Oh God, no! He’s not going to talk about Amtrak again!
Yes, I am, but it’s good. Trust me, it’s good.
Back from three weeks in Chicago visiting family. I had hoped to visit with a couple friends, too – ran out of time.
Overall the trip was wonderful. Tomorrow I’ll write about some of the things I saw and did.
Two of my last three posts were about the rigors of the Amtrak train trip out there. The trip back was much more pleasant though, mostly because the train was never terribly late and arrived on time.
After stepping off the train in Chicago more than six hours late I sent an email to Amtrak’s CEO, Charles Wickliffe “Wick” Moorman IV, suggesting Amtrak do a better job communicating the timeliness of its trains, especially when it was common knowledge to Amtrak that a train would likely be late (on the trip to Chicago I overheard one of the conductor’s mention talk about a 13 mile stretch coming up where the train was going to lose an hour).
In the days just before my return train was to leave I got a couple emails from Amtrak telling me about an area that could cause the train to lose 1 – 2 hours because of track repaired. There was also a notice on the website about the possible loss of time. I thought that was a good effort. Also, while on the train there were a few times the conductor announced a likely delay and why it would occur.
For the most part, the train stayed close to schedule until Albuquerque where we sat for almost an hour. As the train made its way across New Mexico and into Arizona it fell further and further behind schedule so that by the time we reached Needles California we were 90 minutes late. From there on the engineer did a nice job picking up time, but we were still an hour late when we reached San Bernardino.
I had a connecting train to take me from L.A. to Ventura, that I was hoping to catch, but at the current pace I figured we roll into L.A. at 9:13 a.m. and my train to Ventura would leave at 9:14. You can see my dilemma. The next train for me would be at 12:30 p.m. To my delight the engineer managed to cut large chunks off that 60-minute deficit at the next three stops so that we rolled into LA’s Union Station just 20 minutes late and I had more than enough time to catch my connecting train.
All-in-all, the trip restored my faith in Amtrak. However, I will never sit on a train for two days again. Being confined that long in a limited space with a train-full of strangers became painful. It’s also too hard to sleep comfortably in a chair, even if the chair is relatively comfortable. There are only two ways I will ever make such a trip again. I might do it if I could afford a sleeping car (right now $150 or so for the coach, about $700 for the sleeper with a senior discount). Or I might plan a trip three or four stop train trip, go 1/4 – 1/3 of the way each day and spend some time being a tourist at each stop. Otherwise, I’ll fly.
A few things I learned:
- Always bring an extra layer of clothing (sweatshirt or jacket and sweatpants) and maybe a blanket. Also, bring a pillow or at least a towel to roll and use as a pillow. Sometimes the air conditioning is left on and it can get colder than a you-know-what.
- Bring a couple books and/or a Kindle, Nook, or Tablet and headphones or earphones (to while away the time you can read, listen to music, or watch videos, but you’ll need to listen privately.
- You might find a set of earplugs useful, especially if someone nearby is having a conversation you don’t want to overhear or if the person in the aisle seat next to you snores.
- If you can’t sleep in your seat or you become uncomfortable sitting you can walk the train, which I did often, and sit in the lounge car which has a sunny and pleasant view of the passing scenery. At night you might be able to find a place to stretch out a bit more than you can in your seat. The lounge car was my second home on the train.
- Pack some food – sandwiches, bagels, muffins, salads, fruit, snacks, etc. Nothing that needs heating, though. Microwaves are not available for passenger use. Meals on the train, while often fairly good, are expensive. Snacks are also expensive. I bought a six-ounce container of donut holes and a small bag of M & M’s for six dollars. I could have gotten both for $4 or less in a grocery store.
- Take advantage of any opportunity to get off the train. The few minutes of fresh air will do you good and you might see a use for your cell phone camera.
Right now I’m planning one long train trip and a couple shorter ones. First I’ll be spending some time in San Francisco, in January I think I’ll go to Albuquerque. Then in April the long one up to Seattle. Driving up there would take a minimum of 20 hours non-stop, but the train trip is 33 hours. Right now I’m trying to decide the most convenient and interesting place or places somewhere in the middle to stop and spend a day both going up and coming back.
A couple weeks ago I stepped back in time when I saw a ball game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won 7 – 2, which would have been good news for me if they hadn’t been playing the White Sox.
I went to Chicago to visit my family, but I also got to see three baseball games, two at Sox park, and one at Cubs park. I was only planning to see one game, but a couple generous relatives (thanks, Doug and Dean) I got to see a couple more.
This story isn’t as much about baseball or the Cubs-Sox rivalry as it is about Wrigley Field. I am now in agreement with the White Sox part-time announcer, Hawk Harrelson, I’ll never go back to Wrigley Field again. I hadn’t been to Clark and Addison in more than 20 years and even though Comiskey Park wasn’t much of a ballpark at that time I thought Wrigley Field was even worse – a real dump to say the least. It was old and felt filthy. The scoreboard didn’t offer much information and when I went to the bathroom I felt like I was going to get yelled at for peeing on the wall.
When I was offered the chance to see a Cubs – Sox game at Wrigley I was excited about seeing both my favorite baseball teams, but I was even more excited about seeing Wrigley, especially after having followed all the stories about the renovation. Even in California where I now live there was plenty to read about the work being done to Cubs Park. I read the stories about what was being done, saw the pictures of walls being torn down, dirt and rubble being piled up, and construction workers moving metal and mortar. Based on that I thought Wrigley would no longer be the old, tired, dirty looking place I remembered. I was expecting so much more than I found.
We parked in a lot a couple blocks from Wrigley. That was interesting to me because I’d always taken the L and walked to the park in the past so I never knew where everyone else put their cars when they went to a game. I could hardly wait to get to the ball park because I was truly excited about seeing the improvements. As we approached the park I was quite impressed. We were surrounded by a number of crisp looking brick buildings and a large amount of grass. There was a picnic-like feel to the place.
After we got through security, made our way up the ramps and found our seats I realized whatever had been done to Wrigley was merely cosmetic. There was a huge, modern scoreboard in right field. There were a few other electronic doo-dads scattered about the park, and the seats might have been new, but it was still the junk yard I remembered. There was nothing new and shiny about the parts of the park where the fans spend most of their time. The aisles separating the various sections were still a death trap. Be careful moving about because if you’re not particularly careful (or if you’re someone like me with only one good eye and limited depth perception) the chances you will stumble and fall are greater than winning $10 playing the lottery. I noticed that Cubs fans are particularly rabid, which is great especially if you’ve become accustomed to being a fan of a losing team. Still, an entire row of those fans were still sitting on fold up bingo-hall chairs that made the place look cheap.
Thank God the ball club is finally offering some excitement because the park the Cubs play in is barely serviceable. The place is still a dump. Now that the Cubs have finally won the World Series it’s time for the owners to be realistic and tear the place down. Cubs fans deserve something better. Nostalgia is often a good thing, but that should be limited to the center-field bleachers and scoreboard and maybe take the front of the stadium and attach it to a real ball park. I’ve seen minor league parks that are better than the empty gum wrapper that is Cubs park.
I felt like this had been an evil trick to make me think I’d stepped back in time, a time when the Cubs were still the loveable losers. About the middle of the sixth inning I made my way men’s room and just like the good old days I felt like someone was going to yell at me for peeing on the wall.
I have been documenting my trip to Chicago. So far I have been riding the Southwest chief that left LA Friday, July 14 at least a half hour late and since then has been running 90+ minutes late the entire trip.
Now we are in Albuquerque and have been sitting here more than half an hour without power. That means toilets don’t flush. It means there’s no air conditioning and the temperature is around 90. And it means there are at least 300 very upset passengers who are on their way to Chicago.
The power and air conditioning went on about 20 minutes after I wrote the above paragraph, but it was awhile before the train finally pulled out of Albuquerque – 2:25 late. I sincerely doubt we will arrive in Chicago any better than 90 minutes late.
I think we deserve a full refund for this trip because of the anguish and agony Amtrak has put us through. We purchased tickets in good faith that our train would be on time and we would travel in reasonable comfort. While the staff has worked admirably, #Amtrak has failed us miserably.
Here’s a short video of the ‘dead’ Amtrak Southwest Chief in Albuquerque.
I’m taking the train from L.A. To Chicago. The first leg was from Ventura to L.A.
The train from L.A. To Chicago arrived late. Then five minutes after the train was due to leave they had everyone in the last two cars exit the train.
The reason: they made a mistake the door of the last car is supposed to be sealed, but the sealed door was on the second-last car. So now we’re here and the train is somewhere else getting its last two cars switched.
When it returns we will get back on the cars (now in a different order) we were on before. The train we’ll leave 90 minutes late. This was taken after we’d been waiting 15 minutes for the train to come back.
Here’s a short video of me and the other passengers waiting…. https://youtu.be/LL92k9CzhJE
It’s just a few hours before I hop on a train to take me from California to Chicago for my first visit there in more than four years. Since it’s going to be the heat of summer and I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it, but I haven’t seen my friends and family in a long time so I guess I am.
So, I have decided to bore you with a Videos of my trip ha ha ha ha. I’ll show you some scenes from the train as I crossed from LA to Chicago and also some of the things I see in Chicago including a White Sox game I plan to go to.
I’ll bet you’re as excited as I am! Since it’s been more than 15 years since I spent more than a few hours in the city I’m expecting to find some changes… then again, I might not notice the changes.
Derek Holland really sucks!
Mike Pelfrey really sucks!
James Shields still sucks!
After 108 years the jinx was finally broken when the Cubs finally won the World Series, but now it’s looking like it was just a fluke. The stars aligned, luck was finally on their side, but in the end, they weren’t really that good a baseball team. At least that could be the interpretation based on the way they’re playing right now.
My favorite team, the White Sox are not very good this year, but they’re not supposed to be. They traded away two of their five best players and are ready to trade away more as they rebuild a team that has been mediocre, at best, for most of the last ten years. The White Sox are supposed to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year. However, right now they are far and away much better than the Cubs. Sure, the Cubs are four games better than the Sox, but the stats (see below) say the Sox are better, maybe it’s the competition. While the outlook is bleak for the Cubs, it would be even worse if they were in the American League.
They’re fortunate they’re in the Central Division where they’re in 2nd place two or three games behind Milwaukee. If they were in the National League’s West Division they’d be in 4th place, 9.5 games out of first. If they were in the American League West they’d also be in 4th, but they’d be 12 1/2 back.
Cubs fans are saying, “Not to worry, the season is still young, these guys will turn it around in time for the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, White Sox fans are saying, “We knew they weren’t that good… just lucky.”
From humble to haute, these sweets deliver pure pleasure.
I’ve been missing Chicago for a long time now. Southern California is great for the weather, the beaches, and the mountains. That’s been enough to keep me here, but I miss Chicago’s sports scene, its neighborhoods, its architecture, and especially its food. Now, Chicago Magazine has to do this to me. The 20 best desserts in Chicago. This isn’t enough to tip the scale, yet; but with things like this to think about I might not be able to hold out much longer.
Right now I’m drooling, thinking about Chocolate Profiteroles, Chocolate Beignet, Basque Cake, and Coffee Custard.
On the other hand, it’s probably good I’m not in Chicago because right now, I’m trying especially hard to lose weight. A month ago I set a goal to lose 25 pounds in 50 days. I was told that was unrealistic and apparently it was. So I’m revising it to 25 pounds by the end of the year. If I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance.
If I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance. First of all my family, typical Italians, would be inviting me to various family gatherings and I would use that as an excuse to fatten myself up; second, having read this article I would be taking the first opportunity to stop in one of these 20-best-deserts places, just to look around. It wouldn’t be long before I’d find a second opportunity, and then a third, fourth, fifth, and so on.
Now, you might be thinking, LA is a big city, bigger than Chicago, surely there have to be 20 places as with desserts as good, if not better, than the 20 in Chicago.
Funny you should think that because it so happens that the current issue of LA Magazine also has an article about LA’s best desserts. While none of them look good enough to keep me here if I decided to return to Chicago, there are a few that might be good enough to compete.
The thing is… I am in Southern CA, within driving distance of LA and as long as I’m here a slice of Chioccolato or a few Durango cookies or maybe a Halo-Halo could be worth a trip… just to look around.
This is National Dance Like a Chicken Day, May 14th. Many people think this is the day they can go out in public and shamefacedly do the Chicken Dance. Although the Chicken Dance has been around for years, the first time I ever heard of it I was at a minor league ballgame. Between the third and fourth innings the team mascot walked out to second base and started dancing a silly dance to the bouncy music that was playing. The announcer suggested everyone stand up and dance along. Many people already were. I never learned how to do the Chicken Dance, but I remember it involves a lot of arm movement and squatting.
A few people might like to take a moment today to dance with a chicken, or just a drumstick or two, or maybe with a chicken sandwich.
Then there’s my friend Joe who did the best imitation of a chicken I ever saw. He had the leg/foot movements, the bobbing and quick look-here, look-there movements of the bird’s head, and he could crow. I never saw him dance like that, but if he ever did, he might have created the rooster dance, which would then be celebrated by Dance Like a Rooster Day.
Today, however, I am remembering when I danced like a chicken or rather, didn’t dance. Every Saturday night during my Senior year at IC high in Elmurst Illinois, I spent standing by a wall along one side of the gym with all the the other guys, two chicken to ask one of the girls to dance. Instead, we stood there talking to each other and watching the girls and the two or three guys with their girlfriends dancing. All of us lined up like that probably didn’t look much like a group chickens pecking at whatever they could find on the barnyard floor, but each of us stood there, trying to work up the courage to ask a girl to dance and wishing one of them would put us out of our misery even if it meant embarrassing us terribly by asking us to dance.
A half-dozen years later I was in London, on military leave. The friend I was with asked a waitress if there was a good place to dance. I don’t know if she was serious or if she was playing a joke on us, but the directions she gave led us to a high school or secondary school dance. I would have expected it to be different in England, but it wasn’t. The girls and a few boys were out on the floor dancing, but most of the boys were lined up along one wall, watching.
Before we left I noticed a handful of girls doing a strange ‘dance.’ In no particular unison they walked five or six steps to the beat, spun around and walked back five or six steps when they spun around again and continued like this through the entire song. They looked like chickens
As a Chicago White Sox fan I’m sligtly disappointed with yesterday’s trade for Todd Frazier… but in the end it might be a very, very good one. I was hoping Avi Garcia would be traded rather than Trace Thompson. Trace was one of the Sox bright spots last year, but considering he hit about .260 in the minors last season could have been a fluke, just like Gordon Beckham’s first season was a fluke.
The Dodgers might have gotten a steal, but Thompson might turn out to be just average. Still, I’ll miss seeing if he can replicate last years performance. Micah Johnson was a disappointment. I added him to my fantasy team (behind Cincinatti’s Brandon Phillips) last year, but I cut him a week before the Sox sent him back down to the minors. After seeing him in Spring training, I thought he was ready for the majors, but he wasn’t. However, I still think he was more ready than Carlos Sanchez. As for Frankie Montas, the Sox gave up a promising relief pitcher, maybe a starter, and he might turn out to be the real diamond in this trade, but he wasn’t with the Sox long enough for me to get attached in any way.
So, now the infield is set. Abreu, Bret Lawrie, Saladino, and Frazier with Navarro or Avila behind the plate. The outfield is still a little shaky. Adam Eaton is fairly solid, Melky Cabrera is okay, but I thought Thompson would be out there and Garcia should be used mostly at DH… if the Sox could dump LaRoche. However, the Sox dumped Thompson and right now it looks like LaRoche and Garcia are still in play.
Last year Hahn fixed the bullpen. I’d still like to see him bring Albers back, but it should be good enough as it is. Looks like the rotation is going to be Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Danks, and Johnson. If Danks can pitch as well the entire season as he did the second half last year we won’t miss the ‘could be’ of Jeff Samhardya. Johnson wasn’t in the rotation last year, but if he pitches as well all year as he did after the Sox brought him up, we won’t miss the terrible first half brought on by Mr. Samyardja and the at-that-time inconsistant John Danks.
One writer I read said he thought the Sox were “a still a bat away” from being a true contender. I think that would mean an outfield bat, maybe Cespedes, but probably not. Still the rumor is the Sox are talking to him (or his agent), so who knows. Garcia is still young. If he can start lofting the ball into the outfield more than he has been, the problem could be solved.
Just like I thought at the beginning of last year, I think this could be a very, very good year for the Sox. But Adam LaRoche has to hit the way he’s supposed to hit, Melky Cabrera has to hit for the entire season the way he’s supposed to hit, Alex Avila has to hit the way he used to hit (he was not much better than either Flowers or Soto last year), Adam Eaton has to hit for the entire season the way he did the second half of last year, Chris Sale can’t fold late in the season, Jose Quintana has to get some run support, and that should put the White Sox into contention. Add to that the if of Avisail Garcia becoming a home run hitter, Tyler Saladino hitting a little better, David Robertson returning to being an elite closer, and maybe Carson Fulmer being ready before the All-Star break. If most of that happens the White Sox could be challenging Kansas City for the division lead.
Just like last year, that’s a lot of iffffs, but it looks like GM Rick Hahn is still moving the team in the right direction. The Sox are relatively younger and stronger than they were a couple years ago, and the minor league system is no longer the quagmire it was.
Turning to much of the rest of the the Chicago sports world: The Blackhawks look to be just so-so this year (although so-so for the Blackhawks is above average for the rest of the NHL). I’m not expecting much of run for them in the playoffs, but they still have that core, so back-to-back is possible. The Bulls are the Bulls, good but not enough as a playoff team so again they will get there, but not go much further. As for the Bears… well, I like seeing them win, but this year I’d rather see them lose. It’s been a foregone conclusion since the beginning of the season that they weren’t good enough to go up against the likes of Seattle or New England (although they’ve been much better than many sportswriters thought they’d be), so since the beginning of the season I’ve been looking forward to the NFL draft. I was hoping for a top draft pick, but the Bears have been too good for that to happen. Now, they’re likely to pick around 12th – 15th in the first round. It seems they need to add at least one of everything except receiver, running back, and maybe quarterback to be possible contenders. Kyle Long is okay at right tackle, but he was much better at guard. I’d like to see a right tackle picked in the draft or free agency (so Long can be moved back to guard). Add to that a defensive lineman, a linebacker, a corner, a safety and maybe another receiver and I’ll think that was a good draft. I know some people are thinking a field goal kicker might belong in that mix, but Robbie Gould will recover from his recent troubles. He’s still one of the best NFL kickers, but he’s suffered through one of those little ‘luck’ or ‘slumps’ or’confidence’ bumps kickers tend to go through every now and then.
So, that leaves the Cubs. It’s taken Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer awhile, but it appears they’ve built a juggernaught, something the Cubs haven’t been for more than a hundred years, if ever. Who ever thought it would be the Cubs who would btake the title of Chicago’s #1 sports team – a true championship contender, but they’re about to take that title from the Blackhawks and if the Cubbies don’t win at least 100 games this year and make it to the World Series, I’ll be wondering who is feeding the goat some gourmet food.
With just a couple more preseason games before this years version of the NFL season begins and the Bears try to prove that they really are the Monsters of the Midway rather than the Midwives of the Midway. They’ve got a tough field to travel with games against the hated Green Bay Packers, the disliked Seattle Seahawks, and the team that long ago and not so far away played in the same city, the Cardinals of Arizona, formerly of St. Louis, and previously of Chicago. Three teams that are each considered strong Super Bowl candidates.
That trio is followed by the Raiders, Chiefs, and Lions. Three teams the Bears have a more likely chance to beat. However, most frognosticators are croaking the Bears will be 0 – 6 or at best 2 – 4 when they go into their thank-the-good-Lord-we-need-a-break Bye week. It doesn’t get much easier after that with games against only three teams that did not finish last year with a winning record. In other words, only three teams that according to some of the speculists will give the Bears a chance not to finish the season 0 – 16.
I’m inclined to believe the Bears will surprise and carry at least an 8 – 8 record at the end of the season. Needless to say, I’m also an optimist. I sincerely thought that last year was going to be the year the Bears beat the Packers not once, but twice and would march into the playoffs as division champs with an 11 – 5 record.
Yes, it’s taken awhile to scrape the egg, not to mention the pain, off my face.
So, here is my question: Would you rather see the Bears not embarrass themselves any further, surprise just about everyone (including me when I’m being realistic), and make the playoffs (where they are again likely to have to face some combination of the Packers, Seahawks, and Cardinals) or would your rather end the year with a record no better than 3 – 13 so they will have a chance to pick early in the draft and maybe pick a franchise quarterback?
Which would you rather see: the Bears metaphorically sticking their tongues out at everyone at the end of this year or possibly in the future?
Sayings of Caledon Pritz
“Got my glasses fixed yesterday. I’m really pleased cuz they were cleaned, too. Now I’m not guessing as much when I drive.” ~ Caledon
“I thought the neighbor’s dog finally went to sleep, but apparently, there was still another hours worth of important barking to do.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Maybe you’re waiting for closure, even though you’ve already gotten it.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Life’s a waste of time.” ~ Caledon
“If no one applauds when you walk on stage, does that mean you aren’t there?” ~ Caledon Pritz
“A man is not old until his ears are too big for his head.” ~ Caledon
“If you’re not building your own dreams, then whose are you building?” ~ Caledon Pritz
“For some life is a catastrophe, for others it is merely an apostrophe.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Be careful Mrs. Butterworth, things could get a bit sticky around here.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Don’t let the past steal your gifts.” ~ Caledon Pritz
Caviar or Peanut Butter
“A $200 ounce of caviar is no more filling that a 20¢ ounce of peanut butter.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Either you run the day, or you run away.” ~ Caledon
“Yesterday might have been terrible, but stop fretting about it. You made it to today, and that’s good.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“A difficult thing about life is letting things be what they are rather than trying to make them what you want them to be” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% what happens to you, or is it the other way around?” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Funny, but the more I worry about what other people think, the more I become somebody else.” ~ Caledon Pritz
“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumcision.” ~ Caledon Pritz