On a train from the Union Station in Chicago to a small town in Iowa…
The sun in the sky shining down…
As the train moves along…
Giving you a view of America.
From the urban concrete jungle of Chicago with all the small stores and folks strolling by…
To all the small towns passing by in Illinois and Iowa.
Maybe you pass by Peoria or Moline….
Down across the border…
Perhaps you cross by Keokuk or Mt. Pleasant Iowa…
All the same though really…
You get the nice view that comes with the territory.
The fields of dreams all around from both sides of the windows.
The crops of middle America that feed the nation.
To all the small towns that come with everything in them.
The church over there.
The familiar fields around.
The folks walking by outside the windows going about their days.
Maybe to visit the baseball game of their kids.
Or to some Boy Scouts trip to the woods.
Perhaps there is some local music event going on soon.
Whatever it might be.
Life that I have known it.
Meanwhile, you have another gentleman sitting next to you making small talk with you.
In a language that is your own.
About whatever it might be.
Some employee comes into your spot of the train announcing food will be sold soon for anyone interested.
And you go downstairs to buy a sandwich or something in US dollars.
Which is a curious thing itself to be using US dollars again to buy anything.
And back upstairs to your seat.
Back to the window with the passing scenery of the heartland of America.
You are back home.
And remember the good and the bad.
With all the nostalgia that comes with it.
A Greater Appreciation
It’s not uncommon for folks to say the Midwest is boring.
That there is nothing to do.
But you gain a greater appreciation of your homeland when you have been away for a while.
Even more so as you get older and remember your childhood there.
The Mississippi River that runs forever.
Sometimes leaving destruction with its annual flooding.
And other days leaving opportunities for people to appreciate the natural beauty of the region.
When they take their boat and go on riding by to appreciate the surrounding scenery.
One of North America’s most important rivers right here for us to enjoy.
The magnificent water that goes on seemingly forever.
The blue sky above without a cloud in sight and the sun shining down on this beautiful land.
Maybe you stop the boat after a bit and go fishing.
Another pastime to enjoy the nature that America has to offer.
Before going back home to enjoy maybe a local concert or two being held in town.
A few beers to enjoy it with some friends.
And maybe later in the week is a local game.
Of football or basketball.
Among the cornfields that help feed an entire nation.
Under the sun in another summer day.
Before summer becomes fall.
Field of Dreams
It’s in these months that a few important dates are held.
My birthday for one.
And also 9/11.
I remember getting on a school bus as a kid….
On the way home.
I was sitting down next to a friend of mine at the time on the bus as kids but I forgot what his name was.
Let’s say Kyle.
Eh fuck it, something like that.
Anyway, Kyle and I were sitting down when the radio was going off.
Some news being told about a few thousand Americans estimated to be dead.
Some crazy shit to hear at the time.
I wasn’t so scared in the moment from what I remember…
But I do remember finding that weird.
“Huh…that’s not normal.”
Well, anyway, that’s what I remember on that day hearing about 9/11.
And while that day is remembered every year.
More positive developments occur as well during the same months.
The scenery changes.
Soon enough the corn will be harvested.
And all of the leaves are changing.
To autumn colors.
It’s a beauty I haven’t seen in years since I rarely come to Iowa these days during the fall and have been in Mexico for a while now.
While Mexico itself has plenty of beauty, I haven’t seen the same change in trees down here.
At least not in Mexico City.
It’s another thing you miss when you aren’t back in Iowa.
Maybe I’d see more of it if I went somewhere else in Latin America like Chile or Argentina perhaps.
Nonetheless, the scenery changes to something as beautiful as before.
And you can appreciate it all the same.
As you get into your truck and drive down the streets.
Perhaps the old 1997 red Chevy truck I had growing up.
Maybe go onto the highway and get the rush going fast again.
Another thing I miss from not being home.
To take a truck and just go fast down the highway with some music like here below playing.
Of course, I could do the same in Mexico but I’d probably be more likely to run into a corrupt cop looking for a bribe.
And it wouldn’t be the same.
The scenery is obviously different and not the same as home.
To get into your truck and drive down fast through roads familiar with your childhood with the autumn leaves all around.
Maybe on the same day as my birthday even.
Remembering the first time I ever got to do that…
First getting into the truck with my dad as we did a test drive at a park near us.
And they had all this gravel on the road.
Anyway, I tried turning the truck around and it swirled and almost hit another person’s truck.
And going from that to the first time I got to go on the highway…
I was part of some drivers course being maybe 14 or 15 more or less.
Doing the whole “drivers training” that our high school had set up to give kids some driving experience before they hit the road seriously….
I decided to drive the vehicle onto the highway with the driving instructor and a friend of mine named Colin in the backseat…
All good so far.
Until it was time to drive off the highway and into a lane going downwards into the downtown area of the town near the Mississippi.
In doing so, I wasn’t paying attention or some shit and almost drove us right into the wall curved downwards.
Not sure how the fuck I did that.
But the driving instructor pressed on something to slow the truck down and reached over to turn the wheel to the side.
We didn’t have an accident.
But that wasn’t my first time almost fucking it up.
Like the time afterwards in high school…
I would be reckless at times.
Just speeding down the road for fun.
One time in particular driving down but with the sun blocking my vision….
And then a truck coming out of nowhere towards me.
Well, again, thankfully I didn’t hit him.
But, looking back at it now, I’m surprised I never hit anybody.
As I did enjoy the thrill of going fast and driving a little bit recklessly.
To have that rush with some music like below here playing….
And the memory of all the scenery outside the window.
It’s anyway a memory I remember often and appreciate anytime I get to experience again.
Be it in a truck or on the train from before.
To look outside of the window and see the scenery that the heartland of America has like in this video below here from Field of Dreams.
Doesn’t look much to the average person.
To those who are not from the Midwest who think of it as boring.
But I like the look.
And reminds me of my life in America.
And soon enough the autumn leaves go away.
And winter comes around.
Snow & Ice
There is a certain beauty and annoyance that comes with snow and ice.
On one hand, I miss the 4 seasons.
In Mexico City, winter means a slight windy chill at best.
With some Mexicans bringing out the winter coats at times for even the slightest inconvenience while I’m wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.
You would think they were in Alaska by the way some dress down here for a small bit of wind.
And the cold can get inconvenience in the winter in Iowa for sure.
Be it the countless mornings you have to wake up to scrape the ice off the truck to get to school or work.
Perhaps the time I almost got into a car accident driving down the road near Target.
Where all the snow in the pitch black night made it difficult to see the truck in front of me.
Slamming on the breaks with a ton of ice on the road.
Almost causing a scene.
Or the times I walked home at around 12 or 13 in Middle School in the snow with just shoes.
Freezing my feet to death.
It’s the usual saying that snow is beautiful for 10 minutes and then gets annoying.
That’s fairly true.
And so it is one thing I both miss and don’t miss about America.
I don’t miss any of the above circumstances.
On the other hand, I miss the snow.
I miss the beauty of it.
Yes, snow can be very beautiful.
To take up and see the fields of Iowa covered in a white blanket.
With more on the way falling from the sky.
And as you sit on a chair with a few cats like below here sitting next to you.
Like this one who I grew up with -- Claws.
You watch the snow as you drink some black tea.
Maybe with a little bit of vodka or rum mixed in.
Appreciating the new scenery that comes with home.
And all the memories with it.
One morning I remember a time with my sister when we were both young.
Watching the Simpsons during the late 90s.
From there, we went outside.
And I remember all the snow we had in our backyard.
The fun we had playing around in it.
To the months afterwards…
Where we would look for the Easter Eggs our parents laid around the backyard.
I’m pretty confident I was better at finding those eggs than she was since I always turned out with more money and chocolate than she did.
But what else is new?
Girls can’t do shit anyhow.
Still, it was a fun memory in my life.
And give it about maybe 6 or 7 years after that….
Or something like that.
I was 14, I think.
Walking to Tyson’s house…
A friend of mine.
And it was love at first sight between a girl named Christina and I.
We walked over to see Tyson also but he wasn’t home.
But then we walked back to a bus station to wait for her little brother to be dropped off.
He never showed up for some reason but whatever.
And in the cold winter with snow all around, we decided to go to her place.
One thing led to another back home with her parents not around..
And I lost my virginity.
Or we did I think.
Anyway, I left afterwards and my parents caught me walking home alone near the church that was between the middle school and the house.
With the truck barreling down towards me.
“Get in!” I heard.
In I went.
They assumed I was doing drugs because my sister was all about that in the time.
I wasn’t but it was funny to think I was.
As my mom was very strict about me fucking around with girls at the time.
Well, a bunch of drama ensured the next day but it worked itself out.
And between those memories….
All the other ones as well.
Snowball fights as a kid.
To waking up and being happy that school is cancelled due to heavy snow.
And spending the afternoon trying to build a snowman perhaps.
And whatever else I was up to those days.
The nostalgia that comes with it all.
Similar to when spring comes around.
Of course, it’s never quite certain when spring starts in the Midwest.
You think you’re in the clear with the snow gone and it being February perhaps….
Then the snow hits again.
Though usually it goes as quickly as it comes during these final few months.
And you can enjoy the sunlight again.
Maybe some sports playing outside.
And, when growing up, easter.
Similar to the memories of playing in the snow with my sister.
Comes the memories of looking for easter eggs as kids in the backyard of my parent’s first house.
Of course, not all of my memories of my life in America were in Iowa.
During the last few years, I was often traveling back and forth between Iowa and Ohio.
Especially during the winter and the spring.
With the same trips by train as mentioned before.
Or through the Greyhound bus.
Passing by the same fields of the heartland of America.
Going through Indianapolis a few times.
Which is funny to think back on because my perception of Indianapolis was that of a sketchy city.
Nowadays, it wouldn’t look as sketchy as some of the cities I’ve seen in Latin America.
Nonetheless, you arrive to Ohio just fine.
Back in time for the spring.
And the countless nights going out to frat parties to drink a bit.
Or to the local bars getting a hamburger and beer at 2 AM.
To falling in love.
During my second year of college, there was a chick I started dating a bit.
Let’s call her Nena (not her real name).
Who I connected a lot with at the time.
Because the college we went to provided so much funding to college groups to do whatever…
We managed to get funds for the group to travel around the country to places like NYC, Atlanta, South Carolina, etc…
We had a good time together.
One of our last moments I remember was alone at night wondering through the streets of NYC around March or April.
Looking up right below the building they replaced the Twin Towers with and seeing how high it went up…
To standing in front of the water where we could see the Statue of Liberty late at night dancing together to some music she had on her phone.
It was some of the last moments I remember of her before she became suicidal.
She had some similar issues in life from her childhood.
I appreciated anyhow the moments we had together.
It was the spring I had before I started traveling around Latin America again.
On a typical summer though, I’d head back home to Iowa by the greyhound.
The Summer Once Again
And comes around the summer once more.
Perhaps with a moment to celebrate 4th of July.
Crossing the state line into Missouri to buy some fireworks before crossing back into Iowa.
Late afternoon and into the night with all the fireworks going off around us from the neighbors and the whole city.
Police running around looking to see who to fine for setting them off.
Starting off small perhaps with those firecrackers.
Before moving onto the bigger stuff.
And dancing back and forth between the big and small stuff so as to limit the risk of the cops showing up to ruin the fun.
With enough smoke perhaps to fill up the front of the house and some of the street.
Running back to see if any cop cars are in the street.
Something looks suspicious way out front.
A car parked way out there with its lights on just standing by.
Maybe time to call off the fun?
Back inside perhaps to finish off the kebabs cooked earlier in the day.
And it’s moments like this that make you again appreciate just how nice America can be.
A mix of nostalgia.
With appreciation for where you came from that grows every year.
Perhaps with people you’ve known for your whole life.
Not being a stranger in another country.
And enjoying the customs you grew up with.
Some good food thrown in the mix.
And all scenery around you that is familiar to you.
Scenery you get to enjoy every time you get back on that train going home from Chicago Union Station.
Back in the Train
From Chicago to my small town in Iowa….
The train arrives.
Through passing by the fields of America.
The small towns in the middle of the country.
Small towns with their own stories.
Worthy of telling.
The stranger next to me is already gone.
Departed from the train some stops back probably in some small town in Illinois.
To which I get off myself now.
Finished thinking of all of the memories above and more as I get off the train.
With my backpack in hand.
To see my family in a long time.
And the few odd hours I had behind me to think it through.
Of my life before Latin America.
Of the more memorable memories I can remember dating back to my childhood.
Of the good and bad.
And I emphasize both.
I didn’t want to make it seem like America is perfect.
My version of America anyway.
Filled with plenty of nostalgia also.
Of my time in this country before I started living abroad at a fairly young age until now as of this writing.
Because I truly did leave at a fairly young age.
And even with year….
It seems even weirder to me how I left so early.
But I did.
Might be why all of my memories were from my college years or before.
Either way, I gave my version of America.
My own experience with it before leaving.
And after writing all the memories I had…
It wasn’t perfect as I recall everything.
But despite all of the negatives memories…
Most of which centered on family issues.
I miss the idea of it.
It’s where I grew up.
I miss America.
I miss Iowa.
And Ohio too.
Though I don’t think I’d live in Iowa or Ohio if I ever did move back.
There does come though a nostalgia for my childhood.
The landscape of Iowa.
The familiarity of everything.
Of all the memories and more described above.
In short, I miss America regardless.
The country is great in many ways despite its flaws.
I never resonated with expats who are the “The West is doomed” type.
Who basically hate their home country.
With each year that passes, I feel more culturally connected to my home country despite living outside of it.
Perhaps because the importance of where you came from and the nostalgia that comes with it always gets stronger.
Here is a song anyway about “America.”
Sometimes when drunk enough…
I listen to this and think about my time in “America.”
And much of this article was also inspired by watching this movie below here called Field of Dreams.
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”
One of the few movies that can bring a tear to my eye.
And makes me think of my life back home.
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Thanks for reading.