Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom ...

I'm headed up the Central Valley on the Amtrak "San Joaquin" train, and I'm trying to figure out if what I'm seeing is haze or smog. The valley offers both these days.

The green fields are dirty brown, the hills charcoal smudges, so I guess it's smog or a mix. Van Gogh would find it disturbing.

I'm reading The Fresno Bee, which I picked up at the station there for free. I am reminded of what my father used to say about anything free: It's worth what you paid for it.

The main story is about a murder trial involving two young men, brothers I think, who shot two other young men in a crosswalk. The motivation? Irritation. Are they distant relatives of Camus' Meursault? Then I skip to the editorials in the back. The main one concerns Mark Zuckerman appearing at a Wall Street pre-IPO meeting dressed, as usual, casually. How can you get kids to dress properly these days, whines the writer, a woman with sons, with guys like Zuck setting such deplorable examples? I think somewhere the writer refers to him as a "hoodie." I don't know how you get young people to dress better but it did not seem too important after reading about the two brothers on trial for murder. Be glad your kids are not packing heat on a hot day in Fresno when the reflection from someone's belt buckle bothers their eyes, lady. Good clothes would not help them much at the trial.

As the train pulls out of the Fresno station a new passenger sits down in back of me .

And soon I'm hearing "Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom ..." from the speakers, not the headphones, of his iPAD or iPhone, or some other hand-held device. I'm irritated and feel like shooting him but the conductor comes by and tells him to turn it off, mentioning a concept, probably foreign to the young man: the comfort of other passengers.

I go to the snack car, still thinking about the question of haze versus smog in the Central Valley and trying to work out a formula that might calculate the mix of each along with an irritation factor for unwanted noise. I am standing in line when suddenly the young man appears behind me in the line. Is he trying to get away from himself? Good idea but not likely.

Soon his cell phone is ringing, or goes "Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom ..." I guess that is his ring tone too.

"Hello," he says, flat sounding, as though expecting a hostile caller. Too bad you can't say on a cell that so-and-so has temporarily stepped out of the office. But it seems he knows the caller and loosens up.

"I'm on a train," he says. "I'm going to Oregon. I had to get out of Fresno ..."

I got out of line. My snack could wait.
—Louis Martin