MR. MAX’S MESSAGE – December 2008
Time to share another short story from The Book. The Book has about 30 stories of real experiences from my life. The story I’m going to share with you this month is “The Train” from when I was 18 years old and living at home with my dad and younger brother in Brentwood, Long Island. And don’t skip the band propaganda at the bottom of the page.
The big weekend was almost here. All I had to do was drive home from work and I’d have the house all to myself. My dad was taking a weekend trip and my younger brother was going with him. Being 18 and knowing I’d have the house all to myself was a thrill. Especially since Paulette was invited over to share some intimate time. We could pretend we owned the house. Sit around naked and watch TV. Have dinner naked. Brush our teeth naked—I couldn’t wait.
It was 4:59 according to the clock at the raincoat factory where I worked. I wanted to get out of there without wasting a second. I hit the clock and tore out of the place, only to find it pouring outside. The inside of my golden-brown ’68 Plymouth Fury was steamy as I took off down Caleb’s Path. It was about a five-mile ride home—15-20 minutes, tops. Then I hit traffic. There never was traffic here. What’s goin’ on? Though the rain made visibility poor, I could see things were jammed up around the railroad crossing. The gates were down. “Great!” I sarcastically shouted to myself, this was the wrong time to be stuck in this traffic. I noticed cars were passing in between the gates. Then. Click! A light bulb lit over my head. To the right of the cars, there was room enough to quickly drive to the crossing gates, where I'd avoid the gates entirely and go around the outside!
Simple enough. I pulled to the right. I could hardly see with big droplets of rain constantly smashing on my windshield. I felt pretty clever as I easily passed everyone and approached the tracks. Boom. I hit the first rail. The car angled up and came down hard. The bounce and momentum from coming off the first rail allowed the front wheels to get over the second rail. But the car landed harder this time. Crunch. I tried to remember if the bottom of the car had any significant mechanical parts. All I could picture was the exhaust pipe, and damaging that shouldn't be any big deal. The bouncing did not carry the back wheels over the second rail. The car stopped. Without any room to build up speed, it was impossible get the car over the second rail. I kept trying, shifting it into drive and reverse—but it was useless. The car was going nowhere.
From my new standpoint I could see straight down the tracks, like one of those old perspective drawings. Following the two rails down to their vanishing point I could see a little white light. My God, it’s a train! I quickly jumped out of the car remembering stories of humans finding great adrenaline-inspired strength in emergency situations. There I was in a real-life emergency. I scooted around to the back of my car and proceed to lift with all my might. All I had to do was to lift the car about 8” and the rear wheels could clear the rail and everything would be fine. It seemed to me like I should be able to do it. I tried. I tried again, straining all of the muscles in my arms. I was wrong. There was no way I could lift a Plymouth Fury.
I ran into the slow moving traffic, pleading for assistance. No way were these folks going to get themselves wet helping some long-haired kid soaked to the bone. I looked back at my car and saw a truck backing up to it. A guy was under my car trying to attach a big hook that was connected to the truck by a strong, sturdy chain. Thank God, my car is going to be saved. The guy kept searching for an appropriate place for the all-mighty hook. He moved from one side of the car to the other. He wasn’t finding it. His friend said, “Forget it, Charlie, the train’s too close.” They all quickly moved away.
Within seconds the roar of the train was upon us. The sound of crushing steel echoed in my head as the engine crashed into my car, lifting it from the ground, into the air, and down upon the big metal box that controls the safety gates. The box fell over, exposing hundreds of raw disconnected electrical wires. I didn't know what to do as I stood there in shock. Then it came to me that when you're in an accident you're supposed to exchange licenses with the other driver.
I ran up some 50 yards to the front of the train. I met the engineer. He assured me that the Long Island Railroad would buy me a new car. He was just happy that no one was hurt as he handed me his strange looking driver's license. Next it was time to deal with the police. They wanted to know what happened. I figured I had to lie—I told them that the gates were down but didn't seem to be operating correctly, so I went between them. Before I even started the next sentence they were handing me a moving violation ticket.
I continued to tell them that my car stalled on the tracks and it froze up. When I saw the train coming, I ran from the car. When I finished telling the story, one cop said, "Okay, now come into our cruiser and tell us the story again, so we can write it down." My first thought was, "My brain is flying all over the place, and they want me to tell them the whole thing—again!?"
I figured it was my chance to make the story more interesting. It started the same way, but this time—seconds before the collision I decided to hop in the back seat, knowing that the back window would pop out as soon as the train made contact. I perched myself in a position ready to dive out at the same time the window went pop. The train crashed into my car as I executed my plan, diving through the smashed back window, and tumbled safely to the ground.
At first the policemen thought I was crazy, then he realized that this was a different story from what was first told. The mean look he gave me left no doubt about his feelings toward my revised story. The next person on the scene was the tow truck guy. He wanted to know where he should tow my newly U-shaped car. I could only think of my house. After all, that is where I had to go. At least I could get a lift home. He towed my bent car across town and neatly placed it right in front of my house.
When my dad got home from work and saw my golden-brown Fury doing a pretzel impersonation, he thought I was dead. He rushed into the house and was relieved to see me standing there nervously.
I winded up being sued $8,657 by Long Island Railroad for damaging their control box. I never got a cent for a new car. Paulette did come by for a visit. Her dad was nice enough to give her a lift, when he heard about the accident. He stayed for a while talking to my dad, then took Paulette back home with him. My father felt bad for me as he packed for his vacation. I spent the weekend alone, dreaming about what it would have been like to sit around naked with Paulette.
Our big Christmas show at the Cantab (12/20) has taken on the nickname UCUC (Urban Caravan’s Unplugged Christmas). Our special guests include RANDY BLACK , PREACHER JACK , FIRE-DEAN (from NYC) and LIZ BORDEN . It’s sure to be a wonderful display of fun and musicianship. Come celebrate with us.
But that’s not the only UC show happening in December. Catch us at 80 Border Street Cultural Exchange Center in East Boston when we play their first anniversary on December 6.
Then on December 13 (while I’m in Miami Beach taking in the silicone sights) the rest of Urban Caravan plays Café Blue Hills.
Come on down and join the caravan—we’re a loving bunch of creative musicians.
SGT MAXWELL’S PEACE CHORUS
Our gigs in November were pretty cool. The show at Spontaneous Celebrations (Incus’ CD release party) felt like a gypsy carnival in a Federico Fellini movie. There were dancers (a cross between belly dancing and modern dance), acrobatic dancing (one on a long cloth, one on a suspended hoop), and plenty of varied music. Jason Cohen of Incus knows how to put a show together. The Peace Chorus was happy to be a part of it (and sing in Incus’ last song).
Our Barack the Vote show at T.T.’s (thrown together by Matt York of Wide Iris and Rick Berlin) made all the difference in the presidential election. The money raised went to the Obama campaign—and in case you didn’t hear about it—Barack Obama won! At the show I met the guys from What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?—you’ll be reading more about them in future pages of the Noise.
The Peace Chorus show at 80 Border Street Cultural Exchange Center in East Boston will probably be our last one of the year. I love this place and would like to see them get more support from their neighborhood. At the show on November 15 we played a new song, ”Heal this Nation (Yes We Can),” that was never even rehearsed with the choir. I taught the song to the group in three minutes while on stage and it was performed perfectly.
We have three songs on Neil Young’s chart—"Children of America," "5 Mo Daze," and "End War Now." They move around every week so you have to do a page search to find them sometimes. At least one usually ends up in the top 20 each week. “Children of America,” is the only one to reach number 1 (on the week of September 22, '08). If you click on our songs, it helps us spread the word of peace. Thanks.
T Max (publisher/editor)
74 Jamaica St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130