‘The mystery which binds me still—‘

I found a picture of an old Kansas City streetcar!

I found a picture of an old Kansas City streetcar!

My current “disability” prevents me from driving my car. Poor thing sits down in the garage forlorn and neglected. I get around with the help of friends and the DART system. [A google search for “Dallas DART system” brings up first Dodge dealers in Dallas, a sign of the materialistic and don’t-give-a-damn-about-global-warming mindset we live in.]

Some of my friends [most of them] either think this is strange or feel sorry for me.

Years ago every major city in America had streetcars. Fuel-efficient electrically powered cars on tracks. They were somewhat limited where they went, but people walked (bizarrely) two blocks to their offices after they got off the “car.”

Just before the Kansas City streetcars were destroyed (both Ka and Mo), my dad and my uncle took their four sons “over town” on the streetcar so we’d remember it. We got on in the west side of Ka and went over the Inter-City Viaduct to the east side of Mo and the Swope Park Zoo.

Then came the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy, and streetcars were replaced with General Motors buses belching carbon into the air and helping convince all Americans that God made the internal combustion engine and meant for the Koch Brothers to control America.

When I was in high school, we took the General Motors carbon-belching buses around Omaha following the routes of the streetcar tracks that had not yet been torn up.
After school I walked up Harney Street (a full 3/4th mile!) to the First Baptist Church to practice the organ for a couple of hours. Then I’d walk five blocks down to Leavenworth Avenue (after two hours of strenuous pedal practice) and catch the General Motors carbon-belching bus out to Elmwood Park and south to Walnut Street where I got off and walked down the hill two blocks home.

My plan for today requires no wonder or sympathy. I’ll walk two blocks to the Parkland DART station, ride to Baylor Hospital (about 20 minutes). I’ll walk four blocks to the Landry Fitness Center to exercise in the therapy pool for an hour, then walk back to the DART station, catch the Green Line, change trains at Pearl Street, go to Mockingbird station and take the shuttle bus the3/4th of a mile to SMU where I will have my regular session with the 11 members of the football team in my classes who miss more than half the Fridays in the semester.

At that point, I have to become a carbon-producing American and have a friend pick me up in his car because I have a doctor’s appointment at a place I can’t get by train because Dallas is still mostly following God’s edicts about internal combustion and the Koch Brothers.

And Cincinnati, too

And Cincinnati, too

I suppose I couldn’t have lived the way I did when I was in high school and wouldn’t be willing to do this now if I didn’t have a certain affinity with Edgar Allen Poe (no, I’m not claiming to be a poet). I don’t remember when I discovered “Alone,” but I’ve known for decades that he says something I want to say and can’t.

“Alone,” by Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were–I have not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring–
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow–I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone–
And all I lov’d–I lov’d alone–
Then–in my childhood–in the dawn
Of a most stormy life–was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still–
From the torrent, or the fountain–
From the red cliff of the mountain–
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold–
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by–
From the thunder, and the storm–
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view–

Poe’s meaning, of course, has something to do with the deaths of his parents when he was but a very young child and his subsequent life in orphanages. I have no such experience. In spite of the fact I had to walk and take public transportation when I was a kid, I had a marvelously loving and understanding family.

I knew (as perhaps everyone does—but I don’t think so) even before I felt and understood the terror of my first temporal lobe seizure that “I have not been As others were–I have not seen As others saw–I could not bring My passions from a common spring–.” The temporal lobes, by the way . . .

. . . process emotions, fight-or-flight reactions, and are important for short-term memory. Some symptoms of a temporal lobe seizure may be related to these functions, including having odd feelings — such as euphoria, fear, panic and deja vu.

If a person has a temporal lobe seizure, many kinds of feelings and actions get strangely short-circuited. I have “euphoria, fear, panic and déjà vu” even though my seizures are pretty much controlled by hefty doses of Carbatrol and Lamictal.

Dart Baylor station - nicer than you thought, no?

DART Baylor station – nicer than you thought, no?

My willingness to take public transportation stems partly from the fact that, ironically, trains and buses are good places to be alone. In a crowd. Euphoria, fear, panic, and déjà vu are pretty weird to experience when you’re with people.

They’re pretty weird at 5 AM at home alone, waking up thinking (for reasons known only to the divine mind that chose the Koch Brothers) about Goethe’s Faust (read in high school) and knowing this is a morning to leave the driving to someone else. My temporal lobes are not doing too well with emotions yet today.

I’m not saying you should ride the train only if you have epilepsy or want to be alone in a crowd.