An hour or so before boarding the Lake Shore Limited from NYC to Chi I was waiting outside Penn Station when a homeless man started talking too me.
I want to keep things in order but I can’t because I have to tell you about Perry.
We were seat mates for about 14 hours out of Chicago.,
Perry is a few years older than me and a retired school engineer which is the nice way of saying Mr. Fixit. He is a child of the south and I could not have found a better person to take me to the Mississippi Delta.
As a young boy Perry marched for his freedom in Jackson, MS his birth place and where he was headed to see his 90 year old Mom. He is the second of 8 children and I can tell you many of their names and their stories.
I’m Back. What Did I Learn?
I’ll be answering that question for some time to come. What I didn’t learn is that the American people are open, kind, generous and willing to tell their stories of their lives and the places they come from. I didn’t have to spend 10 nights in hotels and 8 nights sleeping coach on Amtrak to figure that out.
Here’s a story I could not have made up if I had tried.
Not more than 20 minutes after leaving Union Station Chicago at 4:45 PM CST on Monday, March 25 I find myself walking around near Michigan Ave (the prettiest street in America as far as I’m concerned) looking for my hotel. Mind you, I have this enormous back pack on me that looks ridiculous and way to heavy for a guy my age.
Several people offer directions but one man, Bill, is the one I’ll remember. He tells me to head in one direction. When he realizes I am going the wrong way he catches up with me and points me southward on Michigan Ave. We start walking together and he tells me he’d been every where in the world so he felt the need to help me. When I say that I’ve just arrived in Chicago after more than a two week train trek across America he says, “Why don’t we go to your hotel, unpack and let me take you to dinner.” Free food and what looked like an interesting guy? I could not say no.
On Saturday, March 24 at 4:45 P PDT I’m waiting to board the Empire Builder to take me (and two nights) to Chicago. An angel descends upon the Portland Union Station. How fortunate I was to meet her.
With just 15 minutes before boarding, and much like how I met Adriana, Sheila and I begin talking. She tells me she’s on her way to Williston, ND to spend a week with her 2 sons and her grand kiddos. I give her my usual story of being an American hobo and that I was on this self-indulgent circle around the country. Right away I know I met my traveling companion and that she should have a few good stories that might entertain me.