I’m on a long train ride today. Lots of time to kill. Not “kill”, exactly. I’m not trying to kill anything. Better to say, “lots of time to spend on meaningful activities”, like reading a new novel, or writing to a dear friend, or watching cute puppy videos.
Let me just start by saying that this train ride is bumpy. So bumpy that I may get seasick and have to stop typing. Ugh. I do not understand this bumpiness. What is doing the bumping? Isn’t the track made of smooth metal? Aren’t the train wheels made of smooth metal? This is worse than your average airplane flight. Also, there’s no wi-fi. I’m typing this as a Word document and will paste it later. Are we a civilized nation or what?
Anyway, I happened to be in the Berkshires for a family gathering, so I got on the train in nearby Hudson, NY, a town of about 7,000 on – where else? – the Hudson River. Driving through the pretty town on the way to the train station, I saw a mix of charming, stylish, and funky shops and restaurants. No time to explore today, but I’d love to come back. From what I gather, Hudson has been quite economically depressed; however, the past few years have seen an influx of young, hipster-types from New York revitalizing the downtown. It’s not clear whether the wealth has spread to the wider community; I hope so.
Readers of this blog know something of my love for coffee. I mention this now so that you will understand my suffering.
I had a little time before my departure while waiting at the quaint Hudson train station, so I popped across the street to get a cup of coffee. There was a cute little café that looked promising. A friendly, fellow-passenger-to-be agreed to watch my suitcase so I wouldn’t have to schlep it with me. I paid my two dollars, filled my cup from the pump-handled carafe thingy, and walked back to the station, looking forward to relaxing for a few minutes with my cuppa joe. I took three sips and threw it away. Awful. But it was a lovely morning, so I went outside to sit in the sun and wait for my train.
I arrived at Penn Station with a decent layover before my next train. Many eateries from which to choose. It was time for lunch so I selected a bakery/café with beautiful pastries, sandwiches, and salads in the front window. My create-your-own salad was pretty good, made even better because the woman who constructed it called me “Honey” and explained the salad-making system to me very patiently. Their iced coffee, however? Not so good. I took five sips and threw it away.
Back on the train for the long haul of the journey down to Charlottesville, VA. Six and half hours. It’s almost too late in the day now for me to have any caffeine, so after a few minutes I head to the café car through the swaying, bumping train, trying not to fall into the laps of the passengers I pass along the way. A girl can hope, though I really didn’t expect the Amtrak coffee to be very good. My expectations were met. Into the trash.
Talk about an uncivilized nation: good coffee is just too hard to find! And a day without good coffee is a sad day indeed. Why do the fine people of the United States tolerate this travesty? Oh well…coffee aside, it’s been an otherwise fine day. Apart from the bumpiness. And the bad food in the dining car.
I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. Not really. I’m having a perfectly lovely day. I’m so happy not to be flying or driving. I’ve brought books to read, music to listen to, and my computer for writing. Also my own homemade trail mix, which is better than anything I’ve purchased all day. New Yorkers are friendly, the Amtrak folks are friendly, the guy sitting next to me is friendly.
Out the window, it’s turning from winter to spring before my eyes. In the Berkshires the only sign of spring was a few blooming crocus. In New Jersey, the forsythia was in bloom. In Baltimore, there were flowering trees – dogwood and magnolia. In D.C., not only are the famous cherry blossoms showing off along the Potomac (gorgeous!), but there are even green leaves on many of the trees and shrubs whizzing by. What a difference a few hundred miles make!
By the time I get to Charlottesville it’ll be dark, so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see the misty foothills of the Blue Ridge, and the woods and horse pastures out in the country where I’ll be staying. It’s a little early, but there may even be some new lettuce in the garden.
Life is good, people. Even when it’s bad, it’s good. Beauty can always be found. And kindness, too. At our big family seder this year, we said this blessing over the candles: In this season of renewal, may we awaken to the beauty all around us and the beauty within us. I’m wide-awake today.