Well, here I am, alone in Portland. So much has happened already, even though I only left home this morning. A transient man snuck onto the train and then refused to get off. I was sitting, drinking coffee in the dining car, when an Amtrak employee walked up to him and told him he had to get off. They were standing not three feet from me. They had a protracted argument where the employee told him he had to get off, he couldn’t stay on, and threatened to call the police. Then he actually called for police, and still he wouldn’t budge. The train hopper kept telling them to call Amtrak and they would say he had a right to be there.
Finally they made an announcement apologizing for the delay because they were “having issues de-training a passenger.” I don’t know why, but at that point he sort of deflated. He said “tell you what, I’ll go back to the station and you guys can be on your way.” Maybe it was the official feel of an announcement, maybe it was having it announced to every person on the train that he was making us all wait. Who knows, but he walked off the train. I’m glad he did, not because I felt any animosity towards him, but because I really didn’t want to see him get arrested. I worked at the public defenders office too long not too feel for him. I have an inkling of how hard his life has been. I’m glad he left before the police came.
The train hopper was in sharp contrast with my arrival in Portland. My hostel is in a really upscale part of the city. I ran to Washington Park and back, passing through some of the neighborhood. I ran past high end restaurants and beautiful old single family homes with Range Rovers parked out front. The streets are clean and landscaped and beautiful. I caught myself, as I sometimes do, picturing myself living here in a beautiful home on a quiet street. Walking to a restaurant on the corner for dinner. I fill up with this sharp sweet yearning. The thing is, this place feels like it is about money. It’s pay to play. And I know that the pursuit of money and all it can buy is not what I want my life to be about. I’ve watched my father spend his life chasing money and success. I’ve watched him buy new cars and move into corner offices. And through it all I’ve never seen him get any happier than he was before. At least not as far as I can tell. So as I ran past beautiful homes and richly dressed people I struggled with myself. I tried to remind myself of my values in life. I tried to remind myself that money is not what this life is about. For me, friends will always be worth more than money. Simplicity worth more than material possessions. And to be loved by one is better than having a hundred people reporting to you in your corner office.