps.

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