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Friday, December 20, 2002

C'mon Ride It (The Train)

Anyone driving through Washington DC - avoid Mt. Vernon Square (where New York Ave, Mass Ave, and K Street intersect) at all costs. Despite getting into a cab in Adams-Morgan 45 minutes before my train was to live, I missed my train while the taxi was stuck in traffic.

I did get on another train - albeit one that dropped me off not in my actual home town of Worcester, but in Providence, Rhode Island. Amtrak in my estimation remains a good and convenient way to get somewhere if you're not too pressed for time. It's certainly far more relaxing than the typical airport experience, with its multiple security checkpoints and general "hurry up and wait" atmosphere. (Plus, nowadays if I missed a plane instead of a train, I'd have been screwed.)

On the train, I read "Angela's Ashes." I recommend the book - it's a great read, and the depressive effects multiple tragic events the story has become notorious for are countered 100% by Frank McCourt's witty prose and dark sense of humor. Plus, it could put anyone's painful childhood memories - and I have my share of, perhaps a little more than my share - to complete and utter shame. By all accounts, however, the film they made based on the book conveys very little of said wit and humor and is kind of painful to endure.

And despite my generally crummy mood resulting from missing my train (among other things) I got one of those reminders of how well-off I am compared to many other Americans, as I always do when Amtrak rolls through parts of Baltimore and Philadelphia that aren't exactly showing up in tourist brochures.

Other random stuff:

Aberdeen, MD -- You'd never know it looking on a map, but there's a whole lotta nothing between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Much of the Delaware stretch is sort of populated, but for some reason the Northeast megalopolis seems to bypassed Cecil County, MD completely. (Yes, I know Aberdeen, the hometown of Cal Ripken, is actually in Harford County, itself surprisingly sparsely populated considering its proximity to Baltimore.)

Trenton, NJ -- "Trenton Makes The World Takes." For some reason this slogan is written in neon on a bridge visible from the train as you cross the Delaware River into Trenton from neighboring Bucks County, PA. What the hell does slogan this mean? What do they make in Trenton? New Jersey state laws I suppose, but can "the world" really be said to "take" these laws?

New York, NY -- I'm never going to get used to those two towers not being there. But I actually am impressed with many of the proposednew plans for the World Trade Center site. I'm not a fetishist for having the world's tallest building or anything, but New York's skyline could use a new, bold element, and many of these plans offer just that. (Compare with the really blah stuff that was proposed this summer.) But the quick turn out of the tunnel as the Amtrak rises above ground in Queens will always remind me of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bridgeport, CT -- If I was on a commuter train from New York to here, I'd have been stopping I think every 1,000 feet or so. I'd go nuts. We must have gone by a score of stations between New Rochelle, NY and here.

Providence, RI -- For a city of its size, what a great looking downtown. Most cities in the Northeast of this size are almost uniformly hideous. (I may defend Worcester in many ways as a decent place to live, but it's not going to win any awards for aesthetics.)

Well, off to sleep...


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