A Bite of the Fruit

For our 30th wedding anniversary, Kathy and I converged on going to the Big Apple for a couple of Broadway shows.  Kathy likes NY.  Me, not so much.  Too crowded, noisy, and crowded.

With security lines at airports being 3 hours long, and the whole flying experience being basically uncomfortable and unpleasant, we decided to give the AMTRAK train a try.  If there are not delays, the portal to portal time is about 1.5 hours longer.  However, one gets to sit in a big roomy seat, use the wireless service, take walk abouts, and visit the food service car.  Plus, the scenery is constant and kinda cool and there are NOT many riders to detract from the easy going experience.  Train travel is very safe, with only a minimum risk of a plane falling on one.

We would depart from the Newport News station at about 0900, after luckily finding the LAST parking space to leave our car.  (I guess AMTRAK doesn’t want to be too rider friendly or they will have to make more parking spaces.)  Our trek had 17 stops along the way. YES, 17!  I find the stop, for example, at Ashland, VA to be curious.  It is a very small town just a few miles north of the second Richmond stop.  Doesn’t seem at all efficient, to me.

Railroads were built in the eastern states starting around 1825.  That’s nearly 200 years ago.  AMTRAK is still using those right of ways today.  Tracks and trains go thru the old and generally decaying center of towns.  You get to glimse thousands of row houses and old abandoned factories (some of which are now being reclaimed as “lofts.”)  The row houses were typically 12 to 14 feet wide with two rooms on each of the two floors.  I love the look of the large brick factory buildings with their massive smoke stacks and long rows of windows. 

Every, EVERY horizontal and vertical surface along the way, moving or stationary, is covered with graffiti.  It is all the same.  Names, stylishly rendered in color.  Gang names, people, whatever.  I did not see a single non word graphic.  Have these spray can marauders no imagination?  Someone needs to cut off some ears.  Can you estimate the tens of thousand of spray cans of paint being wasted?  There has got to be a government funded study somewhere.

The train trip was not without a small adventure.  The food car had a defective refrigerator and all the food was spoiled and there was little to buy otherwise.  AMTRAK would add an additional hour to the 8 hour trip to switch out the food car in DC.  Wrangling out a single car in the middle of a 9 car train in the middle of a big city has got to be a chore.  We were able to get off the train and walk around the station for a bit.  (Try that on an econo flight!)

We arrived in NY’s Penn Station and took a yellow cab to our hotel.  Many NY cabs have morphed to pissy little electric Prius with practically no room for your feet.  You need to avoid those.  The hotel (Muse) was half a block off Times Square in the middle of the theater district.  On this trip, Kathy would NOT be walking me death.  Hotel was modern, nice and of course expensive.  Parking, had we taken a car, was $51 per day.

 We walked over to Times Square.  OMG! People!  There must have been 50,000 of them milling around.  No kidding! Maybe many more?  Is it New Year’s Eve?  No, just a mob of tourists.  Except very early in the morning, there was always a mob in the square.  Interesting demographics though as most were young, were NOT speaking English, and there were virtually no blacks.  Unlike Las Vegas where the mobs walkabout with oversized drink glasses in their hands, this group just milled about with everyone taking photos with their phones.  The many outdoor advertisements (Huge LCD billboards) were spectacular but not really that entertaining.  I guess I just don’t get the attraction.

At 1000, Kathy joined the line to buy discounted tickets for a matinee (2pm) show.   My flaky knees and I parked ourselves on a chair and people watched.  The discounted tickets for Rotten still cost $160.  We had time for lunch, before heading off the theater.  I give the show a B or B+.  After the show, we had time for a brief visit to our room before heading off for a 5:30 dinner reservation.  Our evening show, for which we paid full price for tickets on line before leaving home, was Beautiful (the Carole King story).  Sitting in row K, the sound was way too loud and almost painful.  I gave the show a C, which is pretty substandard.

Sunday morning, we watched the Monaco F1 race in our room before heading off on foot for the 12 or so blocks to the train station.  We had plenty of time and fairly small roll around suitcases.  When we came upon Macy’s department store (“the world’s largest department store”), we went in to find Kathy some proper socks.  The train cars on the trip up were quite chilly.  Ride home was uneventful.

I still prefer London as a destination for seeing shows.  We should go there for our next celebration, but will not be able to take a train over.