Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have -- Cincinnati sounds worse. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Beyond that, human kindness in Southern Illinois was as abundant as the free soup.
To be fair, though, I wasn't too terribly surprised when no one picked me up along Route 66. If I didn't know me, I'd probably not pick me up, either, and I didn't mind sleeping out. Getting the cab ride to Carlinville was worth the $24, since it would have taken me a lot longer than the 20 minute drive to walk there. I went to Carlinville because that was the nearest public transportation that could carry me into Chicago, and from there I would be able to make my way anywhere.
Options? Well, the travel fund was getting near to sucked dry... a situation I could do very little about at the moment. Yes, I have some folks I can call on, but I don't like to do that until there's no option. At that point I was still thinking I'd make it down to Albuquerque to read, but I wasn't seeing how I could do a whole lot of anything given the fact that three days in Litchfield, trying to get my feet back to their version of normal -- which was a slight derivation of my original plan, which had been to walk from Mount Olive up Route 4 through Benld and Gillespie into Carlinville (which I changed at the last minute finding nothing resembling cheap accommodations anywhere northbound EXCEPT Litchfield) -- had left me with limited options.
I decided, then to head to Cincinnati, and try figure out what to do next from there.
No matter what issues I have with the city, it's one whose skyline always stirs as much feelings of home as feelings of disconnectedness. Cincinnati is a town fraught with nostalgia -- that same odd malignant strain infecting Southern Illinois along Route 66 -- that sense that nostalgia and blind longing have replaced memory, have replaced history. Monuments to our honored dead -- those whose lives and whose deaths we, as a society, are singularly uncomfortable with, like Mother Jones and the Union martyrs, like the Blackhawk Monument in Kent, Illinois -- offer little but a series of spiritual Meccas along trails we have long since forgotten, trails where we have left pieces of ourselves and haven't begun to go back and pick them back up. There are bread crumbs out there: little pieces of who we are, who we should be, who we are capable of being, and we have not as a culture decided it's time to go and find those parts of ourselves we've lost in the process of insisting ourselves into a mock-historical narrative defined by Manifest Destiny. Cincinnati is a city at odds with itself, and for very specific reasons.
Like Mount Carroll and probably everywhere else in America, the various visions of the future and dueling identities are at odds with one another. A corporate stronghold, a staunch and conservative political perspective that exists along with a shrinking population (People are leaving because there are no jobs.) and a self-defeating attitude of isolation and self-enforced segregation (along class, race, political, ideological, and dogmatic lines). People who don't know where to look could mistake Cincinnati as a city without real culture.
They'd be wrong.
The problem with Cincinnati isn't that there isn't culture. And I don't mean the stuff that attracts the black tie crowd, though some people think that's all there is to culture. There's always been a vibrant arts community here. But it's one that tends to either be excluded or exclude itself from any real conversations about the character and personality of the city. There's some damn fine writers, musicians, and artists here. But when the city's only alternative press barely gives a nod to anything and acts insulted and offended when their apathy and unwarranted snobbery is pointed out to them, and they still don't bother to write about what goes on here unless it's playing at the playhouse downtown or at US Bank arena -- it's very little surprise that the musicians, writers, and artists respond in kind to a city that only loves them when they can fit into the corporate culture that's choking the soul out of this place.
Yes, City Beat. I'm talking about you.
So I rode the train back to Cincinnati. There are only one train route that comes through the Queen City. The Cardinal, which runs south through Saint Louis, down into Texas, and north up to New York. The southbound train stops at 1:27 in the morning. The northbound stops at 3:14 in the morning.
I'm here for the time being, visiting family and hoping to see friends and pondering how to best get back out on the road. I'm even pondering trying to pick up work for few months... gawd forbid.