Figuring out the nuances of how your insurance provider is going to rape you for your medical care is not something one likes to do outside of the comfort zone of home or office, but c'est la vie, I navigated the task well from my bed here in Ottumwa.
First day from home started off with a sour note. It had been dry for weeks, when finally the other night we started to get precipitation here in central Iowa. So by the time I headed out for the bus station around 7am the air was cold and moist.
By the time we got to Ottumwa it was drippy again. Later on in the day I had to go chasing after the dog, which escaped the confines of the house and bolted up the hill to parts unknown. Eventually Chris and I corralled the little shit-maker, and carried him home sopping wet. Chris thought we should hook him up outside instead of bringing him in Big mistake!
After coming home from errands with Vicki, I found Kevin to a muddy mess. So I shucked my clothes and drug his soiled ass into the shower for a very long bath. One cannot imagine how so much mud can come out from the paws of a medium sized dog. Kevin was traumatized, I was livid.
Well these mundane details can be put on hold for now. The back is starting to cramp up from hunching over the laptop. If all goes well, I'll be on way to Chicago in a little over eight hours.
Such is life in Ottumwa.
At the station in West Burlington I realized I did not get a boarding pass so I dealt with that potential trip ender and got aboard the express to Chicago.
My fellow passengers were intent on having a movie to watch, likely to keep them distracted from the emptiness of their minds. Someone was packing a DVD of the 70s sitcom Good Times, but instead we ended up with Invincable Shaolin, a Shaw Brothers kung-fu flick.
One little hitch though. The DVD played with Chinese audio and no English subtitles. That threw the passengers for a loop, but amused me to no end.
We all watched to movie for some time until the DVD started to have issues. The audio completely went away and the video was choppy and bit-mapped, eventually going kaput about half-way through. The dude whom brought up the disc yanked it out, gave it a wipe and popped it back in. It played some more, then had more of the same issues but finally played normally for the final climatic battle.
So afterwards another dude canvassed the bus for more movies, tried to play Red Dragon but the driver nixed that flick. Instead we ended up with The Perfect Storm, which naturally we pulled into the Chicago Greyhound station before the boat sank.
I got my bags and got quick cab to the Hyatt Regency. Got a nice swanky room on the 30th floor with a view to the south, most of if being the condos at the Park Millennium. Still no nekkid people parading around as I type but I do see plenty of flat-screen TVs.
After a shower I shucked on some clean clothes and went down the street a block where I promptly found a slick patch of metal in the pavement and went down on my ass. I got soiled a wee bit, but I did end up banging the back of my left heel.
In some discomfort I hobbled my way down Michigan Ave. looking to turn left at Grand to make my way to the liquor store. After a bit of walking I spotted some cops who told me that I'd passed Grand about four blocks ago. So I hobbled back the way I came, found Grand and hoofed another quarter mile to Binny's Beverage Depot.
Truly I had found Mecca. An ironic statement considering alcohol is forbidden to Muslims. I would have perused the place a little more but the pain kept me focused. I snagged a bottle of Knappogue Castle and a shipping box and made my way back to Michigan Ave. to grab a cheeseburger at the Billy Goat Tavern.
The Billy Goat is a legendary place in Chicago and was looking forward to a good double cheeseburger. Alas, it was overpriced and somewhat inadequate. The best moment was bellying up to the bar and asking what was on tap. The elderly gentleman replied in a thick accent, "Lager and dark." I had the dark. Whatever it was, it went well with the disappointing cheeseburger.
After cleaning my plate, well more like waxed paper, I limped home to shuck of my shoes and socks and survey the damage. Indeed I bruised my heel well. I am lamenting the moment when I put the shoe back on.
I gulped a handful of vitamins, grabbed the ice bucket and room card and hoofed down the hall for some ice. Coming back to the room I realized I had grabbed my bus pass by mistake. So here I was, lame and locked out of my room. I called security and they got me back in.
And so here I am, typing away with my foot elevated, smarting under its weight against the pillow. I am now debating going back out for some more substantial grub. Those paper thin burger patties just don't quite fill the bill; especially since it's the only thing I've eaten since 1:30 this morning when I noshed a stale breadstick.
Well I think it time to find a deep dish pizza joint. When in Chicago...
Then I made my way about two blocks south and one block east to the eatery. I ordered up a small 10 inch pepperoni & onion to go. Had a half-hour to kill waiting for the pie so I took the opportunity to call up friends and lament over my misfortune. At the time I was quite upbeat.
So with my grub and a couple cans of soda I limped back home, and settled in for the evening.
It was a quarter to three when I bumped my heel in bed and that got me up to re-inspect the damage, not very pretty and still quite painful to put any weight on. I am dreading the walk over to Union Station tomorrow to get my train tickets. In fact, at this point, I am wondering whether I can cancel for little-or-no-fee and just come home. One fucking tumble and I can't walk for shit.
To those of you who know how much I value the ability to get around solo as much as possible, I am pretty fucking depressed. Of course it's only been a mere ten hours since I took my spill so this thing may improve over the course of the day. But the prospect of getting around a moving train in this current state leaves something to be desired.
God, I can be such a fuck! Life's lessons learned. Viddy well, O my brothers, viddy well. Start breaking in new shoes at least a week before vacation and rough up those slippery soles.
11:06am - I live. I live. A man can be quite depressed when they are in pain. But things have improved to the point I can put weight on it and get about. I had a good walk this morning, but more details when I feel like it. Right now I'm motivating myself to go across the river and maybe do the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Goddamn fucking chair I'm sitting in. It does not roll well on the carpet and I just banged my heel with one of the caster legs. Feck! Shite!
4:44pm - Holy fecking shite! The night of pain has been replaced by the day of labor.
I got up this morning and things were much improved. I could walk on my injured heel without wincing. So I showered and made my way out unto the world.
I figured a good test would be to walk the mile-and-a-half to Union Station to get my tickets. Yes, I am going on with the trip. The previous email of the wee hours was just my way of feeling sorry for myself and getting the gratification of passing it on!
So I make my way in the damp November air and excreted my tickets from an automated Quik-Trak kiosk. Upon the long trip up and back I frequented a couple of Starbucks and also went searching for carabiner clips to hook things on to my luggage. I searched in vain at a couple of Walgreens, a Sears, and OfficeDepot and had basically given up hope, when I stumbled upon a watch repair shop at the Illinois Center and found what I needed.
Once home I went and paid up for the hotel's Internet access, checked my emails and poured me a Knappogue Castle on ice. Then I made my way up north about a mile to the Museum of Contemporary Art where I perused one their latest exhibitions Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967.
While there I came across a treasure trove. On the floor of one of the exhibition rooms was a stack of posters emblazoned with the phrase, "What Would Neil Young Do?". I snagged as many I could get away with and made a path to Michigan Avenue in search of an office supply and/or shipping store. I limped my way down, looking to and fro, all the way back down across the river and spotted an Office Depot Express store. Alas, no luck.
I hoofed another half-mile until I found the Office Depot I had been to earlier in the day to acquire a mouse pad. I found a large enough shipping tube, but had to buy in pairs. Then I set about locating a place to ship, when I happened to make an inquiry at the watch shop I visited earlier at the Illinois Center. Jackpot! Down the hall and to the right was a FedEx Kinko's. And so I was unburdened of my weighty and cumbersome load, and retired home for another whiskey and to finish my now cold coffee.
Well, since I ate the last piece of Giordano's pizza at 3:30 in the morning, I've only partaken of coffee and whiskey since so I think it's time to go in search of sustenance. I'd like to pound some beers tonight but drinking in Chicago is fucking expensive! I may relent at some point.
Still no nekkid people cavorting about in the condos across the way. What is wrong with these people?!?! I expect to be entertained!!! Maybe I should give them an example. More whiskey first.
6:25pm - Well the damn mouse kicked the bucket! It's been bitchy right from the start, even went and spent money on a mouse pad for the optical sensor to work properly. About an hour ago the left button finally went dead, so I had to run out to Radio Shack and buy a replacement. Must leave room now!
Servers being pretty much those whose job is to serve the needs of the served. Basically, anybody you see actively engaged in acts of wage slavery, cleaning the streets, doorman, counter worker, maid, wait staff, barkeep—that's a server.
The served are almost everyone else not actively engaged in toil except for the under-served. They are the folks with the luxury of time, money, privilege. Not necessarily all three, but likely so. The served are really great people to run into on the street, literally. They are blind to the world around them, going about their way only concerning themselves with the things that give them gratification, but not necessarily satisfaction. That's the nature of the served: always seeking pleasure, pretty much on the backs of servers. But in the end not quite achieving nirvana.
Walking these particular streets you only get to see two archetypes of the under-served: the homeless and the panhandler. Most serve both functions. The under-served are the folks who are not actively engaged in tending to the needs of the served, nor do they command the attention of the server. These aforementioned examples are truly off the map, out of the loop, rogue asteroids adrift in the vast emptiness of space.
Such is the lesson of class consciousness walking the streets of the Loop and River North.
And so I wandered the streets of River North looking for an angry fix. Well, maybe not so angry but frustrating indeed. I moped about the streets west of the Magnificent Mile looking for a bar, but was turning up goose eggs. All seemed truly lost.
I did come upon a Trader Joe's in my wandering, literally overflowing with shoppers. I negotiated the crowd and came forth with a bag of habanero pistachios for the road. I tired of the futile search for a friendly confine and made my way over to the Streeterville neighborhood east of Michigan Ave.
Lo, the heavens began to open and rain descended upon me, filling me with the desire to give up my search and make a run across the river back to Giordano's and grab a seat at the bar. And so at the corner of Grand and Saint Clair I came upon a vision. A small florescent lit vision: CND Gyros and Lounge.
I entered the establishment and found myself in front of the counter of a small Greek grill. Going into the interior was the layout of a workingman's bar. I hit the jackpot!
I ordered up a gyro and a plate of chili cheese fries and found a spot at the bar and ordered a bottle of Bud from the amiable barkeep who was in no rush to collect the fiver laid upon the counter, while I quaffed my drink. I liked that. Upon tipping her a dollar, she took the bill and rapped the counter twice. A habit I've noticed before, especially at the Gold Spike in Las Vegas where the sound of the quarters struck upon the counter was music to my ears.
The gyro served here was a different build than what I am accustomed to. Instead of wrapping the pita around the filling they sliced opened the pita and filled the pocket with a brimming heap of small chips of seared gyro meat. Upon that rested coarsely chopped onion, a thick slice of tomato cut in half with a small cup of tzatziki sauce on the side. The gyro was on the dry side and the sauce was inadequate to the task, but it was a good sandwich to bite into. The chili cheese fries were generously heaped with chili and cheese sauce, but otherwise par. But the presentation, the atmosphere and the cold bottle of beer made for an enjoyable meal.
I spied a double cheeseburger served to another patron and can tell you it appeared to be a superior product than what I had consumed the night before at the Billy Goat. It was a thin beef patty, but not as embarrassingly so like at the Goat.
The TVs were all tuned to the local ABC station and we all got to watch a couple of Charlie Brown cartoon shows. The place definitely had an air of history, I could imagine many generations of patrons frequenting this greasy spoon/waterhole. I would welcome such a place at home and hope for the occasion to return. This is my place in Chicago.
It's coming upon a quarter after three and it's raining outside. I should return to bed, lulled by the late night programming of the local public radio station, WBEZ 91.5 FM. Their overnight selection of news programming so far has included the ubiquitous BBC, but also news from China and Russia as well. Throw in RTE from Ireland and Gramma from Cuba and we'd truly have something for everyone.
Check out by noon, train at two this afternoon. There's wireless at the Caribou Coffee at Union Station so I may have another report before I leave, but likely not.
10:46am - I'm sitting in the Caribou Coffee located above Union Station. I tried using Amtrak's free wi-fi in their Metropolitan Lounge but had issues with acquiring a network address.
I've been awake since a quarter to one this morning. I was up for over an hour composing the last email, and then I could not get any sleep afterwards. I blame the can of Coke Zero I had before retiring.
Anyhow it did give me an excuse to buy an Extreme Stainless Tumbler with a built carabiner clip in the handle so I can attach it to my luggage and go-go-go.
Went out briefly looking for breakfast and figured I'd just go back to the Hyatt and do the breakfast buffet. I was seated, looked at the menu and saw that the buffet went for 22 bucks. I was up and out of there in a flash. I imagine some server was scratching their head.
I popped down the street to Houlihan's where the buffet went for $13.95. Steep, but I got my money's worth. Likely I won't be eating again until the train is somewhere between Fort Madison and the Des Moines River. I could almost forgo that and nosh on the pistachios I'm packing.
Likely I suspect going straight to sleep once I am situated in my sleeper.
The drizzle of several days has turned into a steady rain so I opted for a cab ride over. Between the darting pedestrians and the insane antics of the drivers I've got to imagine a fair share of fatalities on these streets. Still can't beat Las Vegas for most pedestrian deaths per capita. Las Vegas Boulevard alone should be lined with those little roadside crosses for everyone who's been run over crossing that busy thoroughfare.
The Southwest Chief leaves at 3:15pm, the last of the day for westbound long distance trains. It shares the same trackage as the California Zephyr as far as Galesburg so there could be a delay if that one is. Not sure about arrivals from the east, but that could also be a slim factor as well.
The weather's been a little too drippy to risk yanking the camera out much. If I had Photoshop I could bring out the lovely colors on my heel, although the canvas has changed at bit since. Maybe I'll take a foot shot tonight if I'm limber enough.
Signing off until I reach Las Vegas Friday afternoon, unless I come upon a hot spot at one of the stops along the way.
|Photos from the Picasa Web Album: Iowa to Chicago|