On the news this morning they were discussing an upcoming much needed highway repair project about to launch south of us. California highways are not known for their pristine condition on the best of days, many stretches of road feeling like you are driving over a bed of rocks. This particular project will displace several hundred thousand commuters for an extended period of time on a major thoroughfare feeding into Sacramento. Ach. Public transportation is gearing up to accept the overflow, and many drivers are facing boarding buses and trains for the first time to make their way to work. When living in the Bay Area I commuted from San Jose to home, a drive normally of about thirty minutes, during the road widening of the 101 Freeway. My office at the time was situated one block west of the San Jose Airport, adding airport traffic to the mix of traffic I merged into leaving the building at night. During the construction many nights I sat on the asphalt moving forward at a snail’s pace, actually a snail would have passed me, for two hours or more before seeing the lights of home. Often I think this triggered my urge to move to less populated areas once my job there was done.
Several times during my working years I relied mainly on public transportation. In earlier blogs I have written about my three years in Massachusetts. I worked in Boston and lived in Wakefield. About a twenty minute drive lay between the two points not factoring in fluctuations in traffic. To avoid the glut of cars normally heading into the city at peak hours plus parking problems on arrival, my husband and I left our car at the bus station and either took several buses or a bus and several subway lines to get to work each morning. I didn’t mind it so much unless people were crammed into the trains like sardines, leaving it impossible to read to pass the time. Perhaps it was better when I couldn’t manage by book. Once, while reading a particularly engrossing chapter of The Exorcist, I cruised right by my usual looking up to find myself at the Harvard stop miles down the line in the pouring rain. It was the only time during my stay in the state I stepped foot on the much hallowed campus so in the end, wet or not, I was glad Blatty wrote such a compelling novel leading me to its doors.
I’ve always had a warm spot for trains. Mindlessly sitting as the cars race down the track, watching the scenery stream by outside the window changing vistas with each bend in the track. At the ripe age of five my mother and I boarded the train in Toronto for what was to become a year’s stay in Vancouver with friends. My small hand clasped tightly in hers, I remember the sights and sounds of the train station. Rich oily smells coupled with sounds of grinding metal. Glistening clouds of steam rising from the snow covered ground where frigid air met the heat generated from the cars.
A tall man, at least from my point of view, wearing a crisply pressed uniform and brimmed hat collected tickets from my mother. Hoisted by my hand with giant steps I ascended into the long narrow hallway leading to the bowels of the car. Well dressed people tucked coats, hats, and scarves no longer needed in the heated interior, into overhead bins provided for superfluous items. Bags and carry on luggage were squeezed under the seats or stored by railroad personnel circulating through the compartment assisting passengers in getting settled.
A chatty gentlemen, dressed in a uniform much like the man outside collecting tickets guided along a second hall lined with windows which even on tiptoe stood well above my line of vision. We stopped at a door leading to what was to be our home for the trip across country. Inside there was bench seat, a small table, a door I would soon discover after downing several hot chocolates led to the bathroom, and windows allowing for a panoramic view of the bustling station beyond the glass. Excited I bounced about like an agitated kangaroo, exploring all the nooks and crannies of our small quarters. Our trip took us across the prairie provinces, showing me a taste of Canadian topography I’d never seen before. The caboose of our trip, if you will, culminated by snaking through the majestic Rocky Mountains, finally dropping us off in Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia.
I didn’t board a train again until I was in middle school. My parents, both working, were always searching for ways to keep me occupied during the summer months. Friends living in the San Diego area with a daughter close to my age offered me an open invitation to visit which was accepted for three years in a row. Round trip open tickets were purchased when school was out and I would return tanned and ready for school several weeks before school was to begin again in September. For me it was the first taste of independence in my young life. No parents to guide my decisions, at least for the trip on the train, I experienced the glorious high associated with beginning to cut the cord and test the water on my own. Swaying back and forth in my seat the train made its way along the Southern California coastline stopping along the way at small coastal town stations to allow those having reached their destination to get off and passengers just beginning their trip to get on board. I loved watching the Pacific come and go outside my window, disappearing from time to time as the tracks dipped further inland.
Different faces would occupy the seats next to me with new and different stories to tell. Half way through the trip I would explore the lunch my Mother would have packed for me, lazily eating my sandwich and bag of chips as my summer stretched out before me not yet written in my diary.
One day I hope I can board another train for a new destination. I’ve heard the train across Canada is back in business. Maybe I’ll try that on for size now that I’m tall enough to see the view from all windows.
That’s my story for today. It’s overcast and muggy but as yet the promised rain remains held firmly in the clouds floating overhead.
This is a lovely change of pace from a regular burger. A wild mix of flavors that all come together beautifully.
Mediterranean Pocket Burgers with Spinach Salad and Yogurt Sauce
4 flat bread pockets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, halved
1 small onion, quartered
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lb. ground sirloin
1 tsp. mint flakes
1/2 tsp. coriander
Tomatoes for garnish
Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add garlic, onion, ginger, cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 mins., removed from heat and cool.
In food processor pulse together mint, coriander, and ground sirloin. Add cooled onion/garlic mixture and mix well. Form into 8 oval patties.
Using the same skillet cook patties over med-high heat turning once, until cooked to taste. Do not overcook.
1/2 pkg. of spinach, washed and torn into large pieces
8 mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Red wine vinaigrette
Mix together in medium bowl. Add enough dressing to coat.
2 cups plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. dill
1/2 English cucumber, sliced thin and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place spinach salad inside each half of flat breads. Top with 1 burger patty. Top patty with yogurt sauce.