Play the tape again, I want to hear the sound of an elevated train.
Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive
As you may have worked out, the other person in the previous post is Amy's brother, Jamie. We've just spent the weekend with him and his wife Kerri, and in spite of the fact that there isn't a whole lot to do in the Carbondale/Marion kind of area we had an absolutely fantastic time. There was plenty of steak for everyone (even Amy), the baseball game we went to was great fun (even if I wasn't allowed to join in the dancing), and Kerri turns out to be an expert in the art of mixing cocktails, which was very useful. She's also good at making steaks look like continents, which wasn't as useful but was certainly entertaining.
At any rate, it was a fantastic weekend. Both Jamie and Kerri were amazingly generous and hospitable, and it's wonderful that Amy now has a brother in practice as well as in theory. There isn't a lot else to say about what was probably the emotional high point of the trip, because it went off absolutely perfectly. Smiles all round.
And now we're in Chicago! Our train left at 7.30 this morning so we're pretty worn out, and Amy had a bit of a problem when we arrived at Union Station. She seems to be irresistably drawn towards very tall buildings, which as you can imagine is quite an issue in downtown Chicago, but I managed to drag her and her purple suitcase away for long enough to catch a train to Lombard to meet Jaime. We're very early, but after an exhausting weekend sitting in a park with a ukulele is proving the perfect way to unwind. And nap....
And from me:
The end of our week in St Louis was good fun. On Thursday we went out for a walk towards the river. As we left the hotel the heat was stifling and painful. We'd barely made it to the end of the block though when we felt the first spot of rain. We were pleased and hoped that a short shower might cool the streets down a bit, so kept walking. By the time we reached the river, and were far from shelter, the thunder and lightning started and the rain became so heavy we were soaked through. The people in cars must have thought we were completely mad, dancing around happily in the downpour! Eventually, after enjoying the feeling of not being too hot, we decided to take shelter under a bridge where we dried off a bit and ate lunch while chatting to a friendly man called George. The rain stopped before long and the sky became beautifully clear again so we carred on walking. Within half an hour we felt a spot of rain again, and hurried into a multi-storey car park not a moment too soon, from which we watched the most wonderful thunderstorm I've ever seen! For a while the lightning was right over us, the thunder was terrifyingly loud and the rain was whipping through the car park so violently that we had to hide in a corner to keep dry. We have some pictures which probably won't do justice to the storm at all, but we can put those up later.
Dinner in the revolving restaurant was awesome. The area is very flat so we could see for miles around. I had a lovely steak AND cheesecake. I've found that despite what I'd heard about the Americans being much stricter wiith their alcohol laws and being very careful to ID everyone who seems too young I keep beng offered alcohol by people who seem very surprised when I say I'm underage! I think they're fooled by the accent.
On Friday we visited the courtroom where the slaves Dred and Harriet Scott sued their owner for their freedom, which was quite moving. I wish they could see things now, see how famous their case became.
In the afternoon I got very bad vertigo but managed to sleep it off on the bus to Carbondale. We had to show ID getting onto the bus and for the third time in the past year I was accused of not being the person in my photo! I am a few years younger, with blonde pigtails and no nose piercing, but I didn't realise I looked so different.
The weekend was amazing. Waiting for Jamie to arrive at our motel on Saturday morning I felt more nervous than I have in a long time. I needn't have worried though as we had a lovely time chatting, eating, drinking bubble tea, visiting villages in the middle of nowhere via the 'scenic' route (and discovering that stubbornness and refusal to admit a mistake runs in the family...), eating more, watching baseball (they even managed to hit the ball a few times), failing to win a signed baseball bat despite entering the competition four times, visiting Walmart, seeing a house that Buckminster Fuller lived in, and finally hanging out at Jamie and Kerri's house for Sunday afternoon, drinking cocktails and playing silly games on the PS2. It's a shame we only had a weekend, though I was exhausted even after that, but Jamie's promised to come back to the UK for my graduation in a couple of years!
Our journey up to Chicago was very easy - we got on the train very early in the morning, I slept for five hours, we got off the train. It's nice and cool up here (relative to what it was further south) so we had a nice walk around the downtown area of Chicago before getting the train out to the suburbs where we're staying. We arrived about four hours early so sat in a park for a bit, until I'd been bitten by so many mosquitoes that we had to move. We were going to get a drink but then we walked past a guitar shop and ended up sitting inside for about an hour and a half chatting to two local men, which was weird but fun. When we finally got to Jaime's house (not to be confused with Jamie), we had a lovely curry for dinner and then had a nice early night. Today we're chilling out before heading into Chicago this evening to have drinks with the parents of the groom from the wedding Nik went to a couple of weeks ago.