16 October 2008

Paulie on the MBTA

I Googled "train enthusiast" to see if there was an official word for Paulie's profound train worship. Turns out, there are several: Railfan, Zed, Trainspotter, Metrophile, FRN (Fucking Rail Nut), Gunzel, Grizzer, Gricer, and my favorite -- Transit Foamer. Definition: Railfans who work themselves into such a lather over the Choo-Choo that they literally foam at the mouth. This isn't a stretch. Paul becomes transfixed, possibly transported to another dimension at the mere sight or sound of a train. And trains -- specifically MBTA trains -- occupy his thoughts at all times. We'll call Paulie a T-Foamer. 

For instance, at any given moment he will randomly blurt out "Next stop, South Station" in a baritone voice. Or "Doors will open on the left. Thank you for not smoking."

To random strangers at the grocery store:
PAULIE: "You know what?"
PAULIE: "Wonderland is the last stop on the Blue Line."

To his teacher at school:
PAULIE: "You know what?"
TEACHER: "What?"
PAULIE: "The Red Line AND the Orange Line stop at Downtown Frosting (Downtown Crossing)"

Like Paul Simon, he knows everyone loves the sound of a train in the distance. And he is no exception. Every now and then, Paulie will hear the distant whistle of a Commuter Rail train rolling through the woods a few towns over. He'll pause, turn, and smile into the wind. Then say, "Hey Mom, you know what?"

If he could choose between a week in Disney World and day of riding the rails, he'd choose the rails.

When he gets tired, his favorite thing to do is zone out in front of the computer watching YouTube videos of the different T lines: Orange-Red-Blue-Green-Purple. When he clicks upon a video of the Acela, he almosts falls off his chair.

Who knew there were so many fanatical T- Foamer vids up on YouTube? Some of them make hobbyists like ham radio operators and the bus spotters of Glasgow appear casual in comparison. For instance, in one video, a man named "Jug" unpacks his video camera and a red thermos of instant coffee and proceeds to tape hours upon hours of footage from a single train crossing. In another video, some T-Foamer from JP tapes his entire Orange Line commute from Forest Hills to State Street.

So we decided to make our own fanatical YouTube video. We pulled the T map offline and mapped our course last weekend. Then we taped our little public transit party, leaping from line to line, inbound and outbound.

When we began our journey on the Commuter Rail, a mother was on the platform with her twin boys, also 4 (also mad T-Foamers). She said she was just riding into South Station and then turning around and riding back because it's the only way the boys wanted to spend the afternoon. I told her of my plan and about the YouTube videos already out there. She then confessed that she and her boys have spent hours behind the Home Depot in Quincy watching the trains roll by. She's certain the local police have tagged them as "suspicious." I was glad to hear we're not alone on this crazy train.

So here's the result, aptly named "Paulie on the MBTA." (Featuring fellow passenger Caroline, of course, who helped make the video!)


noternie said...

Just added to my list of weekend activities to try with the kids. Great idea.

KJ said...

It was really fun. Be sure to make a YouTube video!

oddjob60 said...

You are totally not alone. My 7-year-old is another big railfan (though he might choose Disney-- but he'd have to think about it!). His holiday present last year was Acela tickets for a weekend in NYC. We live along the Providence line, and often ride the train into town of a Saturday. On Monday, we did a new trip: train to Back Bay, Orange to State, Blue to Aquarium, T Ferry to Quincy, 222 bus to Quincy center, red Line to South Station. Lots of fun.

Auntie said...

Just love it Kate! Paulie's expression just couldn't be cuter, ALL business. I'm glad Caroline's lamb could make the trip. I bet Sparkles would have loved it.

lpd said...

That warmed the cockles of my heart, seeing Paulie's dreams realized on YouTube. Thanks, KJ, for recording this excellent adventure and sharing it with us. I miss those kids of yours!

Diana said...

I just love that Paulie! Thanks for sharing your afternoon with us, Kate. It makes me remember what it was like to be a kid and to be happy to ride the T! hugs to the brown babies. xoxo

Roving Lemon said...

Just getting caught up on your blog--love this! Will be showing it to B tomorrow, who is currently in train withdrawal as there are no trains to speak of in Canberra!

james said...

I love this video