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Train window

Hopping a coachclass out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late June of 2007 I found myself watching season one of Lost on DVD next to a 250 lb Brazilian on his way to Seattle. I lay down with my sweatshirt balled up under my head and legs crossed as I recline my seat as far as it will go as we rolled north towards Santa Barbara.

As the train went up through the San Fernando valley, my thoughts went back to my days at UCSB. For a small percentage of the population, college is nothing more than grooming school for upper-class aspiring, non-identity frat brothers who usually find their perfect expression on the outskirts of campus in rows of ratty apartment buildings with beirut tables and couches in each lawn and everyone thinking the same thoughts as they all watch the same girls at the same time every day as they bike down Pardall Road to get to class.

But for most of us, UCSB is a place to prowl through the wild streets looking for tapped kegs, to hear voices calling from the cliffs, to find the ecstacy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization, to build huge bonfires on the beach and drink Costco sized bottles of whiskey and grapefruit juice on Tuesday nights.


As we made it through Camarillo where Charlie Parker’d been mad and relaxed back to normal health, I resigned myself from these memories of my college glory days and focused on the journey at hand. No, tonight wouldn’t find me with my blankets in the sand cooking hot dogs on freshly cut and sharpened sticks over the coals of a big wood fire in my swim shorts, barefooted and wild-haired, singing, swigging ale, spitting, jumping and running. No, tonight I would be crammed in a window seat next to a single mother and her one year old on their way home from Santa Cruz.

Before I knew it the train rolled into San Luis Obispo a full 10 minutes ahead of schedule and I figured I needed a few beers for this long day on the tracks en route to Portland. I turned to the young man sitting across the aisle who in three weeks was being shipped across the Atlantic to join the Peace Corps in Mali and asked, “Will you watch my pack while I run over there and grab a couple beers from the nearest liquor store?”

“Sure thing.”

I jumped off the train and walked past a quaint and charming Italian restaurant in search of a good place to buy some 22 ouncers. There was a barber shop or some sort of place where locals hang around on the porch on the corner next to the restaurant.

“Do they sell beer in there?” I asked.

“No, but if ya go straight down this street about three blocks, there’s a great deli an they got beer.”

I followed in the direction he pointed and sure enough, there was a great deli called Gus’s with an above average selection of beer. Five or six Lost Coast beers and a great selection of Rogue as well.

I opted for a bomber of my favorite go-to beer, Firestone Double Barrel, and a bottle of Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve. Somehow it just made sense to get one beer from where I was and one beer from where I was headed. The pair came out to just under eight dollars and I was quite pleased with myself for figuring out a way to avoid the five dollar Heinekens on sale in the observation car lounge.

I grabbed a plastic water cup as I left the deli and half-assedly jogged back up the hill to the train station. I still had a long ride ahead of me, but having some tasty beer made it go by a little faster.

San Luis Obispo train station