Riding Train 2021
You. Me. Everybody.
Wearing masks even if no one else can see them.
Steel wheels go klak-klak, klak-klak.
Train 2021’s windows flash its days and nights.
The Mad Orange Clown „reality TV“ star President blew his red rubber ball nose so his fans donned video game costumes of Viking horns and ransacked the American freedom that dared to tell him: „You’re fired.“
In Germany, the leaders changed with smiles, respect, flowers.
Is that where this train is going?
Scenes out our windows:
I hear songs from other trains and barely swept back to life concert halls. Joseph Arthur intoning We Travel As Equals Or Not At All. Die Toten Hosen raging 1000 gute Gründe (Ohne Strom).The Rolling Stones rocking a sold-out ghost drummer tour 56 years after we first heard I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Bruce Springsteen asking us to meet him in the land of hope and dreams.
Zombies wave cellphones to rage against the science that made those Star Trek communicators. Zombies battle vaccinations that checkmated diseases like polio that mangled my grandmother, two of my high school classmates and a waterfall brown hair Nebraska beauty who turned out not to be my heart’s #1. You cannot tell zombies to get vaccinated, but zombies can tell a woman what to do with her body. Zombies‘ suicidal refusal of tangible reality and civlized responsibility mocks freedom. Look outside the train to see the zombies‘ victories: 5.4 million and counting COVID gravestones with names like my friend Barbara.
Such zombies were once unimagined by anyone beyond fiction authors like George Orwell whose 1949 novel 1984 is a bestseller on Train 2021.
That man in a black leather jacket: I can’t tell if he’s reading a screen or a printed page, but the words of Johannes Groschupf’s Berlin Heat warm his face.
That woman across the aisle is a masked stranger struggling with fears and heartaches while yearning for hope. Just like you. Just like me.
Is the book she holds Amor Towles‘ A Gentleman In Moscow, a city you’ve never seen or is it The Paris Library set in rues that makes your heart sigh? Is it urban Brooklyn’s Shoot The Moonlight Out or rural Virginia’s Razor Blade Tears? Is it a novel by one of the other cowboy „J’s“ like Jess Walter or Jeff Deaver?
She looks out the windows at the scenes flashing past.
America leaves its 20 years no-way-to-win war in Afghanistan. Women become the first casualties of that new pious order.
Who didn’t see that coming?
Wildfires rage on the sunset side of North America. Climate change smokes skies as far away as the Arctic home of Santa Claus and Antarctica where we froze The Blob in 1958. Now those polar icecaps are melting, melting. Tornados destroy hometowns. Floods drown Australia. Heat and drought bake Europe.
Who didn’t see that coming?
Bond, James Bond is dead.
Our windows slide past broken and battered movie theaters.
Cellphone screens transfix us.
Some screens show a star-packed climate change satire called Don’t Look Up where everyone is too busy clicking onto news of „influencers“ and views of narcissistic swans to pay attention to klak klak klaking closer global doomsday.
„Content“ from so many screens rides Train 2021. Great shows like Germany’s Babylon Berlinand France’s Call My Agent and a New Zealander’s documentary about four Hamburg bar rockers who changed the world. All only clicks away. If you have the money.
News headlines to Blade Runner dreams:
A computer wirelessly connected to a human brain.
White supremacists and fascists marched out of the shadows. The Mad Orange Clown plots an encore. He’s selling tickets to the faithful and foolish. Inspiring wanna-be’s and cannibals all around the world.
A record 439 souls joined the ranks of the 3,000 billionaires riding Train 2021. The richest 10% of the population control 52% of our global economy while 100 million people live in poverty.
Corporations and cartels fill stadiums with money from drugs that have us all on some hook like Aldos Huxley’s Soma from Train 1932’s Brave New World.
Autocrats are all the rage from Moscow to Beijing, from Brazil to Belarus, from Venezuela to Turkey where one of that country’s wondrous literature stars got slammed into prison for sending „subliminal messages.“
Assassins — real, not 00’s — stalk our streets. They kill for crazy. They kill for cash. They kill for someone else’s control.
Hong Kong is as gone as King Kong.
Drones show armies massing on European borders.
Your phone knows where you are. Tells you where you are.
Algorithms have your number.
Cancellers delete it because they can.
Look out at the landscape Train 2021 klak klaks through.
Skyscrapers of empty offices above a sidewalk camp of homeless souls.
Cubicle and suite workers rode this train to work at home.
Able bodied people stepped off the work treadmill.
Lines of climate and cash refugees.
Ghosts of small towns and scooped out cities.
Anger is everywhere. Vigilantes. If we can storm the White House fuck you! What do you mean you only have three guns? It’s them versus us. It’s me!
„I don’t live here anymore,“ sings The War On Drugs.
But we do.
Numbness is everywhere.
So are variants.
Yet so are dreams. Stand tall stares. We got this far. Didn’t get what we wanted, what we deserved, what we hoped for in Train 2021’s klak klak.
But we got a chance. A calm White House. Our fiction authors, our poets, our rock ’n‘ rollers and jazz jumpers and Beethoven blasters, our movie and TV cameras filming „what if'“ imaginations of days past and days to come: All of them give us glimpses of what could be, what should be and relief from our horrors.
What we’ve got to do now is figure out how to punch the bad guys, pick up the battered, keep going grabbing every honest happy we can. We must be our own rescuers. Lord Huron sings „Not Dead Yet.“
Our transfer station is up ahead.
Train 2022. Waiting. The hiss of steam.
James Grady created the fictional espionage icon Condor of novels, movies and TV series fame. Grady’s coming in 2022 suspense novel is called This Train.
See also in our last Year’s End Issue, 2020: … Condor, again …
James Grady’s first novel Six Days Of The Condor became the iconic Robert Redford movie „Three Days Of the Condor“ and inspired the Soviet Union’s KGB espionage octopus to create a secret 2,000 man spy agency to mimic what Condor did, complete with a phony cover name on a brass plaque at the front door of the spy group’s Moscow headquarters. Grady’s gone on to write more than dozen crime, espionage and thriller novels, three times that many short stories, and work as a muckraking investigative reporter in Washington, D.C. after Watergate.
James Grady in Deutschland: Die letzten Tage des Condor. Bei CrimeMag hier: Interview mit Sonja Hartl: „Eigentlich war Condor niemals weg“
Anne Kuhlmeyer: Ver-rückt? Eine Frage der Perspektive.
Alf Mayer: Notizen vom täglichen Wahnsinn. Grady bei uns on Covid hier: Jungleland.
In der Februar-Ausgabe (online 01.02.22) erscheint dieser Text dann auch auf Deutsch, übertragen von Alf Mayer.