Okay, this should be the last of the pre-scheduled articles that I wrote before leaving on my train trip from Los Angeles to Chicago. That's because we're scheduled to arrive at Union Station around 3 PM this afternoon. And I thought it would be most-especially appropriate to post the famous, final sequence from the aforementioned movie, Silver Streak.
As I noted, this is the same train that the movie is based on. In reality it's called the Southwest Chief. (At the time of the movie, the route was for the Super Chief.) What's happening here in the movie is that the brakes have been cut on the train, and Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor and Pullman porter Scatman Crothers are still on board as it hurtles towards the station.
Here's hoping that my arrival is smoother. And that it doesn't give any ideas to the elves taking care of the homestead how they should treat the place.
While it's pretty clear that most of that's not actually Union Station in Chicago, since destroying the elegant, classic architecture wouldn't have been considered good form, the demolished stand-in is intercut with some moments of the real thing. (Though we do see more of it in earlier sequences of the film, setting up this finale.) However, it's been used in countless movies, perhaps best known for the "Potemkin Odessa Steps" homage in The Untouchables, when they have the shoot-out to pick-up Al Capone's bookkeeper. And also in The Sting. (Oddly, if memory serves, it's the scene when Redford and Newman's characters watch Doyle Lonnegan getting on board in New York, before they themselves get on to start their scam of him.)
But here's what the real Union Station looks like from a couple of photos I've taken in the past.
And here are those steps, which should probably look familiar.
Oh, what the heck. Here's that scene from The Untouchables.
I didn't plan to post anything else about the Cubs today. I almost didn't even read this article -- I've read plenty enough about last night's game, so did I need one more? But my recently-mentioned friend Eric Boardman sent me the link to a piece in the Washington Post, and I'm glad I clicked. That's because I immediately saw it was by Thomas Boswell, who's my favorite baseball writer. (As I told Eric, I almost added, "probably my favorite," but then realized that's wrong.)
Boswell (and what an appropriate name is that for a writer) has written numerous books (that are collections of his Washington Post columns) on a variety of sports, but he shines with baseball. Two of his books leap out -- How Life Imitates the World Series and Why Time Begins on Opening Day. If you do love baseball, I can't recommend these enough. (And since they're both a few decades old, the available price for each can be found for as low as a penny -- plus shipping -- depending on the quality of the copy.)
He's a gem of a writer. Conversant, matter-off-fact, full of stories, and eloquent. One of my favorite of his columns is the masterful, "99 Reasons Why Baseball is Better Than Football." One reason is -- "The poet Marianne Moore loved pitcher Christy Mathewson. No woman of quality has ever preferred football to baseball." Another reason is -- "Listening to a car radio on a summer night."
One of my favorite of his lines in another article is when he writes that people always wonder what a manager says to a pitcher when going out to the mound when the player has gotten into a jam, and figure it has to be something like, "Babe Ruth is dead. Throw strikes."
This article about yesterday's game is pure Boswell. Conversant, matter-of-fact, full of stories and eloquent. I even suspect people who don't follow baseball might like it, because it's about more than the game, but about the perspective of things.
You can read it here.
And as long as I'm posting at the moment, I figure I might as well add a couple of photos which I just came across today.
This first was sent to me by my cousin Peter Leviton (who I believe was instrumental in the Cubs success as he was on the field during the team's recent reconstruction of Wrigley, as the Cubs' fortunes began to turn, of which I posted a photo here). His son Eric -- also my cousin, of course... -- went down to Wrigley Field last night and took some photos of the festivities after the game. Somehow, he's a White Sox fan, but he at least had the good sense to be part of history and appreciate it. (By the way, I'm really impressed that there was no car-turning or rampaging after the pennant-clinching win last night, just pure joy throughout the city.)
And also, here's evidence that one change which won't be a carryover from the Obama Administration if Hillary Clinton wins. He's a White Sox fan - she however is a lifelong Cubs fan! (And even threw out first pitch at Wrigley Field when she was First Lady.)
Here she is last night when one of her Cubs-fan aides, Connolly Keigher, was live-streaming the game, and gave Clinton an instant replay of final out.
For reasons best-attributed to nothing but whimsy or perhaps kismet, I recently have come across a couple of graphics that I thought were extremely clever, and both had connections to slogans from the 1960s. I'll get around to posting each, and here's the first.
There are a series of photos which are making the rounds of the Internet these days, and they are just too freaking adorable and wonderful not to bring to your attention.
Allan Dixon is an adventurer based in Australia who travels the world and, among other things takes photos of animals. No big deal, I know, but so many of these photos are selfies with the animals, and they're just...well, otherworldly. Here's just one example --
And most of the rest are almost just as wonderful. Really. I'm not exaggerating.
Like this one, for example.
Don't worry. I didn't give away "all the best" of them. In fact, I had a difficult time trying to figure out which ones to use.
There's an important component to all of this. As an article here on the Huffington Post notes --
"As an adventurer, Dixon is cautious: He sometimes spends hours hanging out with an animal and gaining its trust before snapping photos. Travelers 'should be very careful as to not upset or provoke the animal when they’re trying to take the photo,' Dixon told Bored Panda. 'Gain the animal’s trust in a calm relaxed manner, and the results will be golden.'
"Of course you should avoid approaching an animal you don't know to be friendly and keep your distance behind gates or other barriers when they're set up, National Geographic points out. Practice respect, though, and nature will show you its good side, as Dixon can certainly attest."
The article linked above show many of the best photos. But if you want to see a far-wider collection of Allan Dixon's photos, check out his own terrific gallery here on Instagram.
There was a nice tribute to Leonard Nimoy from outerspace on his passing Friday. This was tweeted by Terry Virts from the International Space Station.
The return has been completed. I got in a little while ago from lovely Primm, Nevada, and have unpacked and slightly decompressed.
It's always odd leaving from Primm, because you're in the middle of the desert (literally) and so expect it to be hot, but not only is it not -- I'm particularly talking about the morning, when I leave -- but it's often been nippy. I don't mean nippy by "And this is the desert" standards, I mean...one year there was frost covering all my car's windows and I had to scrape it off and then defrost them.
It always can get chilly in the evenings (when I head out to the Mad Greek for dinner), but even beginning in the late afternoon. Yesterday, the afternoon was fine -- quite comfortable, in fact -- but one year was blistering, and (not expecting it and having left my jacket in the trunk), there was a lot of fast running-around.
Mind you, I don't mean to compare this to sub-zero Chicago winters, or the blizzards hitting the east. But most especially when you're in the desert and aren't acclimated to the cold, frost-weather does come as quite a nippy surprise.
The drive back was fine. The first part through the California foothills is fairly nice (it's a bit dull for the first half hour, but then picks up), but driving through Victorville is unappealing and the first heads-up that you're gong to leave the desert behind pretty soon. And then the last 45 minutes is pretty annoying. You've left pure nature behind, traffic almost suddenly becomes crowded, and the "architecture" of encroaching civilization is fairly disorganized, almost like it wants to be somewhere, but they couldn't figure it out and so threw a bunch of buildings and unrelenting billboards down at random. At that point, you just can't wait to get home. Only near the end, though even more crowded, is there at least a sense of "place." That's not saying a lot, but happily it's enough.
There's one point on the trip after Victorville, though, that's absolutely gorgeous -- though for years terrified me. That's the area of the El Cajon Pass. You're pretty high up in the foothills and make your very-winding descent down. And sometimes if you're lucky (or not, depending on your perspective) you're near a low-hanging cloud cover.
Here are a couple of pictures I took my year after finishing grad school at UCLA. I'd gone back home for the summer and then drove back from Chicago to start my post-grad life in Los Angeles. When I hit the Pass, I was so taken that I pulled far off to the side and took a couple of photos. These don't do it justice, but will have to do, if only for the "historic" factor. Keep in mind that these were before digital photos, I had a cheesy little camera, the pictures faded after years, gathered some dust and then got digitized.
And then turning back a bit and to the left, you'll see what I meant by the low-hanging cloud cover. When I say "low-hanging," I actually meant it...
Anyway, the reason the El Cajon Pass terrifies me is that you're near a huge drop-off (though, yes, there's a railing), and it's incredibly winding, like I said -- and drivers just keep zipping along as if it's a straight-old interstate. The most horrifying year was during a rainstorm, and California drivers, unused to rain, I guess, kept barreling along as always, at their oblivious 70 MPH. I moved over the right slow-lane with the trucks and was happy as a clam at about 25 MPH.
A close second in the Utterly Terrifying category (and when I think about it, it sometimes nudges into first place) is when I did the drive at night. Again, remember, this is very winding. And also, I have night blindness. I can see, but not great, and my depth perception is off. So, I tend to try to remember to wear glasses in the dark. It's far better. Though I don't always remember. And I didn't on this trip. I hadn't factored in the El Cajon Pass -- and drivers whizzing along at 70 MPH. And this was before the "Rain Trip," so I hadn't factored in the slow lane, either and was in the middle. I swear to you that I was frozen in my seat. My arms stiff, hands vice-like gripping to the wheel, my jaw and teeth clenched and heart palpitating all the way down (it takes a couple of minutes). Unable (or more a case of unwilling) to look over my shoulder to get in the right lane and slow down. It was horrific. And it was the last time I made the trip at night.
What I did do, though, is mark down exactly how many miles it is to get to the El Cajon Pass from Primm. (It's 155 miles, for those keep score.) And now, when I reach about the 152 mile mark, I begin to get in the right, slow lane with all the trucks and calmly plod along at around 40 MPH surrounded by my trucker buddies -- as the cars to our left zooooom past at 70 MPH. Even still, when you're out of the Pass and the ground levels out, it's one of more pacific and beatific moments of driving that I have, anywhere.
Alas, I really can't find a picture online to do it justice, but this is the closest I can get --
And then he decompressed...
Some photos simply don't need anything to be said about them. Or you can't think of something to say that would add to the picture. In this case, all I can think of is -- Surf's up!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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