Check out my interview with Rep Radio about my Amtrak Trip, and thoughts in my brain here!
My mother has a bad habit of assuming the worse in any situation. If I tell her I’m calling her at 8:00pm and it is 8:05 she has been quite sure for about five minutes that I am kidnapped or dead. I remember when I was in high school I used to get out of school around 3:10 and walk home through the city of Reading. I had been walking home on my own as a latchkey kid since I was 8 yrs old, but every school day around 4pm my mom would call the house to see that I was home safe.
“Mommy!” I’d say, “I’m 16! I can make it home safe without you having to check!.” I used to take it as a slight, as if my mother didn’t trust me. I would joke with her, “Yes I’m home, I sold all my drugs quickly and the gang sent me home for the evening.”
My mother didn’t find this as funny as I did.
I don’t have any children yet, but I have a feeling I might be as big of a worrywart as my mother when I do.
My worry had me up last night. I did not sleep well. It turns out, trains are very noisy, and very bumpy. Who would have thunk? During the day time when I wasn’t supposed to be tired it was easy to fall asleep, but at night… Did you know that the train blows its horn every time it passes through some place residential or crossing a street? Did you know that was basically all the time? I didn’t. That was fun to learn.
I won’t dare to complain. My little bunk was comfy and warm, but as soon as I laid my head down I remembered about the Amtrak train that got derailed not far from Philly in 2015. Something like 8 people died and many people were trapped inside and critically hurt. I started wondering what I would do if my train suddenly toppled over.
“Stop thinking!” I said to myself shaking my head as if to send the negative thoughts free.
I couldn’t help it. I started looking around for the emergency exit, I pulled my coat out of the closet because it would be cold if I had to escape. I made sure I knew where my shoes were. As if in the case of a derailment I'd take the time to look for my shoes... My mind raced. Finally, I took a melatonin (thank god I brought those!) and that knocked me out for at least 5 hours. My train has yet to derail. Don’t worry mom.
Breakfast is served between 6am and 8am. They start making announcements for it at 6 on the dot so I had no choice but to wake up then. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was up before the sun.
Breakfast in the dark.
For a while I sat by myself happily, too groggy to imagine making conversation. I eavesdropped on 2 older white men talking about… You guessed it Drumpf.
It seems like that is the theme of pretty much everyone’s conversations around me no matter age, sex, or race. One man had a beard, and the other one did not.
Beard: "I heard that guy on Saturday Night Live, one of the Baldwin brothers, he signed on to make fun of him for good."
No Beard: "Oh really? He better be careful."
Beard: "That’s for sure. Well Trump better get used to being made fun of."
No Beard: "What was it that that lady said Kelly whats her face?"
Beard: "The spokesperson? Yea, Alternative facts was the phrase I heard. Now we’ve got Alternative facts."
I was joined at the table by Erica and her son named Juice. I can’t imagine that was his real name, but maybe it was. Erica seemed like the kind of woman who would name her son Juice, or let him call himself that. She had a tattoo on her face covering her entire chin, and huge gages like I had never seen. Juice was 7 years old and remarkably well behaved and communicative.
They were both coming back from the Women’s March.
“I’m not like all these women, so invigorated, so full of hope now as if that march fixed everything.” Erica said.
“Look at this! Look at this!” She pointed out all the plastic wear that the Amtrak Dining services used. “They throw it out after every meal. Every meal. All this plastic.”
I couldn’t believe it. Since Amtrak is sponsoring this trip, I won’t say much more about that subject, but I understood Erica’s point. We are going backwards, we are fighting now for things we should have already acquired. Equality, women’s rights, reproductive rights, healthcare. We SHOULD be focusing on other the major issues like Climate Change and protecting our fragile environment.
Erica sends Juice to go tell the server that he forgot her sausage. When he’s gone she admits to me, “I chose to have him. I artificially inseminated myself and everything. Now I wish I could take it back. His future is damned. He’s gonna be living in a Mad Max world.”
We can’t give up, I tell her. We have to keep fighting. I ask Juice what he thinks. He smiles and plays with his glow stick.
“I don’t know!” He says happily. I tell him he should run for president someday and he smiles at his mom and looks at me like I’m a nut.
He probably thinks all the grown ups around him are all worrywarts over nothing like I did when I was a kid. I wonder how his young brain is processing all of this madness.
I’m an adult now and I see the real dangers everywhere, the real problems we are facing as a society. It’s enough to make you not want to get up in the morning. But...
I’ll try to keep Juice’s attitude and not completely turn into my mother. We cannot lose hope.
I watched the sun come up over farms and fields as far as the eye could see.
Who lives out here? And why? What must that be like? So far away from your closest neighbor. As a writer I can see the beauty in isolation, but only for so long. What does a typical day look like for rural America? It seems so monotonous. Field after field after field. I’m sure there are perks, I hate to generalize, but I truly could not imagine living in that environment.
I wish that this country would invest in more trains connecting all of our rural communities with our urban ones. Flying is completely inaccessible for anyone who doesn't have a spare couple hundred dollars. Maybe if we had an accessible and affordable way for these disparate communities to connect it might ease the stark divisiveness that has become so prevalent in our country. Maybe President Juice can make something like that happen for us someday…
The Sears Tower (Willis Tower?) is coming into view. Hello Chicago!
Layover in Chi-Town.
That's what Chicago is called right? The windy city? Well it was pretty windy that's for sure.
I walked through all of downtown from Union Station to Millennium park taking in the sights. Chicago reminds me a lot of Philly, I even saw a bunch of food trucks!
I met up with Alyssa whom I had met briefly in early December at the Latino Theatre Commons Convening in NYC. We talked shop. Theatre, diversity, politics. I love that even though Alyssa and I know knew nothing of each other we are both Latina theatre makers so it took about 30 seconds before we fell into conversation as if we had known each other for years.
Alyssa works for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health doing interactive devised theatre work that addresses the issues of sexual health and education with teenagers.
Thanks for meeting up Alyssa!
I am waiting in the business class lounge now, very fancyyyy. I think I saw someone handing out a glass of wine, so I'm gonna go and grab one of those. My longest train, the California Zephyr arrives departs at 2pm so we should be boarding soon.
I'm going to focus tonight on working on my play Las Mujeres, and on writing a short story for La Galeria which is a Dominican diaspora magazine.
They are calling me to board!