Chicago Time

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Ain’t no time in Chicago
People rushing the street
Quarter two says my watch

A Christmas Story

For the second time in my life I took the long train ride to Janesville, Wisconsin to see my oldest sister. This time it was during the Christmas holidays, where a large fully decorated tree sat in the lobby of the old Michigan Central Railroad station. As was before, we stopped at the Union Station in Chicago and boarded a charter bus to Wisconsin, which was packed and full of frequent bathroom goers (the facility located at the back of the bus). Ended up in the same hotel as the last couple times as well, the Baymont Inn and Suites, in which the luxurious hot tub was broken this time, but still warm enough to put our feet in.

The continental breakfast is always a scrumptious affair at the Baymont. The question of the day written on the board in the front lobby elicits discussion. Getting to sleep in an actual bed is great as well.

Home Again

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It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.

She took the plane home

A long ways from paradise

Leaving behind the glitz and glamour

In return for the wheat and farm animals

She came home to her family

They all cheered and welcomed her with open arms

It was great to be back to the secure love and care

Of her own flesh and blood

A warm, tender secure feeling

And not that false hope that she tried to cling to

But something had changed

He had found another flame

And her heart was broken as he

Embraced this other in a sweet kiss

How long distance can change everything

False

The Train to Janesville

It was another trip to the cheesehead state of Wisconsin to see the extended part of my family. This includes my oldest sister, her boyfriend, and kid.

All aboard. I rode a train for the first time ever. Me and my small family.

The ride on the luxurious modern Amtrak was wonderful. There was actual free Wi-Fi (a surprise) and outlets for electronics. The seats were comfy and there was a pull out tray on the back of the seat in front of me to place my laptop. I livestreamed most of the trip to my YouTube channel, not really knowing what to say or do, just kind of goofing off and showing my “audience” views from outside the wide train window.

The ride out of the train station in Jackson was breathtaking. It’s such a small town that we are out of there in minutes. There are things I don’t usually see from the normal perspective, such as railyards and lots of open farmland.

Racing through the countryside of Battle Creek then was a quiet meditating moment. To me and others, it looked as if we were traveling backwards at breakneck speed, but that was because we were in the seats facing away from the train’s engine. A couple seats behind me were facing the conductor’s room. A couple times, the ticketmaster (I think that’s what he’s called) came by to check tickets.

Eventually we arrived in Chicago at Union Station. Now it was a long wait in the train station. I went around snapping pictures with my little aqua green camera. A lot of homeless people came up to us asking for money. One was selling bus guides for a dollar, but of course this was a little ruse. I gave away my only dollar (I have a credit card) to a desperate man but another one was begging for nine bucks – maybe to go home, maybe to get some booze, maybe to get some hash.

Amish people converge in this area of Chicago. By taking the train and avoiding riding in cars, they at least preserve some of their stubbornness towards modern technology.

These are some pictures of the train ride and Union station in Chicago, the home of escalators I am always nervous to get on.

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Just another look into my deep mindful pensive, reflecting on the last two days

Chance Encounter

A Fish Out of Water

…way out of water

There is so much out there in the world that I could only dream of witnessing, and may or not ever get the chance. The furthest (or farthest?) I’ve been from home was in Florida way back when I was four years old. I’ve never been outside the country and the chances of that ever happening are very slim unless I won the lottery tomorrow and persuaded my family to get over their fear of flying in planes.

But in the realm of fantasy, I can always go on any adventure I want. The imagination is powerful enough to place you in a distant land and act out a story.

There are five places on the radar that catch my interest:

California – just to get a glimpse, even a sniff, of Hollywood life would be sensational, and I might catch sight of some stars while traversing over the famed walk and feeling like a fish out of water. Lying on a beach, actual California sand, and looking out at the Pacific Ocean, would trump all other places I’ve been so far. Eating authentic Pinks hotdogs, maybe attending a taping of a late night talk show. I would like to take a trip through Silicon Valley and google something from my smartphone while standing next to the Googleplex. This is all dreaming, of course.

Scotland – this is presumably where my ancestors originated, the Hammell name and all of its variations (seems to be of Norman origin, from a place called “Haineville” or “Henneville” and hawthorn, go here for the full details or use the site to check out your own name). To go back and maybe see people who resemble me would be inspirational or just funny. It’s stereotypical for people to think of Scots playing bagpipes when Scotland is mentioned, and this is true, but the country is a lot more developed beyond just that. I’ve never been much into golf and have never played it, but being in the place where it was created would thrill me. St. Andrews is the one place I would be sure to visit, as well as Loch Ness, namesake of the monster, Glasgow the largest city, and Edinburgh the capital and home to the Edinburgh Castle. Scotch whiskey and Scotch tape also were invented here. The famous Stonehenge is also around this area.

New York – I would like to be in Times Square on New Years Eve.

India – the most populated country in the world, the epicenter of human activity, where many bloggers are from. One of the richest countries in the world. I’d finally get a ride on a rickshaw and try some of that falafel.

Outerspace – okay, I’ll be reasonable…this has a .01% chance of happening but it is fun to dream of being one of the few handful of humans out of billions to have escaped the atmosphere of Earth. It would make me realize just how small we are in comparison to the rest of the universe. To look out at the blue marble through a space window and know that you are representing over seven billion people in a rare opportunity – maybe a scene from Gravity could be acted out while I’m up there.


In Response to the Daily Prompt: The Wanderer

Tell us about the top five places you’ve always wanted to visit.

The Asphalt Diaries

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I don’t get to travel that much…

Except for two short years in my life, I have basically grown up around or near asphalt and gravel roads. Where I live now, it’s impossible to step outside my house without seeing a drab scene of more homes, shabby grass yards, sidewalk, and boring asphalt. The chance to see what the world truly has to offer is a rare opportunity for me, since I only occasionally get to wander outside my limited “home zone”, an area I’m so used to seeing everyday and cannot seem to escape; no matter when I travel to another faraway state, I always end up coming back to such old scenery, which is nice to see but annoying when nothing has seemed to change after a week away.

But If I had my way, and could travel endlessly (and anywhere), I would love to travel without any set instructions and just arrive somewhere interesting – just pick a spot on the map and go. It’s more fun that way, when events are so unpredictable you can’t wait to see what happens next. I wish I could just drop out of a plane and land in a random place on Earth, whether it be the Amazon rainforest, an alligator infested swamp (just kidding), or even in the middle of the Sahara desert. Like random adventures on Google Earth with just the clothes on my back. Of course, that would be absurd for I would have no idea where to go, would be lost in a strange land and might not know the language. In reality, I have really no say in where the destination is since I’m never the one driving the car or choosing where to go, all of my inputs are basically moot. But if I had the means and the money to travel, there’s no telling where I would end up – the only problem would be finding my way back, to the zone that is like a magnet and always calling me back to its circle of comfort.


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #17

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

Free As A Bird

Daily Prompt: New Skin


I soared high yonder over every creature, landmass, and water body on Earth. The air was incredible under my soft, bristle tipped wings. The humans and their mechanical boxes looked like ants as my sharp eyesight honed in on future prey, my keen sense of smell bringing in the scent of something scurrying to safety, its hopes for survival futile as my hunger for fresh meat became strong and irresistible.

Through the clouds, free as a bird, literally. It is the ultimate dream, to soar through the sky, to visit places far and wide. The spirit follows my every movement. Life is abundant, thriving everywhere I look. Aerodynamically sound is the state of my windswept body. I fly through the air with relative ease, the air a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen making a nice whooshing sound, sifting through my finely tuned feathers.

A bird has free range, can fly limitless. Can see many things one could only hope to see in an entire lifetime: the seven wonders, exotic countries, the tops of high buildings, every major celebration happening in the world, mecha sporting event gatherings, extraordinary people being honored for their achievements, music from all walks of life, the cultural differences, language variations, interesting smells of native cuisine.

Suddenly, the cry of another winged warrior reached my tiny eardrums. It was a call of desperation. She was in danger, maybe being hunted down by a much larger predator. My curiosity looked around for her presence, flying faster to follow the sound of her cries for help. But then it was drowned out by a sudden rainstorm erupting from the clouds, dampening my beautiful feathers. Time to go in for an emergency landing.

Landing under a bench turned from its natural brown to a damp dark grey, I observed the modern homo sapiens hurrying around for shelter; some whipping out handy umbrellas, some covering their heads with the Daily News, some testing to see if their phones were truly waterproof, some just standing there taking it all in. Even though I’m a bird now, I can still think like a human, can still remember when I was a creature of habit, a creature of self-satisfaction, needs, and wants. I used to see the world through a narrow opening, only knowing what was in front of me, how I was used to living. But now that my form is that of the bright yellow American Goldfinch, so small and fragile but quick as lightning, I see that the human world is very trivial, so valued on the pursuit of greatness and destiny.

A few of my friends soar down from the sky, landing on the pavement, looking for shelter and food like me. I observe them, looking around curiously at the commotion racing back and forth through the now rainy park in New York City, the celebrations and energy from last night now the remains of confetti and discarded alcohol containers filling trash bags.

Just last night, I saw Times Square, the streets crowded with a sea of humanity, ushering in a brand new year, a new glimmer of hope. Perched on top of a flashing billboard, it was incredible to see my former species from a different perspective, unburdened by limited mobility, able to take in everything around me, not being a virtual sardine in the mass of people. The closing year extravaganza stretched all the way down the Manhattan borough through Broadway, the screen on the Times Square tower displaying the time until 2014 turned into 2015. Advertisements cycled through on curving LED boards, the electricity coupling with the combined power of the swarming crowds below.

As the musical performances picked up on center stage, my little body flew in for a closer look, taking in the intensity of the moment, the energy and excitement, the sound raising up the decibel scale, a comparison to a buzzing hive of worker bees.

As my former friends counted down from ten and shouted out the now overused, clichéd celebration chant heard year round, I was glad I didn’t have to worry about making any New Year’s resolutions or counting on incredible but unlikely goals happening. As a bird, I didn’t have to worry about traveling the world – I could do that for free, all I needed was my internal GPS guiding me, showing me the way. Most birds aren’t aware that they could have an excellent view of anything in the world, without having to get on a plane or pay to get through the door, but I have the human awareness to realize I have this ultimate freedom to explore the world like never before. I also didn’t have to worry about losing weight – I only munch on small leaves and berries and go after the meat of small rodents that I fancy. I don’t have to worry about finding a job – I believe my only job is to survive, being below a lot of others on the food chain, and to use my special observation skills to explore and roam freely in this world.

Spending the next year as the Goldfinch, with its beautiful yellow body and black and white wings, is an interesting endeavor. Actually, I could have chosen any bird, but searching through pictures of bird candidates, from the browns, blues, reds, and multicolored, I saw that this one had colors I was fond of. They are bright, elegant, and happy colors as well as the color of sunshine. I’m not a big bird expert and diving into the details of these winged species would be a boring task. The big picture is that choosing to be a bird for a year would strengthen my observation skills. I would get to see the world more, fly to interesting locales I am currently unable to see. I would get to learn about these spritely creatures from the mind and wings of one, would learn how they communicate, what their daily lives are like in their eyes. I guess you could say I would have a Birdseye view of life from another species.

If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?