Dangerous Compassions


I used to say I did not especially like trains.  Well, that was never true.  I’m thinking way back.  Waaaay back.

Yes, I could not help feeling excited.  How the trains flowed like water.  The excitement of the ding ding ding–the way a train’s passing lasted a certain amount of time.  The colors of the cars, the idea of a conductor.

There was something for me that trains were for boys?  Other people seemed to own the love of trains, like train model people, and I was supposed to enjoy something else.  I struggled as a kid with what I liked vs what I was supposed to like.

I didn’t ride on a train until I was 17, that trip I took down to Corona to see a friend and stay with her and her family for a few days.  I had a layover in LA, and a friend met me at the train station and took me to dim sum.

Then I rode trains more later, never hopping trains, like my friends who are better anarchists than me.  But training down the Central Valley to visit my folx on the coast, when I had them.  And Ming and I rode a train together, when we saw the raisin farmers burning that paper, and someone committed suicide by train, which delayed our journey.


Well, I am not embarrassed to say I love trains, though not so much riding them or studying them.   A big part of the appeal nowadays is the graffiti.

So colorful, exciting, varied, gorgeous, free.  Graffiti can be a thrill to make, or so I hear!  But mostly I love it as public art.  It’s evidence that strangers are willing to risk their freedom and life to provide a culturally enriching aesthetic experience for me.  It’s a very special form of love.

I look at graffiti and feel mystified with joy, to see the new ideas in the form of spray painted shapes and letters.  I study it to learn about my own culture, the culture of the people–not big money of movies, tv, slick magazines, or billboards.  I love the culture of the people that I find in zines, rap, riot grrl, graffiti, slang, low budget anything.

I’m so proud of the people who beautify dumpsters, backsides of buildings, alleys, light posts in parking lots, and other neglected, liminal spaces.  So grateful to them, for helping me learn about being a human, and how it feels for them, to be human.  It’s very diy–it’s not filtered through layers of manipulative capitalism, curated, or approved by anyone but themselves.  It’s wild and anarchist, could be offensive, could be stupid too, but at least it’s the stupid of the people.  My cherished people.

Train graffiti is extra nice as it flashes by.  But I love city graffiti, gas station graffiti, graffiti on dumpsters, wheat pasting, stencils, big Shepard Fairey stuff, graffiti gang collaborative work, a kid’s scratchings on a school desk, tags, the subconscious art of graffiti removal.

Clearly, I want a master’s degree in graffiti!  Other than Ming, it’s my favorite thing.


Yesterday in Kingman, we stopped at this Thai place where Ming got lunch for us.  I walked over to the train tracks and stood a long time, looking at this beautiful platform thing, and the curve of the tracks, not pictured.


Then we went to a park to eat our food.  It was not very good at all.  The sauce of my yellow curry was ok, but the veg was poorly cooked, not toothsome at all!  The eggplant was almost raw.  Ming’s food was not much better.

But the trains that passed by were my true joy.  Let me show you some pics.


These cryo-trans cars looked really different.  I loved this ZaferKe.  Super tasty style there.


A lot of beautiful stuff I didn’t photograph–beginning to recognize the work of an artist or two is exciting me also.  We had such a good time last trip in Needles, and I have an ok memory, to carry what I learn with me in my head.  Learning how to read the words better is exciting too.


I know there’s a huge world here, and I’ve barely dipped a toe.  I could watch a bunch of youtube videos, dive deep into graffiti websites and forums, make some graffiti zines, go to magical graffiti school where we do graffiti all day and take our art to a whole new level.  Intentional graffiti communities, graffiti as radical mental health, hardcore graffiti scholarship.  That whole world is possibly open to me.

I hope to live another 40 years, so I don’t need to rush.  As long as I survive freeway travel and bad Thai food, and don’t get jumped by a disgruntled trackside trainwatcher, annoyed I bothered him with my joyous exclamations.


By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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