The Inland Empire

The Metrolink train station in San Bernardino has received a major beautification, due to its use as a background in a Clint Eastwood/Angelina Jolie movie coming out this summer.  The upgrade didn’t come with improvement in its natural climate, however:  this station is outdoors and, on a 108 degree day, not a whole lot of fun as a place to hang for an hour waiting for the train to LA.

However, my fellow waiters were all benumbed by the heat and the end of day as well, making the hour mellow, if sweaty.  And making the train, when we boarded, feel luxurious in spite of its rather utilitarian–but clean–reality: air conditioning is a grand invention.

The path between San Bernardino and Union Station is basically a straight east to west shot, through the back sides of a raft of unlovely towns:  Rialto, Upland, Covina, El Monte. The predominant railside attractions tended toward ballfields (about a dozen, all in use by uniformed teams of boys and men), machine shops (falling down as much as standing), shanty towns, and ranks and ranks of parking for tractor trailer rigs.  Southern California looks like no other place in the world that I’ve seen; oh, the “glorious” parts do, but its working innards are a Rube Goldberg walking on the dark side.

I’ve been to and through Union Station dozens of times but last night it was full to bursting in a way I don’t remember seeing before. Or maybe it was crowded that January evening 35 years ago, which is why the past flashed before me for a moment. Union Station was my first sight of LA, back when I was older.

This time, Dana and my god daughter, Ilyse, were waiting for me.

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