on track

that first cup

There are things in life that should not be compromised. One of these is coffee and more importantly ones morning ritual towards obtaining that coffee. I had fallen into a funk that lasted only 10 days or so but quick diagnosis of the funk could be traced to a change up in my morning routine….or my lack of a morning. I had started to work on my photos late into the night and falling asleep whenever it happened and each night it got later and later. My alarm would still go off at the same time but I would turn it off and sleep until I woke up, which kept getting later and later until one day I woke up at 3pm and realized that I had been getting up at the same time for 4 days. There’s something about waking up that late that makes me feel like a slacker. I am a man of leisure after all but not a video gaming teenage stoner on summer break. Stuff still has to get done son and I really needed to get my morning groove back. Last night while walking to a friend’s house I decided I had had enough and was going to take my mornings back over.

One of my favorite things about that deal I made with my previous employer in March was that I could now have my entire day free to do the things that I couldn’t do when I was working. All the things that keep us day dreaming and hating the grind. I was now free to take my time with whatever I wanted, including my coffee. I did have and still have much grander plans in store but appreciating coffee is a good place to start. Every day would last an eternity if I wasn’t “working” and I wanted those eternal days to start early and with Cuban coffee so I could go wherever I wanted and take as long as I wanted and handle my coffee (or anything else) guilt free without feeling that I was taking too long to get ready to go to that J-O-B. With no car I had to walk or bike to that coffee and because of this I was able to see many things in my neighborhood for the 1st time. Everything looks, sounds, and smells better when you aren’t driving. I had promised myself that I would live on $10 a day and was making that happen. $1.50 for morning coffee was of little consequence and even with that I was able to eat for the rest of the day under $10.

In April my friend Manu was traveling from Costa Rica to the Virgin Islands and for whatever reason the layover in Ft. Lauderdale is almost 20 hours so I told her she could crash at my pad.  For putting her up she gave me a bag of Costa Rican coffee. My roommate has a Kuerig coffee maker so making my own coffee would be dropping off the $1.50 a day and help me save some money. I was also working on cutting a little weight and as Cuban coffee is LOADED with sugar, the drop in sugar would be good too. Two strong cups and I was good to go for the day with maybe a cup in the afternoon. Manu’s coffee lasted a little over a month but I got some French Roast from Publix and continued making coffee at home not quite realizing that I was missing all the benefits of my previous morning routine.

There are three primary places in my neighborhood that I have gotten my coffee for the past couple of years. One is a little farther because it’s in my old neighborhood but I still go there because the coffee girl is cute and even though I do not know her name we have had a caffeinated relationship for some time and those things are hard to walk away from. So sometimes I walk the two miles there and charge it to exercise. Another place, Cafe QBano takes 11 minutes to walk to and requires crossing Biscayne in the morning, always a sketchy proposition. But Nancy, the Cuban owner, makes a mean colada and makes me speak Spanish so it’s always a complete cultural experience. 79 Cafe is the closest and easiest to get to and walking to 79th is a sensory experience in itself that gets you going in the morning.

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It’s just two blocks from my house past old Miami houses that were built when craftsmanship mattered and down an alley behind some businesses. On one side of this alley you will probably see the guy that lives under the banyan tree asleep on his couch, tucked in the corner of the lot where many cars cannot see him. On the other, as you walk behind China Palace, you may be early enough to see the chickens of the day behind the barred window, hanging on a string in the kitchen awaiting preparation. And for that day you know that if you choose to eat there, you could in fact be eating chicken and not the other things that the mind conjures up when eating Chinese food. After the alley you pop out on the sidewalks of Biscayne Ave, walking a few doors down entering the small cafe next to the major bus stop at 79th & Biscayne. This bus stop is always a great place to see that intermingling of people that is one half commuters on the way to their day and one half crack head/homeless finishing their nights and stumbling to their resting places in the alleys on the west side of Biscayne. Regardless of what happens, inside 79 Cafe Dago will greet you each day with a smile and deliver what you require.

Last night I still stayed up late but this morning got up at 10 instead of 3. The walk to 79 Cafe was as consistent as it ever was and I looked for those things that I had noticed before. I could smell trees that were still flowering and hear the clustermess of a symphony that is 40 birds and 3 dogs, the rhythmic clip clop of my Vans hitting the pavement and bouncing off keeping the time. The man that lives on the couch under the banyan tree in the alley was just getting up but I was too late to see the day’s chickens hanging in the kitchen at China Palace. When I walked in to 79 Cafe Dago asked where I had been for so long. “Around….just around” was my response and he winked understandably and got right on my coffee. Tomorrow is another day and I’ll get up a little earlier perhaps catching the morning bus stop rush.  I suppose I also have to get around to the other coffee stops that I haven’t been to since April.

79 Cafe hookin me up

Miles’ day of fame

Becky has one of those souls that sidles up to your own and stays there, making it matter, keeping it safe and warm. A friendship with Becky is exactly what it is and as such, requires no definition to exist. She is there exactly when you need her to be and we have Becky. Kansas City, MO meandered in and out of each others lives for the past 15 years or so, leaving with no regrets, returning with no apologies. We worked together briefly in ’97 and have maintained contact off and on ever since, staying friends. We went to the same high school but not at the same time. There is an “it takes one to know one” kind of bond between those that went to Turner High School because we are our own clan. Our school belongs to it’s own one school district and most of the families are upper lower class.  The other side of the tracks surrounds us on one side and one of America’s wealthiest counties surrounds us on the other so we Turnerites never knew where it was we fit in and nobody really seemed to like us. I suppose that is our common bond and what has kept us close but Becky is the kind of person you would want to know regardless of the circumstances. I saw her on my last visit to Kansas City in April, 2011. We discovered that the last time we saw each other was at her wedding in 2004. Much has happened to both of us since then and we walked down those corridors in our mind and told each other everything over tacos. One thing that happened to Becky was her son Miles and we decided to meet up at her downtown loft while I was in town so I could meet him and take photos as we walked around downtown continuing to catch up. Miles is 4 and a total character, an old soul in the body of a boy. We hit it off immediately and the plan was for him to show me around his hood. Miles was in charge of where we went and we covered a lot of ground ending up back at their 10th floor pad on Walnut St. around dusk. Nothing compares to seeing the love that is shared between mother and child….and capturing it. There is an incredible bond between Becky and Miles and being around so much joy is never a bad thing. As I got on the elevator to go back to my life I was thankful for being a part of theirs that afternoon. And once again, Becky had made my soul smile just like she always does. The slideshows below show some of the pics from that day.

 

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doo-doo, crap, stuff, ca-ca, and things

When I told my mom that I would be starting a blog she asked if it would contain the kind of material she could read. My mom spent the first half of my life teaching me and telling me what I should do and I have spent the second half of my life doing the opposite. I recently told her all of those things, as bad as they are, and have nothing to hide. She does not cuss so I told her there shouldn’t be any stories she hasn’t heard and that I would keep it clean by not swearing. That may be easier said than done because I swear like a sailor but life is about being creative and working your way around all of the crap.

There is crap all over the place. It’s everywhere you look. Doo-doo in your wallet, crap all over your house, stuff in your car, things in your basement, and ca-ca that you’re holding until somebody dies or doo-doo that is waiting for you when somebody else dies. There’s a bunch of stuff you have to do to get ca-ca and you have to keep going to that place your entire life so you can obtain and keep more things for the people that depend on you for their doo-doo and stuff. The more ca-ca you get the more doo-doo you have to pay somebody that knows a lot of stuff about ca-ca to protect your doo-doo. It’s a crazy cycle. As much as I am embroiled and entangled in it, I just don’t get it. Last year I made almost 6 figures. This year I’ll be lucky to make high 4 figures. I have way less doo-doo to do stuff with and have cut back tremendously on my things. I have some ca-ca in the bank but with no more coming in I am evaluating just exactly what stuff I need and am finding that I do not need hardly any thing to make or keep me happy. My doo-doo goes much farther. I appreciate the crap I already have so much more.

I used to work in retail and I did it much longer than any one person needs to. I escaped but many of my friends are still there and actively living that lifestyle. Voluntarily. I do understand the need for retail as it is what keeps the cycle of doo-doo and stuff continually spinning. Retail is the top of the food pyramid. It is what the economy needs to stay healthy and robust. Our perpetual need for more doo-doo is fueled by our greater need for stuff. It’s a glorious and simple formula that keeps us alive. A machine that was designed by The Machine, a wasteland where the strong survive to ultimately help the weak, Jack robs Peter to pay Paul and there is no limit to how it evolves.

I worked for one company a particularly long time that had this process on lock. They put as much crap as they could in a small space and somehow had the entire workforce trained to think that moving the crap around as many times as you could to find the perfect spot would bring in more people who would miraculously be seeing the things for the first time because of all the different places you put the stuff to confuse them, effectively bringing in more doo-doo. 300 small box stores across the country filled with nothing but stuff and things. For not much doo-doo they would give you medium quality crap from China that looked like the high quality stuff that others were paying major ca-ca for down the street. These things were great for your house and since you weren’t shelling out much doo-doo, you could keep coming back for more stuff when you were tired of your things. They sold the kind of crap that contained the sayings that bored housewives all over the south put in their kitchen. Sayings like “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain” and “Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole” and on and on. And they sold this crap in high volume and have been doing it for over 40 years.

The thing about retail is that it’s not science, yet most of those who work in retail try to make it just as complicated. There are no more definitive answers somewhere out there waiting to be revealed. There is nobody in a labcoat practicing the scientific method, attempting to break through and discover a better way because there is no better way. Retail is the wheel. It’s sliced bread. The system cannot be improved upon. It’s give me some doo-doo for this crap and that is it. No more and no less. Yet every company is holding this wheel and every one of them are trying to improve upon the design. The only problem is that the system relies on people. And most people could care less about the crap. And the doo-doo that retail companies spend for the people they expect to cherish the stuff they are cramming into the stores is not enough. People will let you down…..unless you pay them and pay them well. And there in lies the rub.

At some point I will have no more doo-doo and be forced to find somewhere to jump back onto the hampster wheel. But that is a choice that we all have. The doo-doo we need to exist is minimal. It all depends on how much stuff you convince yourself you need based on all the crap you hear coming from all of the things we pacify ourselves with.

 

 

the long slow roll….part 2

After the day in D.C. I settled into my seat for the 27 hour Washington D.C. to Chicago leg and made small talk with my neighbor, a recent college grad from Melbourne, FL that had studied IT in hopes of landing a job with the dying NASA complex along the shores of Cape Canaveral. The once flourishing area has been steadily decaying and the economic downturn has affected the area significantly so she was traveling to Seattle to see her uncle and figure things out. Unlike the Silver Meteor this train had a central car called the viewing car. The bottom level is the snack area and the top level is almost entirely glass, lined with swivel chairs and tables that face the massive windows giving you an area to stretch out and see the outside world roll by. the viewcars are the place to be and it is here that you hear the best stories so after a day of walking around solo I positioned myself up there pretty early.  There is no telling what you will see and hear and you are only limited by whatever level of engagement you wish to immerse yourself in. This can be all or none. I typically take the fly on the wall approach at first and pace myself trying to choose which, if any, people to talk to just so I don’t get sucked into that one crazy conversation with  a “latcher”. Sometimes you get into those conversations despite your best tactics to avoid them. You are stuck with these people for hours upon hours, which is why I always bring my headphones.

 

There was a boy that was walking up and down the aisles of the view car talking with other passengers like a little man about town. Occasionally he would stop and sit next to his mother, who appeared to be mid thirties. She had brown skin with short black hair and it was hard to tell if she was of Spanish, Arab, or Native American descent. She had a nose piercing that contained a small stone and her clothing suggested that she knew her way around a campsite, a coffeeshop, a museum, or an intellectual conversation equally well. This was combined with an unmistakeable femininity that I’m sure had attracted many interesting, attractive suitors, one of which left her with a child. It was unclear if the father was still around but the air she gave off suggested he was not and that she could handle herself quite well and that maybe the child was all she wanted after all. She had seen alot of men come and go. The boy had no fear of approaching strangers and it was obvious that the boy was going to inherit his parents good looks. Knowing this, his mother had encouraged him to meet as many people as he could and learn from them what he could. With his natural curiosity he would sit at each table and talk for a while and then go back to be with his mother and tell the things he had just learned. His mother would pull him close to kiss the top of his head and then whisper in his ear which made him smile. Before long he would be up doing something else and mingling equally with the other kids and the adults. He never sat at my table but each time he went down the aisle would nod in my direction signalling that he may or may not be by later but that he did recognize me, a polite notion that I’m sure his mother had taught him

Union Station. Chicago, IL Union Station, Chicago, IL

 

A body sleeps when it absolutely needs to and this can be accomplished in any location including a train but it’s difficult to get good sleep in general population. The seats are comfortable but not that comfortable so you can expect 2-3 hrs of decent sleep at a time. I would sleep in my seat a bit, go to the view car for a bit and back to my seat, continuing the process until dawn. We were scheduled to hit Chicago at 8am but I woke up early and went to the view car around 5am for the final 3 hours. Soon after, two Amish families sat down across the aisle from each other and began opening the fruit and cereal that was their breakfast. The younger girl in one of the families fetched water for the powdered milk and both families began eating, speaking and laughing quietly amongst themselves. I was seated behind one of the families, an older couple that no doubt had grown children that were out of the house doing their own thing. I had seen them the night before at the table in front of me but they were both sitting on the same side with their backs to me. While staring at the back of their heads I discovered that I could not differentiate between Amish or Mennonite and had no idea what these people were. Sure, I had seen Witness and Kingpin but I was not able to answer any of my questions regarding the matter so I turned to Wikipedia and began educating myself on the ways of the Pennsylvania Amish sects that populate Lancaster County, which is who these people seemed to belong to after matching them with what I was seeing in Wikipedia.  We were in the same positions this morning. I could only see the back of his head, his hair chopped squarely above his blue collar, and the back of her white bonnet, the chin strings tied, suffocating a lifetime of hair growth that was tied in a bun under the bonnet. Observing in fascination I wondered what I would or could say to start a conversation. I’m sure the Amish probably get asked a lot of questions. They are definitely stared upon frequently and I’m sure would like to travel in anonymity just like the next person. I had a lot of questions from my research the night before but I didn’t want to intrude on their breakfast, or their life for that matter.

The boy from the night before walked out of the seating car and made his way into the view car, nodded at me and then sat down at the same table as the older couple, across from them at the edge of the seat so he was just across the aisle from the other family. He looked at them and smiled and they all told him good morning, switching to English from the Pennsylvania Dutch they had been quietly speaking in to each other previously. After a few moments he asked them if they were Irish, a question that made them all laugh. The eldest woman politely told him that no, they were not Irish but Amish, a big difference. The boy laughed too and said that he meant to say Amish and got confused but that he had Irish in his background. Over the next hour as we approached Chicago and rolled through the industrial wasteland that hugs the south shore of lake Michigan I learned about the Amish and the boy as they traded stories. The stories from both sides went great with my 2nd cup of coffee. With childlike curiosity, the boy asked nearly every question that I had for my fellow travelers. I mentally checked each question off and took note of the things that I had not thought to ask. He asked complex cultural questions like where they had come from and why and who their ancestors were and simple questions like what kind of bathrooms they used and where they got their mail. There are many Amish on trains because their beliefs do not allow them to fly and they do not own cars. They can accept rides, however, so train travel is how they get to visit other Amish communities, a typical practice encouraged by their church. There was a point in the conversation before I went back to my seat that I heard the boy telling them a story about Michael Jackson and how he thinks he read that Michael was born in Indiana before he got famous. The elderly woman spoke for the entire bewildered group when she said “Michael Jackson? we don’t know who that is.” And I then realized it was the 1st time in my life I had heard that statement. I had never wondered if there was anybody that had not heard of Michael Jackson. And now I know and can’t say that I wasn’t envious of a life that knows nothing of Michael Jackson. Or Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and Brangelina for that matter. And still functions beautifully.

because it was 36 degrees and raining in Chicago I decided to stay in Union Station for the day until the Southwest Chief left for KC at 4:15. With so many railroads  coming into Chicago in 1913, something had to be done to alleviate a clustermess of a system that the city’s overcrowded 1881 Grand Passenger Station had become. In 1913 construction was begun on a design by Daniel Burnham (same dude that designed the Washington D.C. Union Station) and completed in 1925. The new station was the terminus of 5 major railroads and to this day there are no trains that go through Chicago. They all either end or begin there.  While Chicago Union Station is not on as quite a grand scale as Washington’s it is magnificent nonetheless. One of the things that fascinated me the most were the grand staircases. These have been filmed in several movies, probably the most famous scene being when Robert Deniro descends them in “the Untouchables”. Walking up and down them several times to check the weather out side the station I immediately noticed the grooves that have been worn in the steps. Looking across them you can see the many waves and dips that have formed in each step. How many million people have walked up and down these stairs? How many footsteps does it take to wear down marble?worn steps in Union Station. Chicago, IL

The train ride to Kansas City was anticlimactic as I felt my hometown become nearer and nearer. The skies were grey and there was a steady drizzle the entire way that formed fog along the Mississippi. The dreariness of Chicago had made me numb. I couldn’t wait to get out of my jeans and had finally wondered why I hadn’t worn more comfortable pants for a 3 day journey. I saw the boy and his mother several times in the viewcar as I sat alone at my table listening to “(Not) Just for Kids” by Grisman and Garcia, trying to avoid eye contact with the old lady that had asked me to play cards with her when we first got on the train. Since we were all going west we had transferred onto the same train, although I had not seem them all day in the Chicago station. I had learned from the boys conversation with the Amish that they were traveling to New Mexico where his Native American grandfather lived. The boy and his mother lived in Maryland because that’s where his mother had met his artist father but they just couldn’t live together anymore so now they just lived close together for his sake. They would be staying in New Mexico for 2 months. It was somehow comforting to see them again and as I studied the mother watching the spring landscape roll by outside I wondered what she was  thinking and waited for her gaze to cross mine in hopes of a nod or a smile. The boy had found 2 others his age and they were running around the train, periodically stopping to sit next to his mother so the boy could introduce a new friend. Our eyes never met and I never did talk to her and eventually I had to get back to my seat and gather my things. As the train stopped I got off to go meet my dad and the smokers got off to enjoy the small break and quickly smoke a couple cigarettes. As I walked towards the terminal I saw them both standing outside, next to the train door. She was not smoking but had her hand on top of the boys head and I saw him look up to smile at her and she down to him, returning the smile. When I walked by, she looked up, still smiling from the exchange with her boy and her eyes met mine briefly. I nodded and kept walking, not knowing if she nodded back but feeling that all was right with the world.

The age of railroads may be over but with the price of gas and lodging these days the train is not only frugal but the possibilities that lie in store and the chance for adventure make it too good to pass up. The architecture and scenery that you will encounter, the characters you will meet are worth it. I have several train trips planned in the next few months to take advantage of these possibilities.

the waitersthe waiters. Chicago, IL Union Station, Chicago, ILUnion Station. Chicago, IL Union Station, Chicago, IL...to all trains. Chicago, IL

tick tockUnion Station clock. Chicago, IL

the long slow roll…part 1

Two things that have fascinated me for a long time are trains and the Amish, not necessarily in that order. Where did they come from and how do they survive? The same questions could be asked of both. In the age of the automobile and the airplane, though, the question of survival would more urgently be asked of the trains since the Amish use neither plane nor automobile for their survival. For them it’s as if cars and planes never existed. Not so for the train. Time and technology have surpassed the train but there it rolls, still surviving, thrusting along the thousands of miles of steel that still dot the landscape, laid by the sweat and back breaking labor of the many ethnicities that ran to this country for the work . It’s still a feasible means of transport. There was a time when the railroad played a crucial part in the development of America’s economy and was very instrumental in our rise to world dominance, both financially and militarily. That time is long gone. Still, Amtrak will take you (almost) anywhere you want to go. I was on a 3 day train ride and would have many questions about the Amish and trains cleared up by the time I hit Kansas City.

 

In 1995 I had taken the train on a trip from Kansas City to Seattle that included a stop in Los Angelas where I met my cousin for the first time. I also met her “roommate” and 13 year old son all sporting noserings and coexisting in a small apartment. I got back on the train to Seattle with my head shaved and a nose ring of my own after a day with them in Venice Beach. On the train from LA to Seattle I also got to meet Bob, a cinematographer on “Dances With Wolves” and a card carrying member of Hollywood. We shared the same birthday and spent the two day trip frequently hanging in the viewcar with a Sikh University of Oregon student named Ravmir. Bob provided the beer, Ravi provided some avocados, and I bought everyone potato chips. Ravi got off in Eugene, OR then Bob in Portland, OR which left me a little more time before Seattle to hit on the art student that had been in the periphery of our viewcar conversations while drawing in her black sketch book. The time in Seattle was spent with my friend Rachel and her boyfriend in their claustrophobic apartment. During the day while they worked I hiked the city in the rain, exploring the many markets and bookstores, slamming Starbucks coffee along the way when Starbucks was still just a Seattle phenom and hadn’t taken over every street corner in the world. The first night there they took me out for my first sushi experience and it was so good that we decided to do it each night. That trip left me with a respect for trains and although I had meant to take another train trip ever since, it wasn’t until April of 2011 that I did it again. This time I was going from Miami to Kansas city to see my parents and my sister’s family. You would think that with the miles and miles of trackage in this country, there would be a commuter train that would take a direct route from Miami to KC. But with one of the world’s most underdeveloped passenger rail systems and Amtrak, the goverment funded rail company that was assembled to fail in 1971, it just isn’t so. Amtrak takes a most indirect route from Miami to KC in 3 parts: Miami to Washington D.C. then D.C. to Chicago, and finally Chicago to KC. There is an option for the 1st leg to go to New York, NY and then to Chicago if you like.

 

Many countries around the world and our own citizens see our passenger rail system as majorly flawed, but it’s a wonder we have a system at all.  The railroads were all built by rail companies and financed with private money in the pure free enterprise system of back room deals and pissing contests that was the 1800’s. The automobile and airplane that almost completely took the train’s place were funded in large part by our government. One of the 1st big blows to the railroad was the automobile and it’s increasing affordability and popularity in a post WWII economic boom. The Interstate Highway System enacted by Eisenhower in 1956 pushed the hubs of cities away from the rails and new services were built along this new highway to accommodate the car boom. Companies began using trucks to transport goods and many of the emerging single family units each had their own car and could now travel farther cheaper and on better roads. A few years later, another blow came from an emerging aviation industry that could ship goods and transport the public light years faster. This industry and the airports that served it were largely subsidized by the government and when the US Postal Service made the decision to utilize planes instead of trains in 1966, it seemed the end of the railroad was near, as profits from passengers had been steadily declining for decades and transporting mail was about the only thing keeping the rail companies in business. Facing criticism from the railroad companies who were demanding federal aid to keep them afloat, coupled with pressure from a nostalgic public and their representatives in Congress that refused to be the ones that killed passenger rail service, Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act in 1971 that formed Amtrak and gave the rail companies a little help and a little time (4 years) to stop the financial hemorrhaging and become private again . It never did. As a stopgap measure that was supposed to be the deathbed for rail travel in America, Amtrak has managed to stay afloat. It still receives support from government and is now our only way to travel the country by rail.

 

The 1st leg of the trip was on the Silver Meteor from Miami to Washington D.C. This train was the little cousin of the other freight liners that I would be on later, Amtrak’s flagship liners the Capitol Limited and the Southwest Chief. This was a one level train that had a pitiful excuse for a lounge car but it did allow me to stretch out a little bit more than in the seats and besides, it was the 1st leg of the journey and I would wake up in D.C. The major stops along this route are Orlando, FL, Jacksonville, FL, and Savannah, GA. There are 2 seats in each row and for much of the trip I had the row to myself. You are not assigned a seat so it’s luck of the draw. The seats are pretty wide so you don’t have to be afraid to make eye contact with that fat person getting on. Chances are that if they sit next to you, you’ll still be comfortable unlike in a plane. For a couple hours I was next to a 40 year old man battling skin cancer that makes the 2 hour trip from Winter Park, FL to West Palm Beach, FL for 4 days each month to hang out with his buddies and get away from the “old lady.” He was on his way back to Winter Park. He sold his painting business when he had to start battling the cancer 5 years ago and he thinks it’s mostly beat. He works part time and also travels to North Carolina frequently to visit his 24 year old son and check on the house that he owns up there. In Savannah, a young Latino man sat next to me but we did not speak until early the next morning when we were approaching the D.C. station. He and his wife commute from Savannah to D.C. each week for work, he going up Monday through Friday, her Tuesday through Saturday. They have Sunday together with their 2 kids before he has to catch the 9pm train in Savannah to start the work week all over again. Rolling into D.C. I thought about the day ahead and what I would do. That wore me out and after a while I decided to do what I always do: wing it.

Union Station, Washington D.C. Union Station, Washington D.C.

arches at Union Station. Washington, DC

 

The heyday of passenger rail service coincided with the prominence of the Beaux Arts style of architecture. Grandiose stations were built to reorganize and house an antiquated system of competing tracks and make the experience of rail travel safer and more efficient than ever for the passenger. These Union Stations are marvelous architectural achievements. They have to be seen to be believed and time spent there will reveal the ghosts of travelers past and help you to understand why a public in 1971 would feel a nostalgia to preserve and save the trains. I would be passing through 3 of the greatest of these stations:Washington D.C. Union Station, Chicago Union Station, and Kansas City Union Station.

In 1901, The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 2 of the largest railroads decided to construct a new station in Washington D.C. which meant that tracks would be removed from the National Mall and housed in the new station, giving the city it’s solution to the dilemma of how to make the National Mall a monument worthy of a world power. Daniel Burnham was commissioned to design the station and the Beaux Arts masterpiece was completed and opened in 1907. Today, 32 million visitors pass through the station each year and it holds the central offices of Amtrak. The layover in DC was 8 hours and Union Station is a 10 minute walk to the National Mall, passing the US Capitol building on the way. 8 hours in DC is only enough time if you don’t plan on hitting any of the museums but I had plenty of time to see what was happening in our capitol and not enough money to get into any trouble.

clay pots and cherry blossom. Washington D.C. clay pots and cherry blossoms on national mall. Washington, DC wisteria. Washington D.C.wisteria. Washington, DC Museum of Natural History. Washington D.C.IMG_0677 U.S. Capitol, cherry blossom and tulips. Washington D.C.US Capitol with cherry blossom and tulips

random Monday lunchtime EPA protest march. Washington D.C.EPA protest march on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. April, 2011 tulips on National Mall. Washington D.C.tulips. Washington DC head start. Washington D.Chead start. Washington, DC