April 2004 Images

by Jim on 2024/04/01

A Decennial Retrospective Of A Decennial Retrospective

Okay, this one will be brief, except that maybe it won’t be.  Nearly all of my already-scanned images from April 2004 (I was still shooting with this thing called “film” back then) area already online; the purpose of this post is twofold: to give a place for the last image, the one that isn’t already on the website, on the website here and to further contextualize all of the images in retrospect, particularly the second-to-last image.

So, here are images – or links to other articles on this site of images – from April 2004, and my decennial retrospective of my decennial retrospective will be included in the section for the relevant date, which is the 17th.

Saturday, The 3rd

These images made on this day show a brief meet in the morning at Thibodaux Junction, a place that is no longer publicly accessible, as described in the “January 2004 Images” essay.

Wednesday, The 14th  

Eleven days later, I am back at the meaningful and memorable Thibodaux Junction as I get some nice afternoon shots of westbound trains, the latter with a Cascade Green locomotive leading.

Ten years to the day later, I am in New Orleans, making pictures of the action there.

Saturday, The 17th

Okay, here is the one that I wanted to discuss at length.  This is the one that I wanted to discuss with the vicennial perspective from which this essay is being written.

This was a day that changed my life.  This was the day that I met The Mid-City Marine, and, as such, it was the day on which – and from which – I began to seriously consider moving to New Orleans; I did indeed move to New Orleans, at least to the metropolitan area, the following year, moving into the city itself the year after.

I have written extensively about that day in the “New Orleans Introduces To The World” essay.  (If that link doesn’t work, use the one for the original article on this page.  The reason that I put it on Patreon is so that the large amount of text is easier to read as black on white, rather than the “inverted text” here on the blog, which exists because this is a photography website.)  I wrote about the book Confucius Lives Next Door and how reading it at around that time had a big influence on me.

I read that book again 10 years later in the spring of 2014 and, given that I had evolved 10 years, interpreted it differently.  As I type this in the spring of 2024, almost 20 years later after the subject material of this essay happened, I have just finished reading the book a third time.

I don’t think that I have ever read any other book thrice.

I did find the third reading of the book interesting, and I did see what I read in manners and ways that I had not seen what I read in the first two readings, but, as it relates to the subject of my New Orleansness, I don’t feel many feelings of significance.

In some ways, that makes sense, because part of the whole point of that essay was to reflect on the New Orleans person whom I had become, who I was not a decade prior, and that’s something that one can do only once.  More relevantly, though, my New Orleansness has since come to an end, and, worse, it was a rather unceremonious end; all of it is rather unpleasant to ponder, let alone to discuss.  By the time I left New Orleans for good, I had come to feel very out of place there, and there were signs of this that I should have seen in 2014.

Both the end and its unceremonious nature stem from the most relevant development that I have had since April 2014: learning that I am autistic.

What does that mean for my New Orleansness?  I am not sure, except that New Orleans is a relatively tough place for a person with sensory issues.  I don’t have enough experience with comparable-sized cities to make a reliable guess as to how out of place I would feel being there.  The part of the April 2014 essay in which I wrote about becoming a “cultural rejectionist” seems very much now to be a function of me being autistic, and I wouldn’t even use that characterization anymore.

I think that the change in my perception of my place in New Orleans stems from aging and, more specifically, autistic aging, because my “prime” in New Orleans preceded what I now think is a permanent autistic burnout, suggesting that my overall experience in New Orleans – and of my New Orleansness – would have, with minor differences, been replicated had I lived in some other comparable-sized city on both sides of autistic burnout.

That is an insight that I had only just as I typed that!  That’s why you write, mes amis!  You write to know what you think!

Still, there is something about New Orleans itself that made me feel out of place, and I am reminded of that every time that I look at the Facebook profiles of friends who still live there compared to those of friends who live in comparable-sized cities, but how relevant that is to my feeling out of place in New Orleans is something that I don’t know.  Had I lived in some other comparable-sized city on either side of autistic burnout, I would still be constantly reminded of the old me as I move through the city as the new me.

And that brings us to the true nature of the longing that I feel when I think of New Orleans: I miss the person who I was back then, a person who is never coming back.  Actually, I don’t really miss him and should not miss him.  What I miss is the power that he had, the sense of hope that he had, the optimism that he had, the abilities that he had, and the respect and admiration from other people that he had.

So, when I think about New Orleans a decade after 2014, I don’t have the sense of hope and belonging – or even as much of a sense of familiarity with it – that I had in 2014.  I feel a sense of isolation that I didn’t feel in 2014 and, especially, didn’t feel in 2009, even if so many signs of it were screaming at me even back then.

Also, unlike in 2014, I hardly ever think about Hurricane Katrina, and that is likely due to the fact that I am not living in New Orleans anymore, haven’t lived in New Orleans since the beginning of 2020, have been back to visit there only once since 2020, and have no plans or intention to live there again.

Now, learning that I am autistic since 2014 probably means something more for my rereading of Confucius Lives Next Door, because it helps to explain why, especially in 2014, I was bothered by descriptions of the conformity found in East Asian cultures, even as I found so much else to like about them and about Confucianism.  For me, the main takeaway from the book always was (in each of my readings of it) something that was only a minor point for the author: the way in which, in general, new understandings can make you look back on your previous understanding with new critical eyes, allowing you to see attributes, especially problematic ones, that you didn’t see before.

The author, a US citizen, began to look more critically on the United States once he had the opportunity to view it from the perspective of having lived in East Asian countries.

My own point – my takeaway from the book, in addition to the takeaways that the author most intended – is to apply this approach as broadly as possible, not just for different geographies.  Learning a new concept can make you look back at discussions in which people don’t grasp that concept more critically. 

That actually has big relevance for another big change in my life since 2014, but I can’t talk about it much here, because it’s in the ideological-political realm and because it’s also personal and local.  In any case, I mentioned this approach in the “New Orleans Introduces To The World” essay in 2014.

Very related to all of this is something else that has happened since the spring of 2014: Trumpism.  There are reasons that I will be restrained here in my commentary here on this issue, but, as it relates to the overall purpose and the overall theme of this essay, I am vexed by the coincidence of learning that I am autistic and the introduction of Trumpism.  I wonder how I would view each absent the other. There is no way for me to know this.  It’s peculiar indeed.

Trumpism is bad, evil, even, and I will never trust a single person who is under its spell, but it came about only due to some broader rot in society that is at least in part the responsibility of many of the people who profess to be opposed to Trumpism.

So, a decade after a decade after this image was made, I have plenty of useful newfound wisdom, insight, and understanding about both myself and society that is necessarily accompanied by the horribly depressing feeling that so many people are horrible and were so all along and that I never had a chance in the first place.

Monday, The 19th

Relevant to the topic of and the broader topics surrounding the image from two days before, the image made on this Monday afternoon would be my last train picture in Louisiana until that fall, perhaps as late as October or November.

After I left the place of employment for the day, I heard the dispatcher give to the westbound Sunset Limited a track warrant from West Bridge Junction to milepost 53.  (Schriever is at milepost 55.)  As it turns out, his warrant had originally been longer, but had to be shortened to allow some welders in Schriever to work on the rails at the switch between mileposts 54.8 and 54.9.

Also, in Raceland at 15:50 CDT, there was an eastbound BNSF Railway train parked on the siding.  I was really surprised to see the lead locomotive: BNSF 8625, a blue-and-yellow B40-8.  Even back then, seeing these things, especially as the lead locomotive of a train, was rare.  I couldn’t see the other locomotives, being that they were blocked by empty cement hoppers on the east leg of the wye at milepost 40.

So, I made my way west to get a photo of the #1, which usually runs three hours earlier.  After making a quick stop at KFC in Gray (probably to get one of this crispy-tender wraps, which KFC seemed to stop making shortly thereafter, which meant that I stopped being a KFC customer, because that was the only thing that I liked to get there), I made my way to Thibodaux Junction, milepost 54, because it was still publicly accessible. 

I got there with about a minute to spare and finished my last roll of Fujichrome Velvia 50 as the #1 came through at 16:30.

The locomotives were AMTK 839 and AMTK 833.  The train had to slow to 10 miles per hour for a speed restriction where the welders were working.

This picture was taken two days after a memorable and consequential day that was spent in New Orleans, memorable and consequential because it greatly influenced my decision to move there a year later. 

Not only was this my last (probably ever) roll of Fujichrome Velvia 50, but it was my last train picture in Louisiana in probably half of a year.  Why?  I was preparing to spend the summer in Mexico at ITESM; for the few weeks that remained before that happened, especially as the weather got to be uncomfortably warm, I was not concerned with continuing to take train pictures in places where I had long taken them and was, instead, saving my precious resources to experience (including photographing) an exotic far-off land where I had never been and might never return (but have returned twice in a decade.)

All of that is related to why this “April 2004 Images” article is the last of these consecutive month-images posts that started with the “October 2003 Images” article, got really intense with the many date articles that were compiled in the “December 2003 Images” article, and continued through the first four months of 2004 until now.

Apparently, the next image that I took was on May 31, the first day of my huge experience of spending the summer of 2004 in Mexico.  That was the first place and the first experience to which the places and experiences recounted here led me.

Merci and gracias,


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