ZEPHYR: Tracking a Dream Across America by Henry Kisor

ZEPHYR: Tracking a Dream Across America

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Kisor (What's That Pig Outdoors?, 1990) records his adventures on the California Zephyr, the legendary transcontinental train from Chicago to LA. Kisor loves the train, the crew, the chefs, the porters, and the lore of the train that ranges from an odd sexual encounter in the baggage car to the effect of altitude on Alzheimer's, from train crashes and criminals to the history of dining cars. Kisor is especially knowledgeable about food, from the way it is gathered, cooked, and served to the way people are seated in the dining car. And there is much about toilets, the ""tidiness"" of those who can afford sleepers and the problems of plumbing. The author also has much to tell about mating rituals, the predatory nature of women especially, the charged atmosphere of the lounge car (""Casbah on Amtrak""), and sexuality in general from harassment to homophobia, including the obscure autobiography of a lesbian ""brakeman"" that Kisor narrates to a lesbian novelist who's his dinner companion and one of the few to be spared his judgmental -- or his uncharitable and stereotyping -- social observations. There is the ""rat-faced man"" who assumed a fraudulent identity, the ""human hedgehog"" adolescent with the Mohawk haircut, Mildred ""of the detachable virginity,"" and a transvestite dubbed ""Tootsie"" who plays a part in an ""amusing"" anecdote about trying to find a suitable dinner companion for Kisor. A chapter is devoted to the author's plans for writing a murder mystery and another to explaining why, as a lip-reading deaf person, he had to take along a translator. Presented as a microcosm in the tradition of Ship of Fools, this seems, rather, a petty and misogynistic take on the worthless passengers riding a great train served by a caring and conscientious crew.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Tunes Books