Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On November 16th, I boarded an Amtrak train in Philadelphia heading towards Pittsburgh for the NWP Annual Meeting. The train, an hour late to begin with, took seven hours to cross the state. As is usual for me, I bought lots of things to read during the trip, but then spent most of the time staring out the window watching the world go by. A very relaxing way to spend the afternoon, in my book. My love of trains must be based on the fact that I grew up next to a regional rail station in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. I remember my grandmother having a hard time sleeping when she came to visit as the trains would come and go before 11 at night and after 5 in the morning, but I think the sound was so firmly part of my growing up experience that I actually found it relaxing, a lullaby made from metal rails and, when we were lucky, a tooting horn. "Honk the horn, Honk the horn" we would yell if we were awake and outside when it came by. And every now and then a conductor would oblige.

It's a beautiful ride across the state, as well as an historically important railroad route, the "Pennsy", Pennsylvania Railroad. Doing a little post-train trip reading, on Wikipedia (a favorite source), I learned that at the turn of the century, the PRR was the gold standard railroad. They build most of their steam locomotives themselves as well as several grand railroad stations that we still know today -- Union Station, Washington; 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, etc. The old station house in Pittsburgh still stands, but is now mostly used as an apartment building (you can see it in this phone-photo taken by my colleague Karen). Amtrak now has the ugly part in the back.

Approximately ten minutes outside of Altoona, Pennsylvania, is the famous Horseshoe Curve, a feat of engineering in its time. It was, unfortunately, dark by the time my train reached the curve, but I sat by the window (south side of the train) with my face pressed up against the window and was able to watch as we went through. They didn't announce it on the train though -- I had to ask where it was. I guess they think it's not so interesting these days, but I think they are wrong. Or just depressed as the Feds continue to systematically dismantle the national railroad system. Or something. But, if they had a good PR head about them, I think they should say something, even if it's dark. It's a dramatic effect and fun to watch as you go through and reminds you what went into the construction of these rails in the first place.

I have some not-so-great pictures, including a rainbow and sunset, to share once Deccember comes and I get my new month of free uploads to Flickr. So keep an eye out for those!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I haven't posted recently, just been too damn busy lately (more on that later). But I wanted to stop and acknowledge a few important events/anniversaries.

First, a happy event ...

My father turned 60 this past week. Way to go Dad! Photos from the weekend my sisters and I had with our partners, steps-siblings, Dad and Jeannie in NYC have been posted on my Flickr site.

Then a couple sad notes ...

Jim Gray, founder of the National Writing Project, died on November 1st. The NWP has posted a formal tribute to him on the NWP homepage. A friend of mine who knew Jim out in California posted this personal tribute to him on his own blog.

I also just noticed today (because I'm behind on reading blogs too) that Rich's close friend and a person I quite liked and respected, Sara Weaver, would have turned 36 the other day. He wrote this tribute to her on her birthday. In 2002 she died of Leukemia. A fund has been set up in her memory at the Philadelphia Foundation called the Weave Fund.