Monday, August 27, 2007

The Acela train is a big disappointment - the regional train I took from Springfield yesterday was much nicer. I'm in business class, because Acela doesn't have cheap seats. The seats and furnishings are definitely more expensive, but they're less sturdy, less comfortable, more cramped, and I think substantially more dangerous - in a derailment, anyone with a table down is going to get a spade to the gut, because the table is just a huge slab of steel, instead of being flimsy plastic. And it's not even sturdy. Very sad. Oh well. Next time I do this trip, if I do, I'll try the regional train to see if it's like the one I took from Springfield.

The signaling system on the Hell's Gate Bridge is out, so we're sitting in the station. I don't have anything better to do today, so I don't really care that much, but there goes those twenty minutes. I noticed that the 9:30 regional to Boston was sold out this morning, and tickets on the 8:30 were the same price as the Acela. So I suspect that people in the know take the Regional instead of the Acela. Oh well.

New York was fun. I got to go to Mana with Perry, which is one of my favorite uptown restaurants. It's cheap by New York standards, and they serve macrobiotic food. Yum. Then I went out to Queens because I was planning to have dinner with Ritesh. I made a couple of false moves heading out to Queens and wound up wasting an hour or more on the N line, but finally wound up in a Starbucks with an outlet where I hacked for a couple of hours before meeting up with Ritesh.

Ritesh has a car, which I guess is traditional in Queens. Possibly also traditional for Queens, the place where he parks it is behind someone's house a few blocks from where he lives. The alley leading to the parking space is about a foot wider than his car, so in order to park it, he positions his car carefully at the entrance so as to avoid ripping his tire on the broken drain. Once he has cleared this hazard, he sticks his head out the window and gauges the distance from the wall with his head as he pulls gingerly forward through the alley. Once he's in the back yard of the house, things get much easier - his parking space is only a foot or two narrower than the one we had in Chicago.

We had dinner at a really good Thai restaurant that's near the 7 line. It's called Sripraphai and it's supposedly so good that people come from Manhattan to eat there. If you never lived in New York, you might not realize how big a deal that is - people who live on Manhattan pretty much never leave the island if they can help it. Going to Queens for Thai Food is like a San Franciscan making a trip to Oakland for dinner.

Ooh, we're on Hell's Gate bridge now. New York is at its best right now visually - it's summer, so all the trees have leaves on them, and it looks like a manicured garden. Hell's Gate runs parallel to the triboro bridge, so I have a nice view of that, the Chrysler building, and the Empire State building. Okay, had. And I can see that weird twin-towered deco building that you always see from Central Park. Sweet.

I kvetch about the train, but it's not so bad. It's just sad to see money spent and so little gotten for it. The Acela was a nice idea in theory - it just didn't happen the way it should have. I think one thing that might be worth doing on the Acela is to spring for First Class. It's kind of spendy though - an extra $60, I think. I've been getting a lot done on the train, so it's certainly worthwhile to have a good seat, although maybe not $60 worthwhile.

This morning I hung out in a *$$ down on the Long Island Railroad level of Penn Station using the WiFi and the open electrical outlet while I waited for my train. It was a good time - that *$$ has to have one of the worst morning rushes in Manhattan. Bad for the folks behind the counter, good for enjoying crowds. Every so often I look up and notice a specific person, but mostly it's just the proximity of so many people who are all focused on their day, living their life.

It's weird - the crowds on the boat in Alaska were starting to bug me by the end of the trip, but I'm always nostalgic for the crowds in New York, and in fact when I'm here I really enjoy them. I got to pass through Penn Station, Grand Central Station, and Times Square. I rode the N train and a couple of 3 trains, all of which were crowded (although the N, this morning, wasn't very crowded - I had a seat the whole way). And I just felt happy and energized, and a little let down when I got to Queens, where the crowds thinned out to Chicago levels.

Even in Queens, as dusk settled, sitting in the *$$, the streets started filling up with people heading home, or heading out for the evening, and so it felt a little crowded, although nothing like a street in Manhattan.


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