Last Friday morning, August 11, 2023, I woke up groggily in my coach seat on Amtrak's Southwest Chief, traveling from Chicago to Southern California.  I'd managed to sleep eight solid hours, scrunched horizontally, in a fetal position, across two coach seats.  My seatmate of the day before had found a pair of unoccupied coach seats elsewhere in the car, where she was able to sleep horizontally as well.

The sun rose shortly after I awoke, and I noticed that we had just left the train station in Barstow, California, and were headed toward Cajon Pass.  It dawned on me - pun intended - that sixty years before, in late August 1963, my parents and I had similarly passed through Barstow on our way to my sister's apartment in the San Gabriel Valley.

My father was proud to be delivering me to UCLA, where I would be his first child to attend college.  My mother was along for the ride.  On that trip my Dad and I shared the long drive from East Aurora, New York, in his 1960 Chevrolet Biscayne. a 6-cylinder four-door sedan with two-speed automatic transmission and no air conditioning.  Good fortune, indeed, that we'd made it this far.  It was dark and very late when we reached Barstow, and we still had more than an hour to go.  Mom was fuming, because Dad and I had decided to press all the way from Albuquerque that day, a distance of more than 800 miles.  At my mother's insistence, we had stopped in Needles for a hot afternoon dip in the Colorado River.  This sounds a little like the Joads in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Last Friday, sixty years later, my return from East Aurora, where I have just attended my 60th high school reunion, gave a kind of symmetry to my life.  This time I was returning to California, not moving here for the first time.  I've been in California long enough to consider myself a native, and a proud one at that.  This time I passed through Barstow by train, not by car, and at sunrise, not in pitch dark.  I find something symbolic in this contrast.  My father worked hard to give me the opportunity for a comfortable and productive life.

I have no cause for complaint and every reason to be thankful.  Today, sixty years later, I'm healthy and strong.  I live in a wonderful place, and I've had more than a half century of opportunities and experiences, mostly positive except for a few crises and bumps in the road.  I have family with sound values, and solid friendships near and far, which give meaning to my life.

I still have my sanity, too, as long as I don't allow myself to be consumed by greater national and global developments that increasingly surround us and threaten to engulf us all.  What more can I ask?