Sunday, April 19, 2009

What in The World's Been Going On.

Notes from the road. Saturday night April 18th, 2009 7pm-ish Amtrak Train from Galesburg to Union Staion: $15 One really cold Heineken: $6.00 Lost seeing eye glasses but found money: Priceless
I took a gamble with a slightly
risky traveling adventure this weekend. I don’t have clearance to fully divulge the many layers of risk involved, but I am happy to report that this micro-adventure went really well. The important things I learned on this journey are (in no particular order) that, first and foremost, the Quad-City area in Illinois right up against the Mississippi separating it from Iowa is one sweet little town-opolis. It’s got hills and ravines, great deciduous and evergreen trees and some pretty stunning turn-of-the-century architecture. Lot’s of Arts & Crafts… Frank Lloyd Wright inspirations….
I left Chicago with about $1.20 in my pocket and a pretty solid belief that I would truly be met at the train station as planned. But, just to keep it fresh for the kids, I’d already been gone from the home of my phone charger for a couple days and my phone died. I’ve got plenty of minutes, just no way to power it up. And, sure, I could go buy additional CHARGER NUMBER freaking 9 (or something) for this year, but I refuse to continue being a victim to my own carelessness. I’m not going to ever buy another charger. I’m going to find something, somewhere online where the charger impaired of my species help each other out.
Ah, but I digress…
Traveling with no money and no phone is probably about as risky today as running with scissors while blind-folded was when I was a kid. It’s just not a prudent move.
I remember The Olden Days (before we all had cell phones and wifi and whatnot) a
nd we seemed to do just fine.
I am my grandmother.

And my mother. Damn.

This train ride is, like, the 40th awesome train ride I’ve had in a couple years. When all the stars are aligned I appear to have a super power that involves talking to somebody and really enjoying it for hours. It makes the journeys go fast, and I’ve met some seriously amazing and curious and interesting humans.
Yesterday it was Glenn. Not a tiny guy who’s taken care of a fleet of school bu
ses and driven kids around for 7 years. He a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago boy. He has a deal for trains and trips and adventures. He’s spent way too much time in a dark room developing real film, shooting SLRs and helping nurse a resurgence in film photography.
But, even more interestingly to me, he’s doing this project with his cell phone camera. He’s got a number of shots that I saw and they were so distinct. I really want to see what can be done with those with Photoshop on a Mac. I want to see what they look like very large with no treatments whatsoever. I’m just very curious about the whole deal no

I’m insatiably curious. I know a guy who got hit by lightening TWICE! (Not just once, but TWICE!) I’ve met a guy who was Bernie Mac’s cousin and another guy who was a tour manager for Poison but he somehow got swindled out of all his money by some crooked schmuck in the entertainment industry. He was in absolute need of a straight-up kiss from the Tooth Replacement Fairy. Looking for a little dental love, but a nice enough guy.

I met this older couple who were just traveling all over the country (and the UK) by train because he had just retired and had a massive heart attack and almost died, so now they’re just kickin it … all moon-eyed and spoony and together on adventures across everywhere.

Then there’s this one really great kid I met from Brooklyn. He is an artist and poet. He published his own book of his poems. They didn’t suck at all. He was only, like, 22 years old. He lived in one of those high-rise tenements with his parents, siblings and a couple grandparents - in a two bedroom apartment. He had a great smile. I suspect some delicious things are headed his way.

I’ve learned all about mechanical and electrical and diesel and survivalist and technical and virtual and mythological and historical and political and religious and psycho and geographical things I never would know about if I hadn’t embarked on this adventure.

I've heard of elderly blind golfers, short order cooks and little people traveling via luggage.
A risk that I can actually share with you about now is this: For the first time in about 4 years I have opened myself up to the possibility of living longer than another hour or so. Yea. I know. Sounds dramatic. I’m dramatic. But, I’ve got great legs and seriously blue eyes. So, cope. Everything is a compromise. At least I’m not Goat-Faced or the infamous Angry-Stupid combination.
I’ve gone out on a limb and made friends.
Now I’m on the Metra that takes me to Elmhurst. It’s like a quarter till one. a.m. Long freaking day. But, this train is completely choked full to the brim with moderately drunk and exceptionally rowdy sports fans. There’s lots of whooping and hollering. Everybody has on some kind of sports related shirt. Not me so much. But, I do have on a shirt and I’m pretty sure there were points awarded for that.
Y’know, at this point, even I thought that I’d probably busted a move on all the adventure one human could sweep into one night.
But…noooooooo. Not so much.

The train ride from Union to Elmhurst was free for me. I have no idea why, but the conducter wouldn’t take my money. I saw him accept other people’s money, but not mine. I didn’t take it personally.
I get off the train in Elmhurst around 1:15am and immediately took the first of many really wrong turns that I could possibly take. Shortly followed up by the next, and definitely the most tragic of bad turns. By this time I’ve gotten a little crabby and tired - therefore making it almost impossible for me to doubt my journey OR ask for directions.
At about the point where I realize I’ve walked in the same circle roughly 4 times I decide to start crying because it goes so well with the rain. I was feeling a little trapped, learning and navigationally disabled and freakin exhausted. And, in spite of the relative light weight of my purse and laptop - I’m pretty sure the combined load has ruptured most of the discs in my back.
I’m standing in the rain, worrying about my electronics and considering downtown store fronts to sleep in when I look over and see a taxi car guy with his son. They were listening to what I believed to be Iraqi American Idol music. He opens his window and I pull out my best Most Pathetic Emmy Nomination just to get him to use his GPS and point me in the right direction. He suggests giving me a ride, what with him being a taxi driver and all, and I explain that I’ve only got $5. Not one cent more, just five little American dollars. But, I saw on the GPS that I would only need to go a little over a half mile. And, at that point in the night I was fairly certain even one more half mile would have killed me dead. So, he agrees to take me home for $5 and we ROCK the Kasbah with whatever ethnic music his car provides. I get back to Liz’s around 3am.
The door is locked. The other door is locked.
And, yes, you guessed it: The final and only other door is locked.
It really made me wish that I had taken my brother up on his most generous offer to tutor me in picking locks. I so clearly remember thinking then, “Why, in Godsgood name, would I ever need to know how to pick a lock?!?!”

By 3:20ish I decide that it’s just going to be an outdoor night for me. It wasn’t freezing, I had some wind protection and more than life itself: I did NOT want to wake anybody in the house. I also had my wifi and Hulu so I could watch any number of mind-numbing TV shows I’ve grown addicted to.
About 10 minutes after my complete acceptance and okey-dokeyness with my current state of affairs I hear a man saying, “Don’t be afraid. I’m so sorry. I’m lost. Look, I’ll keep my hands up in the air. I mean you no harm.” He was lost. In the rain. At almost 4 in the morning. And, he was about 15 feet away at the edge of the yard in Elmhurst where NOBODY talks to ANYBODY.
And, he just really needed me to Google Map his university so he could go there and sleep in a bed till sometime after noon. Google Maps almost never fails me and within minutes we discover that he’s only about 15 minutes away from where he needed to be. But, he’s so grateful to have found me (awake, on a porch, surfing the net with high-speed and just as chatty as I have always been) he offers to buy me some kind of after midnight fast food. I’m not really hungry and my feet are killing me from my walk of Lost Obstinacy but he’s a really good kid and we immediately strike up sparky conversation about chemistry, nutrition and the current (and hopeful) state of American politics.
By this time, it’s no longer raining whole drops, just little smatterings of drizzle and it’s not cold for the first time in about 6 months.
We never did find any kind of fast food open at 4 in the morning, which was something of a surprise, but we did sit on the porch and talk till almost 6:30 and sunrise. Then we both got the cold that comes from it being a little chilly and a lot tired, and he took off in the right direction and moments later Liz opens the door and lets me in to the place where it’s warm and has coffee.
Jeff is the name of the after 4am guy and I didn’t get his contact information, (he’s going to Elmhurst College and his dad teaches at Wisconsin State I think) so if you see him - tell him to drop into my face book or something. He’s good people.
And, brings my total for really good people (met for the first time) in a 24 hour period to 6. Six people, 24 hours, all goodness and great ideas. There. Now I told you all about it. I know I should sleep soon and long.
And, it's your turn to tell me a story now. XOXO


Lalanae said...

I love, love love this story!! I love you! I also have this gift which makes perfect strangers feel compelled to share their innermost secrets within the first five minutes. I have many stories but a poor memory. I suppose I should carry a journal always. Wow. You may have changed my life (again). I may spend the rest of my life with a journal in my hand. Fabulous. You're fabulous.

Chelsea + Jonathan said...

You have the best stories. I love you so much and couldn't have a cooler mom.