Sunday, March 28, 2010

October 10, 2009 Day 1: Standing in the Railway Station

I've been operating on the assumption that my train left at 2:41pm. I never even looked at the confirmation email until the Amtrak quick check-in kiosk wouldn't accept my reservation. Then I had to stand in line for what felt like forever. I was horribly chagrined when I presented my reservation and the ticket agent said, "Yup you missed your train."

I wanted to cry, I really did. But I didn't. So the agent gave me two alternatives. He could get me on tomorrow's train, but there was only coach seats, no sleeper. A chair to sit in for 46hrs? No.

But he could get me on another train leaving in 20mins. But it would be 3days on a train, but 1st class all the way. I don't think I had much of a choice.

So now I'm a sleeper cabin, all my meals included, turn down service too. I'm chilling, watching the pilot episode of a new TV show I downloaded from iTunes.

I have watched too many TV shows and movies that make it look easy to just jump on the train and go. What did I think I was going to do? Make a running jump unto a moving train? I am not Jackie Chan.

As with every last minute getaway plans I make, something always goes wrong. So I missed my train, but I'm on a nicer ride through the desert and by the Grand Canyon. Sometimes you don't get what you just think you want, you get what you need.

October 11, 2009 Day 2: The Southwest Chief

     Morning came quietly, a soft grey glow. I slept with the drapes open so I could be awakened by the sun. Breakfast is first come, first served, I don’t know what made me think quiche on a train for breakfast was a bright idea. It was like a log and I made a horrible mistake trying out chicken sausages. Is that some sort of culinary joke?
     Nothing can quite describe this train ride better than the tweets I sent out that day:

-Just sitting in La Junta, CO where it is 32F w/frost and ice (914am)

-Train will past Pike's Peak & sangria de Christo mountains. Will climb to 7000ft. Would explain my headache (918am)

-Feet up, train moving, Beatles on the iPod, reading Sunday funnies. Life is good. (930am)

-iPod on shuffle, cosmic smiling, Maroon 5 started playing "Sunday Morning"! awesome (933am)

-I am always amazed, astounded and grateful for the rich & varied beauty of our country. (956am)

-Passing through frost covered arroyos, that look like powdered sugar on my cornflakes. (1008am)

-Headache intensifying, still climbing. Frost is thickening like toasted pop tarts! (1022am)

-Pulling up to Marley, CO ghost town. Train weaving thru mountain passes,slowly,silent as a ghost (1134am)

-The fog is a thick adding to the anticipation of a ghost town (1135am)

-It is seriously eerie, no train whistle, no chugachuga. We glide thru the pass.(1136)

-The only witnesses are the electric poles w/their glass conductors. Silent sentinels (1137am)

-It's a good thing the windows are only emergency exits. Otherwise I'd be pulling a Scooby & hanging my head out. (1153am)

-I would totally spend my time hanging out the window catching bugs in my teeth! (1154am)

-I'm starting to see mountain ranges. Pale half moon hanging in the sky. (130pm)

-Landscape littered with broken cars, empty houses and lost dreams. (132pm)

-We are in Las Vegas, NM (135pm)

-The sky is now a brilliant azure! (212pm)

-We are at 7127ft altitude (254pm)

-I hate it when the train stops, cuz my brain thinks it's still moving & there is that moment of nausea.(313pm)

-We're stopped. My view is of an anthills. Seriously.(316pm)
-I am so bored, I'm actually drinking water.(348pm)

-I can see the twitterverse! In albuquerque. It is sweet, warm and I'm catching the late afternoon sun on the train platform. (509pm)

-Night has dropped over NM as we pull into Gallup. All I see are the pinpricks of street lights dotting the dark mountains. (816pm)

-Next time I take a long train ride, I'm going to time it w/a full moon. All this endless majesty under the silver light of a full moon? (823pm)

-We have just arrived in Flagstaff, AZ. Everything looks so lonesome at night.(1114pm)

There is a reason for everything that happens to us and sometimes we actually get the chance to see it happen. Tonight I understood why I missed my train.
     At dinner, I was treated to a table of 3 different older women. We exchanged where we were going; one said she was going to UCLA for breast cancer treatment. I was stunned; she was open to sharing her story. From what I could tell she was recently diagnosed and she said her doctor had a good prognosis for her recovery. But she was getting conflicting recommendations as to further diagnostic treatment. She told us how at breakfast, her table consisted of two cancer survivors and a widower who had lost his wife to cancer 2yrs ago. The other lady sitting next to her was telling her of a friend she had who had survived breast cancer and seemed buoyed by the news.
     When I first sat down, she had a sort of feverish stare, intense, as if she were committing every little thing she saw to memory. And of all the people I have talked to and whose company I have enjoyed. She was the first and only one so far to ask my name.
     When I first joined Twitter I found someone following me who beat breast cancer not once but twice. I didn't know why she was following me so I did the polite thing and followed her. I mean, you never know right? When I met this woman tonight, I was able to pull out my phone, look up my tweep's info and pass it along. If it helps raise her spirits, inspires her and brings her comfort? Then I was meant to board this train and be a messenger. I believe that we all have the God spark in us; you just got to let it shine. I gave her the website for breast cancer patients, I also gave her my email so, if she liked, she could contact me and I could pass on more info, or whatever. I watched her make a notation of my name and next to it she wrote "writer". I was touched.
     At lunch I also met a French painter traveling to the Grand Canyon so she can be inspire to paint that. Her name is Sophie Moraine, her artwork can be seen at
     Just a quick by the way, the site is in French, I can still it, I practiced my French with them and they said that my French was the best they had heard so far. It's amazing the time I'm having.
     I figured out how to pull the top bunk open because I wanted to see what that looked like. They only pulled out the main bed but during the day they store the mattress up in the top bunk. The top bunk has straps that they highly recommend are attached to the ceiling to keep someone from falling. 
     I felt nothing in my bottom bunk and I slept soundly.

October 12, 2009 Day 3: Coast Starlight Train


It started out dark but not dreary. I woke up early to make sure I ate breakfast between 5-6am. Since we expected to arrive in LA at 815am, the crew needed time to serve us and to clean up.

The term they use is "community seating", you are seated at a booth with whomever choses to eat at the same time you eat. So breakfast was another table of 4 strangers, who for a time chatted like old friends.
We exchanged names, but to my chagrin, I forgot their names the minute they told me. But the woman sitting next to me immediately asked:
     "The table you were at last night, there was one woman who looked so sad. What was wrong?"
I was taken aback by the question, I haven't been paying as much attention as I guess I should have been. I never noticed her, but she noticed us.. I didn't mention names, we are all just passing ships, so I told her the truth.
After I did so this new woman I just met simply nodded and said:
     "I'm on year three of colon cancer. Doing good."
I assumed that meant she was 3yrs into remission. Again, I was taken aback by the candidness of our conversation. I don't know what it means, but I'll file it away like I always do. There are things we can share with a stranger because that we can't share with our close friends and family. Maybe because we are more considerate of their feelings than a strangers?
I can't tell my family just how badly I'm feeling because they would worry. A co-worker isn't as emotionally invested in you and will tell you to just suck it up, but will worry about you as well. A stranger will be sincerely concerned, but they won't worry, they will say a prayer and then their moment in your life is passed, their purpose fulfilled. They let go, you let go.
This morning as we arrived in LA, I looked for my friend from the night before. Perhaps she rode on the red caps' trolley, I walked. But I didn't see her again. I'd like to think one day I'll hear from her telling me she's doing well. I also like to think, maybe I didn't need to see her because I had given my message already. I have had so many angels drop into my life, saying something casual and random, I would hope that this once, I was an angel for her.
Wherever you are, my friend, I say a prayer and only wish you the best.
-Behold! The Pacific Ocean! 1228pm

     Today I switched trains; I am on the "Coast Starlight" that will take me on my final leg to Seattle. It literally hugs the coast; I watched the waves tumble endlessly. It was magnificent to see the coast, north of Santa Barbara to just south of San Luis Obispo. There were parts that weren't accessible by car or foot ; I was in awe. I was plastered to my window! Then inland towards Salinas, we rode through mountain ranges where I saw deer; happy California cows! Four tunnels later, I got my cell signal back.
     The Pacific Ocean absolutely enthralls me and suddenly a moment of absolute clarity struck me in the form of a haiku I wrote about my muse. 
          Pacific Ocean
          Seafoam reminds me of your
          Grey saltwater eyes

Tonight at dinner I met Valerie; Bonnie, Canadian childhood friends. They took a cruise from Vancouver and stayed in San Diego for a few days and were now returning home. While I was having dinner, my muse on Twitter said something about wishing the Canadians a happy thanksgiving, serendipity? Of course I didn't see the tweet until I had said goodnight to the ladies, otherwise I would have passed on the regards.   

I've  met so many interesting people; I've told them all my crazy story of missing the train. It's a great icebreaker. Unexpected cicumstance turns into great stories!

Tomorrow the Cascade Mountains await. I wondered why it takes so long, it's 1377mi (according to the brochure) so it's approximately 22hrs of actual travel time.

My tweets during this day:

-It is 434am in California. Next stop, San Bernadino, CA. It's colder this morning than yesterday! 434am

-Night still glides by my window as sleep struggles needlessly with alert. I'll let them slug it out and just sit here. 438am

-It is 640am and the highway is already packed w/traffic. Red string lights dot the road. 640am

-Traveling Feet is now in LA! 801am

-LA Union Station, it's grey it's cloudy, but I'm enjoying the fresh air 802am

-Maybe it won't be 2 hard to get Traveling Feet to pose. This is in the general waiting area at LA Union Station 826am

-So this route is far more bourgeois than the last route. We in the sleepers have a separate "parlor" car and wine tasting- a sarcasm font :-/  10/38am

-Love, I've mapped out our romantic getaways, I know the places you'll love because I love them too. All I need is for you to arrive. 1109am

-It's only 1pm yet the sky is getting darker, there is a tangerine tinge to the clouds. Does it presage rain storms? 106pm

-Saw a buck bounding through to dunes on his way to the ocean. Beautiful full horns too! 252pm

-Freshly cut trees trackside; the bright orange insides glisten like blood, can you hear a tree scream? 253pm

-Went thru 4 tunnels just now, want to see what I looks like when u r in a tunnel!  417pm

-I'm just a melancholy baby watching the landscape fly by, each railroad tie, each mile, every mountain we climb, remind me-you're not here. 537pm

-It's the grey of late afternoon that obscures my sight like a hidden veil. Or is it the tears that linger on the edge, refusing to fall? 541pm

-What I have learnt in the trip so far, age doesn't diminish your ability to be engaging, fascinating and friendly. 914pm

-I must admit the rolling years can be cruel, but you cannot submit to that cruelty. Enjoy life it is a gift of great joy! 915pm

We just passed Oakland, about 30-40mins ago, next stop is Martinez, CA. I'm going to sleep. G'nite! 

October 13, 2009 Day 4: The Cascades

I woke up at 5am expecting to see a spectacular sight, Mt. Shasta. It was too dark to see anything, so I went back to sleep.
Last night was rough I was jerked back into consciousness by two episodes of panic attacks. I was startled out of sleep by this horrid sensation that the train was going sideways and was on the verge of tipping over. It was a sensation more towards my tipping over my head rather than rolling sideways off the bed. Once the bed is pulled down, the danger was more from banging my shins on the bed and falling into it rather than falling out.
I can’t imagine two adults comfortable in this deluxe sleeper once the bed is pulled down. The folding mini desk would have to be put away. The top bunk is only for the smaller of the two adults. They never pulled it down for me; I pulled it down myself just to be nosy. There is a heavy metal ladder that you can use to get up, but I didn’t want to try that in a moving train. There are straps that you attach to the ceiling that they recommend you use to keep you from falling off.
Last night had freezing rain because another rider told me she had seen icicles. That was probably snow I saw last night. The rain was only an issue when it created ice on the tracks, which explained some of the slow moving. But we escaped the big rain storms that struck California. I just hope it clears up by the time I arrive on Thursday morning!
Morning was strange. I went to the dining car and another elderly woman sat in front of me, she forgot her dental bridge so I had to talk fast to divert myself from the gaping hole in her mouth. Just as she had started to thaw out towards me, the train stopped and she looked up and realized it was her stop! Lost my breakfast buddy.
Then I met Maggie, she used to work for the state’s attorney office, retired now. Then I met the Canadian ladies again, they have been friends since they were 12yrs old! How wonderful for them! How many people can say they stayed friends with anyone who wasn’t related to them? They were 63yrs old!
Again it was a great conversation. Maggie told us about her aunt who was learning to arrange flowers when one of her closest friends died. So Maggie’s aunt created a beautiful cross made from some pieces of wood she had found and had put flowers on it to make a floral cross. So during the burial, the cross was at the foot of the casket, except it was raining heavily. Well, the flowers started to come off and soon all that was left was the wooden cross with “Packed by Heinz” stamped across it.
Valery told us about her two dogs, one she inherited, a chow chow and her other dog, Jim who was a Lab/Beagle mix. She told us how when she walks the dogs, they have bells on their collar and she carries bear spray. She gets bears in her front yard, in the neighbor’s yard, moose wandering about and it’s normal for her.
After breakfast I spent time in the parlour car and I met George, John and Juanita, two friends traveling with 4 other friends on a cross-country train ride. They were going to Portland as their final destination before they went home. Juanita came from Atlanta, while George and John came from Cincinnati. Juanita told me how she had gotten the chance to fly a student plane where she flew with the joystick for 45min. Only to land and find that her 12yr old grandson who was in the ROTC, had, that same week, flown a Cessna!
"Talk about stealing my thunder!" She laughed.
Then the train entered the Cascades and most conversations stopped because we all stared out the window to watch the tremendous mountain passes. The informational brochure said we went through 22 tunnels as it wove in and out of the mountains. Just as the tree line cleared and we got a good look at the valley below us, we ran into a tunnel. We all sat with out digital cameras and recorders trying to capture the moment. Unfortunately, I knew that it would take a full camera crew to capture what I saw, experienced and translate it to film. My frantic attempts to capture the moment most often fell flat. But I still tried desperately to chronicle the landscape, with a few notable results.

I think what I find more amazing is that each photo was taken by my cell phone, balancing against a jostling train and eeking a moment through the treeline to get just a glimpse of the majesty of mother nature.

All too soon it was lunch time. I ended up sitting with John, the retired railroad engineer who told us that when he used to work, “…you weren’t allowed in the cab without a six-pack!” and George a retired teacher. Across the aisle in another booth, sat Juanita who had recommended I try the tropical chicken salad, which I did and it was good.
I went on vacation alone and yet it seemed like I was suddenly adopted by strangers.
John and George both discussed everything under the sun. Both were well informed and kept up with current topics. Our discussion included politicians who were caught in scandals. In referring to a politico who was caught in a men’s room, both gentlemen openly mentioned that they thought anyone who protests too much has something to hide. The discussion began when the conversation turned to the openly gay mayor of Portland embroiled in a scandal. Then it turned to health care reform. Neither one could understand why anyone would be opposed to it. Bonnie and Valerie spoke of how well the national health care worked for them.
We had a 20min stop in Portland, OR. I stepped out to see what kind of Amtrak souvenirs I could come up with. And at that little shop, I ran into Valery who gave me a warm hug goodbye. She and Bonnie would transfer from the train at Seattle and proceed on the bus service up to Vancouver, another 3hr trip.
Dinner was early since the train would be coming into the station and ending its trip. So I went ahead and reserved for 430pm. Of course, I was the only one to eat that early. Oh well.
But after a while I was joined by a great-grandmother of 14 who was going to visit her granddaughter at Fort Lewis. She was traveling alone! She was born in 1930, 79yrs old and still vibrant, engaging and sweet. I met another John who seemed to have spent his youth traveling. At 18, he was on a motorbike going through East Germany and told us how he needed a special permit to sleep in a hotel in East Germany, despite having his visas, passports and various other documents showing that he was allowed into the country.
John also spoke up for health care reform. Then another elderly woman across the aisle from us was finished with her dinner and tapped John on the shoulder.
“I have to disagree with you. I’ve had breast cancer for 3yrs and I’ve paid zero. Medicare took care of everything, I broke my knee; a $8700 surgery and I paid $60. We have great insurance.”
So John said, “And where’s the catch?”
“Nothing, we have a great system.” She nodded at me condescendingly. I was the youngest person at the moment and thus I must be stupid.
John asked her. “You have medicare?”
“Yes.” She nodded.
John politely corrected his stance. “Then, let me say we need health care reform for younger people who don’t qualify for medicare. God bless you.”
John knew courtesy, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. He and I stayed and talked for a bit longer after we had finished our meal and the great-grandmother(I’ve forgotten her name) left.
I told John the reason why I had to miss my original train ride. He gave me his full name and I gave him mine. He explained what my name meant and we talked about certain things. I had told him that I was so happy to see all the rivers we had passed and it was at this point that we had a bit of sun. I had said that this was only the 2nd time in 4days that I had seen the sun. Then he suddenly said:
“You have all four elements, you have earth and water. You just need sun and air. “
I looked at him; slowly and sadly realized. “Yes, that’s what I’ve been looking for.” He turned to me and said “Talk about synchronicity; that just made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”
I just needed to get away, I didn’t think I would find such kind consideration and generous hearts.
Perhaps it was because we were trapped in a moving vehicle and thus thrown together. It made rudeness that much more of an offense. Perhaps that’s why people were pleasant. But not everyone was so open and talkative. There were two people I met that were just not in the same plane. I think one was a shyness and awkwardness that she still hadn’t overcome. The other was a man who even John and George noticed, just wasn’t a nice guy. I hadn’t said it but the minute he left our table at lunch, John and George who were obviously good friends commented on it and the conversation flowed again.
After dinner I went back to my cabin, the walk back through the train was tinged with melancholy. I was going to miss my cabin, my train and yes, the conversation. People who I met for the first time, shared moments of laughter, profound thought; hopefully we all made each other’s lives just a bit brighter for that moment of shared community. I was moody and cranky, I hate good byes and I had anthropomorphized the train and would miss it as an extension of myself.
But when the train stopped in Seattle, I left my cabin, walked out of the station, leapt into the next available cab and was driven away. I didn’t take a look back. I had one moment when I thought to take a picture of the station, I had taken pictures of as many of the stations that we had stopped. But I didn’t take a picture of the Chicago Union Station, where the train ride began and I didn’t take a picture of the Seattle station where it ended. I guess like every good story “in medias res” was the best part.
I sit in my hotel room now, missing the chuga-chuga, wondering where the whistle went and feeling like I’m still rocking. But then again, it’s another adventure tomorrow. Tomorrow I stretch my legs and move.

October 14, 2009 Day 5: Seattle

I was awakened before I wanted to wake by the rude chirp of a text. I couldn't be mad, it was a relative texting from the Philippines, what could I do? I rolled out of bed, literally, it was maddeningly quiet last night. I was used to the noise on the train. I sort of felt like that puppy who could only fall asleep when there was a clock ticking in it's blanket.

I strolled out and it was a quick 3-5min walk to the Space Center. It rained throughout the evening and unfortunately, I could hear the water flowing down the gutter along side one of the corners in my room. But by the time I strolled out, the sidewalk glistened with spent rain but the sun was out and the clouds were light and breezy.

I went for the monorail first, having been told by the desk clerk that Pike Place Market opened early and closed early. So I wanted to jump on the monorail, check out the market, walk the waterfront and take the ferry to Alki Beach. But when I saw how beautiful the morning was with the crisp sunlight, I knew I had to go to the Space Needle while I had the advantage of this morning sun.

I am terribly afflicted with a fear of heights. I've had the fear since I was a child. I still remember the time during a family vacation when we stopped to climb a ranger tower. It was one miserable flight yet I couldn't take two steps up. I could see the space between the steps and my legs trembled and my blood coagulated at the soles of my feet and I couldn't move.

I've been up to Sears Tower and the Hancock Building in Chicago. When relatives or friends come to town, you have to take them to one or the other if not both. I have had instances when the wind was so whipped up I swear I felt the Sears tower weave. Those were the times when I literally could only stand by the elevator, not daring to go near the windows.

Then there are other times when I'm absolutely fine, I stand by the glass, pressing my camera to get an angle, the light, etc. I went up Baiyoke Tower in Bangkok and it was an outdoor observation deck and I wasn't in the least bit afraid. But I knew there was a possibility the fear would arise and there would be nothing for me to do but stand and wait for the elevator to come back down.

But this is my first time in Seattle and I can't NOT go to the Space Needle. The elevator is open as it climbs up to the top. As we started up at 10mph, the guide telling us some facts about the tower. As the door closed and we rose all I heard was "The tower is 47yrs old...." Then I saw Puget sound and my feet started to melt. I looked over my shoulder only to find that the others had pushed themselves to the back of the elevator and had created room for me in the center. I stepped back away from the view wishing the ride would end quickly.

When we got to the top, that's when I noticed it was open. I had tweeted this and I wasn't about to back down. So I walked out and a blast of wind hit me in the face. I practically clung to the wall. I got a few stares. But I didn't care, I'm scared, bite me.

Instead I walked around the tower to get a glimpse of the entire city. I found a few benches and sat when I didn't think I could go on. The sunny side that faced downtown Seattle had the strongest winds and truly tested my resolve. But I sat on the bench then realized I needed to take a picture of Traveling Feet. It was an absurdity of being so afraid of the edge but wondering if I could somehow get one foot up on the hand rail! Instead I opted for sitting on a bench and propping my feet on a waste basket. It was perfectly place and once I took the photo, I was good. It was just so silly, but it was what I needed.

Then I took the monorail downtown. I entered the mall and someone placed a real fresh flower lei around my neck. As I rode down the elevator, I joked with a couple about being lei'd in Seattle.

By the time I made it out of the Westlake Mall, there was a soft but slowly building drizzle. For some reason, the hills and the odd angled streets seem to twist me around. Chicago is built in a grid system, it is easy to navigate, with the exception of a few diagonal streets, you go north, south, east & west in a straight line.

I walked two blocks in the wrong direction. When I discovered I was going the wrong direction did I do an about face and walk back? No, I stopped, checked my map, checked the GPS on the phone, scratched my head, adjusted my baseball hat, checked the compass on the phone, looked at the street and walked down another street before I crossed back over; all the time, marching with a decided purpose, which is really the trick to avoid panhandlers and such.

By the time I saw the sign “Public Market”, the drizzle was growing to showers and the street was steep and slick. No wonder my thighs burned that night. You get this strange gait when you walk down hill. It’s like you crab walk down. I have on sneakers yet, I wondered if I was going to go flying down the sidewalk.
The market is this lively, organically smelly, assault on all your senses. The multi-colored fruits and vegetables, the angry reds, bright oranges or livid yellow peppers hanging from the ceiling like chili chandeliers. Best of all, the market was covered. I was tempted by the peppers, then drawn in by a fish counter that had what looked like a salmon ladder going around their area. I wandered in deeper into the “alley” as the signs said, I think Dog Alley or something.

I found a rummage sale, found a nicely broken in smooth leather bag that I can use as my 2nd check in bag. I will take advantage of my “premium” status for as long as I can, so I don’t have to pay for my luggage.

I crossed over when I heard the chanting at the Pike Place Fish Market. The fish are gaily arranged propped up in voluminous hills of shaved ice and when someone buys an entire fish, the workers start a chant and one of the two guys who are standing watch over the fish will hoist the fish, cradling it in their hands before they take a massive swing and fling the fish over and into the arms of a waiting worker behind the counter, who will wrap the fish. It’s a great act. I was too slow to catch any of it. The chant is the hint, but it’s quick and if you aren’t ready, you won’t capture it on camera.

I wandered around since the rains continued to build into a torrent. There were so many little stores to see that I didn’t eat lunch until 2pm. I was distracted by the elderly Chinese man playing ditties on a traditional on stringed Chinese musical instrument. It looks like a 1 string guitar but played with a bow.

I dropped him a dollar and asked permission to take his picture, he nodded sagely and he started playing Yankee Doodle Dandy! I preferred the traditional Chinese tunes, they are discordant to my western ear but my eastern heart understood it and found it calming.

I wandered about until I found myself in a sea of flower sellers. This part of the market consisted of seafood stalls, flower stalls and hand made artisans. I am fascinated by bamboo, if someone hadn’t taken the moniker on Twitter, I would have been bamboo. It is a strong wood that bends in the wind to keep from snapping. It is resilient, flexible and so very strong. It defines the difference between hard and strong; hard breaks, strong bends.

I found a small Chinese man selling beautifully framed traditional Chinese watercolors and I saw a bamboo tree. The next thing I see; he’s got 4 different paintings laid out in front of me. I came here without any preconceived notions of buying anything like this. Instead, after futile attempts to choose just one, I bought two, he gave me a discount. They always give a discount when you buy multiple items.

Besides, support the arts.

He ran in the rain to get more cardboard so he could really pack them well. His wife painted the canvas and he made the frames, simple clean lines along the edges on a glass cover. It was beautiful. He also wrapped it so well, I resisted the temptation to open it at my hotel to see them. I’ll wait until I find a place for them before I unwrap them.

I wandered further down resisting all the great looking things that were on sale. Until my eye snagged a table of leather bound diaries. I have this fascination for writing implements, specialty paper/stationary and blank journals. The woman made the journals from hand made paper, sewn into the leather by her own hand. The journals were either closed with a leather thong(traditional) but she also had placed semi-precious stones on the cover to use as a closure. My eye went to this bright white journal, my hands slipped forward before I could help myself and it caressed the soft leather.

     “That’s elk, that’s why it’s so smooth.” She told me. It is also the most expensive of all the other leathers. Of course it is.

But it called to me and I knew of someone who I thought would really like it. The artist didn’t even know the name of the semi-precious stone, it just was. It added to the almost mystical call of this beautiful leather journal.

Journals are entrusted with the wishes of our lives, the worries and the cares, the joys and the sorrows. They are the record of what we’ve done, how we felt and where we were in that brilliant moment in time when we set pen to paper and open our hearts.

I guess again, it was what I was looking for. Because as soon as I decided to buy the journal and pick on up for myself, I immediately felt an ease in my tummy and the next stop was lunch. It was a surprise to me when I saw the time was 2pm.

I’d been moaning about getting pho soup in Chicago and I was marching off to Emmett Watson’s to eat seafood when I happened upon Saigon Restaurant. It was inside this courtyard space, just a little hole in the wall and it was just right for me. I got my seafood pho soup! Compromise and timing!

When I finished lunch I was going to head back to get some more donuts from Daily Donuts, but the sugar content on those things caused my sugar to surge so I went to get some toffee covered peanuts and caramel covered cashews instead. They are nuts and will be good for me(denial!).

On my walk back I passed Beecher’s Homemade Cheese and they were cooking up a batch in the corner window. It was fascinating and a crowd had started to gather. One vat had the liquid starting material and another had curds being stirred. So of course I bought some curds, they were the biggest cheese curds I’ve ever seen in my life and the texture was absolutely perfect.
I walked through the rain, back to the monorail and headed back to my hotel in the Queene Anne district. It is a nice quiet neighborhood, I got lucky when I picked this place out. By the time I got back the rain had stopped and the sun was out again, I dropped my things off in my room and took a long walk. I enjoyed ever minute, even the huffing and puffing up the inclined streets.

By the time I got back in my room, get ready for my 3am wake up call for my 4am car service for my 6am flight, I was exhausted.