From Omaha to Chicago

As happened to me in China (when I saw a gorgeous Hindu-Buddhist temple), the most beautiful parts of my journey hit me when I was without my camera. (Ironically, I do see a Hindu-style temple outside Chicago.)

I had a four-hour layover in Chicago, and hoping for some distraction I checked my bags into a locker and proceeded to explore the neighborhood.

My Only Picture of Chicago

It turns out that the Chicago Greyhound station borders the financial district. It is just blocks from Union Station and the Sears Tower. I spent the $11, took the ride up, and enjoyed one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful sites of my life.

Visibility was “zero,” our guides warned us, so I was prepared to be disappointed. Indeed, as for much of the beginning of the trip I was all alone, I figured the view must be terrible. How wrong I was. To see thick, billowy clouds shredded by the tops of skyscrapers — to see the sea of the sky underlit by a great American city — is beyond my ability to describe.

The people were wonderful and friendly, too. I met a Taiwanese man and his American son, where a small faux-paus (tdaxp: Ah yes, Taipei — the greatest city of the Republic of China. Man: Peking is the greatest city in the Republic of China!) begin a friendly encounter. Or the former space engineer, proud of his work on the Hubble Space Telescope but grumbling of the “politically-driven” selection of the Galileo Mission over his own company’s proposal.

Yet no photographs remain of that. So what continues below is from the journey, and is far less photogenic. I had a great time on my Greyhound trip, and even the schizophrenic woman damning us to hell was taken in good humor (well, humor — not all of it was kind) by my fellow passengers.

A friend drove me to the Omaha greyhound station. It is on the edge of downtown, and so features a view of the Woomen Building (made famous in the movie About Schmidt). Other towers in the background are obscured by a very thick fog. The fog continued until about five in the evening, making the drive to even faster.

The bus for the journey to the Windy City, getting ready.

The first leg of the trip goes fast, and soon we are in (foggy) Des Moines. Guster’s Ganging Up on the Sun and Johnny Cash’s American V kept me company. Sitting across from me were a man and woman who led parallel lives, and discovered they knew a lot of the same people.

The bus stopped in Des Moines for a few minutes, and I went out of the vehicle for a walk and to fetch supplies for a fellow passenger. Road engineering signs reminded me of China, specifically the ‘shan’ character from Fragrant Hills.

Our bus leaves familiar Iowa over the Mississippi River at Davenport.

A sight to see: a UAW union hall. Those won’t be around for much longer.

6 thoughts on “From Omaha to Chicago”

  1. “To see thick, billowy clouds shredded by the tops of skyscrapers — to see the sea of the sky underlit by a great American city — is beyond my ability to describe.”

    dan: come to NYC sometime and we'll show you what the greatest american city looks like from 48 floors straight up and down the best avenue in the world.

  2. any chance you've heard Sufjan Stevens' 'Chicago'? listened to it on this trip? it goes perfectly. in fact, this post inspired me to listed to it right now! 🙂

  3. Sean,

    I first heard Sufjan Stevens when a friend of mine from grad school gave me “Casimir Pulaski Day” as part of a mix. My father is from the Upper Pennensula of Michigan, so I enjoyed Sufjan's “Greeings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State” a lot. His (free!) Christmas album [1] is top notch, and his renditions of “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” are the best I ever heard.

    If you liked “Chicago,” Sufjan has a new album about with a couple remixes of that track [2]


  4. Sean,

    Excellent! I do recommend you download those Christmas tunes — he gave them away to his circle of friends (they are not commercial tracks), and have spread from there.

  5. i have downloaded the Xmas tunes, but haven't listened yet. while i always like good Xmas music (hard to find), it hasn't felt (or looked) much like Xmas around here 90+ degrees and 50+ humidity 🙁

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