New York to Chicago

Fri, Oct 21st 2016 Train 49 Penn Station to Union Station

Hudson River from a Train

At Penn Station on a Friday afternoon. I forgot about that part. Discomfort. Crowds. Too much luggage. On the train and seated, all is grand again. It emerges alongside the highway. Leaving New York’s Friday traffic in its wake. Low sun on the Hudson and the autumn leaves. Perfectly picturesque. Like model railway trees.

I listen to accents and try to locate them.

I will miss the outside world when the sun goes down. It is beautiful here. Clouds hug the riverside hills. All is blue and  grey.

Dusk clouds reflecting in the still water. Upside down world to the east. Pink clouds to the west.

Quakers? Mennonites? Blue shirts, bushy beards, suspenders. Brown ankle length dresses and white bonnets. You don’t see to many of them on the Cork Dublin train.

7.03pm, Albany

The sun is down now. A 20 minute stop in the state capital. The train is very full.
The guy sitting next to me loves Ireland. Because the people are kind. True. “But not so Catholic anymore” he adds in a low sad tone. True. And suddenly we are talking Christ, and immigrants and Islam. I am very conscious of the fact he is on the train for another ten hours. He also talks about the pilgrimage in lough Derg and El Camino de Santiago. And the Nobel prize. He pronounces Bob Dylan as Bob Die -lan. That at least is a first.


Two seats opposite us open up in Schenectady. I see a window of opportunity. I mumble something about sleep and jump through it and across the aisle. To the safety of solitude. No better time to immerse myself in the new Leonard Cohen and Mick Flannery albums. Both are great company.

On the way back I will do the same with the St. Lenox album.

11.57pm Rochester

They were Amish people. The ones earlier. That’s what my neighbour told me. Now , I wonder who are these people who look like a cross between the Amish and Hasidic jews are? Are they a different kind of Amish? Their clothing suggests that they got on the train in the late 1700s. The women’s black hats wrap around beneath their chins. There is a very, very young girl clutching an infant. In the words of the Eels, “That’s gotta be her sister, right, right?”

Rochester. I played here 10 years ago. Water Street Cafe? Maybe. There was a poker tournament in one room and me in the other. At the end of the night I took a couple of tokes off a joint some lawyer offered and then had immense difficulty finding my way out of the building. The next night I played a very weird house concert in the suburbs. I felt awkward. I remember one guy picked up my box of Cds and sold them all during the gig. And I remember the Sheriff gave me his business card and told me, “If you ever get in trouble, give me a call.”
I remember my hotel room was massive. I remember out of boredom measuring that 12 of me would have fit in the bed.

Kodak had left. I remember that and that downtown Rochester seemed empty and strange to me.


Somewhere between South Bend and Chicago

Somewhere between South Bend and Chicago

7.53am Somewhere outside Bryan, Ohio

The sun has come up revealing a very flat landscape. From this I deduce that the train is going in the right general direction. I’ve seen this landscape from above. Massive flat fields. You get a good sense of a country on a train. For now, I am glad I chose to do this. I slept more than I thought I would. Segments of sleep. At some point a chatty truck driver former military guy began to talk. About the military. And truck driving. And people texting while driving. About Ireland being “one of the good guys if you know what I mean.”
I do not. I think I do but I think that’s not what you mean.

In Buffalo a tiny woman of maybe 60 sat next to me. She was immediately chatty too on hearing my accent. I’m not the only one listening for accents and guessing. The accent is a conversation starter on the train. I am looking for stories but I also need to sleep. This woman explains that she has just worked a 12 hour shift and is taking the train to Cleveland and back so she can sleep on the train and go back to work in the morning. Works in Niagara Falls, lives in Buffalo, doesn’t have a car, family works for Amtrak, hence the midnight return train to Cleveland to sleep. These are the things she told me. Now that I am awake and she is gone I wish I’d asked more questions.

“Ladies and gentlemen we are stuck behind a freight train.” That’s a first.

Waterloo, Indiana 8.27am

Or maybe 7.27am I am confused now. Did the clock change? Which way?

Breakfast of bread and hummus and cheese. And maybe I will eat that orange it looks close to death. Amtrak coffee that I really shouldn’t have.

Playing Uncommon Ground tonight at 9pm, the the same time as the Cubs play the Dodgers.

More soon.


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