Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's A Grand Old Name

After my mad dash of uploads in the Metro Lounge in Union Station, I headed down to the Lake Shore Limited (LSL) around 9:15. Amtrak changed the schedule recently and the train now leaves at 10:00 pm instead of 7:00 pm. So to placate the passengers riding sleepers, they allow boarding at 8:00 pm and invite them to a wine and cheese party.

So, at 9-something, I board the eastbound LSL, stowed my stuff and head to the dining car where I am met by this red-haired lady who spoke with a bit of a brogue. I am seated with a couple from New York City who are returning from a trip to Milwaukee having attended a concert with Jon Bon Jovi. They currently live in the West Village (West Greenwich Village for you non-New York types) and this has been their first trip by train. We share war stories of NY and I regale them with my stories of Old Brooklyn.

The Village People tell me the red-haired lady is also from NY so I call out to her to find out where.

“Sunnyside,” she says.

“Where in Sunnyside,” I ask.

“Forty-turd street,” she says, her Irish now more apparent.

“Oh, my gawd, 43-09 47th Ave…?” I babble.

“You live on 43rd St.” says she.

“No, but my grandmother lived at 43-09 47th Ave.”

“That’s right up the block!”

The Village People are very impressed. “This happens to me all the time,” I tell them.

“We used to go to the White Castle, down on the corner. And you remind me of a woman who used to work there. Her name was Rose.”

“I live right across the street,” says she. “I remember, Rose. She worked there a long time ago. She’s not there any more.”

“I think she’s be about a hundred now,” I joke.

“Small world,” say the Village People.

We finish our drinks and tell the red-haired lady we will get out of her hair now. She says something about needing to get ready for breakfast.

As we pull out of the station, I tell the Village People to look out the right side and back towards the tail end of the city to see the lights of Chicago. I return to roomette eight to sleep, perchance to dream.

When I awaken we are sitting in Cleveland station. I look out and see the wind turbine making free money off of the Lake Erie breezes. I think of the red-haired lady in the dining car and realize I did not get her name.

I finally get up and it is either 6:30 or 7:30 am. I cannot remember if I reset my watch. I go looking for some coffee, but the pot in my sleeper car is apparently dead. Jose, our sleeping car attendant who looks like Biff Henderson, is nowhere to be found. So, I pull on some decent clothing and go searching for the dining car.

I am again greeted by the red-haired lady. “The Irishman is here,” she says, a tone of Irish sarcasm in her voice. She directs me to an open seat in her section.


“Please, God love ya…” I say in my best Irish. I believe I am making a new friend.

As the red-haired lady brings me my first cup, I notice her name tag; Mary - of course.

I have the French Toast and chat with a man from San Antonio and his seven year old daughter. They are heading for Utica, NY, his hometown. This is the little girl’s first trip there. We talk about snow, Maine, trains and travel; the girl tells me she has four dogs and a cat. The man has not been there in years. I wonder if he will be surprised.

The San Antonians finish and leave, and I nurse the second cup hot java. As I am about to leave, Mary reappears with a coffee-to-go. Mary can apparently read my mind. I leave her a five buck tip and tell her I’ll see her at lunch. Now I know I have made a new friend. “Tank you, love,” she says as I shuffle back to the sleeper.

Is it a coincidence that we are riding along the shores of Lake Erie? I don’t think so.

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