I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to completing my first novel. To those of you who don't know me or my work and are visiting this page for the first time, welcome.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share with you a little of my progress as I begin research on my new book -- a yet-to-be titled historical novel, set in the 1920s and involving the founding and establishment of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the predominently African-American labor union, led by A. Philip Randolph. Sleeping car porters worked on the railroads, cleaning and preparing sleeping cars and acting as valets and waiters for passengers. The union struggled for more than a decade before they received recognition and equity from the Pullman Company.

As part of my research, I'll be traveling by train from Oakland to New York City, following the path of those porters from years ago. This trip will include a visit to the A. Philip Randolph Museum in Chicago. Along the way, I'll be sharing with you what I learn and experience. Thank you for coming along.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

To New York

My uncle drops me off at Union Station and its back to the dungeons for me. (Why are all train stations in major metropolitan areas named Union Station?) It takes me a while to navigate the twisting bowels of the train station, which I realize is now a Frankensteinian labyrinth of the older train tracks, the Metra and the city's older system. Unlike the architecture above ground, this is an uneasy design of old and new. The new is glistening modern, like an underground mall, while the old is cold marble, with towering columns and intricately carved ceilings, a hiccup in time where hobos still slept on wooden benches waiting for a free ride to somewhere more prosperous. These changes are abrupt, patched together so that I walk from one setting to the next, like a time machine.

Luckily for me, Amtrak has a lounge available where I wait, eat what remains of my Chicago-style pizza, call my sister and watch the conclusion of Flight Plan, with Jodi Foster and I wonder if it’s the train company's not-so subtle way of discouraging air travel. When I finally board the Cardinal for New York, its evening and the dank yellowing lights are even less illuminating than when I arrived. I've reached that funny place that we all reach when we travel, when you know that the end is coming soon. Like reaching a certain age and you realize while there is a great deal of the journey left but more is behind you than ahead of you.

I've enjoyed train travel much more than I thought I would. I think a little about what I will write about Chicago one day and about when I will return. Mostly I hope I will do justice to this city and its people. I had this idea in my head and now it’s been erased and I have to, in some ways, start again. It’s okay because I haven't really started yet and this is what the trip was for -- discovery.

We pull out of the city into the countryside. The sights become less urban soon and grayer and darker. It starts to rain. Dribbling raindrops on the window of my roomette and far-off flashes of lightning punctuate the thunder. It’s been a long time since I've seen storms like this one. Always liked the sound of raindrops on windows, it easily puts me to sleep.

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