Waiting to Cross

A picnic lunch. Sultry summer afternoon. An early escape from the office. Inspired art. A community of the like-minded.

Fastfood grab and go. AC blasting. Running between jobs. Graffiti. Stuck in a line of traffic for who knows how long.

It’s all how we spin it–if I want to think in PR terms. The glass is half full (empty). Yesterday, the railroad crossing at Ayer forced me to stop and smile and see the graffiti.

I had just picked up burger and diet coke at Wendy’s when I came upon the flashing crossing lights. The sack of greasy food rested accusingly next to me. I could have asked for a salad, right? Two trucks idled ahead of me. Train cars rattled past, slower than slow. I checked the clock. 1:55. I did the math and figured I might have 10 minutes to wait. The smell of fries got to me so I started on my lunch. As I munched, the truck in front of me did a tight Y turn and I moved up one space. Progress. And a better view.

Did you ever see Midnight Run? I wondered if I could make the running leap into an open boxcar as handily as Robert DeNiro. I thought of Woody Guthrie and his cross-country rambles through train yards and small towns. Johnny Cash’s throaty … hear that train a comin’ played in my mind.

The sound of a train always makes me want to go somewhere.

Car after car was painted, tagged, by graffiti artists. One with a grinning skull and careful technique caught my eye. A few cars later, I recognized his signature style. Nice. I started trying to read the blocky letters. One artist dedicated his work. One to Daphne. One to Diane. Did the women know he had split his affection? Another one was for Ricardo. A friend?

Some of the art was fit for kindergarten; some looked like it could have been done by someone tracking towards a gallery exhibition in the Village. I imagined spray cans moving with hissing strokes as the artists kept watchful eyes for authority.

Over rusty surfaces, bold aqua and cobalt, canary and persimmon flowed like there’d been a sale of Martha Stewart “bold and bright” paint. I’d finished my lunch without noticing the time. With a ding ding ding, the gate rose, sending me on my way.

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