Tuesday, October 3 2023

the train

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Hey Reader!

Here's to normal work weeks, where you drink coffee at your desk and work independently on totally reasonable tasks. It might sound strange to praise such a mundane activity, but after such an eventful weekend, mundane feels comforting.

What do I mean by "eventful" exactly? Highs, lows, and a little bit of everything.

For starters, I took a little trip for my birthday. Do you know anybody who lives in Budda, Illinois? I never set foot in this little town, but I could've at least stood on the Amtrak platform and perhaps shared a cigarette with the train conductor, and maybe I could have made a new friend. Our train hurdled through rural Illinois and Missouri, and each time we coasted to a gradual stop at little towns like Budda, Illinois, the conductor would announce the location and sign off with a cool, gravely Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

There are both pros and cons of taking the train such a far distance. Pro - it's dirt cheap - a third of the cost of flying. Con - you share a train car with people that didn't want to pay to fly to their destination. Folksy? Thrifty? Eccentric? I feel like I'm dancing around a direct opinion so I don't sound snobbish, so how about a few examples. Where frequent airplane passengers might prefer to sleep, hide in their headphones, or quietly read a book, my fellow train passengers liked to talk aloud, joke with other riders, and make themselves comfortable. Why hide in your headphones when you can play your iPad at full volume and give someone else a chance to enjoy what you're watching? Why not take a walk around the train and get a chance to meet people in other cars, ask them where they are going, and get a little bit of their life story?

Pro - a train doesn't go around small towns, like a rural highway or a country road. It cuts right through them. You whiz past their schools and churches. You see what kinds of cars are stopped at main street waiting for the tracks to clear. Sometimes, kids even run along the tracks and wave at the windows. Riding the train may have taken longer, but it sure as heck made for a richer sociological experience.

The train dumped me off in Kansas city around 10 at night. I lingered for a few minutes, wandering the halls of the ornate KC Union station.


I walked down a grand, echoing hall with a high gold ceiling. Suddenly, I was in a wing of the station where I was all alone, and the fact that an upbeat Beyonce song thumped loudly through the building speakers made that solitude feel even stranger.

The air in Kansas city felt warm and humid. Exiting the doors of the station transported me back to summer time. Just walking to the end of the block made my shoulders begin to sweat beneath the straps of my backpack. I'd need an Uber to get back to the hotel, but I wasn't in a rush. It felt good to stretch my legs, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a short walk through a new city.


An Uber driver later told me I was exploring an area they call the crossroads. I saw a ferris wheel, a giant IRS campus, and elegant pedestrian walkways that beautifully framed empty overlapping highways. I would have walked longer, but it was getting late, and the fact that nobody else was out walking around started to feel a little unnerving.

Late at night, I sat in the hotel lobby with a bag of cheetos. To my surprise, my dad walked through the doors.

"I thought you'd be sleeping," I laughed. He hugged me, then helped himself to a handful of cheetos from the bag I was eating.