Friday, November 04, 2011

A 50-50 Sort Of Feeling

This passage somehow manages to mentally split me neatly into 50-50, the one half filled with Vizag, and the other with New England.
One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock of a December evening, with a few Chicago friends, already caught up into their own holiday gayeties, to bid them a hasty good-by. I remember the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This-or-that’s and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances, and the matchings of invitations: “Are you going to the Ordways’? the Herseys’? the Schultzes’?” and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the gate.

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow.
Maybe it's the mix of snow, trains, and going home.

From here.

I've been to Union Station in Chicago. And to the other great stations of the East - South Station, Penn Station, Grand Central, Madras Central. On snowy and rainy evenings. It is as he says.


K said...

Being a Vizag-ite you might know this, but Waltair Junction is the most remarkable railway station of them all. Whenever the train you're in enters it, the earth reverses it's direction of rotation... at least that was the accepted scientific theory when I was a kid.

Ludwig said...

> but Waltair Junction is the most
> remarkable railway station of
> them all.

But of course, goes without saying.

It's Waltair Junction for you, is it? Hmm.

K said...

Gah, didn't mean to give away my country bumpkin origins. It should be "...reverses its direction..."

Also I meant to write "Being a Vizag-ite you might not know this..." since the switcheroo at Waltair Junction can't be observed by those who get off and go home rather than journey on to Tenali or Tadepalligudem like decent people.

>It's Waltair Junction for you, is it? Hmm.

Ah yes, we old timers still remember the old days when Waltair Junction was the first place you could get something edible and potable after journeying 20+ hours through the forests of South Bihar and Orissa, I mean Jharkhand and Odisha.