Jefe's House

On the Road

One More Day To Gravy

by on Mar.24, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 11
3/23/15

20150323_13090920150323_085531Kali gnashed her teeth
Scraping across the sky
We scattered in her sweat
Leaped across its rivers
Looking for hard cover
Relishing the dance
Wiping out

 

 

 

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Where’s Letter Man when you need him?

A chilly, snowy, slushy day in the Windy City. Awoke to falling snow and a forecast that had increased to 3 to 6 inches.

Another 10-mile run along Lake Michigan was out of the question so I ran 10 miles on a treadmill in my hotel’s fitness room. That might seem like a desperate act but after a 2 and half days of being sedentary on a train I had to sweat out some toxins and burn off the crazy.

20150323_130641I then had a scrumptious lunch at the nearby Berghoff Restaurant, a local landmark that’s been serving German-American cuisine since 1898. (continue reading…)

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Chicago Blues

by on Mar.23, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 10
3/22/15
20150321_173559Got up with the rooster crow — or in Amtrakspeak the ear-blasting 6am breakfast call — to see off the Warren-Powells who hopped off in Osceola, IA at 7:40am. I then wrote until an early lunchtime (the last meal aboard my beloved California Zephyr before it concluded its run in Chicago) during which I met a pair of retired micro-brewers, Wendy and Don Littlefield. The better half is completing her first novel, a murder mystery that I look forward to reading.  They also hipped me to Philly Inquirer food writer Craig LaBan, whom I should have known about as I’m now a Philadelphian, but I didn’t. Now I do. We also talked about our shared appreciation for August Wilson and the fact that they’ll be seeing Two Trains Running in Chicago soon. This was the second time on this trip that August Wilson came up.

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The train station in Galesburg, IL, historically an important railroad town, boasts and antique Pullman car…

I spent my final few hours aboard the Zephyr (continue reading…)

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Deja Vu

by on Mar.22, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 9
3/21/15

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20150321_083007Haven’t I been here before? Woke up this morning shooting across Utah and worked on LITTLE ROCK for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to the call of hot breakfast and coffee wafting from the dining car. There I met a high school senior named Kira who’s interested in pursuing an acting or singing career, and also Jane, returning home from a yoga retreat.
20150321_084611In Glenwood Springs, CO the Warren-Powell family boarded my train on their way back home to Iowa and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and part of the evening playing trivia with them and talking ghosts. (continue reading…)

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Please Look After This Bear

by on Mar.21, 2015, under On the Road, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 8
3/20/15
20150320_153251I have slingshotted around San Francisco and am now hurtling back toward the East Coast, back on the California Zephyr at 9:10am this morning to cross through now-familiar terrain but staying on the opposite side of the train as much as possible to take in a different view: (continue reading…)

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After the Gold Rush

by on Mar.20, 2015, under On the Road

20150318_164818Amtrak Residency
Days 6 and 7
3/18 and 3/19/15

 

 

 

 

20150318_124147Yesterday and today were mainly traveling days.  Up refreshed by 7:30am yesterday despite the previous night’s ghostly shenanigans, I worked on LITTLE ROCK for awhile before heading to the Hot Springs Pool for one last dip before skipping town.  I had lunch at Polanka, a hole in the wall run by two Polish (continue reading…)

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Bachelors Grove Cemetery Slideshow

by on Mar.15, 2015, under On the Road

Full story here (and EVP session) on my visit to the US’ supposedly most haunted place in March, 2015. Album here. Please give it a few moments to load as it’s 19 pictures.

(continue reading…)

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Waterloo Sunrise

by on Mar.15, 2015, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

I visited the most haunted place in the US and bumped into a witch. The witch bumped into a crazy writer.

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Wintry, soggy farmland near Waterloo, IN

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Capitol Limited observation car

Amtrak Residency

Day 2

3/14/15

    I got up before dawn to sit in the observatory car and work on LITTLE ROCK while watching twilight brighten gray flat farmland becoming suburbs as we pulled into Waterloo, Indiana.  Later I moved to the cafe car for breakfast and wound up sitting across from fellow passenger Mark Wyatt, a grass roots activist who runs the 2000-member strong Iowa Bicycle Coalition, on a return trip from DC where he was “lobbying Congress.”  Why didn’t he just fly there?  “I don’t enjoy flying and I’ve come to enjoy train travel. It’s easy, it’s comfortable, and I can write three grants along the way.”  He and his organization have come up with some novel ways of increasing bicycle appreciation and awareness in Iowa, including the annual bacon ride, where cyclists make stops along the way to enjoy BLTs, bacon chocolate sundaes and bacon (continue reading…)

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Looking for Screaming Jenny

by on Mar.13, 2015, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

Amtrak Residency, Day 1
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About to ride the Amtrak Residency rails and write. Philly to DC to board Capitol Limited overnight to Chicago, then California Zephyr to SF and back. See youse (as they say in South Philly) in 10 days.

Ensign Vernon "Copy" Berg, 1974.

Ensign Vernon “Copy” Berg, 1974.

Mainly I’ll be working on a polish of a screenplay, working title LITTLE ROCK, a bio-pic of artist  Vernon “Copy” Berg, the first officer to legally challenge the US military for anti-gay discrimination in 1975.  It’s adapted from the memoir Get Off My Ship: Ensign Berg v. the US Navy by E. Lawrence Gibson, Berg’s partner at the time.

I applied for this award because my wife Bidisha told me about it and knows of my love of trains. In particular (continue reading…)

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This Train

by on Feb.19, 2015, under On the Road

One month to Capitol Limited and California Zephyr. ‪

#‎psyched‬ ‪#amtrakresidency‬

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Contacting the Dead in West Bengal

by on Feb.18, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Truth Is In Here

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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I’ve traveled India a bunch in the past five years and have learned that almost no one in India seems to have heard of a Ouija board. I’ve also been in tons of stores ranging from rustic bazaars to gleaming shopping malls and have never seen a Ouija board for sale even though they have plenty of other Western toys and board games.

People there do, however, know what you’re talking about when you explain it, only they call it “doing planchette” and those who do it would only ever make their own. The idea of buying one seems foreign to them. Culturally, “doing planchette” seems to hold the same place as it does here: spooky, scary, forbidden, inviting doom, naughty, tempting, very real. Once I got my wife’s Hindu family elders talking about it, they recalled tons of stories that pretty much parallel the kinds of escapades you hear recalled in the US.

Her great uncle warned me against it, telling me there’s a reason God has created two separate dimensions for the living and the dead, and that to try and bridge the gap is inviting trouble. He then told me how once as a young man he and a bunch of friends were vacationing in a small shack in the jungle on a wildlife preserve (the Indian version of the “cabin in the woods” archetypal horror setting) and one evening they got bored and someone made a planchette board. They typically use a coin as the planchette. They soon were in touch with a man who said he was recently deceased. He said he was a Naxalite (Indian Marxist rebel) who had recently been killed by a rival Communist. At that moment the lights went out, engulfing them in darkness. Everybody freaked, they balled up the planchette board and threw it away and my great-uncle vowed never to do the planchette again.

He remains true to his word. I asked him if he would draw one for me exactly as they had drawn them back in the day, and he grimly said, “This is not possible.”

I dropped the subject but later that evening I approached my wife’s grandmother to ask the same question. She shrugged and said, (continue reading…)

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