Sunday, 6 April 2008

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois

Staples looked exactly like Hinuera. I arrived a little early and read for a while, but then began to nod off. As the prospect of sleeping through my train pickup in Staples went beyond pointless to the level of a Beckett play, I started to pace the small station to keep myself awake.
The train was delayed by one hour. At 4pm this would not have been a concern, but between 4-5am, my body wanted to shut down. My steps became staggers, and my eyes drifted gently in and out of focus. This was not helped by the suspicion that the train may never come and I would live out my days in a two-store town, weaving like a punch-drunk boxer.
The train was great for sleeping. Although distributing pillows and blankets at night-time rather than 11am would have been a good idea. The entire line was business class, with deeply cushioned seats that reclined without pinning the person behind like a stick insect caught between two marshmallows. Unfortunately, there was the food.
When the intercom announced that the dining car would stop serving breakfast soon, I scuttled along the half-kilometre to that part of the train, and ordered coffee, scrambled eggs and grits. The coffee was bad, but in America this is to be expected; it is seen as fuel, not as art. The scrambled eggs were depressed. Their malaise had turned itself inward and the eggs appeared to be imitating boiled silverbeet in form. There was no egginess to them; they knew not themselves. But the worst thing on the plate, besides a fairly plastic croissant, was the serving of grits. Like the hideous love-child of mashed potatoes and oatmeal, it was the kind of gruel that even Oliver Twist would have left unfinished, convinced that the malevolent borgeoisie were tricking him into eating a serving of paper glue.
The bill ran to six dollars, and I added another dollar for a tip. Alarmingly, others at my booth were leaving two and three dollars for a similar meal, leading me to believe that (a) they believed humans routinely ate things like this, or (b) the lunch lady who microwaved our ancient endives should be encouraged.

We eventually got to Chicago about half an hour later than expected. The city was typical of American metropoli; a sparkly center buffed to a high mirror finish, surrounded by miles of crappy old warehouses and buildings in advanced stages of collapse and decay. It's the American ideology, baby, where you let the devil take the hind-50%.
Despite a few attempts to book online or via telephone, I still had no reservation by the time I got to the hostel. They hit me with a $40 rate, so I booked a ticket to Dallas for tomorrow. The hostel is currently full of Girl Guides who seem to have applied their first forays into makeup with a shotgun.
Chicago isn't much of a tourist destination. There are several large museums and galleries and odd art in central locations, but Chicago isn't a lifestyle town. The hotspots were filled with XXXL Americans squeezed into XXL clothes who seemed happy enough, but to me the holiday offerings here were about as authentic as kissing the back of your hand. I went through Millennium Park, Navy Pier and the Miracle Mile. It took maybe four hours to walk. After that I went searching for a Chicago deep-dish pizza, but the only local spot was closed for a party so I went to Pizza Hut instead and bought a pizza about the size of my fist.

My one regret is not spending entire days in the vast museums in Chicago. Unfortunately my extra two days in Minneapolis left me a little museumed out and it's difficult to imagine dragging myself through another American Modernism retrospective.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good writing logan, how big are the american girls and could you live there for a while? interesting diet/mood observations, keep it up