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Midday Train to Albany: Part One

If you’ve never ridden on a train before, what is that all about? Okay, chill! Before you try to crowd me about my somewhat class-ist statement I know that everyone may not be able to afford a train ride. Yes, I know that I shouldn’t assume everyone has my financial freedom, whatever that means. My point is that if/whenever you are in need of travel and have time, why would you not be taking the train? I was recently on a train to Albany. Along the way I had many intriguing experiences. As always I would like to share some of them with you so that I can get another perspective on certain occurrences or hypothetical occurrences. During my travels I had a pseudo conversation with a Latina inside the train station awaiting our train, and had a nice chat with two younger men, one the Black snack bar attendee and the other a White conductor. This alone is quite a rarity. Other than the Underground Railroad (which brings to mind Harriet Tubman and the pioneering couple of Northern New York, Don and Vivian Papson), I don’t recall seeing on any previous train rides any underrepresented people. What I am about to share with you next though may give you some insight into my mind that could truly scare you. Regardless, I have an analysis of a conversation I had with these two men and the pseudo conversation with the Latina that I want to share with you. I will share both of these conversations in two parts across two blog postings, hence the Part One reference in the title begins with the lovely Latina.

Part One: On some level I felt like I was Rick Blane (Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca). Unlike Rick, I was not in a moment that immediately followed a heart break served by an outrageously charming, stylish, beautiful woman (Ingrid Bergman portraying Ilsa Lund). I had never bootlegged arms, never owned a Casino, and never been smooth enough to look a woman in her eyes and say “here’s looking at you, kid!” But I was feeling that Bogart cool, that Bogart rugged handsome. I had on my form fitting Calvin Klein jeans with my stylish dress-up/dress-down wingtip boots. That morning I had worked out (pushups, stomach crunches, weights, and thirty-minute bike ride) so I was feeling like quite the fit specimen. Similar to the old 80s R&B singing group, I was “ready for the world.” I entered the train station that would allow me to embark upon my trip to Albany expecting to have some adventures to chronicle, but little did I know the party was about to start immediately.

A beautiful, dark haired, athletic looking, shapely, long legged, averting eyed, succulent lipped Latina was the only person sitting in the station. I haven’t traveled on trains that often, but she was quite beautiful, and unbelievably sexy. So this is where my mind intrigues even me. On any given day, soon after entering a train station I would immediately immerse myself in a book, send texts out to the crew, watch a movie on the laptop, grade papers (listening to John Coltrane of course), or read some article that will help me grow or one that I wish I had written. On this day I was mesmerized by her presence and had to struggle not to stare the majority of the time I was anywhere near her. I watched her go outside to smoke a cigarette that I could not imagine would, by any stretch of the imagination, adversely affect her lungs. After all, doesn’t beauty give you a down payment on most everything in life? Okay, I acknowledge I am being a bit preposterous here, but indulge me! I understand that the problem which results from beauty privilege is, after the down payment, can you make the other payments? Whether the Latina could make additional payments or not, I started to imagine that she could have a crush on me and simply be sitting over there hoping I would say something. What I wanted to say to her after witnessing her playing with the ends of her hair for approximately ten minutes was this: “It was fascinating watching you truly fascinated with your hair!” It would have been quite a lyrical entry into a conversation with someone inclined toward an intriguing conversation. However, someone not inclined, might have declined attempting to appreciate my prosaic entree into conversation, leaving me with frustration. I wasn’t having that!

I thought about all those movies where two strangers meet on a train and the intensity just heats right up. I got up to purchase a water and asked myself should I offer her a water just to start a conversation, or perhaps, at the very least, to have the opportunity to hear her talk. I thought of how that type of action could make her nervous, anxious, though it didn’t have to mean anything, or could be the catalyst for a flirtatious conversation between two people who could just get caught up in one another’s conversation on the way to getting caught up in one another. She could literally be sitting there hoping I would say something because she is too shy to do it herself. I also thought of how she probably didn’t know I existed before I came into the station, and wouldn’t attest to my existence after any exchange we might have. Doses of reality don’t come cheap!

Yes, I thought of what it means for me, a married man, to even have thoughts like this? President Jimmy Carter once admitted he had lusted, so if a peanut farming, Olympic boycotting president could admit it, how much will I get beat down for it? There was also an age differential of some years, though exactly what that might have been I am not sure. Her age could have been anywhere from ten years younger than me to ten years older than me. Did I just blow your mind? Okay, but she probably was about ten years my junior. So, with a potential generation between us, was there anything I really could have said to her that she would have been interested in hearing. Okay, and then there was the racial/cultural divide. She was Latina, I am a black (say it loud). While both of those cultural groups are reputed to have “flava,” so does lip gloss and a Marlboro cigarette, but everyone isn’t trying to put them both to their lips.

Is it natural, healthy, sexy, problematic, dysfunctional to see someone that you find quite alluring and then cast them immediately for a starring role in one of your dreams? While I haven’t had flights of fancy like this often, I have had them often enough to know I can’t be alone. Is this that feeling they call having a crush on someone? I have had fantasy become reality before, and once you have experienced a dream, do you quit on other dreams, or believe more is available to you if you continue to believe? Am I still talking about gazing at a Latina from afar, or have I somehow transitioned into a more profound discourse? What are your thoughts?


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Financial freedom. There is something to be said about the fact that both you and the Latina, two people considered minorities (yet there is nothing minor about you) having the freedom financially but not in terms of ability to be affirmed in terms of race. Did the fact that she had the financial freedom to travel give the Latina physical affirmation, to your eye and to the way she went about in presenting herself? Also, could your financial freedom have contributed to your feeling like the Rick Blaine character-rocking that style that only you can bring? Does financial freedom do something to our confidence, allowing us to bring out the best in ourselves?

We have the privilege to look at our bodies and admire them, desiring to have a sexy core, toned muscles, etc. Without financial freedom, this privilege to admire our bodies might seem absurd. What we see as “needing work” on our bodies is considered “well fed” to people (many times underrepresented) in other countries.

Even the smoking of the cigarette can be read as a sign of having the privilege of holding money to place toward a product that may kill you; further, the privilege to know that the cigarette is contributing to the possible murder of those around you, and NOT pay any legal penalties.

Down payment. Although beauty is not a downer for those who have it (at first sight at least) others who are not blessed in this area pay for it. They spend money attempting to draw out features that are acclaimed in a given society. Also, those people who are said to have been born on third base with privilege in the beauty game have to keep themselves in the game by buying products to reach higher than others who have strategically or unknowingly bought their way to third base.

Breaking away from privilege and financial freedom, the conversation about the conversation is deep! You talk to yourself before allowing a verbal conversation to occur between you and the Latina (a nonverbal convo is evident and possibly even inherent in our human existence-hence the reason why she prepared herself physically before entering the train station. Even if she wasn’t intending on meeting you, she desired to make an impression on somebody). You recognize this and convince yourself that reality does not come cheap (the statement so layered that I won’t even begin to go in depth…maybe an idea for a new blog after part 2…)

The Marb cig and the lip gloss analogy to the two of you is genius! I wonder who the cigarette is and who is the lip gloss?

Dreams. I sometimes think that people see themselves as the starring roles often (is this just my projection on others?) in their dreams, so placing someone else at the center truly humbles us. Seeing someone as possibly greater than ourselves, or maybe just different and interesting enough that we underplay our own greatness, or ultimately recognizing that we are truly all equal, is the essence of life, or our dreams rather (I want mine to become my reality!) I think we have moved on from discussing the Latina! With the space I’ve taken up I could have written a new blog.

Subways are trains and I hardly think that most of the people riding them consider themselves financially free/secure.

Is it possible that my fellow poker practitioner felt guilt about the lust in his heart and this blog is a means of confession? May you be hoping that our responses serve as flagellation by which to purge sin? I do not judge, lest, I be judged.

There is obvious objectification in your narrative; I think you'd admit that. I think the questions is, isn't that OK? I mean, if a person dresses to be noticed, and then they ARE noticed, how can they feel objectified? I once saw a 20-something girl wearing a t-shirt that said "Just Do Me" - an obvious play on the Nike Slogan "Just do it." Is there anything sexual that anyone could say to that woman for which she could feel JUSTIFIABLY offended?

I don't mind admitting I'm in weight watchers, and, one of the meeting facilitators asked me why I joined. I said because I want women to think I'm hot! How can I then feel objectified if someone points out how good I look now? (which necessarily points out how BAD I looked before).

When sitting in an airport, hotel lobby or other similarly well-trafficed area I often try to imagine other people's lives. It is humbling to realize that all those other people - even the ones you admire instantly - are where you are for reasons that don't mean anything to you. And, you're there for reasons that don't mean anything to them. They don't know you and they seem none the worse for it.

Conversations with strangers can be the most satisfying of all. There is no risk. No chance that you'll see the person again. So there is a real opportunity to learn something about yourself and the world - just by taking a tiny glimpse into this person's life. You can be completely honest about who you are and what you do. What do you care what their reaction is? Introducing sexual tension muddies the waters, of course. Now you might try to instantly sound funny, smart, suave, aloof, available, and nice all by just how you say "hello" and end up sounding like an ass. And, so might the other person. Perhaps your hesitancy to speak with her was because she might open her mouth and be a complete moron, thus, shattering the idealistic image you'd painted of her, toppling her from the pedastal upon which you placed her. Without conversation, your dreams could remain intact, complete, and all yours, unfettered by reality.

*** CB, you really are a card, and my buddy! No, though no one knows the method to my madness, there is a method (hint: Part II and an Epilogue are coming next! Stay tuned). Ashamed of being lustful, fantasizing, admiring from a far--not me! The difference between me and most is that I put out there what many others are thinking/doing, and what others often wished they could say. But I will speak more on this soon. In the future don't write such a provocative response that I am tempted to reveal my hand earlier. Shame on you! -- J.W.

To admire/desire another human being even though you are married or in a relationship with another is, I believe, completely natural. I am fairly certain a majority of the population experiences the "crush at first sight" feeling from time to time. It is a biological gift. There is a value in simply admiring the pretty packaging, allowing the mind to wander the "what ifs." There is a certain amount of excitement and satisfaction in writing your own script as to how that person you are admiring would potentially respond to you. There is no chance of disappointment until you unwrap the gift. Take it to the next level, and you trade the fantasy for reality. Deal? or No Deal? We risk being rejected, and quite possibly, discovering that this beautiful/handsome person is really quite a turn off once we have access to the depths of their personality. (Not to mention, in most cases, the consequences payable to our spouse.)

Most people aren't comfortable in admiting or sharing their fantasies with their spouses. They fear their spouse's reaction and opt to protect them against their insecurities.While it is completely natural, it is easier to ignore and suppress. Being open about it forces us to examine our insecurities and that ugly feeling called, "jealousy." On the other hand, Is there a substancial value in sharing our inner-most private thoughts? I believe it is a personal question that will produce different answers based on preferences of the individuals involved and the type of relationship they share. Some spouses may be accepting of their spouses fantasy, as long as it involves someone who is not within their reach. (i.e. a famous person) Others, with open minds and effective communication may not consider any crush a threat. Again, this goes back to my point about insecurities.

To be secure, realistic, and mature enough to recognize that as humans, we look, lust, admire, and fantasize is something that requires us to think outside our socialization, but choosing to keep our thoughts private is something that should not be misinterpreted as being ashamed or admitting guilt. We are all entitled to our personal privacy regardless of our marital / relationship status.

You ask,"Once you have experienced a dream, do you quit on other dreams, or believe more is available to you if you continue to dream?" If your dreams are worth dreaming, then you should continue to believe in them.

If you aren't still talking about admiring a Latina from a far, then I would ask you to "break that down" (J.W.Wiley) for all of us so that we may have the opportunity to engage in the potentially more profound discourse.

For my first two years of college, I took Amtrak from PSU to NYC several times, and I often found people who are, to use your phrase, underrepresented. Perhaps you just don't ride the trains at the right time.

In my many train travels, I've often had day-dreams about my co-riders. Once, I even got a number--though, in my shy, timid nature, I never called. Who knows, maybe I gave up the love of my life by doing that--after all, on the ride she was reading "Eight philosophical classics" --just my speed.

As for your other inquiry....

I don't recall the exact quote, but from the PEL, I believe it goes like this:

"God is more pleased with a man who can sin, and chooses not to, than with a man who has no chance to sin."

Temptation is human--resistance to temptation is the point.

I wouldn't say it's wrong to come into contact with someone and toss them into your fantasies, though when voicing the thoughts others keep hidden, there's a fine line between honesty that can be appreciated and perceived disrespect. Of course, I could merely be voicing an invented justification of the practice I engage in, often several times daily. I in no way think of women as less than, or reduce them to objects, and I would hope they'd come at me the same way and I wouldn't take offense if a desire was voiced, but the reality of the matter is, some people are going to be offended, and their feelings I think many times should override one's desire to be open and expect those one comes in contact with to be as enlightened themself.

Heck, I could drive over to the mall right now and probably have several such inner fantasies.
I definitely can relate to Card Buddy and the whole weight thing. I don't recall how many years ago it was, but it was after I moved to New York, which I did in March of 2000, but anyway, I was overweight, due to a multi-year depression spurred by my first wife, and one day decided I couldn't do it anymore and lost 70 pounds. I've kept it off since, although sometimes I can fluctuate 10 pounds. That's still much better than before. And while I partly did that because I grew tired of holding my breath when I tied my shoes and looking like a beach ball even when sucking my gut in, much of my fire was fueled by a desire to look attractive, in the way we are taught is attractive at least, although I would stress that if we ate healthy and exercised as we should, that is the way our bodies, for the most part, would look anyway. So one could argue the vanity theory.

So yeah, I've role-played in my head and gone further to engage in conversations that revealed the OBJECT of my attention was indeed, feelin' me.
I guess it should probably be noted here that this isn't the best practice to engage in when one is married, especially if one's self control was at times questionable. I don't know where I got that from, think I read it in a book somewhere.
Like Card Buddy, I too find myself in crowded areas observing, creating stories for other people's lives, at the same time fascinated that each of them is engaged in his or her own experiences and that my story isn't a blip on their radar screen, reminding me I'm not the center of the universe. Not that I ever thought that.

Oh yeah, about the dreaming question J.W., I don't plan on quitting the dreams, especially since a few have been realized, because if I go for all 375 of them and only manifest 86, that's better than ZERO. I don't wanna be a zero...

Is it possible that within your mental rolodex of “all those movies where two strangers meet on a train,” you could have been creating your own fantasy article of life similar to one of those you wish you had written?

I think the feelings we get from the idea of a complete stranger being “a starring role in one of your dreams” are a casual reminder we’re still alive.

It is the feeling of wanting something you can’t have, but the cushion of the big screen to remind you that anything is possible.

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