Saturday, January 07, 2006

Northbound on the City of New Orleans

About ten minutes out of Greenwood, Mississippi I call Bo’s Barbecue Bar and Grill and order half a dozen barbecue pork sandwiches. I've just gotten a signal for the cell phone. I’m not sure what to expect. I met Bo on the trip down. Amtrak stops to change the crew in Greenwood and I knew we’d have a few minutes to get an order. When the train stops, I run to Bo’s bar. It’s a dive. A half a dozen patrons are drinking beer. "Hey Amtrak," one calls, "you’re going to Chicago, why the 'Stiller cap? (I'm wearing a Pittsburgh Steeler cap) I'm the only white boy in the place. Bo calls me back to the kitchen. He takes each rib, dips it in sauce, places a couple between white bread, wraps them in foil and places them in a bag. I grab the order, toss him some money and run back to my car. I step back on the train and a minute later, the whistle blows and we resume our northward journey. The ribs are heavenly and a big hit with others who have ordered one. It’s been a long time since I had that Shrimp Po Boy for lunch at Crabby Jacks.

Our eyes got opened on our last day in Na’Arlens. We were taken down into the ninth ward, to the place where the levee broke allowing a barge to sail into the neighborhood. They’re still searching houses for bodies here and nothing we’ve seen can compare to the destruction. It looks more like what I’ve seen of the tsunami. These houses are already demolished, washed from their foundations and broken into splinters. There’s nothing to be saved. We also go and look at the break off the 17th Street Canal. The destruction is great, but not nearly as bad as the ninth ward. Some neighborhoods are recovering rapidly, others will take years if they ever rebuild.

We’re into Memphis early, it’ll be a longer break. The engine takes on fuel. It’s cold, but the fresh air is invigorating. I walk up and down the tracks for a few minutes before heading back to my seat. People are already asleep. One lady sleeps, her head back with her mouth gaped open. Wickedly, I think I should take a picture. She’s appears to be attractive, but not in her sleep. After a few minutes of reading Stephen King, On Writing, I turn out my light, fluff my pillow up and place it against the window, falling asleep to the rock of the train.

Next think I know, it’s 5:20 AM. We’re in Mattoon, Illinois. On the platform, a group of eight young Amish or Mennonite women wait to board. They’re just outside my window and from the second deck of the Superliner, I’m looking down on them. They appear as a flock of ducks, turning their heads back and forth in unison, looking up and down the track, as if they’re a little uneasy about the journey they’re embarking upon. I fall back asleep. At 6 AM, I get up, go downstairs to the bathrooms and wash up before heading to the lounge where coffee is available as well as a plug for my computer.

The scenery has changed from when the sun went down yesterday evening. The blue skies, cypress swamps and pine hills are replaced with grayness. The sky is gray, the bare trees are gray, when we go through towns, buildings are gray as well as the crumbled remains of factories. The spaces between towns are filled with bare fields that in another five months showcase corn and soybeans. It’s over one of these fields that the sun finally breaks through, just above the horizon, burning off the morning fog. For a few minutes, the sky assumes a pinkish hue, only to quickly return to the gray as the sun continues its march across the southern horizon. Railroads merge in and out. We’re nearing Chicago. Soon, someone spots the Sears tower and we’ve completed the first leg of our journey. Just three more hours on a train and we’ll be home.

NOTE: I'll post a few pictures later, when I get them developed.

19 comments:

  1. Hi sage, You're quite an adventurer. Are you posting on a wireless laptop?

    I love the image of the flock of ducks. The devastation from Katrina is easy to envision but harder to handle.

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  2. Wow, what a post. You are good at putting an image nto words. I will be back to read more, but right now I owe some people a visit.Michele sent me.

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  3. Wow - this makes me want to try a train trip here. So far, I've only taken trains in Europe a couple of times, but this sounds like such a nice adventure.

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  4. Unbelievable is my first reaction to your NO posts. Quite a trip sage, can't wait for pics

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  5. It's funny how landmarks always make you realize you're thisclose, but not yet there.

    Hello, Michele sent me!

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  6. That's a lovely description of your journey. Can't wait to see the pictures :)

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  7. Colleen, there is no wireless on the train--but I did the writing on the train and then posted it when I got home last night. While in New Orleans, I had access via dial-up and would write and then go online and post.

    Angie, I'm sure it would be a blast to be on a train with you--having read some of your experiences traveling.

    Hopefully I can get pics up by mid-week.

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  8. Can't wait to see the pictures; but as always your words paint a picture that is as clear as one can be

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  9. You should've hollered when you sailed through my neck of the woods in Tennessee!

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  10. I have never taken a long train trip but this makes me want too.
    I am also craving a pork sandwich now lol
    Michele sent me.

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  11. That's a well written piece, very descriptive. I almost feel like I was along for the ride.

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  12. wow. You've been doing some very meaningful stuff. That's amazing.

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  13. There is nothing like "seeing" it with someone else. Thanks, Sage for this series.

    To answer your question: no I don't collect postcards of trains and ships. The 3 I have of ships were sent to my mom back in the 50's.

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  14. I have also read Stephen King's book on writing. What did you think of it?

    Does Bo's Barbecue Bar and Grill deliver?

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  15. That sandwich sounds so delicious, I think I need to go get some lunch now! I've been keeping up on your adventurous trip postings and look forward to the pics. Glad you made it home safely!

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  16. Photos developed? What's that? (smile)

    Really, Sage, no digital camera, no knowledge on how to link to other web pages and how to view where your readers are coming from?
    I'm calling you Pa Ingalls from now on. :-)

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  17. I should get the pics back on Thurs or Fri, so I'll post 'em them.

    Poopie, I thought you were from E. Tennessee, but when I looked, I see that the train stopped there. If only I'd known, I'd waved.

    Ed, don't think they deliver in Iowa, but those ribs melted in your mouth! If I ever find myself going back through Greenwood, I'll look Bo up again. As for Stephen King's book, I enjoyed it. I found him very funny. I've not read much of his other works, but I liked how he goes about writing (I don't write much fiction, but I'm going to pass the book along to Nevada Jack).

    Christa--we nawed those bones down and then licked our hands clean.

    Murf, my friend, I don't have time to keep up with all the technological changes as I have the lower 40 to plow. -Pa Ingalls.

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  18. Pa,

    If you need help, let me know.

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  19. Sage,

    I was getting tired of reading the same old childish name calling happening on some of the conservative blogs that I haunt so I decided to reach out and find something new and what better place than to hit the links on your blog. In the process, I read your profile for the first time and saw that you read Garrison Keillor. I recently discovered that he has a web site where he writes weekly pieces called "The Old Scout." If you don't know about it, you should check it out!

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