Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Here are a few fill-in things, by
which the intensify and detail 
these Princeton tales : 1. Years 
back, this little single-car rail 
line was put in place by the
Camden-Amboy line, when 
it ran along the banks of the
Delaware and Raritan Canal.
It's been moved a bit, a few 
times, once stopping actually
in the more central area of
the campus. When Princeton
was a male-only school, it is
said, the train was 'needed' to 
bring females in for the varied
sporting events, like Yale 
football, etc. Princeton itself 
was considered an isolated, 
farmer's outpost of a school.
The train used to be referred 
to as the PJ&B line, (Princeton 
Junction and back)  -  a phrase
no one really uses any more, 
except a great old Princeton 
pal of mine, from NYC, Teri
Noel Towe. Who by the way,
after all these years of radio
service to the school, had 
been unceremoniously booted
off the air. He's class of '70, I
think it is, and was for many
years the Thursday morning
classical music/Bach scholar
(to me) spinning records and
weaving a quite erudite narration
of all things  -  history, music,
self and the rest. Teri would 
ride the Thursday train, in or
out, Princeton/NY, with dedication
and without fail, lugging his own
complement of LP's and things to
play on that day's broadcast. We
became fast train friends (even
though the trains themselves were
often slow)  -  kudos to Teri, who
still uses the term 'PJ&B'. He's also
over the past NYC years, been a
radio personality of his own, known
as 'The Laughing Cavalier'. You can
look that up. (Type in, Teri Towe,
Wall Street Journal, for a photo and 
a nice January '16 interview/profile).
Teri could talk the ear off a 
telephone  - stories, recollections, 
very pointed opinions, direct and 
four-square obscenities, each of 
which only go to make the point. 
I'd be enraptured often, on those 
Thursday rides. He was and is a 
grumbler, of the best sort, a cultural 
critic, both wise, impeccable. 
Plus, he dines very well.
You know when the railroad shuts
down for a few hours, and the trains
all stop, mucho delays, and the rest,
and all the 'overhead' announcements
will tell you is that there are delays
due to a 'trespass incident'? That 
happened some four or fives times 
a year, at least. Everyone knew it
meant  -  this 'trespass incident'  -  
that once again some suicidal sad
sack had jumped in front of a 
speeding train. 'What's that on the
tracks ahead?' would be changed to
'What's that on the tracks, a head?'
It's good for at least two hours of
delay. Identification, body parts,
clean-up, checking that all things
are good again, and then re-service.
One time, among numerous, we 
were stuck on the tracks for a 
good two hours, just waiting. 
The only thing that made that 
bearable, for me, was listening 
to all the cellphone people trying 
to describe the situation to the
person they'd called, or watching 
the hundreds of different ways 
that varied people reacted  -  
the calm, the angry,the frantic, 
the hungry, the lost. It was a riot. 
I've found that people soon enough 
become themselves, right from 
the core, whatever they are, in 
not to long a time either. All that 
pretense and the amplified
'I am what I am not' stuff goes 
away as they get angry or surly 
or just wither away to impatience. 
Funny stuff. Another time, there 
was a really long mechanical delay, 
a breakdown on the train we were 
riding  - cold, dark Winter's night,
dark by five. Dreary. And we had 
to sit for some two hours in the 
dead train, a full house too, 
awaiting what they'd called a 
'rescue train' to come take us 
away. It did finally arrive, on 
the inside, fast track  -  that in
itself freaked me out, the danger.
With small ladders, one at a time,
the conductors escorted us down 
off the dead train and up back into 
the 'rescue' train. That too took a 
long time. I got home that night 
after 9pm. As always happens, 
there was some loudmouth on 
the train  -  on which train 
everyone was already surly 
and annoyed  -  going around
shouting out some website or 
procedure, I actually forget, to
file a claim for infractions, hurt,
damages, anything. He said NJ
Transit wouldn't ask any questions,
would just want to pay off quickly 
and keep it all mum. He said to 
make up a missed appointment, 
damages, anguish, all sorts of 
things. Just to see if he was 
on mark, I filed a really simple 
one, but it was turned down 
with a note a few weeks later.
Oh that NJ Transit.
The Dinky has, like, signs on it, and
around the station  -  'Don't touch the
train. Do not climb on train'. Stuff 
like that. As it turns out, back in 
the 1980's or something, some 
really drunk Princeton University 
student prankster did climb a train, 
moving or not I don't know, and
was fried by the electric catenary 
or whatever those electric things on
the train-roofs are called. And then,
of course and holy of holies, the
student's parents sued the railroad
 and the university big time for 
'allowing' such a thing to happen.
Isn't that crazy? I mean that they
stopped there? I mean, really, the
list is endless  -  the company that
made the booze, the bottling company
and the glass company, the driver 
who delivered it to the store, the 
store where he bought it, his 
drunk friends for not stopping him 
and  -  hell, why not, his girlfriend 
for not having him in the sack right
then instead and giving him a good
'slingo'. Where's a lawyer when you
really need one?
My last train tale, for this chapter, is
about another endless delay. This time,
not on the train yet, we were still in the
station at Princeton Junction awaiting the
NY bound train, when all service stopped.
A solid hour of nothing, no word, except
delays and more to come. The place was
janglingly angry. After endless and annoying
delay, I went around to the few faces I
recognized from our nightly train, and asked 
if anyone would care to join in and split up
a cab fare  -  I'd already had asked how ,much 
from the taxi guy, who wanted $50 to go to
New Brunswick, and he wouldn't go any
farther. I got, believe it or not, only one 
taker, a girl from Edison. We got out of 
there, and for $25 bucks each, and tip, 
we got to New Brunswick  -  my wife  
picked us up, and we drove her home.
Just as we were leaving New Brunswick,
by the way, the train service to everywhere,
which had been re-established in the meantime
and was running again, came rolling in.

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