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, January 27, 2008

Arriving in New York

I spend most of the next day and evening looking out on a rainy landscape. The rain falls in steady consistency that is comforting. I sit in my little roomette. A part of me lamenting leaving Chicago, another part excited about New York and yet another part of me, thinking ahead, knowing that this is the last destination. In just a few days, I'll be going home, armed with more information than I know what to do with yet and knowing I need more, I'll need more and I don't even know what I'll need. I think I should have planned to stay in Chicago longer. What use is New York to me now? But do I really want to change the setting of the novel? Is this really the direction to which I want to move? I don't know. I don't have to decide now, do I? I am still gestating. New York. My stay in New York will tell me all that I need to know.

The train ride is longer. It seems that we stop at far more major cities than I had on either the Oakland-Denver or Denver/Chicago legs: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia. I'm slightly nostalgic for open spaces, although the rain slows the cities down, quiets them, so I can take them in without feeling overwhelmed. Unfamiliar skylines are revealed and train stations, regardless of their location, feel more and more familiar to me. They are similar, not necessarily in style or architecture but in feeling. They've aged. They know they aren't the center of attention of anymore, yet, they are undeterred and determined to make themselves useful, no matter where they are, in the center of or on the outskirts of town, connected or separated from the other more modern versions of themselves. I remember that here in these cities is where we live and contrary to what the media would have us believe, life, vital and valuable, does take place in the space between Los Angeles and New York City.

We are over an hour late when I finally reach New York. The late hour and the remnants of the storm makes for a silent departure. Passengers disembark in silence, walking together but isolated towards the outside world. Grand Penn Station seems to be ensconced in scaffolding and mesh draping. As we finally find our way to the taxi stand, drizzle is falling softly around me. New York City greets me indifferently, as if the entire city has much better things to do than acknowledge my arrival (which, of course, it does). Cars drive by, cutting a path through puddles of water. People walk by, mostly as if I am invisible. The bright neon lights from Madison Square Garden seems rude and gaudy, overly large and self-important. Lights are everywhere, artificially extending daylight or competing with it; I'm not sure which. Finally, its my turn; I'm in a cab and making my way to Brooklyn, where I'll be staying.

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