William Vollmann – Riding Toward Everywhere

From Vollmann’s latest book on hobos, riding the rails and moving. Reminds me of bit of Lucius Shepard’s Two Trains Running from a few years ago, which I reviewed here.

Whenever I injure or tire myself on the rails, I can rest, whether at home or in a flophouse. Although I won’t own a cell-phone myself, how sweet it was in San Luis Obispo to stroll around the bend, out of the railroad workers’ sight, and then confer with Steve, who hugged the ground, murmuring through his cellphone into Brian’s cell phone, so that we could plan our trespasses with scant risk or interference. Above all, how luxurious it is to travel I care not where for no good reason! As my best friend Ben likes to say, What you get is what you get. And I hope that as what I get diminishes, thanks to old age, erotic rejection, financial loss or authority’s love-taps, I will continue to receive it gracefully. But there is no gainsaying the fact that I’ve gotten is more than many people’s share. Contempt for my privileged railroad follies may or may not be warranted. The question is what I make of them. When Thoreau went to ground at Walden Pond, he got the free use of Emerson’s land. When he was jailed for refusing his poll tax, a lady bailed him out. Do these two footnotes of dependency vitiate the integrity of his eloquence? It may well be that Thoreau lacked gratitude for these favors, or that his self-reliance was never as perfect as he pretended or I once imagined. What of that? During the time of their fashioning, words mayor may not dwell with their maker in a relationship of “sincerity.” After their maker has finished with them, they live to the extent that they inspire us. I might not have been allowed to be, no wanted to be, Thoreau’s friend. But Walden gives me pleasure and makes me braver. So does riding the rails. If this essay can do the same for you, then my material comforts, even if in your eyes they render me a dilettante or hypocrite, have been useful means to that end. If this essay fails, the fault must be in it, in you, me, the orange bucket or some combination of the above; all the same, it was still written “sincerely.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *