Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Travel journals on my way to New York: August-September 2001

Chicago 9:30 AM 5 hours of fitful intermittent sleep

Chicago--where the trains make the streets shake and everyone pretends not to notice. Walk down from the bus depot, down Canal St. which is the coolest name ever for a street I think. Down Jackson. Down Wabash. Too restless to land anywhere. Abortive attempt to eat Jerk Chicken pita and read neighborhood and alternative papers, including the Chicago Reader, the Village Voice of the Midwest. Restless inability to sit still. Abandon heavy spicy gravy meat. Too hot to eat in Chicago. It's always unbearably humid here. People must sweat here even in February. My jeans weigh down my legs, making me too heavy to walk, weightless like an astronaut in a heavy suit, clumsy, unnatural. The food around me all smells heavy, thick, makes me sweat just thinking of it. Completely paranoid that I will get sick--get a cold--out here on the road and be miserable.

The Chicago bus station, rebuilt and relocated in the 1980s, is always miserably cramped and chaotic. Several other people in line with me are headed to Minneapolis and we listen to rumors from staff and other passengers about which buses might leave first--should we wait and route through Madison or Milwaukee? One young man with a Cuban-sounding accent, and I band together to try to figure out the fastest way to get off the floor of that miserable station and on a bus home. It is 8:30 pm and the bus through Madison is not due until nearly 11:00. There is a very short line of people at a door marked Milwaukee. I motion to my conspirator. He holds my place in the Madison line and I jump into Milwaukee. Soon the announcement is made-- Milwaukee, Twin Cities. He jumps in line behind me and we pile on the bus, where we will sit for nearly another hour as others figure this out as well and we pack the bus to 100%+ capacity.

7:30 pm - I can't believe I am finally on a bus! The Chicago Greyhound station is a nightmare. Constantly filled to capacity with lines of people passing through, waiting for connections that never seems to come. My bus left an hour late, but still :45 earlier than the next scheduled bus.

Hammond, Indiana. GI housing and power plants. Towers like giant monsters everywhere. Like those dress maker dummies, only huge, mutant, foreboding. Angry women with their hands on their hips. Haven't been on terra firma since I got on the bus. Interstate 90 from Chicago through this first part of Indiana is like being on the EL trains--the highways are all built above ground like one humongous overpass. But once again, I have waiting out for the less crowded of the 2 buses and have a seat to myself where I can sleep. There are even empty seats on this bus, unlike the one that pulled away 15 minutes earlier, the one everyone was struggling and fighting to get onto.

More power plants. Domes and pools. Indiana must be the Newark of the midwest. Dinner stop coming up in Elkhart, home of the mini-motor home.

Indiana is unimpressive. Good choice to leave Chicago at night. This is the "old economy"--smokestacks and lighted towers. Social realism, soviet style art glorifying the unity of the grime-covered workers. Coalminers or, the other way, glum lifeless apocalyptic future of automatons working beneath a permanently hazy gray sky.

Chicago was delightful. Stretched out and slept in Grant Park beside Lake Michigan.(like the yippies 35 years before me) Felt so GOOD to stretch out after a night scrunched on the bus and then 6 hours of walking.

Indiana must steal or gamble away all of its road funds. This is the worst maintained toll road I have ever been on. What do they DO with the money?

For all of the ugly sprawl of mall areas, the conformist monoculture of chain restaurants and department anchor stores, neon is a friend to both the insomniac and the night traveler. Miles of dark highway with nothing to gaze upon, save for reflected headlights in the opposite bus window and intermittent glances at the moon leave you stranded and suspended, lacking concept of time and geography. Signs of life outside the window, distant from the highway, anchor you, keep you from drifting too far away. It's not quite home . . .

10:30 pm. The Ohio Turnpike. Another new state.

This is much more grueling than I expected. After only a few days, I am already dreaming of home-fantasies of aborting the trip and going to home to her hard futon, messy house, and no groceries.

Managed the coveted back bench of the bus -- 3 seats across-- for the Boston-New York trip. Smell of the bathroom, but room to stretch out. Several tall young men eyed me enviously. The bus is filling up but I am hopeful. There is something sacrosanct, foreboding, about someone already in the back set. I am stretched out where everyone can see me, marking my turf, writing. Not making eye contact, not inviting.

Got a hotel room in Cambridge, the desire for a night in a hotel--privacy, naked time, silent vegetation in front of the television. I have heat rashes all over my body from 5 days spent almost entirely in clothes in hot humid weather. Skin needs air, to breathe. Although there was the brief thrill of public nakedness in the bathroom stall at the Chicago bus station on Thursday changing clothes.

This is only the 2nd of 5 buses that have actually left on time. Go Greyhound and leave the waiting to us.

Spending money faster than expected. ATM in South Station is broken. I leave for New York with 5 cents in my pocket.

Statue of Liberty should add to its sign: Now Entering America. Video Monitoring in Use.

The older man sitting in front of me looks a lot like Gerald Ford with a couple of Richard Nixon features thrown in.

Slept through New York State entirely on Friday. First part of the trip where I had to share a seat, so I shouldn't complain. Very groggy, 3 1/2 hour sleep Cleveland to Buffalo. 3 hours awake in Buffalo waiting for Boston Connection. Awakened every 2 hours for connections, forced to get off bus in some cases. Almost like being POWs, I imagine. Sleep deprived, marched in and out of “holding centers", standing in line, uncertainty of making (being chosen for) the next bus out, crammed in like cattle, loading and unloading your own bas, carrying all the positions you can fit in one or to bags. Obviously, fear for your own life is not omnipresent--unless your driver has substance abuse problems, extreme sleep deprivation like me, or is on a suicide bomber mission. So far so good.

Narcolepsy. Newly developed Pavlovian response to being on the bus. Can't keep my eyes open. Just woke up in Connecticut.

I have become an intellectual nomad--unable to land on anything. Even during my trip, spent most of my time walking walking cities and never stopping. Hard to even get myself to stop and have lunch anywhere--always the feeling there was something better or different or more unique waiting somewhere.


I feel guilty for coming home to normalcy after being in New York. Like I should be there. Like I shouldn't be allowed to forget. The images so clear in my mind already starting to fade, to look like tv re-runs.

I came home terribly sick from the greyhound trip. I tell people I have just been to an underdeveloped national called Greyhound where I suffered inadequate sleep, poor nutrition, etc. You've already read the refugee/pow comparison here.

I sleep constantly. After 12 hours awake I'm completely exhausted. Can't tell if it's depression or from the trip. I've finally started dreaming again, but every time I do, I dream that I am in the middle of a disaster. Last night, I was a school child who saw a tornado. I keep trying to tell everyone about it, but no one believed me and would come in from the playground. Everyone finally saw it and got in ok. I think we were in a fire station hiding from the tornado, although the basement seems to have been the one from the house I grew up in. That makes sense, since we were the only house on the block with a basement and everyone used to gather at our house during tornado alarms. I know there was a disaster in my dreams the other
night too, although I can't remember what nature. Not a plane crash or war, nothing quite that obvious. Only remember the feeling of it.

I'm living in fits and starts right now--I get a burst of energy and start something, but then lose momentum for a day or more. Don't know what to do with myself.

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