BY SUSAN WERNER: This song, "Sleeping On A Train," came from two experiences - one is riding the blue line from O'Hare Airport here in Chicago to downtown, which is something I do routinely when travelling. There are often homeless people sleeping on that train line, and less often on the orange line I take to Midway Airport. Eventually I figured out why. It's because the blue line takes longer to complete its run from end to end, and therefore offers uninterrupted rest for a longer period of time.
The song also came about because of the homeless guys who stake out their position in front of my office building downtown every day. It's like a shift - someone's there by 10 a.m. and usually gone by 4:30 pm. There was Jerry from Louisiana - he has a great sense of humor, often referring to me and all the other women going by as "sugar puddin" - but evidently he got too chatty with the customers at the outdoor tables at the cafe out front, according to the the cafe owner, so she called the police and he got shooed away. He's staked out a new spot, about four blocks north on Michigan Avenue now. I see him every once in a while but Tony has been out front, by the subway entrance, for many years. And Tony filled me in on many of the details of his daily life - basically standing outside panhandling until he gets enough $ for a room at the men's hotel, which costs thirteen dollars a night (twelve sang better, so I made it twelve dollars a night - artistic license). Otherwise he's on the train, too. $2.25 can buy you a night's rest - not a good night's rest. They wake you up and chase you off every time the train hits the end of the line - but you can keep a roof of some sort over your head, and the heater works, and its a public place so you feel safer.
Tony has worked many odd jobs over the years - works a week at a time for the city cleaning up trash after grant park events like taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza.... the good news is now he's working in the violin shop on the fifth floor here, doing some handyman work. It's the most regular job he's had in a long time, he says. And I won't have to buy him handwarmers now - he's inside all day, and today's high temperature was 14 degrees. Tonight's low will be zero.