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Random thoughts composed on an Amtrak train from DC to Baltimore

The stupid machines that sell Metro passes charge $6.50 for a day pass, and won't give back more than $5.00 in change. Somewhere there are two lovely black women who were also stuck with only $20's as was I, and are amazed at the crazy guy from New Hampshire who got fed up with the whole mess and bought three day passes, then gave them two of them.

Oliver Willis is taller than he looks in person, and has considerably less bluster than on line.

I, too, have considerably less bluster in person, even when I planned the visit in advance.

Only in DC can one be reasonably expected to say "then I took a wrong turn, and wound up in front of the Iraqi embassy."

Pennywit, Wizbanger Emeritus, knows good places to eat, and we had a great 90-minute lunch and conversation.

I am insanely jealous that he has a girlfriend who "gets" Babylon 5.

You can walk to a lot of places in DC. Especially if you get lost and don't know where the subway stations are.

One of those subway stations, Judiciary Square, is so far underground that the escalator up to the surface feels like you're going vertically.

DC is the only city where I had to go through a security screening to use a public restroom.

The next time I come to DC, I need to plan it out better and leave earlier. I didn't arrive until noon, and promptly compounded the problem by getting lost.

Note: when planning on meeting people, make note of the actual addresses, don't just vaguely recall general locations in relation to certain landmarks.

Amtrak trains are quiet -- quieter than I thought. I think all those old westerns and other old movies have us convinced that we need the clack-clack-clack sound. It's probably just an audio shortcut the entertainment industry uses, much like the sound of a shotgun chambering a round.

And a double-decker train is an odd concept, but it seems to work.

Riding backwards is an odd thing, but one that you can get used to. I can see why some might get airsick, though.

DC in July is not the place to be schlepping around a 20-pound pack. It's very easy to sweat right through your shirt.

I don't think I've ever seen so many hot dog stands in my life. It's amazing.

The stereotype of all cabbies being driven by immigrants seems to be based on reality. My cabbie appeared to be from Africa, and while an excellent driver, was not quite familiar with the concept of directionals.

Update: the trains are even quieter when the air conditioning quits working. No wonder I'm sweating so much, and I feel sorry for my seatmate.

Browsing for unsecured wireless networks from a moving train" might become my new metaphor for futility.

Update 2: Trains with working air conditioning are noisier, but more comfortable.

My wonderful laptop, Electric Mayhem, gets rather warm on the left side, right where it rests on my leg.

Pennywit did not seem overly impressed with meeting Mr. Duckie.

My cheap digital camera crapped out JUST as I arrived in DC, and not even fresh batteries helped. I think either the LCD screeen or the connection to it died. I'll have to see if it got any usable pictues.

DUH -- I have my USB card reader with me; I can do it from the train!

Nope. The camera's dead. No picture of Mr. Duckie at Media Matters or the Iraqi Embassy.


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Comments (20)

And that's why you have me ... (Below threshold)

And that's why you have me on speed dial. Sort of like an AA sponsor. But evil.

Well Christ, did you think ... (Below threshold)

Well Christ, did you think I was gonna deck you?

I don't think I've ever ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

I don't think I've ever seen so many hot dog stands in my life. It's amazing.

Beware the Street Meat.

Yes, but the question is: w... (Below threshold)

Yes, but the question is: was security impressed with Mr. Duckie?

I don't think I've ever ... (Below threshold)

I don't think I've ever seen so many hot dog stands in my life. It's amazing.

Was C.M.O.T. Dibbler running any of them? I think he's got the concession for Ankh-Morpork, and is looking for franchises in other realities...

Kebede, the cabbie who drov... (Below threshold)
Totally Matt:

Kebede, the cabbie who drove me to the train station last week, took a look at me and asked in an Ethiopian accent, "You a lawyer?"

"No," I laughed, "I'm a philosopher going to a job interview."

He braked sharply and turned down a side street, shut off the meter, made sure I wasn't going to be late, and then drove as slowly as possible to the train station while going on excitedly about this great treatise by Feuerbach (semi-obscure 19th c. German philosopher) he read last month.

Cabbies might be immigrants, for the most part, but they consistently surprise me.

From the running arguments ... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

From the running arguments I used to have with Mr. Willis way back when, I got the impression he was an attack dog on the internet, and a pretty ok guy in person.

Like many of us, on either side.

Totally Matt.You h... (Below threshold)

Totally Matt.

You have all the luck. With cabbies, that is...

JT,I've heard an u... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

JT,

I've heard an urban legend that people have required treatment for leg burns after using their laptops.

My first trip to DC was abo... (Below threshold)
Candy:

My first trip to DC was about 18 years ago. I was a young mom then, with a year-old child in my arms. My sister and I decided to walk just ONE BLOCK off the main drag to find a drug store - the baby needed something or other - and we were almost killed by a female street person I still refer to as "the foot stomper". She became INCENSED when we would not give her money, and began swearing at us rapidly and trying to stomp on our feet. I was SO frightened. After that, for all of my subsequent trips to visit family in Virginia, I have stayed in the touristy areas of DC and had great visits.

Now, of course, I'm an old mother with five kids. If I met up with the foot stomper today, I'd pound her into the ground with one fist like you see in the cartoons.

Beware the pre-menopausal mothers.

I've probably ridden that t... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

I've probably ridden that train Jay Tea. I frequently travel to New York and Boston and always go by train. Takes a few more hours but I find it much more relaxing than the cattle cars of airlines these days. I can walk off a train after 10 hours and be ready to go whereas a 2 hour flight will leave me exhausted.

Travelling by train through New Hamphsire, Conn and Vermont in the spring--especially in the afternoon setting sun--is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.

I was on an Amtrak south fr... (Below threshold)
snowballs:

I was on an Amtrak south from Chicago to Texas. There was this drunken, harmless, staggering 5'1" white guy with a mullet on his way to Kansas City in his mid-twenties wondering around the train just talking everyone's ears off. Soon, he became known as "that drunk guy".

My friend and I were sitting in the snack car when TDG showed up - blitzed out of his mind, but still able to almost walk upright under his own power. He looked over at us approaching Texarkana and asked "How much further to Kansas City?". We just looked at each other and I said "..umm, we're getting close, I think.".

Then, he ordered one of those instant soup cups where you just add about a cup and a half of boiling water, in this case hot water from the industrial coffee machine. About 4 seconds after he filled that baby to the top with near boiling water from the coffee machine, he took a big swig off of his Buswieser, then tried to down that entire thing of soup in one go.

You can connect the dots from there, but I think that they had to melt that train car down after he was done.

Hope you enjoy your trip Jay Tea...

I find it interestin... (Below threshold)
jaymaster:


I find it interesting that after less than one day in DC, Jay Tea, essayist extraordinaire,
is now speaking in snippets and sound bites.

Your post don't even LOOK the same...

I find it interest... (Below threshold)
jpm100:
I find it interesting that after less than one day in DC, Jay Tea, essayist extraordinaire, is now speaking in snippets and sound bites.

Your post don't even LOOK the same...


This exact degeneration in posting style occurred to Jeff Harrell & his posting after a move to DC.

http://theshapeofdays.com/2006/05/blame_it_on_the_train_but_the_boss_is_al.html

I remember that escalator, ... (Below threshold)
jc:

I remember that escalator, or one just like it in D.C. It occurred to me that if I fell down the stairs not only would it be a long, long way down but the stairs would keep moving up making the trip three times as long.

Regarding your comment abou... (Below threshold)

Regarding your comment about Oliver Willis having less bluster than online. I have found this to be so with many bloggers. Not only those who I have met, but by hearsay from the various blogger gatherings around the country. It seems those who seem to have what I call "the rooster effect" of being all knowing and cocky seem to be the most shy and reserved in real life. Funny how that is.

I, on the other hand, am much crazier than I seem online. So it can go the other way as well.

jaymaster, I'm on VACATION!... (Below threshold)

jaymaster, I'm on VACATION! I ain't moving here! Consider it a bit of "local color" affecting me. It won't last.

Hell, if it makes you feel better, I just wrote my second essay of the day. First North Korea, then at 11:00 the Boston Globe and gay marriage. I'm still me, after all...

snowballs, I'm sorry I didn't apologize at the time, but that soup really didn't go down well... and I'm STILL paying off that train car.

J.

Amtrak trains are quiet ... (Below threshold)
Dale:

Amtrak trains are quiet -- quieter than I thought. I think all those old westerns and other old movies have us convinced that we need the clack-clack-clack sound. It's probably just an audio shortcut the entertainment industry uses, much like the sound of a shotgun chambering a round.

I'm not sure when it started, but rail tracks are now welded. That way there isn't a gap where track sections meet and no clack-clack-clack sound. This article doesn't give a history, but mentions track welding briefly.

was not quite familiar w... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

was not quite familiar with the concept of directionals.

Nobody in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, police included, are familiar with the concept of directionals. I'm not even sure if they're an inspection item.

Turn signals are for the we... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Turn signals are for the weak.

--|PW|--




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