On the Road to Satori – Oakland Rail Yard


hobo-john by Roger Hoover


Oakland Rail Yard


at the Oakland rail yard
I listened to the sound of the train whistles’
rasp and moan—engines chugging slowly through the switch yard
the air horns barely picking up enough wind to howl
making sounds like harmonicas

the crackle of the dispatcher’s voice
over the PA system distorted by the noise of the rails
created a sound like the early bluesmen
on the 78 RPM records
the sound of hobos
hitching the rails

I just discovered
the birth of the blues!

I thought as I hopped a parked boxcar
hoping for L.A. southbound

in the middle of the night
the banging of cars’ hook up
lurch to a get-go—
back to sleep
‘til daybreak

Snow—I’m headed
east—over the Sierra Nevada
—Denver for sure by tomorrow!

but it was getting colder and colder
as the train rose to greater altitudes
until just above the tree line
I figured it was so high
the snow couldn’t fall

my leather bomber jacket and
my military down sleeping bag
of no use against the cold
I sat cross-legged in the
open door of the car
to stare at the Void

Mount Shasta appeared
—bald on top with snow at the base
framed in the picture window
of the open freight car door
like the Vision of Death

I could die in this boxcar
be gone without a trace and
no one to tell my story
—I thought

a sudden vision of death
engulfed me—
filled me with awe

if I’m to die today
am I afraid?
no—I thought
I will die in peace

staring in the face of
sparse cold and certain death
I felt a sense of calm

bring it on you
Old Angel Death
let it come quickly
for I am but a man
in the grips of death
subtly surprised by
my lack of


On the Road to Satori – Coos Bay


arago sunset near coos bay oregon by michaelatman


Coos Bay


I was getting tired of hanging around Coos Bay
hitchhiking up and down the Oregon coast getting
rides from rich kids in their vintage sedans
construction crewmen in pick-up trucks
who’d share their last six-pack as long
as you promise to save the empties
for their Oregon five-cent deposit

I was getting tired
of partying at The Sea Drift Tavern
the ex-bikers and their Motorcycle Irenes

it was time to split the fishing burg
the taste of middle-America
the decent people I’d met
worked with

the girl from Sonora
who said “I never met a
Porto Rícan before!” then took
me in like a long-lost husband home
to her corn tortillas and green chili salsa

Coos Bay
was starting
to wear on me
it was time to go

I would head South
to the Frisco Bay
the Golden Gate
stop in on the Redwoods along the way
check out the giant trees for the night
start a campfire

I’d stay in Berkeley
with the help of one of those Room Exchanges
maybe sleep in the bushes on the campus grounds
walk the Botanical Gardens
meet the local crazies

I might even feed runaway kids
like I was feeding pigeons
their little hands reaching
for my slices of white bread
like babies reaching for the bottle
eyes full of hope and sadness all
mixed in at the same time
homeless and lost

that’s what I’d do…
I’d head down the coast
leave those rain-soaked nights behind
leave the fishing boats and the sea behind me
I needed to go where the air was dry
at least some of the time
I had to get away
from days spent
in eternal twilight

On the Road to Satori – Portland


1949 Packard Super 8 sedan by quintmckown




I got the last ride I planned to get
from those Portland rich kids
in their vintage Packard  cars
with big white-walled tires
small windows and shiny
chrome bumpers

dressed in deep purple like dolls
from the velvet underground
they stopped
ope’d the door
and let me in
said not a word
they left me at the state line
as if it were their duty; their
bit for the cause—helping
this fellow bohemian
take it to the road

a new breed of hobo—not poor
looking for a piece of the American Pie served
up  raw uncut without the cushion
of middle-American security
they helped this boho
make it to California
through the back door

I stuck out my thumb
whoosh! one car goes by
whoosh! there goes another

On the Road to Satori – los Blues


Abandoned Underpass by ModalMechanica


los Blues


what a screwed up mess I made for myself
I’m thinking as I stand on the ramp looking out
over the industrial flat-top yellow chalk
blues of this city of modern-cheap

the rain barreling from the north
like winter’s solstice gone berserk
and this is California
it never rains etc.
—well, it’s raining
and freezing cold!

“here go buddy
you need this more than me” 
Chicano compadre at the Circle-K
in drunken angelic slobber
round-faced moustached
yellow kind-toothed smile
handed me his grey stretch ski cap

I thanked him and put it over my dripping head
and went out into the forlorn ravages of
the extended trip home from Seattle
—by way of Coos Bay
San Francisco
and the Golden Gate

I stood on the clover leaf of the 10
just outside LA wondering
when is any of all this
ever going to stop?

I got a ride to Barstow with a truck driver who told me, “They just don’t
treat a man like a human being out here,” he shook his head
and confided in me his deep secret fears and insecurities
“No sir,” I agreed

Cale brought me to a truck stop
where he fed me coffee and a hamburger
and continued philosophizing the inhumanity
and indecency of life in these United States
“That’s how I figure it” he went on

“No matter how you look at it
this country, taken by right or might
has been laid claim to by the white man and
no one has been able to wrestle it back from him, you see?”
I nodded pleasantly as Cale ran a long dark hand across his glistening
forehead with a sigh “It’s like that ALL over” he shook his head and paid the bill
and walked with me out the door of the café

“The rest of us I guess
we’re all just guests! Whether welcome or not
but they sure don’t treat us like guests
more like invaders,” he continued
giving me a ready lecture
on the meaning of life
according to Cale

“But, I think you’re gone be doin’ all right by yourself
just keep on truckin’,” he grinned and raised his fist in the air from the cab
as he tooled his truck out of the rainy parking lot heading North
I was heading East, homeward bound, I hoped
for the road was a tired place for me by now

back then Barstow looked like a movie set
with wooden sidewalks along an area that
sat on a hill overlooking the high desert
and a big sky full of wispy thunderheads

things change so much
today I don’t even recognize the place
with its wide boulevards and row upon row
of tract homes unusual

there was a time
when all of this would have made
a lot more sense

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