The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.

Monday, August 24, 2015

#LaughingWhileBlack: The Great Napa Valley Train Eviction



Have you ever been to a library?  Have you ever been to a church for any form of worship?  How about ever attending a funeral wake the day before a funeral?  

If you have ever been present at either of those venues for any reason, you know that is a cardinal rule: "Quite!" The library offers the dynamic of being evicted (or asked to leave as libraries do not generally employ eviction goons or blue uniformed enforcers).

On another front, have you ever attended a wine excursion or wine bus trip? What is a wine excursion? An opportunity for a scenic and enjoyable experience with wine tasting and glasses of wine accompanied by the fun dynamics of group interaction.

One such example is the Napa Valley Train (excursion) ride.

               The Napa Valley Wine Train          

Our 1952 full domed car has been selling out 1-2 months in advance. If you want to impress your date in our most exclusive experience, reserve your table now.

Such an excursions are a public for a fee mode of transportation to a place where grapes are grown for fermenting (or development) into wine. The price of the ticket can include a meal and a guided tour of the winery. the ideal gathering for large groups of friends, co-workers, family, and especially the elderly among us. 

The purchase of the wine trip ticket also comes with an expectation of fun, frivolity and certainly with the knowledge of a bit of intoxication even if ever so slight. What human mental and physical manifestation generally accompanies fun, frivolity and "a bit of alcohol intoxication?" How about 'laughter?" If we factor-in the size of the group and the extent of camaraderie among a group of over ten co-joined wine country or wine train guests, the level of laughter will undoubtedly exceed hushed chuckles, giggles and the fear of offensive libraries noise. The opportunity to enjoy the group and the happy day experience is never accompanied by signage that reads: "Control Your Laughter", "Loud Laughter Prohibited",  or "Loud Laughter Will Lead To Eviction."  If such public events were offered with website or advertisement notices of "Controlled Laughter," the prospect of limiting ticket sales would be ever-present thus unrealistic. 

Well, the unthinkable took place a few days back. A group of book-club members,  The Sisters on the Reading Edge, joined together for an annual trip to Napa Valley. The group was comprised of women only with age demographics that appeared to run from the mid-thirties through high-end baby boomers (an elderly 83 year old grandmother). The group is reported to have adorned matching tee-shirts and sat in a full train car for the 18 mile sojourn through the picturesque Napa Valley. Wine tastings and glasses of wine, the central theme of the train-ride, was common among all in the train car. 

(The followings images have been offered by Ms. Lisa Renee Johnson. We are not certain of the origin of the small scornful image of the 'bubble-busting" authoritarian who took it upon herself to squash the reading group fun.)

Lisa Renee Johnson Lisa Renee Johnson

  Ms. Johnson exhorted her Facebook followers as such. 

If you don't want to ride the Napa Wine Train with me...leave my page until about 3pm PST! cheers🍷 #wineMEup #Igotsunshine

Lisa Renee Johnson's photo.

"If you don't want to ride the Napa Wine Train with me...leave my page until about 3pm PST! cheers🍷"
Ms. Johnson's plan was to share the ride not only with the 12 book club revelers, she would share the experience with others among her Facebook family.  

Lisa Renee Johnson uploaded a new video.
We made it! See ya'll on the train! We miss you Elaine Morris

The train is leaving the station! Choo choo!
— at The Napa Valley Wine Train

Lisa Renee Johnson's photo.


All seems good and fun ensued! 

What more could a party ask. The sun was shining, friends had bonded together in shared (as advertised fun) smiles,  laughter was bountiful and the morning progressed.

During times of such social strife along with festering stressful international "goings-on", opportunity to partake and involve in group activities among friends isn't something enough of us share. We don't reach for the good derived for social interaction beyond that of the isolating inconvenience of  the cell phone/Tablet or the personal computer via the powerful utility of social media. You may have also noticed the train ride involved potential for a group of people to get together on a basis that is as fleeting a the aforementioned library. A reading book club! The group of twelve were members of a reading (book club).   Not exactly and old school music and dance group. Yet, when a group gathers, people will cross interact and the more humorous of the group will provide opportunities to add laughter to the setting.

An hour later someone in the The Sisters on the Reading Edge, reacted to a situation bound to ruin their well planned day: they laughed at a sound level offensive to someone (among other unnamed offensive reality). 

An uninvited figure decided to practice authoritarian control over a situation that should have been something of an expectation during a wine train ride. One of the group must have noticed the scornful fellow passenger who took visual exception to the fun group of twelve. 


Within the hour this face became train social monitor, atmosphere dictator and figurative hands on hips reporter to the train manager.

Facebook Family, we have a problem!
We sipped wine, enjoyed each other's company but our trip is being cut short...this women said our laughter annoyed her because this is "not a bar"... We are a group of 12...if we all laugh at the same time it's loud! When we get to St. Helena they are putting us off the train.
— with Teri Pierce.

..this woman said their laughter annoyed
her because NVWT is "not a bar"...
Imagine the privilege and assumed or conferred right to control the fun of others who may have allowed themselves the right to the fun, joke back and forth and (even if more than once) existentially "laugh aloud!" 

And, the atmosphere totally charged with the squelching of the fun. Imagine paying the advertisement prices of $19.00 ($200.00) Per ticket and finding yourself as such within three hours of your morning departure. While we are not aware of the actual price of the tickets for the group of 12, we can assume it wasn't a cheap ticket. 

The car is not that big...we're in purgatory....waiting for our escort off the train...

Lisa Renee Johnson's photo.

Fun is over!

Look at what awaits a group of people who simply set out to enjoy America while paying a hefty fee for a day. 

Imagine being any of these women and then imagine the psyche of the 83 years old who must have seen or knew a time in her life when admission to the train would not have take place at all. Or better yet, if allowed to board the train facilities for which to enjoy the experience would have been denied to 11 of the 12 reading club riders. One of the 12 members was white, the remaining 12 black women.

While we are not laying all facets of the authoritarian woman to race, we would be woefully remiss if we overlook the dynamics associated with people who are intolerant of minorities and how their intolerance drives behavior.

After being evicted from the train the squashed revelers look like this. 

Women passengers kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train (

We are certain the bitch woman who facilitated or spearheaded the eviction took a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the group as such. How about that elderly rider tot eh upper left of the photo?

Can you imagine this elderly passenger and fun lover being "loud."

Wine Train Facebook post and the very item that lead to Ms. Johnson's publicizing the horror of August 22, 2015.

SF Gate published a piece on the Wine Train eviction which included the following inset. 

And while the group — which included an 83-year-old grandmother — may at times have been “rambunctious,” they were not “obnoxious or intoxicated,” Johnson said.
Several passengers, she said, even came up to them to take pictures, and asked about the romance novel they were reading for their club.
But a short while into their trip, Johnson said a manager on the train asked them to pipe it down.
“The train is set up to be with your friends, to drink wine and have a good time,” Johnson said. “We were thinking, ‘Who are we offending?’”
Later on, Johnson said the manager told them that “this isn’t going to work,” and that if they didn’t “tone it down,” they were going to be asked to get off the train.
“It was a bizarre thing for all of us,” she said, adding that many in the group quieted down and wondered what had happened.
According to Johnson, one of the women in the same car told the group “this isn’t a bar.”
“And we though, um, yes it is,” Johnson said.
What came next, she said, was the worst part of the afternoon. When the train pulled into the St. Helena station, the group had to do the “walk of shame” as they were escorted past passengers on the six other cars, Johnson said. At the station, the group was met by officers from the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments.
“People were looking at us,” Johnson said. “To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”
But Chief Jeff Hullquist of the Napa Valley Railroad Police Department said there “was no police action taken” at the station.
“When someone is removed from a train, they have to be dropped off at a station, and our policy is if someone is let off the train we’ll stand by,” he said. “We keep them safe until someone can get them.”
“The Napa Valley Wine Train does not enjoy removing guests from our trains, but takes these things very seriously in order to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all of our guests,” Devitt said, adding that about once a month guests need to be removed from the train.
Johnson said despite their treatment on the ride, the company has worked with them. They were given a refund, provided with free pictures, and a van was sent to pick them up.
“The people in the station were absolutely wonderful,” she said, ready to let the incident go.
Some of the did nto sahre the authoritarian demeanor of the complainer.


The conferred privilege that leads people to the point of deciding the acceptable atmosphere of the morning and early afternoon is despicable. No place in my reading of the incident and talk with Ms. Johnson did I find an indication of obscene language, angst filled comments towards other passengers nor complaints about service on the train. What is obvious is that a couple of passengers resented the behavior and intermittent modulation of the group of twelve. 

When asked if her story, and that of the reading group, was available for publishing on the TPI, she responded (in part).

"Please write! We must use our pens to make sure this never happens again."

And, this will happen as long as a people assume they have an opportunity or the right to dictate the behavior of others. The right over others who paid the same fare for the day and who simply wanted to enjoy they day of camaraderie in a manner that groups often do: interactive fun vs. stiff shirt individualism and with authoritarian tendencies.

Frankly, the incident reminds of this recent interaction on a public beach in Chicago Illinois.  While sitting on a public beach (on the shoreline) and very young black kids passed her and flung sprinkles of water on her, this person went "N" word. 

The TPI story.

It should be noted these are not the racist or bigoted manifestations of the US South. 

Our intent was to write about an incident that clearly involved assumed conferred privilege. We also take exception to the reality Napa Valley Wine Train wasn't better equipped to handle the incident without a level of satisfaction that a could have avoided eviction of 12 people one of which was an elderly customer.

While the irate authoritarian customer may have acted similarly if the group had been all or predominately white, we are realist and know the dynamics race often plays in and exaggerates such cases.
"We must use our pens to make sure this never happens again."

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