Column: What am I not going to do?

As I’ve understood it, Chicago is a hell of a town.

Let’s hope so.

Jason-Column2Several weeks ago, we talked about my fascination and wonder with the possibility of an Amtrak residency, wherein a writer was able to ride the rails free of charge so long as she, in addition to any other writing she did, wrote about the experience for Amtrak’s blog. Since then, Amtrak has made writer’s residencies an official thing and, after an application process, will send 24 writers…somewhere and back this year.

I can’t wait that long.

And so, next week I will climb aboard the Lake Shore Limited from New York’s Penn Station to Chicago’s Union Station, returning the next day. I’ll have a Viewliner roomette on the way there, a bedroom on the way back and nothing to do either way but take in the scenery, dine with my fellow passengers and, most importantly, work on my next fiction project.

It’s going to be a total of 38 hours on the train over a 72-hour period. I can’t wait.

What I’m having a bit of trouble with, though, is the 12-hour layover in Chicago between Lake Shore Limiteds.

That might be where you come in.

I’ve never been to Chicago and, between check-in times and the cost of hotels near Union Station, it doesn’t really make sense for me to book a room I’m not even going to sleep in. So, that’s going to leave me with 12 hours to kill during which I am essentially a homeless, roomless tourist.

Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower and formerly the tallest building in the world, is not far from Union Station. Apparently, there are several glass boxes in the building’s Skydeck in which you can stand and look down through the floor to Wacker Drive 103 floors below.

So, as someone who used to be deathly afraid of heights, I’ll probably do that.

I’d love to go to Wrigley Field and take in a game, but the Cubbies will be in Milwaukee. Can’t they do anything right?

Consulting their schedule, I see the White Sox will be home against the San Diego Padres and, low and behold, it’s a day game. Even though I don’t think I could name three White Sox these days—not an American League guy at all—I think I might just hit the game, particularly since U.S. Cellular Field is well within striking distance of Willis Tower.

OK, so I’ve got Willis Tower and the White Sox. Now what?

It’s only occurred to me recently that my 12-hour Chicago layover should be seen as an adventure within an adventure, and an experience within an experience. Until then, I saw it as kind of a chore, believe it or not; basically something to be endured.

But it’s not, is it? It’s actually a bonus experience to be embraced, and I think I shall.

And so that’s where you can come in.

I like to think we’ve got some worldly readers out there combing through the Review each week, and some of you have got to be well versed in the Windy City. Bear in mind, what I know about Chicago is contained in this column, so anything you might suggest is bound to be new to me.

Well, I just lied.

I’m pretty sure they filmed the awesome action climax of Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” in Union Station. There; now you know everything I know about Chicago.

Whether you help me with a destination or two or not, I think my 12 hours in Chicago are going to be fun. I’m someone who is not accustomed to, or inherently wired for, such adventures, so I think this will be good for me.

If you’re going to call yourself a writer, it’s probably a pretty good idea to live a bit to get as much perspective as possible to add to your talents. While two overnight train trips and a day in Chicago all by myself may not be dog sledding to the North Pole or macheteing my way through Papua New Guinea, it should be fun, therapeutic and—if I do it right—an experience that will enhance my next bit of fiction, the ones beyond that and the guy who writes them.

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com