About twenty years ago Fyl was working in the oncology dept at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and they put on a picnic for all the oncology kids in Travel Town in Griffith Park and I was volunteered as a 6’5” draft animal, hauling and carrying and loading and unloading. I must have set up 500 folding chairs and then folded them up loaded them back on the truck again. Stuff like that. Eats were from In and Out, so that was breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cool thing was meeting all the strange train freaks that collect at Travel Town. They even had a Pullman car converted into an office and library. A zillion books about trains. Reams of locomotive blueprints. They argued a lot about trains, and knew about every train ever. They all had a train or two or three that they’d pull out of the engine house and go around the tracks on. Sometimes they carried the kids. Sometimes they went by themselves. I got to ride three or four different trains, giant me on a little train. It was a ball. Those tracks go much further into the brush than you can tell from driving by, and they’ve put incredible effort into the tracks and decor. Train freaks. Sort of like HO model train freaks, but more intense. And oil stained.

The kids were having a helluva good time, the trains, clowns, the hamburgers and ice cream. You’d almost forget they were cancer patients. Fyl said you see all those kids in the front row? The quiet ones? None of them will be here next year.

That was a lesson in stoicism I’ve never forgotten. I stopped whining much about being sick after that day, after that moment. Stop minding pain so much. I think about those kids all the time. I’d hand one an ice cream and he’d smile and say thank you. I handed a little girl and ice cream and she said she couldn’t eat ice cream and smiled and thanked me.