It is Monday in Ashland. I hear the sound of a train horn, next the crossing gate’s alarm , now the bell and screech of brakes as #86 Northbound pulls in to pick up passengers on its way to Washington and ultimately New York City.
There are people who commute to Washington on this train, bureaucrats, contract emloyees or contractors’ emloyees. Perhaps a tourist is making a day trip to Washington. A day trip to New York isn’t out of the question, but that is a stretch.
I miss both big cities. I miss the museums of both cities. I miss the excitement, the noise and the smells of Manhattan. The adventure, for me, starts by climbing aboard the train.
Other sounds for Monday bring me back. The hum of traffic on England Street where street crosses tracks. It is not yet 6:30. The tradesmen, electricians, plumbers and mechanics are headed to work, maybe some doctors, definitely nurses, headed in for the shift change. And there is another train horn, most likely a freight. Here it comes. Not a freight this hour, but Northbound #52 Autotrain, headed to Lorton, VA on its nonstop run from Sanford Florida. The train carries passengers and their cars, or trucks, or motorcycles.
We have reverted to quiet again. Now I hear the refrigerator in the house and not much else.
Truth be told, I’m cold this morning. I guess I should turn up the air conditioning.
I wonder what the sounds of an inefficient world were, with steam locomotives that had whistles, rather than air horns. There were horse-drawn wagons once that delivered ice in summer, coal in winter. That meant the sound of shod hooves on cobblestone pavements. And we can close our eyes and imagine the sound of the town band performing in the bandstand in the park, Perhaps Sinclair Lewis, John dos Passos, Edgar Lee Masters, or Sherwood Anderson wrote of such a moment. Maybe Samuel Barber, Charles Ives, or Aaron Copeland gave that musical moment music of his own.
We listen to America going about its business. I fight the sleep returning. I watch this day begin. I hear the throaty diesel of the refuse truck. Later a train will pass, hauling giant green containers, filled with Washingtonian refuse. Refuse, picked up compacted, hauled and dumped, only to be loaded hauled and dumped again. What strange effluvia of progress is our waste!
I wonder if I just heard the sounds of progress or simply more noise.