Day 2 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Bloomington, Indiana, where I am at mile 1190 of this 7298 mile voyage. You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.
Today we are “at a siding,” by which I mean that I have stepped off of the train for a day or so as I attend to business.
The Lake Shore Limited pulled into Waterloo IN this morning right on time at 7:33 AM, where a limo was waiting to drive me to Bloomington and the IU campus. I’m here for 36 hours or so, attending a meeting of the Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. I know many of my readers are more familiar with my work in the NY Times, or with GLAAD, but my more-quiet relationship with Kinsey is something I’m immensely proud of. At tomorrow’s Trustees meeting we’ll celebrate the arrival of Sue Carter, our newly hired new CEO, and a pioneer in the field of neuroendocrinology.
Tonight, though, the Trustees celebrate the extensive collections of the Institute with a special showing of the prints of Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m really looking forward to looking at and thinking about that work. I can also tell you that my own favorite Mapplethorpe photograph is the one just below here. Patti Smith has a wonderful description of how they took that photo; all these years later I still find it haunting.
I think about the world that Mapplethorpe lived in, and the one in which I do my own work, and it’s kind of amazing how far we’ve travelled. This morning at breakfast on the Lake Shore Limited, I dined with a woman about my age who writes about hip-hop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. She was reading the NY Times Magazine article about “Men at Wellesley” and asked me what I thought about it. I said, kind of shyly, Well, I think transgender people are very brave. And she said, So do I! My daughter has dated three trans men! And so we talked about trans identities, and I talked about my wife, and it struck me what a changed and remarkable world we live in, in which two strangers on a train in Ohio could talk about trans lives and lesbian relationships and it was all pretty much pleasant, normal breakfast conversation. At the end of breakfast, I said, Look, I might as well tell you. (pointing at the magazine cover) I’m like that too. And my seat mate looked uncertain and she said, “And then– you went back to being a woman?”
No, I said, not exactly.
I slept all warm and cozy in my “womb-ette” bed last night. Out the window I saw the dark fields of New York, the shores of Lake Erie. The train rocked me from side to side. I thought about my family. And all the while I kept hearing that whistle. Go on, click here and you can hear it too. A loyal reader sent me a wonderful link to a site that talks all about the classic 5-tone railroad engine whistle. And I learned the answer to a lifelong question: what’s that chord?
Why, it’s a B major 6th. The notes are: D#, F#, G# B, and D#.
It is surely the sound of dreams.