Monthly Archives: March 2013
When you travel alone, weird things happen. Once, I wished to take a photo from the caboose of a moving train and the last car was closed, so the (service-oriented? crazed?) conductor took me back there solo. It became a possibility, at least in my mind, that this was a disgruntled government worker gonna throw me off. When you travel alone, problem is: no witnesses. You take your chances. I whistled a tune, looked him in the eye, and said thank you. Criminologists say this can work. Worth a shot.
Good news about Amtrak: the feds have bankrolled track upgrades, shortening The Vermonter by 30 minutes with plans to add The Montrealer back in. Second, they are dumping the old engines and beater cars from the late 60s and 70s, which have amortized nicely (RIP, doors that won’t stay closed in the can!) Third, that weird, time-consuming three-point turn in Massachusetts is going away. As a friend reflected, “I have to remind myself every time that I’m not in Thailand…or Haiti.”
Because I hadn’t ridden the rails in years, I planned a big, fat, round-trip voyage from VT to NC. What a gas: the train pulling into the station! Uniformed conductors! Union Station in DC! Quaint town of Southern Pines! Dining en train with (paper) table cloths! Looking for spies in the Café Car! Bringing that nuclear cheeseburger back to you seat! Great good fun.
Climate control in the old cars was, not surprisingly, an issue. On one leg the sleeper car was positively brisk (Nutter One: “It’s miserable.”) On another, the coach car was boiling (Nutter Two: “We could do Hot Yoga in the aisle.”) But the service was consistently lovely, and despite some [wicked] late starts, we always arrived…on time. In the Sleeper Car, you can sit on one seat and put your legs up on the other—it even has its own toilet and microsink—or climb onto the upper bunk, prop yourself up on (multiple!) pillows, and watch the world unfold. Fabulous.
Yes, to the lulling chug of the train, you can watch America go by, with all her rivers, forests, factories, farms, graffiti, skylines, and sunsets as you amble around chatting up your co-travelers, read, knit, sleep—try that from behind the wheel. The Quiet Car is strictly enforced, so you can escape rowdy pinochle players and cell phone jawbaggers (not true in Business Class, but there you get free newspapers and all the soda and coffee you can guzzle, which in my case is a lot so I actually made money; you might curb intake for now because the can is definitely the old trains’ Achilles’ heel.) Unlike on a plane, if you get into trouble, you could probably hurl yourself off with some chance of survival. And with Amtrak, you can break up your trip, scheduling overnight stops at no extra ticket cost if you plan it right. On one such “layover” I had a grand time in Baltimore; on another I laughed so hard with a friend and a bottle of premium tequila in Manhattan that our pants broke.
While it wasn’t exactly balmy in North Carolina, I was glad for one last stroll down memory lane aboard the old, roomy, soon-to-be 86’d—yet nicely amortized—iron horse. Old or new, you can’t predict what will happen astride her. You could end up fingering spies or sipping beezers with a Swede with a hollow leg…you just never know. May you make such a journey yourself, complete with the lure of nutters and unknown dangers whetting your dormant taste for adventure. All Aboard! Good day.
We have arranged a nice dumping for you. They’re pumpin’ out the white stuff as we speak. But this is just a primer.
It will go on for 2 days, then the sun will come out. Catch you on the slopes, the trails, and in the sugar shack. BYO hooch.
Try a few bars and feel your head twirling. Sadly, RHCP are credited with this song — they only covered it, FFS:
VSQ even makes this piece of genius postable (no lyrics!):
Next, at a church sale, I bought a weird knockoff that seemed more suited to organ transport. Could be…they hold blood drives at that church; maybe they removed parts from donors high on blood loss — and my Little Fauxmate got left behind. I named it Pentagram.**
I hope Pinky Tuscadero holds up like the true Playmate from the 80s. Shaped suspiciously like a six-pack, this vintage workingman’s lunchbox can withstand being driven over by a pickup. But you can’t run it through a dishwasher and don’t ask me how I know that.
*No apostrophe. That’s rural punctuation for you!
**Always name your Little Playmate.
My own weird example of asking for (and receiving) a sign is how I landed in L.A. I had abandoned NYC after 1 too many psychotic boss & boyfriend let-downs and was living in VT. The ponies! The lakes! But I was fraternizing/knitting with people twice my age. Knowing I could relocate back to VT, a retirement/casket state, I asked the Forces one day while driving: “Forces, where should I move?”
Exactly then, the Killington radio station WEBK (The Peak) played Randy Newman’s I Love L.A. [Who would spin that song at a New England ski resort — DJ Jungle Jane?] I laffed. I left. “I got it; I’m gone.”
While snowshoeing today, a cloud formation looked suspiciously like the I’d Tap That t-shirt maple tree. Clearly it means I should tap that.
Obey the sign, even if you didn’t ask for it.
I kick myself daily for not buying one at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. Happily, Independent Vermont Clothing has restocked so I can order online…just in time for spring skiing, the only kind of skiing I do. Why else I need this shirt*: the colors, gr8 cotton, price, made by actual Vermonters weary of the same old krep you see at every tourist stop…plus, it’s sugaring season!
Stuff: hand printed in VT. Motto: “Spreading Vermont Pride, Worldwide.” Ethic: when Hurricane Irene hit, they designed a shirt and sent all the proceeds ($26K+) to the VT Red Cross. I don’t know them. But I lerv them.
~ whether you like photography, metaphysics, New York City in the snow, non-combative spoken-word poetry, young people with insane talent, or Ted Talks ~ if this piece by Sarah Kay doesn’t blow your mind wide open, you are already dead.
And I say that with utmost respect, from the sticks, well on my own way to Kepler 22-b.