Day 17

Here’s me, frowning into the sun at Austin Amtrak station.  I wasn’t really that frowny, just had the sun in my eyes.  I wasn’t as euphoric as I had been exactly 1 year earlier though either.  Then I was humming “Homeward Bound” to myself.  This time I knew I was only just half way through and I had as much of a challenge ahead of me as I’d had getting this far.

St Patrick’s Day for me started with breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage with the Higginbottoms and then my first bus ride (still $1 even that far out) into Austin.  It was interesting to see everything getting “weirder” as we got downtown.  Also had my first little ride through the UT end of town.

I spent the morning sitting in the Chevy Lounge at the conventiion centre. Recharging my device and personal batteries and getting a little writing and tweeting done.  I got talking to @hiphopchronicles (who lives in Ealing, of course) when we were approached by a booth babe for a backpack manufacturer called Slappa.  I had to ask her twice to be sure that’s what she was saying.  We explained that that word had some connotations for English ears.  She was a little surprised, but didn’t seem worried.

It became clear to me sitting in that corner, watching music artists being interviewed that there’s a real opportunity for some consulting at the crossover between the festivals.  The music people are crying out for help with understanding how to use these tools to support their work.  Some more of those social media “experts” should stick around and pick up some big-haired or well-blinged clients instead of hopping on a plane straight back to whichever coast they came from.  Hmmm….

I managed to find Nat and Julia for a goodbye thankyou and hug before I walked through the crowds of green-clad music fans and got a health power-up by eating  at Whole Foods and stocking up for the journey ahead.  Then it was over to the railway station to sit and wait for the hopefully not too late train.

Which is how I came to be frowning into the sun.

We rolled out of Austin only half an hour later than scheduled.  However, I’d somehow gotten onto the kiddy car.  I shared my 3 hours or so down to San Antonio with little Luciano and his sister and their grown-ups.  They were all excited  but only the kids were screaming in the high-pitched way that goes right through you.

Off at San Antonio to wait for the Sunset Limited coming through from Los Angeles.  It was on time.  If anything it was early.  It didn’t stay that way.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Solve it while I sizzle #2

Not quite sizzling yet.  I haven’t been out so I’m air-conditioned, but my computer tells me it’s only 72F just before 10am :)

So, weather chit-chat aside, where next?

Strike that! *Who* next – this is a journey across a network of people and while the places I’ve been have all been hugely interesting in themselves, it’s really been the people that have made it. That said, I do need to engage with the Amtrak network to get to these people… so I’m not totally unconstrained.

OK.  Well I have just over a week left.  I’m going to stay here in NOLA tonight and travel tomorrow.  I have to be in NYC next Thursday evening to catch a flight from JFK.  But all else is up for grabs.  How long I take to get to New York and how much time I spend there is yet to be decided, although it’s such a highly-populated area I’d like to arrive there next Wednesday at the latest so that I have at least one night in the city.  

As usual i’ll lay out the facts and see what comes back.

Who do I know on the Eastern side of the country and where are they?  Well I have quite a few (I need to clarify that, some I’ve spoken to already but I can always find more) in the NYC area.  I had an invitation to visit Huntingdon PA from Jagir Patel when we met in Austin.  And I would very much like to get up into Maine to visit one of my oldest internet buddies that I’ve never met f2f, Neal Foley (@podchef)

I have six segments left on my rail pass – a segment is on one line so if I went to say Cincinnati via Chicago that would count as two segments.

Here’s some information about trains:

There are two trains that go North and East from NO.  

The Crescent is the one we took last year down from DC via Atlanta – it actually goes all the way to New York with a stop in Philadelphia too. (leaves NO at 7am!)

The City of New Orleans goes up to Chicago via Memphis.  (leaves NO at 1.45pm)

I think it’s important to focus on the next right step rather than trying to map out the whole thing. I think I could go either way but need some input to help think things through, keep me on track, drag me back to principles.  So I think the simple questions are “Crescent or City of NO?” and “Where do I get off and who can I stay with?”

I’m going to need to make a decision this evening (I’m on CDT still – GMT -5 so before UK people go to bed works!)  Let me know what you think or if you need more information to make suggestions.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

A little miracle of mindfulness

So just thinking about moving on from New Orleans, I thought I’d get my Amtrak timetable out.  I looked all through my bags and I couldn’t find it.  i simulaneously found that I could locate my rail pass.  Uh-oh! That’s (part of) my ticket home.  I’m not at all sure about getting to NYC without it.  It’s definitely not here, I check and double check.  I go through every pocket of every bag twice, three times.  It’s not here.

And I have this nagging thing in the back of my head that Amtrak won’t issue a replacement.

So where did I have it last?

At the place i stayed in Lafayette at the weekend.  So I ring them and they say “Well if you left anything in the room, housekeeping will have picked it up, you’ll have to call them at 8am tomorrow” Breathe…  OK so I also call the person who gave me a lift over here yesterday in case I left it in the car.  No answer, leave a voicemail.  

My impatience and lack of acceptance of this situation is rising.  I’m distracted, I can’t think about what’s right in front of me.  I’m becoming obsessed with what’s gone wrong and what terrible hard work I’m going to have to do to make it right.

Thankfully, Ray was taking me to a networking event tonight, so I had something/someone to take my mind of my own petty troubles.  I’ll write another time about the event.  For the purposes of this story let’s just say that I tried my hardest to focus on what other people were saying and getting stuck into being useful to the group, but my mind was still drifting to where on earth this pass could be.  Likewise when we went to eat at The Camellia Grill.  Great conversation but I was only 80% there.

So when we got back to the house I went to my room and had another look through.  Then I pulled out my phone to call the Amtrak helpline to see whether I could get a replacement issued.  I went through the rigmarole you have to in order to talk to a real person and sat waiting while agents attended to people who’d been sitting here before me.

And I slipped into my well-practiced groove of noticing my breath when I’m doing that, trying to keep my focus on that, rather than what the hold-music is and what I was doing the first time I heard “Knock on Wood” blah blah, just rmembering “I take a long breath in…. I release it” etc.  

And I’m doing this for maybe 5 minutes and I’m still on hold.  And I open my eyes and on the chair in front of me is my copy of “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh.  And then something within says “What if?  What if there was one place you hadn’t looked.  What if it’s tucked inside the book?” 

But of course! That’s exactly where it is, slipped in between the pages of the little book is my little rail pass..  Which came back to me as soon as I came back to the present.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman