The train, before the climate changes

guts the Environmental Protection Agency

trainKelly has provided more questions.

What is your favorite mode of transportation, regardless of destination?

The train, the train, the train. It’s civilized. I like the light rail in Charlotte, NC. But I LOVE it in San Diego. If Amtrak didn’t have to share the track with commercial vehicles, it’d be way better off. And if cities had spent more money over time with their mass transit – the NYC subway, and especially the T in Boston – it would be top-notch.

When I see stories about traveling out west to Great Basin Star Train, designed to see the stars sans light pollution, I say, “I would do that.”

One pipe dream involves going to a bunch of Major League ballparks by train, maybe Boston to New York (2), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Miami and Tampa Bay. Then another route through the Midwest – Toronto to Cleveland, et al., and a third out west. I’ve gone to two games by train, from Poughkeepsie to the New York Yankees in 2018, and from San Diego to Anaheim to see the Angels back in the late 1980s.

I took the train when I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and to take the JEOPARDY! test in Washington, DC a week later.

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Incidentally, I had planned to write something about the sesquicentennial of the birth of the transcontinental railroad on November 24, 1869. The heads of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drove a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history.

Most of my treks from Albany, NY to Charlotte, NC were by train. This includes a trip just prior to my mother’s death. That post, BTW, is the post on this blog that has gotten the most comments, bar none.

And I LOVE train-themed songs.

How pessimistic are you about climate change? (I am DEEPLY pessimistic about it.)

We’re doomed. We’re already seeing the changes, with more severe weather as the annual average temperature keeps creeping upward. If I thought the government had a strategy for attacking the problem, I might be cautiously optimistic. Instead, the US pulls out of the Paris agreement, promotes the use of coal, eviscerates the Endangered Species Act, guts the Environmental Protection Agency.

Check out Former EPA head Gina McCarthy knows why climate change activists aren’t getting their message across.

“…every time you ride with Uber”

I downloaded Lyft, which worked just fine. I knew so because my credit card company wanted to confirm that the $1.00 “purchase” I made was legit.

uberOne more thing I did on my birthday (March 7): I took an Uber for the very first time. Technically, it was the 8th. And as is my wont, it was more complicated than I thought it would be.

I would be returning from my trip from New York City to attend my friend Karen’s retirement party. Since the event was on 26th Street from 7-10 p.m., I had two practical choices. Taking the train, I needed to get to Penn Station at 34th Street, but the bus was at Grand Central at 42nd Street.

I’m not subway-averse – I even had my Metrocard swiper with me – but I opted to walk the shorter distance. The Amtrak is more expensive, especially the later you book it, but it would get back to Albany at 1:15 a.m. as opposed to the 2:30 a.m. Greyhound.

Well, not exactly Albany in the former case, but Rennselaer, which is across the Hudson River. While there were taxis at both venues, because of greatly disappointing results, I haven’t taken a cab in the Capital Region this century. (I’ve taken a couple in NYC, but not in my town.)

Hey, maybe the taxis are better now? Not according to the rider reviews I discovered for the one company assigned to the Rensselaer train station. This left Uber and Lyft.

I attempted to download the Uber app, but it didn’t seem to “take”; it never showed up as an icon on the phone. So I downloaded Lyft, which worked just fine. I knew so because my credit card company wanted to confirm that the $1.00 “purchase” I made was legit.

But I discovered in trying to book a ride on the train back that, at least where I wanted to go, nothing was available from Lyft between midnight and 7 a.m.

So I played with the previously downloaded functions on my phone, and I DID have Uber after all, just not on the main screen. I booked the ride. When I got to the train station, I looked for the correct license plates – there were a half dozen Uber drivers at that hour, and several cabs to boot.

Normal Fare-$8.69 Surge x1.3-$2.61 (I know vaguely what surge fees are) + Booking Fee $2.40 (that surprised me) + Long Pickup Fee $0.60 (somehow my address was NOT in the system, though I THOUGHT I’d put it in) + NY State Black Car Fund (2.5%) $0.34 + TNC Assessment Fee (4%) $0.42 (whatever THEY are) = $14.30 plus tip. Not terrible.

So now I’m all 21st century, enough to get an email about a month later from the company. “Check your ride, every time.” Specifically:
1.Match the license plate number.
2.Match the car make and model.
3.Check the driver’s photo. (I did that too)
“When you’ve confirmed this information, get in, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. At Uber, your safety is important to us.”

This was undoubtedly the reaction to a young woman in South Carolina getting into a car, thinking it was her Uber – the guy wasn’t one of their drivers – and was killed.

Another tip, not on the list, but mentioned by law enforcement after the murder, is to ask the driver to tell you YOUR name before getting into the vehicle.

For ABC Wednesday

US: adopt rail transportation

Trains have inspired some of the finest music in the world.

The illustrious bard Jaquandor gripes:

What IS it with this country’s refusal to adopt rail as a serious method of transportation?

There’s a sign, less than two blocks from my house, that commemorates the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad that ran between Albany and Schenectady, one of the first in the nation. It’s clear that the transcontinental railroad created cohesion for the United States.

I’ve made it quite clear that I find passenger rail travel to be the only really civilized form of transportation. So why doesn’t the US embrace it more? Continue reading “US: adopt rail transportation”

Random Post-Funeral Thoughts

The week before my mother died, I had nothing on any credit cards, save for any recurring expenditures.

TIMING

My father died on a Thursday; we had the funeral on a Sunday, and he was buried on a Monday. My mother died on a Tuesday, and our first inclination was to have the funeral on the following Saturday. But, instead of working on the obituary or the program on that day, we sat around telling Trudy stories. I think, in some way, we died my father’s death the way he would have wanted his death to be handled, quickly and efficiently; it also helped that we knew my father wad going to die at least the day beforehand. Whereas mom’s death took us, and indeeed her long-time doctor, by surprise; her heart was still strong, even after the stroke, and we were having conversations about placing her in some medical facility after she got out of the hospital the very morning she died.

Once Saturday was off the table, we considered Sunday, but it was Super Bowl Sunday, on which my mother’s mother died; I remember getting the call during the 3rd quarter of the game in 1983. Besides, it was just different. My dad was the hare, my mother, the tortoise, and we all know that slow and steady win the race.

So, it was a Tuesday funeral Continue reading “Random Post-Funeral Thoughts”

Take The Train to Charlotte


So, it’s Sunday morning when I’m writing this. I note it because, usually, I allow the magic of posting ahead of time give you the (false) impression that I get up every morning and write some purple prose. Actually, some days I write nothing, and others, such as this past Saturday, I might compose three.

I mention this because I may be offline for a while, not responding to comments, not visiting other blogs. Or not – I don’t know yet.

Friday, my sister Marcia called me at work. She said that our mom seemed fine that morning, took a shower and started getting dressed. Suddenly, she started complaining about a severe headache. She was screaming, like she did when she was in a car accident a few months ago. Marcia decided to take her to the doctor, but by the time they were trying to get ready, my mother had become listless. So my sister called an ambulance, and Mom went to the hospital.

It turned out Mom has a brain bleed. Apparently, this layman has discovered, there are two types of strokes: one in which the blood vessels are constricted and one in which a vessel can burst; my mother has the latter.

Some factors: my mom is 83 years old, with high blood pressure plus other medical issues, and possibly most significantly, does amazingly poorly with the various anesthesia she’s had in the past. So calling Dr. Derek Shepherd of Grey’s Anatomy to do some sort of surgery is not a high percentage option.

Marcia called me Saturday. Mom has developed a full-blown case of pneumonia, from a little spot on her lungs to much worse merely hours later. My sister Leslie flew into Charlotte, NC from San Diego, CA on Sunday, for an extended visit she had been anticipating doing for a while anyway.

I’ve decided to go to Charlotte, too. But taking the plane is not only expensive, it becomes more so because I don’t know when I can come back. I can book it for a week, but then I might need to change it and incur a $150 change fee; no, Southwest doesn’t fly to Charlotte. Moreover, the best deal on a flight from Albany, NY to Charlotte, NC goes through Detroit, MI, an airport I HATE, HATE, HATE. Going through Atlanta, GA is not much better. The one direct flight is way more expensive.

Most of all, I really have come to despise what now passes for air travel in America, where I get to toss my four-ounce bottle of shampoo because I could be a terrorist. (More ranting at another time.) It’s become a flying bus, and I’m just not fond.

That leaves taking the train. It’s 15 hours, and I’ll either have to leave Albany or get to Charlotte in the middle of the night. Still, I like the train. I like walking around on the train, going to the dining car and meeting people on the train. The train is civilized; the plane is a meat market. At some point, quite probably by the time you read this, I’ll be in Charlotte, and I don’t know for how long. Since there is no real round-trip ticket, the return is more flexible.

All of this to say that I’ll probably be posting every day for the next week or so, stuff already written, or perhaps not. I’m sure I’ll be blogging from Charlotte once I figure out what the situation is.

Fiddlin John Carson And His Virginia Reelers-Take The Train To Charlotte