Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Pardon me, boy
Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?
Track twenty-nine
Boy, you can gimme a shine
I can afford
To board a Chattanooga choo choo
I’ve got my fare
And just a trifle to spare...

         - “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” Mack Gordon and Harry Warren

This now politically incorrect tune was made famous by Glenn Miller and his orchestra seventy years ago, hitting Number 1 on the charts on Pearl Harbor Day. Last Sunday, it was running through my head a good part of the day, inspired mainly by the fact that the Missus and I, along with Eric and Princess Fiona, were actually in Chattanooga, the home of the eponymous Choo Choo. Not only that, we had stopped by to visit that selfsame Choo Choo, now a hotel and convention center occupying the former Chattanooga Terminal Station, there to wander around and absorb some of the local atmosphere and caffeine.

Long before Glenn Miller came along and the Choo Choo became a part of American pop culture, Chattanooga was well known to Southerners as an important rail nexus. Owing to regional geography, the city was of critical strategic importance during the Late Unpleasantness American Civil War; it later became an important way station for both freight and passenger service.

Nowadays, you can book yourself a hotel room at the Chooch, and if you care to, you can even sleep in a restored Victorian sleeper car. We did not do this, preferring to bunk in in the more pedestrian digs at the local Marriott... but we had a grand time just visiting.

In a certain way, all of this served as Mental Preparation for me, as I will soon be taking a lengthy train trip to the Northeast in order to assist Elder Daughter with her relocation from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia. It will have been damn near fifty years since my last comparable journey, a trip from New York to Miami and back on the (now long defunct) Atlantic Coast Railway’s Florida Special. Those were the days when train travel had a certain element of romance associated with it - an element I was far too young to appreciate. Now it’s just plain functional: Unlike air, train travel can be changed or cancelled at the last second at no cost.

In Chattanooga, however, the Choo Choo is no longer able to get you from Point A to Point B. You can cop a few Z’s, order a drink at the bar, check out the model railroad museum, or buy touristical gewgaws at the innumerable gift shops. But if you want a train that operates, you must look elsewhere.

As for Track 29, we never did find it. And the only thing with a shine was my scalp, more and more of which is visible these days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pardon me boy.
Is that the cat that ate your new shoes?