An old blue car sits, hood up, parked across the train tracks that run along Shilshole Avenue. The tracks are a spur line, the Ballard Terminal Railroad, used by the Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel to receive hoppers full of raw materials from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline that are turned into materials slightly less raw, and then taken away in trucks to build things. Some of those hoppers sit on the tracks behind the car.
The tracks are an impediment to the completion of the ‘missing link’ on the Burke Gilman Trail, one of those rail to trails projects to make us of rail lines made obsolete by those trucks, and so an object of contention between Old Ballard and new. So then perhaps the car is intended as a protest? Or maybe I’ve stumbled into the beginning stages of some caper, a great train robbery. With global supply chain issues, it’s possible the raw materials in those hoppers have attained a copper wire like value.
The train, when it runs, runs mostly at night. I can hear the lonesome whistle blow from my apartment. It brings back memories of my childhood, when I could lie it bed and through my bedroom window hear the freight trains pass half a mile away on the BNSF line.
So I don’t want the train to go away, though I do like imagining a world where the hoppers share the track, or run parallel to a light rail line that connects up with the rest of the city, or meets up with the Sounder on the BNSF line that takes me to points north and south.
If it was up to me, the city would fill in the missing link by just pedestrianize Ballard Avenue, and let it fill with people on foot and on bikes and sitting at the outdoor spaces that sprung up during Covid, watching it all go by.
I stop and take a picture quickly and furtively. I have no idea where the person who abandoned this car is(perhaps sleeping in the back seat?) or when they will return, but I can’t imagine their mood would be great, with the state of the car and all.
There are old cars all over the city, patina’d old trucks parked in front of old gas stations, catching the pink neon light from the church sign down the block(though the ‘Jesus Saves’ sign has not been lit since the beginning of covid); late model BMW’s left under streetlights, long overstaying the 30 minute limit of their parking space.
Some, like an old blue van, parked by its own self on a street in a mixed industrial neighborhood, probably are homes.
We are drawn to photographs of people and faces; the story of a life lived in the face and eyes of another, or a passing gesture frozen in time; both a suggestion of what happened and what is to come.
The city gestures too. The old car left abandoned on some train tracks; bike thrown carelessly on the ground because the ride saw a reflection; stickers stuck like heiroglyphs for passerby to puzzle at; daffodils dancing in the wind; a blue heron building a nest; the emptiness of a hallide lit parking lot; clouds passing the face of the moon in the morning and that same moon floating above cherry blossoms in the evening sky.