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Weekly Column by Andy Grieser
Column by Andy Grieser

November 22, 2002

… and Back Again (part 2 of 2)

Here’s how stupid I am: On a four-day trip bookended by 20-hour train rides, I took two books. One – Neverwhere -- was half-read before I even started the trip. In other words, no way did I plan ahead, and no way would I have reading material for the trip home.

First, let me rave about Bruce Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill. This isn’t just an autobiography, it’s an insider’s view of the whole B-movie scene. It’s the story of a guy who knows he’ll never be the one making a $20 million paycheck and carrying the studio on his back, and so is freed to actually enjoy roles. Campbell writes exactly as he talks – I heard his voice throughout – and ranges from witty to laugh-out-loud funny.

Seriously, why haven’t you bought this book yet? Are you mad? He even gets the royalties! Go on, click over to Amazon right now.

Okay, you’re back. Good. Needless to say, Campbell was a great respite from 12-hour days spent working in a strange city. I deliberately milked the last few chapters – an update on his book tour – just so I had something to read in the train station while waiting for the boarding call.

No way was I gonna survive the trip back without a book (I’m a geek that way), even with the GameBoy Advance. So the morning of my return trip, I picked up a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces. I’d read the book before, in college, but it was loaned out and never returned. Since that was a decade ago, I figured it was safe to re-read. (I hate re-reading a book too soon and remembering the ending.)

Let me go off on a New Orleans tangent: Bourbon Street. I hadn’t been since college, and was surprised to see the streets totally packed on a non-holiday Saturday night. We’re talking curb to curb bodies, most in their 20s, almost all holding drinks. A lot of the women were dressed for easy access: tank tops, halters, that sort of thing. There’s just something about that area that begs for inhibitions to be dropped, even despite the camera flashes at each, well, flash.

Yes, some of the flashers were professionals – a co-worker was handed a card by one such beauty, flashing the crowd while standing next to him on a balcony. The whole feel, though, was one of youth and pleasure and anything-goes.

This made up for a less interesting ride back to Chicago. No globetrotting lesbians or British tour groups. There was the one guy conducting business very loudly two cabins down, with the door open no less. I got his name, workplace, e-mail address and cell number just by listening while I read. Considered using that information for evil, but didn’t. I was actually amazed by his reception – when I couldn’t get any sort of signal, he was blustering away. Eventually, he shut up, and by the next morning, he was gone.

The tracks led through swampland, farmland, one-stoplight towns and cities. Think the U.S. is overcrowded? Take a train, and marvel at the wide open spaces left.

The weather turned as we neared Chicago, a cold grey that settles over this city in fall and clears out the next spring. For once, I didn’t mind. I miss the warm South, to be sure, but I was happy to be home.


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