Day 9

Breakfast with Tracy: scrambled eggs, toast and an apple – simple and perfect. I was a little worried by the fact that a couple of inches of snow seemed to have fallen overnight. But that's just me thinking London thoughts. As Tracy pulled back out of her garage over the fresh white stuff, I knew it wasn't going to affect our journey time to the station at all. I got to experience drive-thru banking sitting in Tracy's passenger seat while she tucked a payment into a tube that then shot through to the cashier. Then a little grocery shopping so that I had Wisconsin cheese and brats to munch on the train and off into the city through the slush.

I realised how little time I've spent in downtown areas so far. I've been much more in suburban residential spots and I've liked it. However it's also good to soak up the power of areas with great big chunks of stone, steel and glass.

Hugs goodbye for Tracy and laughter that I would see her again the next day although she wasn't going to leave Milwaukee for nearly 24 hours. I was relieved when my tickets were printed and I had them in my hand and I was on my first train. This was a 90 minute commuter train to Chicago via the airport. Whizzed by. Really not sure what I did except for a bit of writing and some staring out the window. If I was in the mood for downtown after Milwaukee then Union Station Chicago didn't disappoint. I took a stroll around a few blocks as I had an hour or so before the next train. I went down to the post office and sent some stuff home. I wish now that I'd had a bit more time to explore the station itself – everyone's been saying how wonderful it is. All I saw was the line to the train – and then someone's calling my name – it's Arie Moyal regular tuttler and one of last year's SXSW buddies course, he's also getting the train to Austin. Somehow it's completely not out of the ordinary at all for me to be in a train station in a city I've never visited before and to bump into someone I see most weeks in London and for neither of us to be particularly phased by it.

The bad news when we got on the train was that there were very few power outlets in the whole train and none at all in our car – there were three other people admitting to being headed for SXSW and all were dismayed by the lack of power, especially the pair who seemed to have counted on this time to put some finishing touches to some software they wanted to show off.. I need to write something about what I've picked up about seat allocation on Amtrak. Anyway, knowing that the train was bound to be pretty full given that I'd had to beg for my reservation at 12.30 the previous night I let go of finding the perfect seat and just sat down. Next to Marisa Hricovsky (I didn't find out her name till much later) an artist from Chicago heading down to Dallas to see a friend of her's MFA show.

I did some writing, ate some lunch, satisfied myself that the power situation was indeed as dire as it seemed and went back to sit and snooze a little. Remembering the guy I sat next to on the way to Seattle whom I didn't talk to hardly at all and regretted it later, I made an opening gambit by offering Marisa some gum. “No Thankyou” she said very clearly in what struck me as a “don't take candy from strangers” voice. OK snooze.

I don't know exactly how the conversation started now but after I woke, Marisa and I were talking (ok, mostly Marisa was talking and I was uh-huh-ing) for most of the rest of the day. She works with ceramics but wants to do more inter-disciplinary work. We shared stories of “people who don't understand” and talked about the importance of just making stuff. Her stuff includes porcelain maggots, a cockroach fashion parade (you dress up dogs, why not cockroaches?) and a set of teapots that look they got mixed up with alligator skin handbags in the teleportation device from The Fly. Beautiful. What a privilege to accidentally end up sitting with an artist. We exchanged mailing addresses to indulge our mutual enjoyment of postal art, which is when I found out her name, she said it comes from the name of a Slovakian town (i'm guessing Hričovské Podhradie)

We ended our evening sharing headphones to watch The Never Ending Story on her laptop. But it was the early ending story for me because I just went off to sleep.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman