For several years I participated in an internet forum started by Wendell Cox, who has staked out a position as a defender of post-WWII development patterns and road-building policies. As a person with strong urban proclivities I often served as target practice and a punching bag for that particular forum, although I do have to say I learned a great deal about transportation planning that I would not have learned by restricting my travels to my own New Urbanist circles. And I also learned to respect the knowledge and opinions of a number of people on that list, although ideologically we were as different as night and day.
At some point along the line I wrote this poetic narrative drawing inspiration from both Dr. Suess and Lewis Carroll, based largely on my interaction with that particular subculture.
The Phelton Rides a Train
by the Phelton himself (shameless self-promoter that he is)
It was on a fine morning in Transportaland
The transcars were lined in a row
The crowd on the hill dressed in full battle gear
smiled down on the strip malls below.
But as they were milling around and about
With banners and bagpipes and swords
A slow sulky silence fell over them all
as they all became restless and bored
For months they had gathered relating their tales
of defeating the car-bashing crew
But lately their enemy list had been sparse
And now there was little to do.
But a rumbling and grumbling arose from the ground
the clatter was stinging their ears.
the warriors looked down as the earth split in two
and a small subway tunnel appeared
A strange wiry creature with top hat and tails
disembarked from an odd little train
It glanced side to side with a skeptical eye
Then smiled as as it glanced once again.
"I'm the Phelton" it said with a doff of it's hat
and I bring you all greetings and cheer
I come from the City, away and afar
tell me .. is there a coffee house near?"
"For I have been riding for hours on end
on this wonderful magic machine
I crave conversation I crave a good stroll
but mostly I'm craving caffeine"
The warriors were shocked and the warriors were stunned
the warriors were simply aghast
they froze in their tracks and they froze on their feet
Til one of them spoke up at last.
"It's blasphemy, creature, and criminal, too
to suggest such a terrible sight,
as a densely packed city with sidewalk cafes
With people out strolling at night"
They rattled their pikes and they clattered their swords
they chanted and ranted and roared
"Desist and dismount you deplorable beast,
decamp we demand and implore"
"It's statistically proven with table and chart
Your City is no longer there.
You're defeated, discredited, quite out of touch,
and your prattling is too much to bear".
"We've graphed and we've analyzed, summed and regressed
til we've come to the only conclusion
That the City is evil the City is dead
... So stop spreading noise and confusion".
They glared at the Phelton they glared at the train
... held their breath til their faces turned blue
"Begone evil creature, begone we demand
and take this conveyance with you!!!"
The Phelton replied with a smile so benign
That the birds formed a choir overhead
"I assure you my friends that despite what you've heard
my City is quite far from dead"
"It's teeming with people it's singing with song
It's buzzing along like a hive
I assure and affirm and will even allow
my City is very alive"
"But as I am never inclined to offend,
or to wear out my welcome or stay
I'll get back on my train, and leave you again
and quietly rumble away"
So the Phelton with flourish, the Phelton with flair ...
hopped into the door of the train
And with chugging with clatter and whistling and whirrr...
The Phelton was moving again...
There was much celebration in Transportaland
as the story was widely repeated
Of how thanks to the vigilant warrior crew
The Phelton was soundly defeated.
But the piper was sad as he stood empty handed
Looking dejected and grim
For the Phelton departing had made an inquiry
and purchased the bagpipes from him.
Now whenever an artist depicted the saga
The image contained without fail
A sinister Phelton a'perched on a train
With top hat and bagpipes and tails.