By Train—STL to CHI/CHI to CLE/CLE to NYC, August 2014

With my wife & son, and his best pal, we recently flew to St Louis for family visits in the Midwest. After a few days there, the two 18-year olds flew home to NYC, while Kyle & I voyaged back east via Amtrak, stopping for 3 days each in Chicago & Cleveland before heading home. Our storify of it all:


  1. St Louis, August 7-12

    Our first full day in St Louis, August 8, Kyle made a visit to the studio of her friend, architect and painter Ann Wimsatt, while Ewan, Nolan and I walked around the Central West End. We stopped in at Left Bank Books, which had expanded at its N Euclid Ave location since my last visit. I was excited when I saw a reissue of the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, with a new intro by author Lee Child, chronicling the origins and inspiration for his enduring suspense series character. After we had lunch with Ann, she dropped us on the spacious grounds of the art museum. We happily whiled a couple hours there, and at the Missouri History Museum, formerly known as Jefferson Memorial.
  2. I was interested to see that this repro of Shoeless Joe Jackson's mitt had no leather strings connecting the fingers, which I guess is a more modern innovation. This simulation of an antique ball glove was in the gift shop of Jefferson Memorial. The leather had a pleasing suppleness that evoked earlier eras of baseball. 
  3. During our stay in suburban St Louis, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown occurred in nearby Ferguson, MO, on Saturday Aug 9. Our hosts, my in-laws, get the print copy of the STL Post-Dispatch, so I read about the incident Sunday morning, and rued what I feared might become the consequences of the lethal act. Sad to say we now know what followed, with now two + weeks of civil protests and police reactions.

    That afternoon I drove us all downtown. Ewan's pal Nolan and I went up in to the Gateway Arch, something none of us had ever done in our many earlier family visits to St Louis. It was exciting in a low key way, with intriguing views from the top through rectangular windows. The elevator trip up in the small chamber, with a max of five passengers, was like something from a low-rent trip to outer space.  The picture of the arch below was taken just before Nolan and I made our round-trip ride, with about ten minutes spent up top.
  4. The elevator chamber made me think of a bathyscope. As we ascended through the Arch's inner skin, I felt like I could have been in a personal submersible exploring the ocean, instead of 64 stories above the ground. 
  5. This is the elevator chamber you ride up in to the top of the Gateway Arch in St Louis. Fits five small humans.
    This is the elevator chamber you ride up in to the top of the Gateway Arch in St Louis. Fits five small humans.
  6. The view from up top encompassed the Cardinals' Busch Stadium. They were on the road that day, in Baltimore. 
  7. Our train ride out of St Louis again brought us past Busch Stadium and the Arch. It began in the late afternoon, so we were in great position to enjoy several hours of magnificent Plains light, and then a dramatic sunset. We were heading for Chicago so me and Kyle, a painter, could see old friends and visit Firecat Projects on Damen Avenue, a gallery where she'll be part of an exhibit in 2015. Proprietors of Firecat are Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, and my longtime friend, artist Stan Klein, who is also a writer and playwright/actor, with he and Tony in a new 2-man play, "Midnight City," opening in Chicago at Steppenwolf Garage Theater September 6, running through Oct 19. 
  8. Note what was to us later the surprising appearance of KY | LE on the side of the rail car, picture taken by my wife Kyle Gallup. 
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  11. The sunset sky in Dwight, IL, en route f...
    The sunset sky in Dwight, IL, en route f...
  12. Chicago, August 12-15

    The long ride to Chicago gave me a chance to write a 1200 word essay on my recent reading of four books—the post-apocalyptic novels Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and On the Beach by Nevil Shute; and Washington's Spies, on the espionage ring that helped the Colonial Army win the Revolutionary War, basis of the current AMC TV series, "Turn," by Alexander Rose; and Killing Floor, Lee Child's inaugural Jack Reacher thriller—and the surprising connections among the two sets of books. 

    Being online did make the delayed arrivals, and lengthy periods of sitting on rail waysides, tolerable. This particular train had pretty good wifi, so we weren't forced to be on our cellular networks throughout. On our subsequent trips, to Cleveland, and to NYC, there was no wifi at all, and we did rely on cell connections, which were of course intermittent anyway. Still, we were able to do a lot of social sharing, making the hours grind by more enjoyably.

  13. I shared the 4-book blog post on Twitter, finding a Canadian reader eager to experience Mandel's literary imagination, then a gracious thanks from the author herself, whom I'd met in July at a NAIBA preview of fall books, where I'd gotten an ARC of her novel, and written about the event. I really love writing about books like hers, that grip the reader with their coherent intentionality.