Tag Archives: Layover

Nina and The Homeless of Chicago

The train I took from Chicago to Santa Fe

The train I took from Chicago to Santa Fe

Well, I completed the first part of my intensely long train trip with success.

I boarded the Amtrak train in Boston at noon on Thursday, and rode that girl all the way to Chicago.  The car I was in was rather small, but I had a seat to myself for the majority of the trip.  I read mostly, this book by Margaret Atwood which is a page-turner, eye-opener masterpiece.

I was drawing a picture of myself on the train in my journal, and underneath it I wrote “I want to make a friend.”  As I was doing this, the girl sitting behind me started talking on her cell phone to someone, and said, “There aren’t that many cool people on this train, but the ride is pretty.”  As soon as she hung up, I turned around to chat with her, and actually ended up talking with her all the way to Chicago.

Her name was Nina, and she had just graduated from high school.  She was on her way back to her home on Chicago, where she was going to pack up her things to leave for India.  She habitually used the phrase, “Wandering Youth” to describe our bond.  We had some nice discussion, and she was more than happy to help me put away the flask of vodka I had packed myself.

Unfortunately, Amtrak neglected to tell me that we were making a 2 hour pit stop in Albany, NY.  I don’t know if you have been to Albany, but I would go ahead and say it is the opposite of glamorous.  They also neglected to tell me that if I got off the train in Albany, I could not get back on until 5 minutes before departure.  So I got to spend a lovely two hours reading and eating surprisingly good chowder in the Albany train station.  Then I was back on my way.

Around 10:30 we were both tired, and the scenery outside had faded from the snow-covered oak trees of Massachusetts and Upstate New York to pitch black flatness of the Midwest, so we went to sleep.  This was a trial.  First it was frigidly cold on the train, and I didn’t have much to cover up with.  I slept for a good period of time on my seat, but then Mr. Conductor woke me up and told me someone had to sit with me.  So I got up and moved over with Nina, since everyone had to double up anyway.  Nina slept on my lap for a while like a kitty kat, but eventually even that was too cold so I moved to the back of the train where it was warmer.  I slept on the floor amongst luggage until they yelled at me and told me to move.  By that time the sun was coming up, and I got to watch the beautiful flatlands of places like South Bend, Indiana.  It was so very flat, and it looked to me like a setting where quiet serial killers would flourish.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but I was still intrigued by how different it looked from the east coast I was used to.

Finally we pulled into Chicago, the train moving at half the speed of smell, about 45 minutes behind schedule.  I was sad to learn that it was a brisk 10 degrees there, but I slipped my PJs on under my jeans and took to the city.

First I saw this.

The Bean

This is the Bean, a really weird piece of art in Chicago that reflects a the whole city.

It's in front of a skating rink.

It's in front of a skating rink.

I had to keep moving because it was so cold, but I went in a search for some deep dish pizza and found it.  I have to say, I like the original NY pizza better.  This stuff has so much cheese I think one of my arteries is still clogged.

As I was walking from destination to destination, I had about 4 or 5 conversations with the homeless of Chicago.  Though I didn’t give any of them money, because I myself am broke and somewhat homeless, they were all so friendly.  One man even hugged me. stole my iPOD!  I can´t believe how long it took me to put two and two together.

After pizza I had to head back to the train station to board the next train, the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe, which I will write about later.  For now, Rita is coming to meet me on her lunch break for a bit.  Miss everyone back east, and keep an eye out for more update soon.