It is Friday night, almost 2200 hrs. I have the Virtual Railfan, LLC channel on YouTube, watching the automobile traffic go by, before a train appears. The auto traffic has that soft hum of the motors, the thunk, thunk, as the vehicles cross the tracks. There are street lights burning and, occasionally, boisterous college students make their presence known.
The AMTRAK trains are running late; I just heard a train horn, a freight, perhaps. The bright light of the locomotive captures the picture. I was wrong. It is a passenger train. Southbound, running late, but not as late as the AMTRAK website posted it as being. I can see inside the passenger coaches, the passengers seated, waiting for their trips to end, I am certain.
The experience takes me back to the times when I visited my elder son in Philadelphia, where he grew up. His mother was a physician and her practice was in the suburbs. She didn’t hate me or anything. As a matter of fact. She and her then husband found me quite tolerable, as company went.
I would take the train to 30th Street Station and a SEPTA to Abington where he lived. We would knock about all day Saturday and most of Sunday, til it was time to go back. The train ride back involved drinking pricy AMTRAK marked-up beer, watching the East Coast pass by the window, the highlight I think was crossing the Chesapeake Bay near Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Not too many years later, my second wife would go to alcoholism rehabilitation at a near by high-powered inpatient treatment facility. Political types, like US Senators, started their recovery there, along with some Hollywood celebrities. Senators (“R” or “D”) have the same crap going on everybody else has. Don’t let ’em fool ya!
Not too long after she finished rehab, we divorced and after our son grew up, we grew apart. Then she died from cancer. Some days, I dedicate my recovery to her memory, thinking, hoping she will see, from beyond the cremation urn, that I’m serious about being a better man, a more virtuous man,than the one who was married to her.
That train window memory of Harve de Grace wasn’t what I expected to surface when I started this post. I thought about my day, the satisfying water-treading session I had as I worked and loosened some tight muscles. I was not eager to fix dinner, because my muscles ached from the workout, but I did. It was not bad, grilled salmon, baked sweet potatoes, half of an avocado. My wife has been in bed with a kidney stone, so my day, apart from the workout, was looking out for her.
I find it interesting how quickly attitude can shift, from staunch resistance to getting up from my leather recliner and going to the Y, to just plain leaving without a second thought. Depression is a subtle paralysis. I think we think depression involves some high drama, like standing on a ledge, prepared to jump. But really, it’s an accumulation of little behaviors and attitudes that add up to huge self-hatred. At least that’s what it’s like for me. Breaking the cycle is doing simple little things as a matter of habit.
The pelting rain woke us up around Three AM. It seemed relentless and intense. Nature is like that at times. I had trouble going back to sleep. I finally went back to bed about Four Thirty.
Now I am up again, drinking coffee, enjoying the delightful endorphin high brought on by yesterday’s swim.
We have localized flooding and generally nasty travel conditions, bad enough to close the schools. Hard to believe the school year is almost over. Hard to believe the outdoor pools open next weekend. The hot weather has made a couple days pretty uncomfortable already.
I’ve read a blog I follow(Hello Olivia), enjoyed a comment from Jade on yesterday’s post, looked at some headlines, reset the clocks after a power outage. I’m waiting for AMTRAK #84 NB to stop in Ashland. It is running late.
These little simple moments of langor and quiet are why I retired. Madison Ave types would have one think we retire to take canal cruises in Europe or go bungee-jumping in New Zealand. No. We retire to call the time our own.
I’m sitting in my chair, watching the Ashland Train Webcam from Virtual Railfan LLC. A long freight is moving Northbound, hauling what I think are empty coal cars, but who knows in the dark. Amtrak #97 Southbound Silver Meteor also passed by. Kind of cool to see both.
I had a swim today, 2500 meters (1.55 mi). I went to the grocery store, purchased croissants and Cafe du Monde Coffee With Chicory. I plan to have those as part of my leisurely breakfast as I go through the Sunday New York Times. Sounds kind of cool, but that New York cosmopolitan sophistication is gone, at least for me. Last week’s Entertainment Section had a long article on drag queens. I guess when the great stars of musical theatre, the Ethel Mermans and Carol Channings are dead and gone, the Times is hard-pressed to report on something. Make that anything.
My wife is at work. I am a little unsettled, not knowing what to read, watch on the TEE VEE, or do that is constructive. So I sit, drink my decaf, watch the trains.
All in all, the night noise picked up by the microphone in Ashland is comforting, perfect for a bit of introspection.
Most of you know that I am, through the miracle and magic of YouTube and the Internet, a trainspotter. I sit in my chair and watch the tracks in Ashland, Virginia, just 15 miles or so North of Richmond on the CSX North/South main line.
Well, this morning, the folks at Virtual Railfan LLC, moved the web camera. At first, it was a little disorienting. It took me a while to comprehend the change. Add to that an occasional shift from a view looking South to a view looking North. The camera can also zoom in.
I had gotten used to the way things were, tbe ancien regime´ of glorious yesterday. We joke about our curmudgeonly resistance to change in Richmond
How many Richmonders does it take to change a light bulb?
Three. One to change the bulb and two to talk about how great the old bulb was.
So what’s the take away from this? Pespective is critical. Like the movie Rashomon, where the same story is told from different viewpoints, my perception is different from yours. My sons’ autism affects both of them differently and each of us could be seeing the same event completely differently.
I also think about Annette, my deceased butch lesbian cousin. She was loving and lovable, and her take on the world was not my take. At the same time, I could fully appreciate her insights. It is unsettling to see that world views are simultaneously different, distinct and, yet, compatible. At least they can be, if we let them.
The old view.
The new view.
It is the middle of the night. Back pain has me awake. There will be no trains to watch till after 5:30 AM. The Silver Meteor , #98, Miami to New York ,is running late. Then again, it usually runs late, from a little to a lot. Amtrak tries. They really do.
But for now, as I take a break from reading Behrouz Gets Lucky by Avery Cassell, I decide a selfie is in order. I turn the camera around, so I don’t take a mirror image. I doctor the picture a bit. I look at myself and say, “What the Hell, I’m 66.”
Behrouz Gets Lucky is an entertaining read, about two masculine presenting lesbians who fall in love with each other. Doggone it I love Love. I don’t care much for TV love shows. I’m partial to Fred and Ginger kind of love stories. Substitute Rita Hayworth or Judy Garland for Ginger. Then again, if dancing is not your thing, Bogart and Bacall are perfect.
“You know how to whistle,don‘t you Steve? You put your lips together and blow.”
MrsCorC? has a hair appointment in the morning. I will go swimming while she gets clipped. Maybe. I may just sleep.
I made bread in the bread machine motivated by nothing more than laziness and reluctance to shell out $3 or more for a loaf of marginal stuff. Much as I like the convenience of the bread machine, it’s time to knead my own dough with my own hands. Maybe make my own scones or beignets. The catch is to bake for somebody else, like my AA buddies. Why the Hell not? Perhaps it will assist in managing my hours a little better.
So where is this picture, you ask?
Here. That vein on the left side (right side?) looks kind of imposing there.
The folks at Virtual Railfan LLC have installed a webcam in Ashland VA. I can now do transpotting from the comfort of my Danish Modern leather recliner.
This is AMTRAK #94 headed to New York and ultimately Boston.
It was one of those weekends that couples with no children dream about. Just time together. At The Muscarelle Museum of The College of William And Mary, a travelling exhibition of works by Sandro Botticelli and his contemporaries was on display.* Mrs CorC? and I drove down. The exhibition is not huge, filling only three rooms. I was humbled by my ignorance and my arrogance, thinking I know what classical Renaissance art is about; that I know what it is I see when I look at such a painting. Sure I can identify The Madonna or The Christ Child, but there is so much more. The contemporaries of Botticelli probably had an understanding and derived spiritual and aesthetic truths from such a painting than I cannot see.
After touring the exhibition and, of course, buying the poster, we decide to head back to town. We agree barbeque is in order from our favorite purveyor of slow-cooked pig flesh, the Hogshead Cafe. Part of the Southern folklore of barbeque is that a true barbeque joint is small, nondescript, and almost one step away from being closed by the Health Department. The Hogshead is as clean as the proverbial whistle, but it is small and not particularly flashy, decorwise. The barbeque tastes great. We are partial to this dish called barbeque nachos, consisting of your basic nacho makings coupled with lots of barbeque. Yummy and a prodigious amount of food.
Sunday comes. We both succumb to the “I don’t wanna get out of bed” syndrome. Before we know it, a brunch opportunity has presented itself. We decide the Henry Clay Inn on Railroad Avenue in Ashland, Virginia will satisfy our brunch-related hankerings. The nickname for Ashland is The Center of The Universe. I have no reason to believe that it is not The Center of The Universe. It is just that cool of a place. Railroad Avenue is called Railroad Avenue because the railroad tracks of the main North-South rail line of the whole East Coast run down the center of the street. It’s all part of the experience. We sit on the porch of the Inn and enjoy our brunch. Two freight trains pass during our meal. Both are southbound. No Amtrak trains pass by. A glance at the Smartphone app revealed major delays on all the North-South trains going through Richmond.
What always amazes me about freight trains is the graffiti painted on the box cars, just as I am astonished at the graffiti painted on abandoned buildings. Whether we like it or not, graffiti is the painting genre of our time, as representative of late Twentieth Century- Early Twenty First Century America as Botticelli’s works characterized Florence. Graffiti has an energy to it, a declaration for humanity that a lot of modern art gracing museum walls lacks. So juxtaposed with the quaint bourgeois gentility of Ashland with its charming pastel-painted houses roll these magnificent graffiti murals. That both represent America is indicative of our genuine diversity.
The cherry on the ice cream sundae that is Ashland is the town “Character”. This particular chap rides a Fifties-vintage bicycle with fenders and balloon tires. He just cruises on his bike around town, passed the artsy cafes and coffee houses, circling Randolph Macon College, the town’s claim to fame. He wears outlandish outfits. Sunday’s outfit appeared to be inspired by the miniskirt. One might call him a “Flamer”. But What the Hell, it’s Ashland.
*Note: This exhibition will be in Boston at the Museum of Art from 15 April through 5 July. This is the only other stop on the American tour. Those of you living in that neck of the woods should consider going.
So here it is Monday. I did watch part of Super Bowl LI yesterday, but I had better things to do so I turned it off. Then I found out the Patriots won in overtime after trailing 28-3 at one point. Quite frankly I was not surprised. I am just glad football is over and done with for another few months. Pro football season is like sitting down to a long meal with many courses. Then, when dessert comes (in this case, the Super Bowl), I just can’t eat (or watch) any more.
My good friend JK texted me that he found out he could go to Montreal from Richmond on Amtrak for $84, one way. That is if he books now for a June 30 departure. Sounds like a deal. Mrs CorC? and I might take that trip. The only fly in that ointment is a nearly seven hour layover in New York between trains. That is if one arrives in New York at 1:40 AM and departs for Montreal at 8:15 AM. Penn Station just isn’t that interesting. I would have to plan on more time in New York.
JK’s intention is to spend more time in Canada, perhaps going to Quebec City and Toronto at the very least. Canada has to be cooler than Virginia in the Summer, temperature-wise. For ambiance, Canada must be way cooler than Virginia. Plus there is the access to Cuban cigars. I understand Montreal is a restaurant paradise.
Mass yesterday was rather somber, with the passing of my friend Mike M on everyone’s mind. The funeral isn’t until this Friday. I don’t know why.
I have resumed my walking in earnest. I did not realize how much I missed it. I like being connected to the World when I walk. Swimming is great and I groove on the isolation when I swim. Swimming lends itself to contemplation
I did some cooking last night, grilled salmon and steamed asparagus. No bread, rice , potatoes or pasta. I’m going for some major starch reduction here. I had fruit for dessert.
More exercise. Better dietary choices. This mindfulness might stick this time.
Way back in 2015, we had planned on attending my elder son’s wedding in Philadelphia. We had to back out because my spinal stenosis was just too painful for the trip. Amtrak gave us a voucher for the trip we paid for but did not take. However we had a year to use it. The year was coming to an end, so we booked a trip to Baltimore for this past weekend. We had planned on visiting the National Aquarium at the Inner Harbor and just relaxing.
We left Thursday. Our train was scheduled to depart Richmond at 7:00 PM (1900Hrs). However… Good Old Train #66 from Newport News was stuck behind a disabled freight train on the single track that runs from Williamsburg to Richmond. Sooo…. CSX, who owns the track and runs the freight traffic has to send a locomotive down the line to pull the disabled freight forward in order that Good Old #66 can complete its mission. Around 9:30 (2130 Hrs) we finally leave Richmond. It’s fairly obvious now that a crimp has been put in our meticulously planned getaway. We climb aboard, choosing the quiet car. I was hoping the conductor in the quiet car wore black tights, white face and white gloves, like a classic French mime, but it wasn’t that quiet. He scans our ticket and off he goes.
We proceed, stopping at all the stops between Richmond and Washington; Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Woodbridge, Alexandria. It seems like an eternity. And we have to pull to a siding to let a freight pass (all part of the “fun” of being delayed two and a half hours). All of you East Coast rail connoisseurs know that trains switch power from diesel to electric in Washington for the trip further North, reversed the opposite way. That’s another thirty or so minutes for the switch. Off we go. It’s now 2:00 AM (0200 Hrs). We’re tired, wondering what we did to piss the travel gremlins off. We stop in New Carrollton, Baltimore BWI, and finally Baltimore Penn Station. It is now 3:00 AM (0300 Hrs) and unbelievably hot still. The easiest piece of the travel epic so far is the speed with which a taxi arrives with a very courteous driver, an African immigrant from, I suspect, somewhere in West Africa. He promptly takes us to our hotel and we check in around 3:30 AM (0330 Hrs) Friday morning.
Our room is an homage to minimalist decor, and not at all unpleasant in its sparseness. There is no dresser, desk, or superfluous chairs.It does have a nice comfortable king-sized bed, honking big TV, and more electrical outlets than I (or anyone else, for that matter) can possibly use. The hotel people did their market research. It was set up for people who travel with lap tops, tablets and smart phones. And, more than likely, Hitachi wands, given the outlet placements.
We are thirsty and discover that there are two, yes two, plastic cups in the room for our use. There is minimalist and then there is out right, fuckin’ stingy. Then I discover the ice maker and drink machine is one flight up. Fortunately they work. With ice and sodas, I return. We sip our sodas and soon are trying to fall asleep in a strange room with an incredibly noisy air conditioning system, in a city where, at Four AM, every vehicle operating seems to be an emergency vehicle. It seems like we are in a corner of Post Modern Hell.
Our first trip to the Inner Harbor is for breakfast. We schlep down in the heat. Thankfully, it is a very short distance. We find a Cheesecake Factory that looks like the Cheesecake Factory at home with the same menu and the same prices. Nice. I order the Huevos Rancheros and coffee. The service is slow, not terribly so, and the server is courteous and friendly. The food tastes the same as the one at home.
In case we were afraid that everything would be the same as at home, a few thousand of our closest friends decided to stage the Otakon 16 Convention on this very same weekend. We had all these twenty somethings traipsing about in their favorite anime` character costumes. Being old and indifferent, the only character impersonators I could recognize were the Sailor Moon wannabes. All in all, it was fun to watch. Hallowe’en on steroids.
The Inner Harbor has a shopping mall as part of the attractions. The Inner Harbor is a James Rouse project from the 1980’s, when folks imagined the affluence would never dry up. Today there are plenty of vacant stores. Given that a shopping mall is a shopping mall is a shopping mall, we got the idea fairly quickly of what was there.
It did not, all of a sudden, get cold in the hour we were at breakfast. The lack of sleep was taking its toll. We went back to the room and slept, in anticipation of our trip to the National Aquarium at 6:30 (1830 Hrs). The sleep came easily. Evidently, people having emergencies sleep during the day. I heard not nary a siren. Mrs CorC? decided that watching a Gray’s Anatomy rerun would tickle her fancy, so I tried to sleep while all these actors were playing doctor.
Finally we get to the National Aquarium and the experience was well worth the aggravation, inconvenience and pain. The place is brilliant in concept, design and execution. Realizing one visit won’t do it justice, we are already planning a return.
As a finale, we dine at Phillips Seafood Restaurant. It is definitely a little high end in the chain restaurant spectrum,but the food is well worth it. We had the ceviche`. I had the grilled rockfish, she the crabcake and scallop.
By the time we get back to the hotel, all I want is an ice pack at the fusion site and two naproxen gel caps. As non-cable viewers at home, we take advantage of the cable offerings. We watch HGTV’s House Hunters, amused at what the house hunters are looking for and what they have to spend. They must choose from condos in St John’s, The Virgin Islands, and they are bloody picky! I would be tickled to death with indoor plumbing and a refrigerator, but their standards are higher. The shoppers are reminiscent of characters from a Christopher Guest mocumentary and we can imagine Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, and Parker Posey as the prospective buyers.
We sleep through the full complement of sirens and cooling systems . Saturday morning comes and I have resolved to leave Baltimore earlier than our 6:17 PM (1817) departure on train 97, The Silver Meteor, to escape the heat. I may as well sweat at home. The train switch to Train 195, is simple. This cabbie is also polite and efficient. We are at the station in plenty of time for the train’s arrival. We discover it is late, but only about a half hour. We climb aboard, find seats, and sit. Heat is the culprit in these travel delays. It plays havoc with the equipment. We arrive home a mere hour past the scheduled arrival.
A mini-vacation in 21st Century America is completed. Recovery from this fun-filled extravaganza takes all of Sunday.