I ride the train to Los Angeles once a week now. It’s a good deal in a number of ways. It costs $17 round trip in pre-tax dollars. It’s less stressful and less wasteful than driving, and safer.
The train goes backstage in Southern California. The path goes through infrastructure, industry, and poverty. Huge warehouses stretch blocks in each direction. Hundreds of trucks fill acres of parking lots. Freight trains take a solid minute to go by at blurry speeds, dragging steel girders and tanks of plastic granules and stacked bulldozers and mysterious bumpy tarped plinths.
In one yard a crane holds up a locomotive while workers wrench on it from below. In another, a gigantic wooden beam three feet on a side stretches to the horizon. Huge junkyards hold crushed cubes of metal.
People live right up against the tracks and keep their style. One tiny house shows off a backyard entirely full of cactus. A pudgy Mexican dad floats in his pool as we roar by. Gang members argue next to an old Monte Carlo with a flat.
If you drive the freeway you see a million Dennys and gas stations and malls and orderly little suburban box homes.
Ride the rails and you’ll remember: Los Angeles isn’t tinseltown, it’s the biggest port on the West Coast and a Chicago’s worth of trains and trucks and warehouses and factories spewing steel and oil and toxic tanks and aircraft parts all over the world.
So this one’s for Commerce, California. Keep the hard hats on and pay your union dues, L.A. The people on the train see you, anyway.