Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tyger, tyger, burning bright . . .

. . . on the posteriors of the night? The following video from, the Web site of a body art painter, captivated me for some strange reason. Maybe I'm deep down a save-the-tigers type.

Thanks to Denise Kowalczyk for the heads-up.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Writers' rules to keep for your own

One of the finest, most commonsensical articles on How to Write Fiction I've ever seen appeared last Saturday in the Guardian, one of the United Kingdom's best newspapers. Its editors asked fourteen writers to give their own versions of Elmore Leonard's famous "Ten Rules of Writing," and the result was, at least for me, not only inspiring but also eye-opening.

Here are the rules I'm taking to heart:

1 Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear). Diana Athill

5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. Margaret Atwood

6 Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said". Roddy Doyle

2 Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don't yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices. Helen Dunmore

4 If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto­correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: "Niet" becomes "Nietzsche", "phoy" becomes ­"photography" and so on. ­Genius! Geoff Dyer

It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction. Jonathan Franzen

3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good. Anne Enright

6 Don't drink and write at the same time. Richard Ford

1 Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn't use any and I slipped up ­during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it. Esther Freud

Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. Neil Gaiman

9 Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to. David Hare

6 Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go. AL Kennedy

First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet? Hilary Mantel

8 When I'm deep inside a story, ­living it as I write, I honestly don't know what will happen. I try not to dictate it, not to play God. Michael Morpurgo

6 In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it. Rose Tremain

5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it. Zadie Smith

7 Let your work stand before deciding whether or not to serve. Andrew Motion

9 No going to London. 10 No going anywhere else either. Colm Toibin

And, of course, Elmore Leonard's own No. 10: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Page proof$

Another stage in the publishing process ended yesterday -- reading the page proofs of the second edition of my What's That Pig Outdoors? and sending them back to the University of Illinois Press.

To my astonishment, there were some two or three dozen typos in the text made from scanning the original 1991 Penguin paperback edition and running it through optical character reader software. I had read the result three times, once on the computer and twice on printouts, and could have sworn I'd cleaned up all the errors that crept through in the scanning process. When I submitted the DVD of the scanned text to the publisher last fall, I had thought it was pristine.

Nope. Scanners and spell checkers are fallible. So is the human eye. The combination can be extraordinarily messy, even if one thinks it's been perfectly scrubbed.

A smudge of dust between two letters can fool a scanner into thinking it's a stray bit of punc. tuation. The height of ascenders and descenders, especially of numerals, can vary from font to font; "1975" can be rendered "1973," as it was in two places in my text. Unless a proofreader has read the original and remembers every damn factual detail, he's not going to catch that. I wrote the thing and almost missed it.

I read those proofs carefully, word by word, letter by letter, and thought I'd caught all the glitches. But the Lady Friend, bless her patient heart, read the pages too and found still more errors.

My editor at the U of I Press presumably will read the pages himself and turn up additional flaws. Then there will be a second pass of page proofs to examine.

What all this shows is that publishing a book -- even a new edition of an old one -- is expensively labor-intensive. People who want to pay less than ten bucks for an e-book really ought to understand how much human striving goes into the professional publishing of the printed book that is the source of the e-text.

In months and years to come, fewer and fewer printed and bound books will be sold, replaced in the marketplace by more and more e-book versions of the same titles.

If the result is to be equally polished and pristine, the production costs of publishing will remain the same. They have to be paid for.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Palin for President? Are you kidding?

Being a leftie, I am not generally an admirer of the punditry of George F. Will, my old Trinity College classmate, except when he is writing about the Cubs. Once in a while, however, he gets my political attention, as he does today writing in the Washington Post about Sarah Palin's presidential chances.

Key paragraphs:

". . . Sarah Palin, who with 17 months remaining in her single term as Alaska's governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012. Why? She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states.

"Conservatives, who rightly respect markets as generally reliable gauges of consumer preferences, should notice that the political market is speaking clearly: The more attention Palin receives, the fewer Americans consider her presidential timber. The latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 71 percent of Americans -- including 52 percent of Republicans -- think she is not qualified to be president."

What George said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In defense of Sarah Palin . . .

. . . for a change. Sort of.

Sure, it was hypocritical of her to criticize President Obama for employing a teleprompter while herself using a trot: writing talking points on the palm of her hand. Sure, using a teleprompter helps Obama make a lot more sense in his speeches than she does in the off-the-top-of-her-head remarks.

But I don't see anything wrong with anybody using palm post-its to remember important items, except maybe for students taking tests. Whatever helps one recall salient points is a good thing.

When I was on the old Chicago Daily News copy desk, I picked up the handy trick from Dan Sullivan, our ace copy desk chief. Often he'd write an important headline or story length order on the palm of his hand, and when he ran out of room he'd start on the low inside of his forearm and work his way upward.

Why? Because notes got lost too easily in the forest of paper on the copy desk. Palm notes never did, unless you forgot and washed your hands when you took a bathroom break.

Later, as a pilot I'd write traffic pattern altitude, runway and radio frequency numbers of unfamiliar airports on my palm rather than trusting to a note that might fall on the floor under the yoke where I couldn't get at it.

I'd never criticize Ms. Palin for keeping her facts close to hand. That is, if they are facts. Too often they're not, but that's another subject.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tweaking Win 7 Starter's desktop

This morning I tried to change the desktop background of Windows 7 Starter Edition on my new netbook, and discovered it's not a feature of that stripped-down version of the operating system.

That is more a mild annoyance than a deal-breaker, but this amateur photographer likes seeing his work appear on bootup. So I asked my friend Lew Golan, who is a Windows whiz, if there was a workaround.

There certainly is.

I tried it, and it worked, and now a custom desktop background greets me every morning on bootup. There's a slideshow feature, too.

Highly recommended for new netbook users.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My new netbook: first impressions

I've had my new Toshiba NB305 netbook for a whole day now, and am liking it mightily.

The good:

1. It weighs just 2.6 pounds, or 3.1 pounds with the power block and cable. (I ordered a $1.88 12-inch "figure 8" power cable from Cyberguys to replace the long cable that goes from outlet to block. That'll save some weight as well as snarls.)

2. The keyboard suits me. It's a "chiclet" keyboard like that on the Macs, which I'm used to. The key travel is fairly deep, with a satisfying click. Yes, the keyboard's not as big as normal ones, but it's big enough, and I have small hands.

3. It has more than adequate power. The Atom N405 processor runs at 1.67 megahertz, about what a fast laptop did in 2001-2002. That's fine for word processing, surfing the Net, looking at photos and the like. I wouldn't try using powerful photo processing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop on it, but the free basic photo programs such as FastStone or Irfanview work fine.

4. The 250 gigabyte hard drive makes the laptop an excellent traveling storage device for photographs, and FastStone lets me look at the photos, too. (I'll process the photos with Lightroom on my Macbook and Mac mini.)

5. The small screen is far sharper and brighter than I had expected. It's wide enough for most Web sites, although a bit shallow.

6. This is just a subjective opinion, but the Toshiba looks and feels substantial, not flimsy and plasticky.

The bad:

1. The $399 price for this computer isn't all you're going to spend. You'll need an external DVD burner for system backups and loading software that can't be downloaded; that's $50 more right there. Also, while 1 gig of RAM is adequate for most tasks, the computer will run faster with 2 gig. A 2 gig chip costs another $50. Add a protective neoprene netbook sleeve for $20, and suddenly you've got a $520 computer. (But this is true of all netbooks, not just the Toshiba.)

2. The Toshiba, like most computers, comes with an annoying lot of pre-loaded crapware -- trial versions of software such as Microsoft Office and Norton Antivirus that expire after 60 days. I spent two hours yesterday zapping the crapware and replacing it with my preferred programs -- all of them free.


Absolutely no buyer's remorse.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

iPad or netbook?

Having absorbed all the super-hype about the "Magical and Revolutionary" Apple iPad, I made a decision yesterday.

The iPad is a splendid little device, indeed. Wouldn't it be great to read newspapers and illustrated books in full color on it -- and play with my favorite iPod Touch apps on its big screen?

And it's an Apple! I'm a big fan of Mac computers, having owned seven of them, including two laptops. Their design and ease of use has been second to none, and the the Mac OS X operating system has no peer.

Still, the 5.2-pound Macbook that has been my road companion for more than three years is getting heavier as I age. I've been yearning for something half that weight, and the iPad weighs just 1.5 pounds by itself.

Some features of the iPad are not for me. I don't listen to music and am not a lover of downloadable movies or video (almost none are captioned for the deaf and won't be any time soon) and I refuse to inflict photographs of my family or my travels on other people.

Most important, the iPad looks as if it will be an unsuitable writing machine, even with the dockable keyboard that will bring the weight to 2 1/2 pounds, the same as the average netbook. The iPad doesn't have real text editing software, and moving files to a laptop or desktop will be clumsy and involved, for there are no USB ports.

Even with an iPad, there'd still be the need for a laptop on the road. An iPad would just be piling on the weight.

And so yesterday I ordered a PC netbook.

It will do everything I need -- except display e-books (and, presumably, Apple e-books as well). For that I'll keep my trusty iPod Touch, on which I've read 15 books so far. Its handiness makes up for its tiny screen.

A netbook is much less expensive than the iPad, $250 to $400 rather than the iPad's $500 to $800.

Netbooks have grown up in the last year. They're powered by faster processors and boast 160-to-250-gigabyte hard drives. They have perfectly usable 10-inch screens, slightly larger than the iPad's. Their larger, redesigned keyboards are 92 to 95 percent the size of the norm.

I spent much of the day yesterday playing with and comparing Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Toshiba netbooks at Best Buy and Office Depot, paying particular attention to the feel of the keyboards. The Acer and Toshiba keyboards especially suit my smallish hands.

While none of the machines is as powerful as a modern laptop, all are fast enough for emailing, Internet surfing (including video watching, if that's your bag) and brawny enough to run Word (or OpenOffice, my word processor of choice). I am assured that simple photo editing software such as Google's free Picasa will run well on the new netbooks.

A netbook's not going to replace the Macbook for car trips and the like. Heavy editing and formatting will be much easier on that than on a netbook.

But the 2.6 pound Toshiba NB305-N410W netbook I ordered yesterday from B&H in New York (no tax, free shipping) will be my new road warrior for airplane and train trips.

For $399, it offers a 10.1 inch LCD screen, the latest 1.66 gHz Atom N450 processor, 1 gig of RAM upgradable to 2 gigs, a 250 gig hard drive, three USB ports, 802b/g/n hi-fi, webcam and mike, a 6-cell battery for a claimed 11 hours of computing time that is actually closer to 8, Windows 7 Starter Edition, and a host of software including Internet Explorer 8 and Microsoft Works. Five years ago that'd have made a powerful laptop.

On all my Macs, by the way, Apple's auto-correcting TextEdit software changes "netbook" to "netback" or "notebooks" every single time. What's a netback? A certain way to calculate the price of crude oil. Huh.

It's almost as if Steve Jobs knew his new iPad won't suit everyone, but wasn't going to help them buy netbooks either.

The Toshiba NB305-N410W I ordered from B&H in New York yesterday.

FEB. 10: Hitler responds to the iPad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Page proofs

The next step in the publication of my next book -- the second, updated edition of What's That Pig Outdoors? A Memoir of Deafness -- begins Monday, when a UPS package arrives from the University of Illinois Press.

It'll contain page proofs.

This is going to be a little difficult. Of course I won't be able to tinker with the sentences in the bulk of the original book -- those are engraved in stone -- but the new material in the Epilogue will be horribly tempting.

Seeing one's words in "type" for the first time sets one to wanting to rip apart infelicitous sentences and rewrite them completely. When I was a book review editor I was patient with writers who just couldn't let go of their stuff but kept calling (or emailing, rather) to recast a phrase, change a word, even replace an entire paragraph.

Writers like that care deeply about their prose and want only the finest work they are capable of to be printed. They tend to be both the best reporters and the best stylists. I cherished these writers (and despaired of the lazy types who subscribed to "good enough for government work"), and tried to accommodate them.

That is, until their words had been arranged on the page. Once that happens, changing stuff is a royal pain in the ass for an editor. Columns suddenly grow too long or shrink too short. Tucks need to be taken (or added) to make things fit once again.

"Too late, pal," I'd often have to say when a writer called to change something after the fact. Of course, if the alterations corrected terrible errors, I'd grudgingly make the fix. But not for mere felicity of phrasing.

I promised my editor at the U of I Press that I wouldn't do any tweaking. "I trust you, Henry," he said, thereby nailing my feet to the moral floor.

But oh, it's going to be hard.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where to buy 'Cache of Corpses'?

If by any chance you were looking to buy a new hardcover copy of Cache of Corpses, my most recent mystery novel, but couldn't do so at, here's why.

Over the weekend the online bookseller threw a hissy fit when Macmillan, the publishing conglomerate (of whom my publisher, Tor/Forge, is an imprint) refused to truckle to its demands that Macmillan e-books be offered at the price sets -- usually $9.99.

Nothing doing, Macmillan said. It wants the online e-book price to be set at about $15, the same tag at which Apple will offer Macmillan e-books in its iPad bookstore.

That, Macmillan said, is fairer to other online merchants. (At $9.99 loses money on sales of individual books, but makes it up from profits on its captive Kindle e-book reader.)

In revenge, the online merchandise industry's 800-pound gorilla, removed the "Buy" buttons from all Macmillan hardcover and paperback books in its online store. It won't sell them to you, but its third-party members might.

Monday there were reports that had given in to Macmillan's demands, but only a trickle of Macmillan books had reappeared on the retailer's site by Tuesday afternoon. The drama seems to be ongoing.

Until things settle down, you can find Cache of Corpses at Barnes & Noble's Web outlet, or several small Web retailers.

Feb. 3 at 5:14 a.m.: The "Buy" button still has not reappeared next to Cache.

Feb. 3 at 8:45 a.m.: There's a very good assessment at the Guardian of what's going on between and Macmillan.

Feb. 3 at 4:30 p.m.: Cache is still lacking its "Buy" button. is playing hardball. But Rupert Murdoch, owner of the giant HarperCollins Publishing, is hinting that he'll join Macmillan in its quest.

Feb. 4 at 8:50 a.m.: Still no "Buy" button. is being extraordinarily petulant.

Feb. 4 at 3:45 p.m.: Macmillan is now taking out ads saying a current best seller is "available everywhere except Amazon." This is turning into a rock fight.

Feb. 5 at 6:45 p.m.: has turned the lights back on. You can now buy Cache from it.

Feb. 9 at 1:33 a.m.: The Amazon-Macmillan fight may be giving publishers a strong edge in e-book marketing.

Sniffling and coughing all the way home

Third of three parts

My journey back to Chicago from Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief wasn't nearly as much fun as the trip out on the Texas Eagle, and for just one reason: On the way out I caught a hedduva cold, probably made worse by the dry air conditioning in the Eagle sleeper, and by the end of my one-day layover in L.A. it had turned into major waterworks accompanied by hacking cough.

In Los Angeles Union Station the Amtrak information agent replied to my snuffling inquiry that the track for No. 4 would be posted half an hour before its 6:45 p.m. departure, and that she'd be sure to point me in the right direction.

Northeastern Arizona on the morning of the second day aboard the Southwest Chief. The weather was lousy -- just the way I felt -- and I took only a few photographs, all from my sleeper window.

But the rail photographer/writer Carl Morrison -- with whom I had spent the day photographing nearby sights -- had tipped me off earlier that day that the Chief always departs on Track 12.

I took advantage of that knowledge to hike up to the platform of 12 and wait comfortably for the train on a bench, camera in hand, watchful for cops who might chase me back into the concourse under the platforms. Unlike Chicago's Union Station, however, little security was visible in the concourse, let alone up top. (All the rent-a-cops seem to patrol in and around the waiting room, looking for vagrants to roust and swatting at cheeky sparrows that flit in the open doors from the station courtyards to assist folks with their lunches.)

At 6 p.m. the Chief slowly backed in from the north, led by two coaches, then a Sightseer lounge, a dining car, three sleepers and a baggage car. Two standard P42 locomotives made up the business end.

Owning a caboose in Gallup, N.M., is probably more trouble than it is worth. "This Car is Patrolled by Private Police," the sign says.

Just as the train stopped, the attendants of two of the sleepers opened their doors. (The third was the crew dorm.) I boarded the second, whose train consist number read "0430," the same as on my ticket. The attendant looked at it and waved me up to Roomette 6.

Shortly after I settled in she returned. "Wrong sleeper," she said, and apologized for her mistake. "This is Car 0431." (Its number board read "0430" all the way to Chicago. The electric number system must have been on the blink.)

"No problem," I said, and debarked and walked to the next sleeper, whose car number also read "0430." Its attendant, a tall man with "Vincent" on his name tag, looked at my ticket and said, "You're the author of Zephyr. I've got that book at home. I know all the people you wrote about."

That book was published 16 years ago, and Vincent was the first Amtraker I've encountered in recent years to mention it.

An old Pullman observation car, probably from the 1920s or 1930s, just east of the station at Lamy, N.M. Is it somebody's home or perhaps a clubhouse?

As any reporter would, I prefer anonymity to being singled out for special treatment in hopeful exchange for a favorable article. It seems, however, that Vincent extends singular courtesies to all his passengers, and as things turned out I was grateful for that.

By then the grippe had me well by the throat -- or, rather, nose and chest, so much so I don't recall what I had for dinner shortly after the train departed. All I remember is that Vincent was quickly on the job making up my bed for an early night. I hacked through much of the night and dreamed that my coughing turned all the other passengers into a lynching party.

As the train rolled across Arizona that first morning, I felt so lousy I stopped Vincent in the corridor and asked him to bring breakfast to my roomette so that I wouldn't have to share my germs in the dining car. He brought a menu, squatted in my doorway so I could read his lips without craning my aching neck to look up at him, and was back with the meal in ten minutes.

That day he brought lunch and dinner, too, and was always quick with a meal recommendation. At supper he suggested the stuffed manicotti with marinara sauce, and it actually turned out to be better than OK. (Amtrak seems to have been working on the quality of its vegetarian dishes.)

The abandoned Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M. Once a Harvey House for the old Santa Fe Ry., it was a favorite place for Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders of Spanish-American War fame to hold their annual get-togethers.

Was mine really VIP treatment? I don't think so. Every other passenger in Vincent's car seemed to be treated like royalty. He was always present when I looked for him, cleaning the restrooms, making up bunks or bringing meals to other passengers. He often looked in on me to ask how I was feeling and if I needed anything. I wondered if the guy ever took a break and if he was bending union work rules.

As I put away the breakfast, No. 4 pulled into Flagstaff, still dark at 7 a.m. on a wintry cold day. Six or eight inches of snow covered the ground, and we were still on time into Gallup, N.M., in a snow that slowly seemed to be changing into rain. Just two lonely Navajos had spread their jewelry and blankets under the vendors' shelter, trying to keep out of the sleety rain. Most passengers stayed aboard the train.

By the time night fell as the train approached high Raton Pass, it was shouldering through a whiteout at full speed. I wondered how the engineers could see ahead through the driving snow.

Slowly and fitfully all day I worked on Hang Fire, my novel-in-progress. Miserable as I felt, I didn't want to waste valuable time on the train, the best place in the world for me to write.

As the Southwest Chief neared Raton Pass in eastern New Mexico, the sky turned into a near whiteout.

I retired early and awakened the second morning still sneezing and coughing, but felt better, and took both breakfast and lunch in the dining car.

I don't remember my tablemate at breakfast, but my lunch companions were a well-to-do couple (judging by the woman's ostentatious gold jewelry) who said they divided their time between San Diego and Chicago, and were on their way to the opera. They were pleasant enough, and although the woman seemed discombobulated by my deaf speech, her friendly husband handled it with aplomb.

At noon I closed the Macbook for the day, having written 32 new pages of novel over the trip and solved a knotty structural problem. Hang Fire is about three-quarters done, and I now have a pretty good idea how it's going to end. That alone made the ticket worth the price, and everything else was gravy.

The sun emerged as the Chief approached Galesburg in western Illinois. But the air was bone-chillingly cold, in the teens with a brisk breeze.

There was one more surprise from Vincent. As the train approached Naperville, Illinois, its penultimate stop, he came by with a bucket of hot wet face towels and handed one to me with tongs, like a flight attendant in first class on British Airways. I was delighted and asked if this was a new Amtrak perk in the sleepers.

"No," he said. "It's just something I like to do for my passengers."

He had made the difference between a miserable trip and a more than bearable one. It was almost like riding in a luxury Pullman sleeper of old, where the porters practically acted in loco parentis.

Ironically, just after Naperville -- which we left 20 minutes early -- something went wrong with one of the locomotives and the train had to creep the rest of the way into Chicago at 15 m.p.h., putting our arrival more than an hour past the carded 3:20 p.m.

Somehow I didn't mind that at all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sidetracked in L.A.

Second of three parts

One of the glories of Los Angeles Union Station, where I enjoyed a ten-hour layover last Wednesday between the incoming Texas Eagle and outgoing Southwest Chief during my writing trip West, is its location hard by Chinatown and the historic Olvera Street Mexican neighborhood. Both are a short walk from the station, and there the rail photographer and writer Carl Morrison took me on a photographic safari after meeting my train.

Following are some of my images (and Carl's; he is the better photographer) from our stroll:

The campanile of Los Angeles Union Station.

The waiting room of LAUS. Those leather benches are extraordinarily comfortable for the traveler waiting much of the day for a train, and there is free wi-fi at the Union Bagel Company at the other end of the hall.

Iglesia Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles (Our Lady Queen of Angels Church), built in 1822 and L.A.'s oldest structure. It anchors the head of Olvera Street, Los Angeles' historic Mexican district.

Near the church lies the Plaza Firehouse, an 1884 structure that is now a museum. The turntable enabled firemen to roll the pumper wagon back to front after unharnessing the horses into stalls in the rear.

Detail of the horse-drawn fire wagon in the preceding photograph.

La Plaza and its gazebo at one end of Olvera Street.

The main drag of Olvera Street, lined with restaurants and tourist shops.

God help me, I love tourist kitsch -- gaudy sights and glitzy merchandise for Middle American travelers. (Wall Drug in South Dakota captured my heart forever.) Mine is not elitist amazement that common folks would pay good money for "souvenirs" that betray ignorance and unsophistication -- this stuff is often very photographable in a documentary sense.

There was lots of cheap costume jewelry and, of course, cheeky T-shirts. I nearly bought one emblazoned "WHO WOULD JESUS DEPORT?" for my elder son, a federal attorney specializing in immigration litigation. But he'd never wear it.

In this charming little cantina Carl and I shared coffee and churros, deep-fried Mexican pastry coated with cinnamon and sugar. That's not terribly good for the arteries, but one cannot live on the straight and narrow forever.

Carl captured this detail of the famous arch at the entrance to Chinatown.

The street abounds in open-air fruit stands.

My new Sigma super-wide 10-20mm lens sometimes gave interestingly distorted vistas.

Maybe I need some of those healthy negative ions in my tighty whities.

I wondered how this shop owner pronounces its name.

The tourist accustomed to sterile supermarkets, where meat is shrinkwrapped without evid
ence of how it is slaughtered, can be taken aback by Chinatown shops selling live poultry and other animals. At least one also offers bunnies. Carl captured these ingredients for rabbit stew as they were unloaded from a delivery truck.

Philippe's, famous among both tourists and Angelenos for its French-dipped sandwiches and sawdusted floors, where Carl treated me to lunch.

The interior of Philippe's smacks of a modernized Old West trackside hostelry. In one back room lies a little railroad museum.

The writer from Chicago and the photographer from L.A. in Philippe's.

There was time before departure of the Southwest Chief to do a little trainspotting on the LAUS platforms. These are Metrolink commuter trains.

A Metrolink departs for the north and northeast suburbs.

The Metro system's light-rail trains run under catenary; there is also a subway beneath LAUS.

Fruit from an Olvera Street stand in hand, this well-equipped tourist/traveler is ready to board the Southwest Chief for Chicago. Thanks, Carl.

If you'd like to see a portfolio of Carl's photographs of our time together, you'll find it here.

NEXT: Returning to Chicago on the Southwest Chief.