austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

It might hit you on a sunny afternoon

Monday was our last morning in the hotel room, and although we kind of slept in it couldn't go on forever, since skylerbunny had the plane to take and there was check-out, after all. And bunny_hugger and I were going to take the train back to Lansing.

I'm not sure whether this was Sunday night or Monday morning, but I did bring skylerbunny a little gift, a copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which is just the sort of thing anyone really wants: a fair-sized, incompressible, heavy-as-only-books-can-be-heavy gift to squeeze unexpectedly into the luggage. But Ovid has lots of wonderful strange stuff and seems to me to be an under-appreciated source of inspirational odd.

For breakfast-or-lunch, as you like it, we picked a sushi restaurant a brief taxi ride's away, and bunny_hugger wowed skylerbunny with her world-traveller savvy by asking the desk to check our luggage even after we'd checked out of the room. I couldn't feel too much pride in knowing this trick, since I didn't know it myself until bunny_hugger did the same thing early in November at the last day of our Washington weekend together.

The sushi place was in a strip mall and was oriented towards sushi-as-fast-food, but that's all right. We enjoyed the relative exoticness of the meal compared to the rest of the weekend's food (which was fine, mind you, but standard), and shared such things as trying to identify the biggest problem with the comic strip Luann and its Dirk Returns storyline. There is no singular biggest problem with it. Comparisons were drawn to the grand high days of the regrettable ``Granthony'' storyline in For Better Or For Worse's waning years.

On skylerbunny's suggestion we went across the parking lot for a dessert from a custard stand which is a regional chain and which he hadn't been to in maybe a decade. I don't think we were the only people getting ice cream that early in the rather cold day, but we were the only people who had to reassure the staff that no, the fresh-delivered sundae was not abandoned (on the service counter), we were just watching it for skylerbunny who'd gone to wash up.

After dessert we ordered a taxi manually, and really came to appreciate how we were on the short approach for O'Hare when several airplanes passed over us with clearances of up to twelve feet. Back at the hotel we were frightened by there having been bags put on top of bunny_hugger's satchel containing her bunny head (it wasn't damaged, mercifully), and drew out our farewells as long as possible, including by promising to see again everyone we had run into at the con, and I think a few people we didn't even know where there until we said goodbye. I think we managed accidentally to go the whole con without saying anything to baar_bear, somehow.

skylerbunny took the shuttle to the airport, and bunny_hugger and I walked around to the nearest El station for what I believe is my first experience on the Chicago subway system. The con's web page and other materials promise the ability to ride the train in to Union Station and then take the El to the hotel, and that's roughly correct except that in one of those oversights that always subtly sabotages mass transit, the Union Station does not actually connect to the nearest El station. There's a few blocks walk, which wouldn't be too bad, but the El station also has no elevator or escalator and is accessed by roughly 26 levels of twisting stairway. This is fortunately only really inconvenient if you're loaded down with several suitcases or something like that.

Mind, Union Station is a beautiful spot, at least in the central waiting areas. The waiting areas nearer the actual trains are less so, since again mass transit must make sure that the actual experience is unsatisfactory. We waited around near a convenience store sitting until we figured we had enough time to go to the bathroom ahead of boarding the train, which lead to our discovery boarding had already begun and the line was roughly 850,000 people long. We went to the bathroom anyway and got on the train with reasonable success.

I was worried that we hadn't verified we were in the correct line, since there were two trains leaving from adjacent platforms, of course, five minutes apart. bunny_hugger pointed out the number of people with Michigan State shirts in the line we were joining, which was strong evidence we were not on line for the train heading out to Wisconsin or wherever the other one was going.

Along the way we learned that skylerbunny's plane had some of those mishaps that makes airplane travel so exciting and he was being rerouted to, instead of Chicago-(Denver?)-San Francisco to a Chicago-Atlanta-San Francisco flight, which would give him more time to read his book. I texted a little joke to him about hearing of his new Chicago-Atlanta-Boston-Heathrow-Saint Louis-Chicago-Seattle-Newark-Chicago-Atlanta-Houston-De Gaulle-Boston-Chicago-Los Angeles-Chicago-San Francisco itinerary (or something to that effect, probably fitting within the character limit). bunny_hugger worried that this would not be so hilariously funny to the person facing hour nine of a projected 168-hour-long journey. She may have been right, but fortunately skylerbunny was too exhausted by the time he got in to say anything about it online that night.

Initially, bunny_hugger and I couldn't find any seats together, and we had to sit on either side of the aisle looking at each other. And I had a seat partner who threatened to be talkative, over topics like how we were both going to Lansing on a train heading in the Lansing direction on the car for people whose destination was Lansing. He also wanted me to know that the electrical outlets were there in case I needed to recharge my iPad, which could be done by plugging in my iPad to the electrical outlets which were there by his seat, which would supply electricity to my iPad if I needed it. But he left when he discovered the electrical outlets did not actually work and his computer was running out of power. bunny_hugger's seatmate also mysteriously vanished somewhere before the first stop, with the result being that we were able to sit together after just a little while too. My original seatmate eventually came back, but he was glad to take bunny_hugger's seatmate's location, where the power outlet did work and provided power.

Among the miscellaneties of travel by the way were that one of the people sitting behind bunny_hugger originally was reading Plato's Republic, and my discovery that the snacks car sold White Castle cheeseburgers. Who knew?

Along the way as we rode in the dark bunny_hugger did her best to identify which cities we were passing through. This wasn't hard for, as an example, Kalamazoo. More mysteriously is we passed a city she couldn't name, and which we couldn't think of because if you think of towns or cities in the south west quadrant of Michigan's lower peninsula you pretty much get Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and then you take a wild guess at ``Grand Rapids''? and then start to bluff, making up names like ``Paw Paw'' or guessing there's probably someplace called ``Cadillac''.

We turned trying to pin down just where we were into a pretty compelling game, actually, with me resisting the temptation to let my iPad tell us where and therefore the both of us looking out into the night for anything which gave away a hint of location. I ultimately ``won'', in what bunny_hugger took to be me being funny, pointing out a structure which looked like some kind of city hall or capital building, which proved to be the state capitol. I wasn't being deliberately silly; it had the look of the central building of a good-sized city and that we had actually reached Lansing and not, say, Eaton Rapids was a revelation to me.

The train's announcement proclaimed that we would be arriving at the station at 8:26, causing everyone --- who had been standing and collecting their luggage in the hopes of better rushing off the train --- to pause and start looking at their watches. After the perfect pause the announcer came on again and proclaimed, ``That's 9:26.'' They forgot to account for the time zone difference. This is understandable since railroads historically have so little involvement with time zones.

And so we were deposited outside the train station --- the station itself closes about a half-hour before the only evening train arrives, lest people find mass transit at all convenient --- and in good spot to claim a taxi back to bunny_hugger's home.

Trivia: As much as 53 percent of the money printed by the Chinese government during the last 18 months of World War II was used to cover the costs of the United States forces fighting Japan there. Source: Mastering The Sky: A History Of Aviation From Ancient Times To The Present, James P Harrison.

Currently Reading: America's Wars, Alan Axelrod.

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