Monday, October 31, 2005

Dispersion of the Diversions

I'm all talked out when it comes to energy. So, in the spirit of All-Hallows-Eve (and a shout to Torgo, star of "Manos: Hands of Fate"), I think I'll shift my mood to that of Victorian ruffian. Maybe it's all the leather and waxed-cotton headware on television these days? This weekend I caught a good portion of Ken Burns' "Civil War". By no means did I watch the whole thing (it's a 5-DVD extravaganza that I just netflixed), but I caught the part that mentioned the siege of Petersburg. And I didn't know Robert E. Lee cared SO much about slaves! Well bowl me over with a Brainard's Perforator.... In related historical edutainment, saw "Cold Mountain" last night-it's a good flick, you should rent it. Haven't yet watched "Finding Neverland;" that's a period movie too, isn't it? In addition, I'm still dazed and confused as to whether I should dress as Victor Quartermaine or as a Reconstruction-Era Coal Bandit. What do you think?

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Lure of the Rails

And no, not rail drinks....

Last weekend I rode Amtrak for the first time in about 20 years. Cost aside ($80 to travel from Washington's Union Station to New York's Penn Station, one way), it was a great experience. The ride was comfortable and fairly smooth. Three electrical outlets for every 2 passengers, and the option to use your cellphone if you don't talk too loudly means your mobile office is easily accomodated. There's plenty of space to stretch out, and a fully-stocked food car with decent selection (including veggie burgers and wine). Additionally, there's the reassuring claddunk of the rails beneath the wheels.

The experience was a lot more enjoyable than aircraft, which are faster but not as "romantic" I guess. I'd forgotten how interesting America can be as seen through it's backdoors. The abandoned shipping docks in Baltimore, rundown factories and warehouses in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the sweeping vistas of open water all along the way...everything was there, visible through large windows and not at hypersonic speed. No lane changing and angry drivers, slowups at toll booths and behind minor accidents.

Now I'm reading President Bush is proposing cuts to Amtrak. Yet, airlines are still receiving vast subsidies for infrastructure improvements. In an era of increasing fuel costs, railroads and ships are dramatically more efficient than personal automobiles and airplanes. Are we bound to return to the days of steamer trunks and floppy feathered hats as we travel nationwide for holidays?

After selling my cars and jumping on the mass transit bandwagon, I figured I had to take it one step further and make a longer commute on a train. Now if they would only offer service to downton Petersburg, Virginia....