Jefe's House

On the Road

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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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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A Magical Child

by on Feb.07, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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A talented young street magician I shot in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India after she approached us shouting “Magic? Magic?”  My 3-year-old son has recently discovered magic so we gave her the nod. She dropped to the ground, emptied the contents of her bag and went to town. Soon a small crowd formed to watch.  My son’s mind was blown, especially when she made money disappear from my wife’s hand and come out of my son’s ear and nose.  I am extremely envious of her sleight of hand skills.  Apologies for the wind noise.

 

I realize there is perhaps, potentially, a darker side to this, like where are her parents? I didn’t see them, but I didn’t see a Fagin lurking about (continue reading…)

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Remnants of Jewish Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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Temple Beth-El built in 1856.

Kolkata’s oldest synagogue, Beth-El, built in 1856.

There only 25 Jews left in Kolkata but three large, old synagogues speak to their former vast numbers. They were Baghdadi Jews from the Middle East. Getting into these synagogues as an outsider is no easy feat. The Kolkata cabbies haven’t a clue nor do most native Kolkatans you ask.

You have to go to a certain bakery on the first floor of the historic New Market bazaar, get a phone number and call it, speak to a certain Jewish woman who’ll give you directions, then you go to the sites and mention her name to the groundskeepers so they know you’re legit, then they let you inside where you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. Suggested donation is 100 rupees (about $2.00).  I jumped through all of these hoops and it was well worth it.

We first step inside the Magen David (slideshow) synagogue built in 1884 and the guide, a slight Indian in his 30′s with a boyish face, sticks a yarmulke on my head. He barely speaks English. I barely speak Bangla. It goes like this: (continue reading…)

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Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

Next door to the Magen David Synagogue is the “Old Synagogue,” official name Neveh Shalome. In 1825 a house was bought on this site and made into Kolkata’s first synagogue. It was demolished and rebuilt as the present one in 1911.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

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