Saturday, October 17, 2009

Trains, Evocation, Training and Vocation

Living on a street in which freight trains literally run down the middle of the road, clacking and whistling, evokes a lot of memories: our honeymoon train trip that covered almost the entire east coast and deep South, our recent adventure on the City of New Orleans to Chicago and onward to Milwaukee, childhood memories of the sparky old Lionel model train at Christmas, riding the rails in New York and Connecticut, and even a poem of sorts from my high school days.

The latter popped into my mind after not thinking about it for many years. It was on the wall of the office of my high school band instructor, the legendary Nelson Gorbach of Walsh Jesuit High School (who is still there and in his 42nd year at his post). I first saw it some 31 years ago, and somehow, it seared itself into my memory:

It's not my job to run the train,
The whistle I can't blow.
It's not for me to say how far
The train's allowed to go.
I'm not allowed to blow off steam
Or even clang the bell.
But let the damn thing jump the track
And see who catches hell!

I think anyone who has ever worked for a living anywhere can relate!

"Uncle Nels" was (and obviously is) a remarkable musician and teacher who taught me to play the saxophone and who made music fun and interesting - and somehow managed to get a commitment to excellence and dedication out of a scrappy crew of high school boys. I had an absolute blast playing in the concert band under his direction - even playing a $5,000 bari sax that was nearly as big as I was. Of course, reading and playing music has been of remarkable help to me in the ministry, as the Lord used Mr. Gorbach in his vocation to help "train" (get it?) me for my vocation.

I wonder if Mr. Gorbach still has that "poem" on his wall?

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