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On the road again Canada and the US Dec 2011-Feb 2012 - Observations, musings and random thoughts jotted down mostly during loooong train and bus trips.


USA | Tuesday, 24 January 2012 | Views [693]



We pulled into Chicago’s impressive Union Station in the dark, all columns and soaring ceilings.

Inside however, is another story. The building is bustling with attendants in their neat navy uniforms with the badges, patches and peaked caps so beloved of Americans, making each one look like a five-star general. But it’s all show: the restrooms are the sort you want to rush into and exit even faster, the food court is just that. After a day and a night on the train I would have loved a hot shower and a meal that wouldn’t add to my expanding traveller’s waistline.

And the generals? They didn’t seem to be doing anything but parading.

Trusting that my pack would be transferred from the Southwest Chief to the City of New Orleans … I found my way to the tour desk where a bored-looking black girl (I’ve only heard white Americans use the term ‘African-American’) was counting down the minutes ‘til the end of her shift.

“No mo’ tours today ma’am, sorry.”

Three hours in Chicago before my train to New Orleans: I had hoped to catch a bit of daylight but when I left the station and saw the City of Skyscrapers twinkling in the dark I thought that perhaps that was how it looked best – dressed in sequins, but tasteful not gaudy.

“I li’d heaa all ma life” the cabdriver assured me in a distinctive Caribbean accent, “I can show you aroun’.”

A handsome older man sporting a cloth cap over his grey stubble, my driver did his best to act as tour guide, though for the next hour we drove in decreasing circles, stopping frequently so he could check his directions: when I asked to see Cloud Gate he had never heard of it. Again we stopped and sat for almost ten minutes until he showed me his i-phone where he had typed in “cloud get”: the results, being in cyberspace, would have been impossible to get to by cab.

We pulled over again so the driver could answer his phone. “I tol’ you I’d get the fifty dolla fo’ you – jus’ be patien’ mon, ah’m busy ri’ now.”

Eventually we found the earth-bound sculpture and zipped by. Navy Pier, the Aquarium, the Natural History Museum and the Art Museum were all similarly ticked off the verbal list I had suggested: I found it extremely frustrating seeing the grand  buildings and not being able to enjoy the more impressive exhibits they were sure to hold. Similarly the Chicago Symphony and the restored Chicago Theatre which were both lit up and ready for the evening.

And then we were back at the station. I had actually ‘done’ Chicago in an hour.

I do know however that it's a city worth coming back to, perhaps even wearing sequins for a more leisurely night on the town.

(c)FMPDH 2012

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