Tag Archives: rail travel

Met while traveling

Written Monday, June 22, while on the train; posted Wednesday, June 24, and back-dated.

It’s what they call “community seating” in the dining car — they seat you with other people who come in at about the same time you do. Sure, you can take your food and go eat in your sleeping compartment, but it’s more fun to meet different people.

At dinner, I was seated with a family of three: mom, dad, daughter in mid-teens. They had been touring colleges on the East Coast, and were headed to Denver to visit colleges in that area. Upon finding out that I was from the Boston area, the dad turned to me and asked what I thought about Harvard College. I told him that I thought they were overpriced for what you got, unless all you wanted was the name on your diploma. “But,” I said, turning to the daughter, “it depends on what your filed is.”

“English,” she said, “writing, really.” So I asked what kind of writing she was interested in, and she said journalism and creative non-fiction. And then I asked what writers she liked, and she named Hunter S. Thompson and….

“Oh, New Journalism, huh?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, looking surprised that I knew what she was talking about.

So I told her that I love New Journalism, and besides my spouse, Carol, is a journalist, and my older sister has an MFA in creative writing, so like it or not I would know something about it. I told that Carol went to Newhouse School at Syracuse, and got good training in journalism; but what they told Carol at Newhosue was that you don’t need a degree in journalism, you mostly just need to write. So maybe it wasn’t so important which school she went to; maybe she should just find a college in New York City simply because it is the literary center of the United States. She had already thought about that.

Then the conversation meandered all over the place, and it turned out that the daughter had talked her parents into taking a side trip to drive past Woody Creek, where Hunter Thompson lived the last half of his life. Her parents didn’t quite roll their eyes, but obviously didn’t understand her passion. I love some of Thompson’s writing, especially Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, so I was far more sympathetic.

“Sounds like a good trip,” I said to her. “Literary pilgrimage is a venerable tradition. In fact, now that you mention it, going to Woody Creek a literary pilgrimage I should make.”

As we finished desert, I couldn’t resist asking her, “So how many words a day do you write?” “Well,” she said, and then admitted that she didn’t write every day. But wasn’t she was writing letters about her trip to a friend back home, which counts as writing, and writing in her journal? I said she should post those letters on a blog. She said that maybe she might do that some day.

5 hours in Chicago

Off the train from DC at 8:40. Breakfast in the DePaul University Bookstore Cafe (crappy bookstore, great cafe). Quick stop at Performance Classical Sheet Music (a couple of blocks south of Symphony Center) one of the few sheet music stores still in existence — the best part about Performance Music is that you get to ride up to the ninth floor in an old-fashioned elevator with and elevator operator sitting on a stool, a wooden floor, the hand-operated doors.

By then the Art Institute was open. I visited the new modern art wing, which wasn’t open when we lived outside Chicago. Then, just wandering around, I wandered into a small show of work by Hong Kong artist Wucius Wong — incredible work.

Ran back to Union Station, and they just called my train to board….

Heading off to Salt Lake

Tomorrow morning I start traveling to the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I’ll get up early and catch the 7:20 Acela train out of Providence. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll take the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago. Monday afternoon I’ll climb on board the California Zephyr in Chicago, and get off Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. When I get to General Assembly in Salt Lake City, I won’t have jet lag, I will have seen some spectacular scenery, I won’t have had to take off my shoes and hat for security guards, and I will be able to lord it over the people who flew to Salt Lake because my carbon footprint will be half of theirs. Physical comfort, beauty, moral superiority — what more can I ask for?

Once I get to General Assembly, I’ll be doing some text-based reporting and some live blogging of plenary sessions for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). I’ll also be posting here (saving up all my snark for this blog, since snark won’t be appropriate on the UUA Web site). I plan to do some videoblogging, too, if time permits.

So what about you: Will you be going to General Assembly this year? or do you have better ways to spend your hard-earned time and money than by going to some denominational meeting? Will you be following the online coverage of General Assembly? or will you be watching the Red Sox instead? And finally, do you believe General Assembly is worth the thousands of dollars the denomination spends on it each year? Discuss freely. (And if you’ll be blogging General Assembly, don’t forget to plug your blog in the comments.)

P. S.: While traveling, I’ll be able to update this blog in Washington and Chicago. I’ll also be posting to my Twitter feed, http://twitter.com/danlharp, while en route.

Microblogging 2008-06-23

  • Being rocked to sleep by the train… #
  • Layover in DC, perfect summer weather. I want to stay… #
  • Richmond: 20 min to stretch our legs. Two Aussies smoke cigarettes… #
  • “See that?” says the attendant, “woman engineer.” Must be unusual for him to mention it. #