Train Party

Cliff Williams
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Trinity College of Trinity International University
Deerfield, Illinois 60015

Titus Hattan loves poetry. After I hosted a poetry reading in the woods on Trinity's campus, he mentioned that he wanted to have a poetry reading on a train. So some weeks later I asked my honors Introduction to Philosophy class whether they would be interested in going on a train party. A bunch of hands shot up.

Fourteen of us gathered on a Friday night, the last day of classes— twelve from the class, a little sister, and me. We drove to the Evanston L, paid our fares, and got on the next train. Some of us sat but most of us stood, swaying now and then as the train jerked. Several students handed around cookies and mini candy bars. Some minutes later we saw a small sign that said, "No radio playing, no smoking, no eating. $300 fine." We stopped eating.

Titus got out his poetry and read a few daring love poems. At the other end of the car a man was dancing. A couple of us went to him with a harmonica and a kazoo to see if he wanted some live music for his dancing. He took off his earphones and let us hear his dancing music. He shook our hands with a big smile, but talked incoherently. There was alcohol on his breath, but he was not drunk. Later he came and joined us for a minute before we got off.

When we got to downtown Chicago, we walked to Millennium Park just north of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue. We watched the large faces for a bit. On our way to the bean, I suggested that someone could stand on the large, square fence corner and pretend to be a statue. Tim and David did that until a security officer told them to get down. We stood under the bean for a few minutes, watched the ice skaters for a while, then headed to the brightly lit columns. There Christina taught some of us a line dance, and after that we snaked, with our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us, to the sidewalk along Michigan Avenue.

At Michigan Avenue we sang Christmas carols. I directed. Some of the people who were walking by stopped to listen. Someone joined us and sang along. At the end of the song, she asked if we could sing happy birthday to her friend, who was standing behind her. We did, and when we were done, the birthday person threw us a kiss.

After spending some time in a nearby Starbucks drinking warm coffee, we headed back to the L. When we piled into the car, the dancing man we had met earlier was sitting there. He got a big smile on his face when he saw us. There wasn't much sitting room in that car, so at the next stop we ran out of the car and got into another car, where we were all able to sit at the end of the car. We played the Round Robin story game and the What Am I Thinking Of? game before we got to Evanston, where we exited the train, walked to our cars, and headed back to campus.

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