Chicago, the first visit ...... :() oooohhhh ?

Chicago Travel Blog

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After several hours of riding the rails, the train approaches the station in Chicago. The feeling I have is one of, nervous anticipation, controlled excitement, or straight out fear. This is the first time ever being out of my home state without a friend or family member with me. Oh, that's right, I'm newly divorced after 26 years so I don't have a family anymore. No children, all siblings are back in Maine, and I'm alone. So no big deal, I've been to and through Paris Island, on the uniformed side of the badge, and in a house filled with fire and smoke a couple of times, working it. This will be a breeze, it's only Chicago. This train seems to take for ever to get to the station, how much further is it anyway. I begin thinking about what is Chicago all about, well pizza?, the Bulls? , the Cubs, I don't know. Soon the train is there and it is time to disembark into the unknown. Well the station looks like an ordinary station, from the platform at least. Once inside, it the same as the other stations I've been through on this trip so far. A few more people, more venders looking to give you the best of all items to eat or snack on, or a hot something to relax with or a cold one to calm to nerves, not a "cold one" but a soda, a pop, a coke. Seems I need to learn a new language now that I'm near the heartland of the country. Home we just call it a Coke or Sprite, or whatever we are drinking at the time. I sure could use a MOXIE right about now, oh ya, there is no Moxie around here. A bit of education for those who do not know what Moxie is. To begin with, Moxie is a soft drink that is very regional to New England, and is the Offical Soft Drink of the State Of Maine. This by proclaimation of the Governor of the state. It is also a very pungent, almost root tasting drink that either you love or you hate, it was also at one time the #1 selling soft drink in the country. Yes the #1, even out selling both Coke and Pepsi combined, in the early 20's. So now that I can't get one, what will it be, easy choice, water! My next issue is how to get out of this building to the wherever I'm going to be. Being a smoker, I don't care as long as it is somewhere I can smoke. Ah, a sign to direct me to some street above ground. Emerging from the station below, I find my self walking out into a bright sunny courtyard style area that is beside a canal, where boats filled with tourist are waving at people they don't know but I gues it is just something that happens when you ride in/on a boat. Back home, if your out on the lake or ocean boating and another passes you by, it is customary to wave...? So I pull up a hunk of wall and light a Camel, making sure to sit among those who are smoking so as not to draw attention to myself. After a bit of a rest, I review my traveling plans to see I have a few hours to spend here before again boarding a train to my final destination, Lansing Michigan. What to do now, well I could wander about in search of something to eat, yes, yes, yes, Chicago Pizza. So I set out to find some, down the street and around the corner abit, always looking back to make sure I know where that station is, like it's going anywhere? And then, right there in front of me on the other side if the street is a pizza shop. Crossing the street has never been so fun, one minute there are no cars and you step off the side walk and there is nothing to see but cars. Where did the all come from, and, gone as quickly as the came. Finally, across, long and short if it, great pizza. I sould know, my first job as a teen was in a pizza shop, a great one at that. So now I still have time to kill and no idea of what to do. Back to the canal side area to relaxe a bit and watch the people, yes I'm a people watcher. What do we really mean when we say we are "people" watchers, what does that really do for us. In my case I find amusement in watching others interacting without intent to. How some people walk aside to let others by, while others will walk through a group of people with out a simple excuse me? Is it really that hard to say those words, EXCUSE ME ! If said enough, it does become nature after awhile. Another job I've had, working in the emergency medical field as an EMT on an Ambulance. I can very forcefully say excuse me when I have to. If I've got a patient on my stretcher an we need to get throught somewhere, my policy was to say it once and after that, we're coming through the hard way. So I sit again to relax a have a smoke, watch people and then I thought. Why not take some pictures, why else did you bring the camera. Out comes the digital a I snap off a few of just about everything, the buildings, the canal, the drawbridge across the canal, the silly people on the boats, still waving like I know who they are. Right, me from Maine would know someone in Chicago on a boat waving to me! Well after awhile I set out to see another side of the building. Figuring I can't get to lost as long as I stay near a doorway of the station. So in I go and begin looking for another exit from the building. This time I find myself standing between two very large building, with what seemed to be hundreds of people around. People of every color, type, size, shape and general description one could come up with. Great I said, lots of people to watch, not knowing that I was about to have my first and second, interaction with city people. I propped myself up against a half wall outside this building where I figured it would be a great quiet, place to watch the goings on of this inner city, and lit a smoke. Within ten minutes, I was approached by a black man, who greated me casually, and asked if I was looking to score some "CRACK", and without missing a beat I replied no thanks, I was just hanging out waiting for a train. Now this is what I was hopping to see in the city, never the less expect to have it involve me, cool. As smoothly as this man and I spoke, and with about the same speed, he moved right along. Being surprised and kind of thrilled, I kept him in sight which wasn't hard as he just moved ten feet down the street to where several other black men were doing something I never seen, or heard of before. They were like jacking cabs for people coming out of the train station. And what was surpising to me was, the people were tipping these guys as if they were like doormen from a fancy hotel hailing your cab for you. Mostly like two bucks for the guy, who as well as hailing your cab, would also hoist your luggage into the trunk of the cab for you. These men, three to four guys all seemed to know the man I had briefly spoken to and soon, he himself joined in with them. A short tme later, a middle aged women appeared and began working the street and I saw her and the crackman, hug and exchange something, again, cool, right there on the street, in front of the whole world. This activity would climax each time a now group of train riders would emerge from the building. Not all people would take up the offer made by these guys, but for those whom didn't, the taxi's were soon gone and their wait was extended. All this while, the crackman would mingle among the others and sort of rally the troops, between flocks of people. Just as amusing was the "CABBIES", and the way they would move their units in and out of place to pick up a fare, and try to keep up with the guys on the street hailing them, rather organized if I may say so myself. But when one cuts in front of another or takes a fare out of turn, all hell breaks out. Hands fly, arms make suggestion, and a face to face confrontation even arose while I was there. One CABBIE was told to go to a very HOT place, and another CABBIE said "your MOMMA TOO", very nice group of guys. Well all in a days work I guess. Amazingly, this goings on seems to have the approval of the City Police, as I watched several Police Cars pass by without one even stopping. I must say though, these folks did appear to be doing something good as they kept that taxi area clear and got several hundreds of people moved quite quickly each time another group would emerge from the train station. Meanwhile, I'm still standing by this building and all of this is going on before me, when, within ten to fifteen minutes of meeting mr. crackman, a very attractive asian women catches my eye and is walking in my direction. Suddenly she stoped and asked me, "are you waiting for a friend or would you like to make a new one this afternoon". I can't imagine what the look on my face was or how to explain the feeling in my stomach at that moment, but I again just said , "No I'm just waiting for a train ". With that she said OK, and was off, down the street. I remember taking a deep breath and exhailing while saying to myself, what just happened. A slight tremble came over me and I asked myself again, what was that all about. Was I just propositioned, I only been in the city a couple of hours and I've had more happen here than I would expect to see happen back in Maine in months. Then I began to think about what I had just done, was that encounter just a working girl for real, or was it a sting operation at work by the city police. Kind of glad I said no to her now, very glad either way when I really think about what I could have had to show for my few hours in Chicago. Me, a hick from the sticks get's hit up to buy two different types of "CRACK"  in one outting. So now I realize it is getting closer to time to need to return to the underground world known as the train station, but first I need to find a shop to by more smokes at, I'm nearly out and still have to ride to Lansing, Michigan and I don't want to get out there and not have a smoke with me. What if my party isn't there to get me, having to sit there without a smoke for who knows how long ? There it is a shop that sells tabacco and stuff. In I go and get a candy bar and another bottle of water, and at the counter I ask for a pack of Camels, well take about highway robbery. I paid $9.99 for 1 package of Camels, I about sh^%%$&T, never have I paid so much for my little pack of enjoyment in my life. Last time that will happen! So soon it's boarding time and I say my goodbyes to Chicago as I fall into my seat on the train heading for Michigan. I wish I could say I'll never to return, but on the next leg of my trip, I have to return to Chicago before I head to the West Coast, on 08/20/08. Can't wait to see you again, CHICAGO ! ! !

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photo by: Africancrab