Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Senator McDonough and The Haunted House

My 13-year old daughter is afraid of haunted houses, always has been. Not the real kind, mind you, but rather the ketchup splattering, pea soup-spewing sort that local civic organizations sponsor this time of year.

"You're 13 now." I told her. I would hope that by now you've realized, these places aren't real, they're fake. The scenery is fake, screams are recorded and the monsters and zombies are merely townsfolk dressed in costumes and Halloween masks."

"I don't care," she said. "I'm not going... and you can't make me go!"

"But all of your friends are going!" (Yeah, I know, this is counter to the standard parent's "jumping off of a bridge" argument, but I was desperate.) "Besides, you're missing out on a big part of your childhood. Why, when I was your age, I loved going to haunted houses."

"Fine...then YOU go!"


"Well it's your own fault," she said. "You and Mom should have taken me to haunted houses when I was younger, then maybe I wouldn't be soooo afraid of them now."

"What?? We've tried for years, but you've always refused to go!"

"Well, you should have tried harder! You should have made me go!"

"Okay then, how about this: We'll make you go to a haunted house this year, and then you won't be soooo afraid of them in the future."

"Nope! Sorry Daddy...too late."

My daughter's "Catch 22" logic confounds me, but, something tells me that someday . . . she'll make a fine politician.

Monday, October 22, 2007


This is what I love about New York.

I was sitting on a park bench at The Water Conservatory Pond in Central Park this afternoon, when a slim, attractive, blonde haired women walked by. She was followed by her toddler son and the boy's Mexican nanny. The three of them stopped in front of me, as the toddler reached to pet two passing dogs.

"Oh, isn't he adorable," said a group of white haired senior citizens that were seated on the park bench next to me. The mom smiled a toothy grin and thanked the women for the compliments. "C'mon Cheech," she said, now trying to pull her son away from the dogs.

Oh, you really need to get him a dog," offered one of the seniors.

"Yeah," the mom said politely," we plan to."

Wow, I thought, this mom looks just like Gwen Stefani. I again looked at the toddler and suddenly recognized him as Kingston, Stefani's 18 month-old son. I had seen their picture in People Magazine numerous times.

Dare I approach her?

Of course I do...I'm the "Conductor to the Stars."

They started to walk away, but I followed close behind. "Excuse me...Are you Gwen Stefani?"

"Yes I am." She said.

Kingston made a b-line for the pond but Gwen quickly grabbed his arm. I was slightly embarrassed by my intrusion, but I continued on. "I'm sorry to bother you, but my wife and daughters are big fans of yours, and they saw you in concert at Mohegan Sun Arena, and I'm a railroad conductor from Connecticut and I'm on my swing time, and...

"Okay," she said calmly. "Maybe I could sign something for them. Do you have a pen?"

"No,"I said, now patting the pockets of my gym shorts.

"Neither do I." She said.

"I'm really sorry to bother you," I blabbered,"but would you be willing to pose for a picture with me?

"Sure," she said.

I handed my cell phone to the nanny and showed her how to take a picture. I then stood next to Gwen, as a crowd of teenage girls looked and pointed in our direction.

"You are so nice to this for me," I said. Thank you for your time.

"No problem," she said.

After our photo shoot, I ran to a park bench on 5th Avenue and immediately text messaged the photo to my wife and two daughters. The accompanying message read: Guess who I met in Central Park today?

Though they were still at school, my daughters returned the message a few minutes later: R U serious? Is that Gwen Stefani? OMG!!!

When I came home tonight, I ran through the door singing "Hollaback Girl." I half expected to be greeted like a conquering hero. Instead, my younger daughter met me with a scowl on her face.

"Next time," she said, "CARRY A PEN!"

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Absent-Minded Conductor

On the way out the door this morning, my wife stopped me and said:

"Hey, mister...stop taking the razor out of the shower. That's my razor, and you're not to use it. You have your own razor. STOP USING MINE!!!

I ignored the small bits of bloodied toilet paper that spotted her legs and said:

"I'd love to use my razor...if I could ever find it."

"Ugh!!!" She said. "What do you mean, if you could ever find it? You just put a new blade on it yesterday."

I was going to defend myself, but I didn't have time. I was late for work...again. I quickly grabbed my company ID, railroad keys, and wallet from the kitchen counter and reached for my cell phone...but it wasn't there. My first instinct was to ask my wife if she'd seen it, but seeing her mood this morning...I didn't dare ask.

I must have left the phone in the car, I thought. I ran out to my '92 Acura and began searching, first looking under the seats, then through the glove compartment and finally in the trunk. After several minutes, I decided that the phone must be in the house. I ran back to the front door and knocked. My wife opened the door.

"Where are your keys? She asked.

"In the ignition...I think."


The good thing about cell phones, is that when you misplace them, you can always call from another phone and they'll ring and give up their hiding place. It's almost as if they're saying: "Yoohoo, I'm over heeere! With this in mind, I quickly punched my cell phone number into the kitchen phone...(RING-RING-RING) The sound was loud and clear...and...coming from my pants pocket.

My wife just shook her head.

It was now 6:34 a.m., and I was officially late for work. I jumped back in the car and raced down the street. As I was ready to turn the corner, a coyote came out of the woods and darted in front of my car. We lost one of our cats to a coyote some years back, so I wanted to report this sighting to my wife before she let Brenna, our cocker spaniel, outside.

When I opened my cell phone, I saw that there was a "missed call" message displayed on the screen. After pushing several buttons, I discovered that the call came from home at 6:33 a.m. I just left the house a minute ago, I thought... What could she possibly want? Before I became too indignant though, I remembered...I had made the call just minutes ago (you know, the one to find my cell phone...). Now it was my turn to shake my head.

As I drove on, the events of the morning made me think of a program I'd just watched on PBS the night before. Actor/comedian, Steve Martin, was given The Mark Twain Award and several of his peers were in attendance to honor him. Actress Claire Danes told some personal anecdotes, then showed a short film that Martin had made several years ago. It's titled, "The Absent Minded Waiter." The film made me laugh, but it also made me feel a little uncomfortable...you see, Martin's character hit a little too close to home.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


In my 21 years on the railroad, I'd thought I had seen it all; Accidents, fatalities, derailments, blackouts, blizzards, floods, washouts, etc. But even I was surprised by what happened yesterday.

It was my first train of the day. We had just left New Haven Station and I began collecting tickets. I was half way through the last car when I heard the loud whoosh sound of the train's emergency brakes "dumping." You've probably heard this sound before in action films. It usually occurs when a bad guy, is chased by a good guy onto a passing train. The two protagonists run through the cars, when one or the other invariably pulls the train's emergency brake cord "whoosh! " The camera then pans to the train's squealing wheels as they seize up and slide across the iron rails. Sparks fly.

To the best of my knowledge, we had neither cop nor robber on board. No cowboys. No Indians. Not even a fugitive chasing a one armed man. What we did have, however, was a "pull apart."
For reasons that are still unclear, the head two cars of my eight car train separated from the rear six cars. Luckily, the train was only going about 15 mph at the time and no one was injured. The engineer, still not realizing what had happened, recharged the air brakes and continued west toward New York. Luckily, an assistant conductor was in the third head car and saw the head two cars pulling away. He immediately got on his radio and called for the engineer to stop the train. The head two cars now rested about 100 ft away from rest of the train.

When the engineer called the Rail Traffic Controller and told him what had happened, the RTC could not believe it. Neither could the Line Superintendent, the Mechanical Foreman, Operations Manager or the rest of the crew. I knew my passengers would have a hard time believing it as well. My initial announcement to them sounded like this:

"Folks...You're not gonna believe this, but..."

After several minutes we hitched our train back together, and brought it back to New Haven Station where we transferred our passengers to another train.

It was quite an interesting day.

After work I went to my daughter's field hockey game. On the drive there, I thought of how I'd tell the story to the regular group of parents that attend these games. Should I come right out and say: "My train pulled apart on the main line today." No, I thought; Instead of blurting it out, I'll slowly reveal my story, starting with the whoosh of the emergency brake and slowly work my way up to the "pull apart."

When I got to the game, each of the parents greeted me and asked how my day went. Normally I would just say "good," and leave it at that. But yesterday....yesterday I had a story to tell. I began as I had planned, starting slowly working my way up to the climax i.e: "my train pulled apart." After I finished, I waited to bask in the glow of their amazement. It was then that Joe, the father of a two year old, spoke: "Ya know" he said. "That very same thing happened on Thomas the Tank Engine this morning."

Everyone burst out laughing.

Some people are hard to impress.