Saturday, March 23, 2013

Train Tripping

Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip

Not a commute day goes by when there isn't something to talk, write about on the trains and / or buses. Not. One. As a lifelong user of public transportation I pretty much take it in stride that I will encounter a seat hogger, gambler, solicitor (that is to say, I'm homeless and hungry or an ex-con looking for help to get a let up) a thief (smartphones favorite target these days) a nose and / or zit picker   , a sneezer and / or wheezer, a snorer, a very loud talker, and let us not forget the folks who blast their listening pleasures beyond their inadequate ear buds, plus a few working stills like myself who just want to get to work and back home again relatively unscathed by the public transportation experience. 

Given that I work in and live very near a sprawling metropolis with a sometimes celebrated public transportation system I haven't ever worried about getting from here to there, just about what I would encounter on the journey. 

That is, until that day.  

Well, actually two days.

The first: I was a teenager, a high school senior. One of my after school activities met downtown once or twice a week. On one of these days, I was wrapping up my story (I worked for a city-wide, student newspaper) putting it to bed, trying to hurry as I wanted (needed) to get by to my neighborhood before it was too late, too dark.  

I had everything done, was saying my good-byes while putting on my coat, grabbing my bag when Hattie yelled, "hey, wait a minute!" Oh shit, Hattie talks a mile a minute for 45,000 hours. But, she's my home-girl, so I had to wait. And listen. For days. 

Not long after Hattie started talking I took note of the train I would have caught, rolled past the window. (The windows of the office the newspaper used were at eye-level to the elevated tracks). And shortly after that there was a large screech, a flash of light, and noises associated with crashing. Oh. shit. 

The train derailed at the turn that is just beyond the building we were in. Just out of our line of sight. But we heard it. I heard it. And when I went outside, I saw it. One of the cars was hanging over the side. Oh. shit. 
there were injuries but no one was killed. And while the rail services weren't out of commission for very long, it took a very long time for me to get back on the elevated trains. And longer still to be somewhat comfortable. I still don't like the turns. 

I don't think I ever thanked Hattie. So, Thank YOU Hattie. 

The second: Chicago is known as, "The Windy City" which, if you believe the lore, doesn't have anything at all to do with wind velocity in our fair city. Oh sure, Chicago is nestled on the bank of Lake Michigan and that prime real estate may explain some of the windiness, but Chicago is not significantly windier than any other city. 

Still, Chicago is privy to the weather patterns just like any other place in the world. And on one particularly windy day, I found myself trapped on an elevated train, short of the station by too many feet to even consider the posted evacuation plan. At least in my view. I could have been inches from the station platform, but there was no way I was going to (willingly) exit that train care, walk along the electrified (3rd rail only, but still) tracks, and climb a ladder to safety. 

Elevated. I don't know how many feet the tracks are elevated over the street, but enough to have buses and semis ride underneath them. Oh, hell NO! It is a marvel that I can even get ON the train, but as I say, life long user. I was using the elevated train system before I knew enough to be afraid of heights. And, I'm no so much afraid of heights as I am afraid of falling down from a great height. Or even, not so great. 

Well, I was trapped on a train because the train had been stalled by debris blown by the great and powerful windy city wind onto the tracks. The conductor ran over a plastic trash can that, once blown onto the tracks, run over by the conductor, had become lodged in such a way that the train couldn't move, which meant we couldn't move. 

The train (7 cars long) was full of 5 P.M. commuters. All anxious to get home. Mom's who needed to get kids from daycare, dad's who were trying not to miss another (insert kid event of your choice) students who were eager to get home to get started on . . . whatever. Everybody who just wanted to be DONE with the day!! 

It didn't take long (2 minutes, tops) of being stalled before folks started huffing, puffing, and WHAT THE F*CKING!! Goddamn C T to the F*CKING A!!! Folks lost their shit. I had a book to read (I almost always do) so I wasn't so. . so. . quick to flip. What concerned me more than the non-movement was the possibility that we might have to evacuate. THAT, had me sweating through my cotton briefs. 

Well, we didn't have to evacuate. We were stalled and stranded on that train for about twenty minutes. It was an odd experience, seeing the meltdown of so many people. Even after it was known WHY the train wasn't moving (for that had been the biggest gripe--the why) folks still were . . losing their shit. Stupid wind. Stupid plastic trash can. Stupid conductor. . . ding. ding. ding. All manner of abuse and vitriol was heaped upon the conductor who probably couldn't avoid running over the plastic trash can. 

Probably. He was shaken enough by the events of the evening that he had to be taken away by paramedics. The last five minutes of stalled time was waiting for his replacement to take us all to our respective stops.  

I bring several things away from that day, but the one thing that sticks with me the most: the train stalled and was stranded a mere 3 stations from my destination. 

Like being delayed, by Hattie, so close, so close. 




Monday, March 18, 2013

Scintilla Project: Day 2 Liar Liar

Remember the Petula Clark song, "Downtown"? When you're alone and life is making you lonely, You can always go--downtown. When you've got worries all the noise and the hurry seems to help I know--downtown.  

When I was a girl, DOWNTOWN Chicago was so full of wonder and suspense. It was one of the of the many out-of-neighborhood destinations we were forbidden to go alone. Yet, we ( me, my brothers, and our friends)  planned and took field trips to the downtown movie theaters and the lakefront (beaches) every chance we got. 

One of the chances happened the summer of my twelfth birthday. 

My brothers and I hatched a plan. Our mother had to work and we decided we'd blow off some summertime steam downtown. I used the occasion to dress (like a girl) for a change. Except, I didn't, in my opinion,  have any pretty shoes.  

My mother had very pretty shoes. White sandals. With heels. 

Of course, I was forbidden to wear my mother's white sandals with heels. 

I take my time and dress very carefully. My brothers are huffing and puffing, anxious to get going, wanting me to hurry up. The finished product was well worth the effort, in my opinion. I looked pretty cute. 


There weren't lights because it was daytime. But the adventure felt like bright lights, big city. This was one of the few times that my brothers and I got along. We were laughing, talking, walking, munching, and have a grand time. On our final trek along the lakefront we were walking pretty close to the lakefront when . . . 

 . . . the heel off one of the pretty white sandals popped off. Into the lake. 

Panic. Scramble. Panic. 

The heel floated farther and farther out, well out of reach. 

Back toward home, dejected, one heel less. 

Trying to come up with a plausible tale, not so much about being downtown--we'd worked that part out, but the shoes, the pretty white sandals with heels, that was on me.  And all  I could come up with was: hide the shoes.

And then, deny. deny. deny. "No, I haven't seen those shoes." 

My brothers never ratted me out. 

The mystery of the missing pretty, white sandals with heels lived on and on. 

And yes, if I could tell my mother the truth today, I would. 

Scintilla Project

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not the Same Old Song *

Mem'ries, like the corners of my mind, misty water-colored mem'ries . . .

Deep inside the recesses of my mind is what was playing on the radio during my first solo road trip. Gosh darn it if I could dredge it up now even if my life depended on it. The music I remember during that trip, beyond the rattling of my nervous energy, was the song of sweet flirtation. 

We'd met on-line just a few weeks (maybe a couple) prior to my trip. We emailed furiously every day after the initial meet. Somewhere around day 5 we exchanged phone numbers. Emails turned into text messages which turned into phone calls.

During the eight or so hour drive to Memphis we spoke twice, perhaps thrice. So charming was her accent, a mix of nearly native Tennessean, by way of the west coast, by way of Europe. What was said during these calls? Couldn't tell you. What I remember is how the timbre of her laughter and deceptive cadence soothed and thrilled me for the next leg(s) of the trip. 

Excited to meet the ladies from Texas? No doubt, but fueling that trip, beyond all the firsts...was the flirt and the sweetness of that sound. 

It changed me. She changed me. 

Mem'ries, like the corners or my mind, misty water-colored mem'ries . . . 

*Scintilla Prompt (Friday)  Thursday and Saturday. . . thinking. Loving the challenge, the sharing, the stories. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Grown Up Party

 . . . a welcome diversion *

It was February 1977, a few months from high school graduation and a month after that, my seventeenth birthday. I got off work, drove home in my new used Maverick, and jumped in the shower. I donned my best slacks, my preppiest shirt, and my best . . . okay, my only pair of dancing shoes. I was going to a party. 

A grown up party. 

You must understand, I was not the most social of creatures growing up; truth be told, am only a trace more so today, but that is another story. I was not pretty nor particularly athletic. Don't let the high school tennis team fool you. That folly was due to tennis star (Billy Jean and Chrissy) crushes. I was a  geeky, glasses wearing, middle child, dark skinned,  all kind of wrong kind of girl growing up. So no, not the most social of creatures. . 

But Velda liked me, took me under her wing, as it were. She was five years my senior. Her mom and my mom were some kind of friends. I thought of Velda as more of a big sister than friend. Well, even more than friend, in my mind, anyway. She liked me enough to invite me to her birthday party that February. 

A grown up party. 

The many hours I'd spent in Velda's apartment prior to party night hadn't prepared me for the sight of strobe and black lights, beads and baubles hanging from the rafters, all the food and drink. Lots and Lots and Lots of stuff to drink. Drinking, like the Maverick, was new to me. Yes, I know, I had no business, but there it was . . me wanting to feel like a grown up and more than that, me wanting to feel like something, someone other than me. 

So, I had rum with cola. And then another. And then . . . too many more later, it was time to go. Was I okay to drive home? "Sure!" I walked a straight line, relatively up-right and was allowed to go down the two flights of stairs, into the cold, cold, February night, nearly morning. I was somehow able to maneuver the key into the lock. I was somehow able to position myself inside my new used Maverick. I was somehow able to fit the key into the ignition. 

And then I passed out.

Some hours later (morning had broken) Velda's significant other, James tapped on the window startling me awake. I was coaxed out of the car with only slightly less precision in play while getting in the car. James invited me to lean against his massive hulk while he lead me back to the  beads and baubles, and Velda's warm embrace. (Okay, that part was a dream). There was conversation between them, hell if I can remember what was said. Long story short, I was invited to (finish) sleeping it off on the sofa. 

An offer I stayed on my feet just barely long enough to accept. 

My first grown up party. 

My first (AND LAST for many, many years) drunk out of my gourd event. 

A long nap and a late lunch of sliders and fries later, me and my new used Maverick made our way back to the place I never called home. 

*Scintilla Project 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Checking In

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for checking in with me and your continued and generous support. I am, in a word, tired. I am many other things too. But the tiredness is pervasive. The tiredness is threatening to consume me. Some days, the tiredness thwarts my progress and messes with my mind.  

Thwart progressing and mind messing are not options for there is a shit-load of stuff to get done.

The business of taking care of my mother's business is, in a word . . . 

don't even have a word. From clearing out the apartment, to purging papers, sorting memorabilia, making (and receiving) calls, writing notes, filling out forms, and . . . remembering, re-living those< moments. 

If there is a word that describes the last three weeks it is . . .   


These last three weeks and all that they have entailed have felt out-of-body-ish, just not right, not me, not what I should be doing or what is supposed to be happening. 

But it is real. It is happening and it all is so very. . . 


Still, in the face of all that feels surreal, that is which is making me oh, so very tired,  I am putting one foot in front of the other, doing the hokey-pokey and turning myself around. 

'Cause that's what it is all about. 

Or am I mistaken?