Friday, November 16, 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dividing Lines

Flag of Birmingham
The flag of Birmingham, England
Not Blurred Lines, but Dividing Lines is the topic of today's bog post. More specifically, the poem of that title. It's featured in Constellate Magazine and it's by Ben Nardolilli. Who is also me. Go over and read it. It's like traveling to Birmingham, England, which is the name of the city where Constellate is based.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Bump and a Huff of Poetry


Another month, another poem. Barren Magazine might be sparse in spirit and vision, but isn't barren of my work, not anymore. My work, A Bump and a Huff, is there for your reading pleasure.

Also, I was bored the other day and felt like doing some compiling and comparing. So here's my 2018 PRESIDENTIAL RANKINGS!!!

Abraham Lincoln

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

George Washington

Harry S. Truman

Thomas Jefferson

James K. Polk

Lyndon B. Johnson

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Woodrow Wilson

Barack Obama

Andrew Jackson

John F. Kennedy

Ronald Reagan

Bill Clinton

James Monroe

John Adams

William McKinley

James Madison

Ulysses S. Grant

William H. Taft

George Bush

John Quincy Adams

Chester A. Arthur

Jimmy Carter

Grover Cleveland

Calvin Coolidge

Martin Van Buren

Benjamin Harrison

Gerald R. Ford

John Tyler

James A. Garfield

Millard Fillmore

Zachary Taylor

William Henry Harrison

Rutherford Birchard Hayes

Richard M. Nixon

Warren G. Harding

Franklin Pierce

Herbert Hoover

Donald J. Trump

George W. Bush

Andrew Johnson

James Buchanan

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Bloody Poem

Well it's more about blood. Specifically the word. BLOOD. How it looks, how it sounds, and the way it makes me feel. That word. Blood. Yes. BLOOD.

Anyway, it's at Founder's Favourites in their October issue.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

An Aberrant Blogpost


Jason Peters and his Aberrant Literature Press have recently published an anthology of short fiction, and a story of mine "The Sick-Alike" is included. You can get a copy of it here at Amazon.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Coney Island Avenue Blogpost of the Mind

The King of the Dudes
Hello, there! Hello September! Hell Autumn! Hello (Hopefully coming soon) cold weather. Right now I'm sweating and dealing with prickly heat. But I've got two poems in Bye, Bye, Nite. One is called Coney Island Avenue. The other is called Anarcho-Dandyism (hence the pic above).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Poet of the Week: Christine Stoddard

My friend Christine Stoddard was interviewed by Brooklyn Poets. She discusses her life, work, and the communities she's lived in. Oh, and she mentions a young poet living in Brooklyn and who writes for this blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Nardo Goes West, Part Four

After my first night on the train I woke up to North Dakota in all its broad splendor.  Sure, there were plenty of cereal crops across the horizon, but all lots of small ponds, perhaps left by the retreat of glaciers many thousands of years ago. They were all in use by various birds. I don't think I've ever seen so many ducklings. I'm just used to pigeons in New York City. They're never old or young. they're always middle-aged adults, just like the people in the sitcoms that take place there.

I looked over the instructions and the metal pieces sticking out of the furniture. I figured out how to put the bed back and turn it into seats, how to turn the seats into a bed, and how to lower the bunk. I used the last trick in case I needed something that could serve as a shelf. I decided to leave the bed down. That way I could sit up or lay down to work or read. I preferred to lie down. Why? Because I could feel the motions of the train sliding under me. When I looked to the side, I could see the world flying on by and it was easy to imagine I was flying too, like some kind of Amtrak superman.

Most of what I saw involved agriculture of one kind or another. It was interesting to be so close to the food supply, at least as grain, dairy, and meat are concerned. I didn't see much in the way of fruit or vegetable production until we reached Washington. Not only did I see the crops, I saw how the crops get to market. There were silos everywhere and occasionally I saw train cars getting filed with the bounty they stored inside.

Where last night's steak came from

This is where last night's dinner may have gotten its lunch from.
It could be anywhere from Fargo to Missoula 
For breakfast, I had a quesadilla with eggs and green tomatillo sauce. It was the only thing on the menu that looked like it had any kick to it. My suspicions were confirmed when the two gentleman I sat with ordered eggs and then ordered salsa to put on them after they saw my dish in all its glory.


This dish is called the Battle of Puebla, because the Mexican
quesadilla is displacing the occupying French Croissant
There is plenty of salsa to go around (I had an extra container of red salsa in addition to what was on my plate) so don't be afraid to ask! During breakfast I sat with two older gentlemen. One was from North Dakota, near Rugby, the other was from Juneau, Alaska. The man from North Dakota was a doctor for an Indian Reservation and talked about the health challenges facing the local tribes because of sugary foods, in addition to alcohol. He also told us the various legends and stories (and I assume jokes) behind how Devils Lake got its name. He also pointed out the different kinds of birds and mentioned the area was popular with hunters. The traveler from Juneau asked the man from North Dakota what he liked about living there. He laughed and said it was because there were no people.

After breakfast, I went to the observation car, to well, observe. The sky was clear above me and the land was fertile in all directions. With nothing else to distract me, or even tempt me, I saw and looked out at the country rolling on by.

The upper windows


North Dakota, not to be confused with South Dakota

Rugby, North Dakota. It's the geographical center of North America
We passed through several small cities and large towns such as Rugby and Minot. It was probably the farthest I've ever been from the ocean. I live right near Ruby Road in Brooklyn and I guess I can sum up my summer as going from Rugby Road to Rugby town. When I think about it, more people probably live on that street than live in Rugby, North Dakota. Okay, that's enough talking about Rugby or rugby.

We continued moving through North Dakota and into Montana. I saw Fort Union, which straddles the boundary between the two states.

Fort Union, preserving the uneasy peace between
Montana and North Dakota
We reached Wolf Point by lunchtime. Next to it was the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. I had lunch with an Australian couple from Brisbane. They were on a trip around the world. Like me, they were yearning to see the mountains, especially any with snow on them. They told me they don't get to see much of either in Australia. I had a tortilla dish with chorizo while the couple had the mussels. Despite our distance from the sea, they said the shellfish was good. According to our waitress, the mussels are the secret dish that nobody orders but those who do always enjoy. I didn't mind my meal. It seems the most interesting options for eating on the train involve Mexican cooking. Well, at least until they bring back the gnocchi. I had the caramel parfait for dessert.

I hung around my roomette car after lunch. Working, taking pictures, and reading as we went through the great expanse of Montana. People forget how big the state is (number four). Near Malta, the train had to go through a "duck and tuck" in order to let a freight train get by. We often had to manuever around them on the trip. Pretty soon, Carlo was coming around to take dinner reservations. He continued to promote it with the phrase "real meals with real people." I put in a reservation for dinner with him for a later time 6:45. I had trouble getting power for my laptop, and with no signal for my phone, I decided to go to the observation car and have a drink.
Having wine on the train
More Montana. The state's name is a lie.

The new state capitol of Montana

Switching into Mountain Time

Sitting Bull
By this point I had enough with amber waves. I wanted purple mountains majesty!


But there were penguins

Maybe not the but certainly an Overlook Hotel

I had dinner with a couple from outside Fargo, ND and a woman originally from Minot, but who now lived outside Seattle. I had the risotto because there was no gnocchi, again. We all had wine with dinner. Some of it was corked, others had a screw-on (or off) cap. The risotto was decent. I had the fruit and cheese plate for dessert. I got a sense of how small a world North Dakota is because my dinner companions realized they had mutual acquaintances. I must say I've learned more about life in the Flickertail State on this trip than ever before. 


By the end of dinner we started to see the mountains. The real mountains. Not the lumpy hills of central Montana, but the real peaks of Glacier National Park. I spent the rest of the evening looking at the mountains and the tall trees that grow around them. At least until we lost all daylight. I admit I felt nervous around the evergreens growing by the rails. I wondered if they knew what we had done to their shorter cousins back East during Christmas time. Were they ready to lay their branches on us? I realized then I'd had too much wine.

More mountains
Unfortunately, I had to sleep through large parts of the trip through the mountains. When I woke up, I was on the other side of Glacier National Park. There were still plenty of visual glories awaiting me in the Cascades. I also had a phone signal for the first time in a day. At this point in the trip, the most of the sleeping cars had emptied out, at least on my level. I guess a number of people got off at Whitefish or Spokane. On my way to the shower, Carl, the sleeping car attendant, said I looked like a young John Hodgeman. This was the highlight of the trip, until we reached the next mountain range.


I had breakfast with a father and son from Janesville, Wisconsin. I saw orchards filled with pear and apple trees, as well as homesteads scattered around the shade of the mountain. I thought it looked like the end of the Oregon Trail and tried to see if I could find a tombstone with "pepperoni and cheese" on it. I wasn't in Oregon but the geography is similar.


We stopped in Leavenworth, which is supposed to look like a Bavarian village. I couldn't see it from the tracks. I did see Bigfoot though. I can't wait for my check from the National Enquirer.



The lounge car was closed, which was lame. I wonder if it was because it was no longer part of the train. In Spokane, the Empire Builder splits in half, just like Rome and Constantinople. My part of the train goes onto Seattle. The other half heads on to Portland. We get to keep the dining car, while the folks heading to Portland have to deal with a pre-made breakfast box. I stayed in my roomette for the rest of the trip. The views were good, except when we went into the Cascade Tunnel, the longest train tunnel in North America. It's 7.89 miles of darkness all the way through.


Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
We began to make our descent towards the coast. My ears actually popped because of the change in air pressure. We went along rives and streams. I saw some of the bluest moving waters I've ever seen. 

The water out here makes Poland Spring look like backwash from
a spittoon used by an Antebellum Senator
Now it was time for the trip to come to an end. The Empire Builder reached Puget sound and traveled south along the shoreline. There were forest fires going on, so visibility was reduced. Even in the city you could see it. Everything seemed hazy and people wore masks over their mouths.

Puget Sound, it's foggy because of the wildfires going on
Finally, we came to Seattle and I saw several landmarks as the train snaked its way into the King Street Station.

The people of Seattle loved Frasier so much they built
a miniature version of the logo


I wonder if I could sell this picture to Getty images?
We pulled in with a slight delay. I went into the station and enjoyed its splendor, a far cry from the Pittsburgh station. I didn't check my bags, so I was able to pick up my things and head right out into the Emerald City.


Hello Seattle!
Overall, I would rate the experience highly, especially for a city-slicker such as myself. I got to see a lot of the country I've never seen before, met different kinds of people, and learned to adjust a different kind of lifestyle. Riding the train let me appreciate the countryside and the way that we as Americans use it. I wish the train did have WiFi on board. Not that I would've spent the whole time just watching old episodes of the Simpsons. It would've been nice to listen to some music while the country went by. I also wish there had been communication ahead of time about the lack of a sundries pack. Nevertheless, it was fun and (here it the survey answer) I would recommend the trip to my family and/or friends. Now it's time to try out the southern route from LA to New Orleans, or maybe head through the middle of the country through Denver.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Nardo Goes West, Part Three

The next leg of my trip was the longest (not counting my flight back from Seattle). The Empire Builder left Chicago and Carlo, one of the attendants, came around to take my dinner reservation. I had the option of dining at 5:00, 5:30, 6:45, and 7:15 PM. I picked 5:30. While they do try to make people stick to the schedule, space often open up. They tell you if this is the case. There are also announcements for the last call.

I chose the 5:30 option for my first dinner on Amtrak.  It was still daylight while I made my way to the dining car. My roomette was on the ground level, so to speak. In order to get most places I had to take the stairs up and cross over the train cars. My bathroom and shower were on the same floor as me, so I didn't have to go to far to get to them. But in order to eat, drink, or use the observation car, I needed to climb up and down the stairs and sneak my way around people and corners. It's like being in a ship while still being on land.

The stairs I took every day, they also offer a decent view,
when nobody's trying to use them
At the top of the stairs was complimentary coffee and orange juice.
This cup was filled by me, it wasn't just standing there
waiting for someone to come pick it up.
Dinner, along with other meals, is taken in the dining car. It's cramped but Amtrak does its best to make the experience like a restaurant. There's silverware, wine, and napkins folded into little florets.


The menu is limited. They have salmon, chicken, steak, seafood cakes, and a vegan pasta dish. There was a butternut risotto as well. I wanted to try the chef's special, which was a kind of gnocchi with kale. However they were out of it the whole time I was on the train. Soft drinks are complimentary, along with the food itself if you're in a sleeper car. You have to pay for alcohol. People bring their own food on board. It's a popular option in the coach car. I saw families eating snacks and dishes they brought in Tupperware. There's also the cafe area under the lounge car. You can't really buy food at the stations we pass through. The Empire Builder either gets in too late, stays too short, or stays too long at towns with too few places to shop.  

For my first meal, I had the land and sea. I guess it's Amtrak's answer to the surf and turf. You get a steak and a seafood cake that blends together several different creatures from the briny deep. I believe it mixed in crab and shrimp, with some kind of fish. I preferred it to the steak, which I found a little chewy. I had iced tea to drink, which is also complimentary. For dessert I had a flourless chocolate cake. It was good and dense. They also have a caramel parfait, a fruit and cheese plate, cheesecake, and vanilla pudding with no sugar added. I mention that last detail because our waitress brought it up every time when telling us about our options.

In all likelihood, you'll be eating with other people at your table. It doesn't matter how much seating is available. Every time I got to the car, I was put into the nearest opening where people were already sitting. I must've been one of the few Easterners on the train. I was probably the only person who came all the way from New York. It was a common question, not just where I was from originally, but where I got on board. Chicago was the main answer for most people, but a fair number got on the Empire Builder in St. Paul and Fargo. Several people came on at Milwaukee too, including my first mealtime companions. 

They were from Michigan's Upper Peninsula and older than me. Nearly everyone on the train was, or they were much, much younger. That's fine. You meet people you normally wouldn't otherwise this way. Especially people from the Midwest. We talked about our respective communities and trips we've taken around the country. They were Packers fans and I told them about how my father was a fan too (he's also a shareholder). We noticed people taking pictures and video of the train along the way, which I didn't expect. I know there's all kinds of people in this world, and some of them are Railfans. Normally they tend to be into either freight trains or older locomotives. It was surprised some of them also like to take pictures of Amtrak trains. They're nice, but they all look alike with no interesting livery. Now the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe on the other hand...

It was my first experience with Wisconsin, which was all I really saw that day. We didn't hit Minnesota until the sun set, so it was either too dark to see, or I slept through the sights. I never realized how big, green, and wet Wisconsin is. I guess I thought it would look like Illinois, much drier and flatter. Maybe that has less to do with the natural geography and more to do with how human have used the land. Either way, I saw lots of hills, waterways, trees, bushes, and waterlilies. We passed through the Wisconsin Dells, and it reminded me of Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks. 


Columbus, WI, which is basically the stop for Madison

Socialism in Wisconsin! Eugene Debs lives!

Where we paused on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border for a smoking break
With no internet, people interacted more. Not just at dinner, but through the cars, including in the coach class and in the observation areas. Men in mullets laughed together while Mennonites sat together and watched the world going by. I saw a man with a tricorn hat and a big feather sticking out of it. Below them all, families played card and board games.  Other people just talked. Everybody's got a story. In the lounge car there was a woman from LA who was a waitress but aspiring to be a trainer, which is a variation I hadn't heard before. Usually it's an actor or screenwriter (in NY it's an actor or a novelist). One drunk woman came down into the lounge and hammed it up, lamenting she missed her stop in Toomah and had to figure out a way home from La Crosse. 


With no internet, I had no need for my headphones. Note the efficient use of a coat hanger.
A lot of pundits and thinkpiece writers like to lament the bubbles we've sorted ourselves into, and yet none of them seem to have any idea of what to do about it. They love to point and wag their fingers at the people living on the coasts for refusing to interact with people in Middle America. Of course, they love to live in those same bubbles and never get out of them, unless they're writing about Iowa state fairs before the Presidential caucuses. Even when they do that, they just take the bubble with them, putting people under the microscope wherever they go. On the train you have to sit down with people, look at them, share space with them, and listen to what they have to say on their terms. There's no interrogation, only conversation between the bread rolls and the dessert. If you really want to get people in this country talking, you don't have to bring back the draft as some have suggested, just get people to take long train rides together. If they can't afford it, subsidize it.

Then again, the bubble is probably overstated. Outside of La Crosse I saw "Go Gay or Go Home" sprayed on an overpass. The only thing that stays the same are the differences between people I guess.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nardo Goes West, Part Two

I spent most of my time on the Capitol Limited sleeping. I went to sleep outside of Pittsburgh and woke up around Elkhart, Indiana. Along the way I woke up briefly in Toledo, then went back to bed. It wasn't the most comfortable sleep, and I think I would've slept better if I took the upper bunk instead of stretching out on the lower bed they made from the seats. The advantage of this one is that I could get up and use the bathroom without breaking my neck. There was also less of a risk of rolling out and also breaking my neck. 

Unbeknownst to me, there were three settings for the light in my roomette. There was complete darkness, complete light, and a third that I left on by mistake. It was the "night light" setting. This left a blue light on. I guess it's supposed to help you find your things before going out to use the bathroom, or meeting someone for a clandestine roomette rendez-vous. I didn't have to do either of those things. I just needed to sleep and rest my body after doing so much walking in Pittsburgh. The blue light made it difficult. I tossed and turned, and not just because of the gyrations of the train.

I got enough sleep to function in the morning. I explored the train as much as I could, and watched as my phone switched from Eastern to Central Time. Walking though the empty corridors of the sleeper car made me feel like I was in a murder mystery. Was I the perpetrator or the detective, or both? All I knew was that I was thirsty, so I went to get myself a drink. They have water on the trains, with little cut to put it in. However, it's difficult to get a hold or them and pull them out of the hole they hang down from. You end up crumpling them and they look like Garth's cup from Wayne's World.


Hey Mr. Spigot, if you're gonna spew, spew into this
One difference between the trains out West and those back East, is that they honk so much more. It doesn't matter if you're in the city, a town, or out in the countryside. The train sounds the alarm more often than I ever heard it on the line between New York and DC. I think it's because the railroad out here is more integrated into the community it goes through. The railroad wasn't built off to the side from places that were already developed, cities and towns grew up around the rails. This means there's more streets crossing the tracks, with cars that have to be alerted. It also means the train runs right by places with kids, such as parks, playgrounds, and backyards. There are times you feel so close to the houses out here, you expect the families inside to invite you in for dinner.

That morning I also made use of the showers. It's not as hard as you might think. You just have to keep pressing this little metal cylinder on the wall to get water. But they give you towels and the supply of hot water is plentiful. If the train banks ones way or another too hard, there's a sturdy metal bar to hold onto. Remember to use your used towels, and the used towels of other people to clean the excess water on the floor in front of the shower. This way people won't slip on what's dripped off your body.

I guess the shower symbol is supposed to be someone either washing their armpits
or singing. I kinda see a guy giving a Nazi salute, which is not
exactly the best look for the door to a shower on a train. Or any shower for that matter.

This is the real Amber Alert. It lets you know
When you've locked the door
to the bathroom or the shower (showers and bathrooms are separate)

Breakfast was simple. The Capitol Limited doesn't have the most advanced facilities compared to the Empire Builder, but it makes up for it with this box. Inside, there was a blueberry muffin, a Kashi bar, a cup of yogurt with fruit on the bottom and granola on the top, and, AND a fruit plate that had pineapple on it. There was also a moisty napkin, to wipe your hands of all the Fructose off your hands. The coffee was basic, but it was complimentary. 

Okay, I didn't take a picture of what's inside, but take my word for it
There's no wifi on the train, unlike the ones that run on the East Coast, including the Pennsylvanian. The Empire Builder doesn't have internet either. At least I could still use the signal on my phone. There were times I couldn't get a signal for that on the Empire Builder. Pretty much from Fargo to Spokane, I couldn't send texts, receive calls, or access my emails. I managed to keep myself busy other ways, namely by writing, editing, and reading Kafka on the Shore.  I also looked at the countryside passing by. It was flat and filled with small towns that drew their sustenance from the nearby fields of corn. The countryside was green and it was a welcome sight for my eyes after so many months of staring at concrete, brick, and steel in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Alas, the respite did not last for long. We pulled into Chicago, city of windy shoulders.

The Willis Tower looking like one of the knights from Bedknobs and Broomsticks
I didn't have any time to explore Chicago while waiting to switch trains. However, Amtrak is generous with us Empire Builders. They set up a lounge for us in the train station. Other long-distance passages can wait there as well. It's called the Metropolitan Lounge. They offered us complimentary champagne, cheese, and crudites. Most importantly, they have a free place to store luggage, in case you do have enough time to wander off.


The Metropolitan Lounge has two, two levels!
They have a CANDY BUFFET (caveat, it's mostly old people candy)
When the Empire Builder pulled in, they separated the people in the sleeper cars from those in coach. Yes, you can buy a seat in coach and sit there during the whole ride. They seem to have more leg room than the average train car. I saw people sleeping in the seats, so it's possible. You don't have any privacy though. Plus, you have to pay for all your meals on train. The sleepers get to board first, leaving the waiting area where feminine voices play over speakers announcing the track numbers ad nauseam. I had to listen to #13 repeat her number in the face of #15, who spoke hers back.

After boarding I met our attendants, Carl and Carlo (no joke, and I presume, no relation). Carl was responsible for setting up the beds at night and Carlo helped collect our dinner reservations. Breakfast and lunch are first come, first serve, but dinner requires a specific time. Carlo was adamant about the value of the dinner. He kept telling everyone it was a "real meal, with real people." But if we wanted a box with some chicken and a cookie in it, we could place an order for one to eat in the roomettes by ourselves.
Hello, it's me.
The Empire Builder doesn't have any sundries. I should've taken my bag from the Capitol Limited. Keep that in mind if you try and follow my route. That said, the Empire Builder also has towels and sheets, plus free bars of something called "deodorant soap."

This is where my traveling companion would sit, IF I HAD ONE

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Nardo Goes West, Part One

Friends and readers, this summer I’m embarking on a journey out west. It’ll take me from Brooklyn, New York, to Seattle, Washington. It’ll only last couple of days but I’ll be going through much of the country and seeing the sights and cities pass me along on the way. I won’t by going on the road. No, I’ll be going by rail. Yes, America still allows that. Most of my journey will be on the Empire Builder. It spans the West from Chicago to Seattle. On my way there, I’ll be utilizing the Pennsylvanian from New York to Pittsburgh, and then the Capitol Limited to get to Chicago.

***

Is that the Empire Builder? No, it's the Q Local to 96th Street

My trip began in Brooklyn, more specifically the Ditmas Park neighborhood where I live. Saturday morning, I gathered my things and took the first of my trains: the Q. While it may not have the cushioned seats, bathrooms, or cafĂ© cars that Amtrak trains have, it does have more reliable internet and free entertainment that you can’t shut off! 

I was heading to Penn Station. Thankfully the 2 and 3 are now running between Manhattan and Brooklyn on weekends. This way I could just transfer to the 2 from the Q in Brooklyn and take that to Penn Station at 34th Street. The Q doesn't go there directly, you have to get off near the Empire State Building and walk two long blocks over. Since it was hot and humid, I refused to do that. It was worth it go the extra stops before reaching the first of many destinations.

Every time I have to walk through this corridor in Penn Station,
I expect to see Fred Leuchter taking samples off the tiles here
Once I was at Penn Station, I had time to kill, so I walked around the area. One I reached 1 West 34th Street, I decided to stop. This would be the farthest East I would go. This trip is about going west, WEST like a real pioneer.


I waited by the disco stairs for my train, the Pennsylvanian, which would take me to Pittsburgh


I also used the new men's room. I guess "new" is relative. They fixed the sinks mostly. I didn't see any changes to the urinals or the stalls. Maybe they washed them for the first time since Ford told the city to drop dead. For a while, any men looking to relieve themselves had to follow a series of confusing signs to use a facility outside near Madison Square Garden. It wasn't an outhouse or a Port-a-John. It's wasn't a Sublime Porte either. It was a decent place to go that was exposed to the traffic, wind, and passersby. It's probably how Cornelius Vanderbilt went to the bathroom back when he owned the railroads. Everyone else had to use a chamber pot, or an empty jug from Primo Cappuccino.

The sinks are state of the art, and by "state" I mean horribly inept because they are supposed
to dispense soap, water, and hot air from a single device.

I originally sat in Coach by mistake, but was moved to business class. One good thing about heading west is that the trains have more legroom. Coach or business it doesn't matter. 

Coach class legroom
Business class legroom
The train, like Penn Station was warm. The WiFi was decent. We went through New Jersey to Philadelphia, and from Philadelphia through Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh. I guess you could call it model train country. Everything looks like it was built by enthusiasts of miniature trains. The mountains, the forests, the towns sloping up the sides of valleys, plus the antique stations and industry. Of course, to get there, we had to go through Industrial, and then Zen Nowhere New Jersey. I'm not complaining. I got to see where they assemble Blue Apron meals, plus a large pharmaceutical plant. They were next to one another.

Pictured: the Protein Pack


Pictured: Islands in the Stream

Pictured: Johnstown (not to be confused with the picture above)
There was no need to transfer in Philadelphia. I was able to ride on through. One guy in front of me was supposed to be traveling with a friend of his. Unfortunately he was unable to make it. A snippet of conversation between the Conductor and him:

"He won't be coming, he had a heart attack three days ago."
"Sorry to hear that"
"He was too."

We passed by Paoli, named for a Corsican revolutionary. How strange it is that we used to name things in this country about revolutionaries. Pulaski, Kossuth, Paoli, Kosciusko, etc. The train went by Three Mile Island, and I didn't see any three-headed birds or squirrels with laser vision. I assume that means things are fine. We stopped in Harrisburg, 

Trains of Railroads past haunted this part of the journey
Another one in Altoona, PA
Near the Juniata River, the comments from the conductor over the intercom were interesting, compared to the forceful reading of regulations I hear on the rails between New York City and Washington, D.C. He said we couldn't go barefoot between the cars and that smoking wasn't allowed. Also there would be no chance to take a smoking break because the stops at the stations were short. It was the first time I ever heard a conductor not only making this kind of announcement, but also apologizing to the smokers for the inconvenience. I guess this is what happens when you go west, young man!

More of Altoona, PA

More Altoona, in honor of my Great-Grandfather Norwood. Get it? Nor-wood!
Pittsburgh was a mix of disappointments and pleasant surprises. It has one of the most poorly laid out stations in the Amtrak system. It's small but you still have to go from the street and the waiting room up the stairs or an elevator to a platform. There's also nothing to do there while you wait. I went out and lugged my luggage through the Downtown, worried about what I would do. Luckily the Pirates were playing and they won. This way I was treated to a show of fireworks. it was pretty impressive and long. it was like celebrating the Fourth of July all over again. At midnight, I boarded the second train to complete the next leg of my journey to Chicago: the Capitol Limited. 

This time, I got a roomette to sleep in. 

Said Roomette, with complimentary water bottles

It came came with the amenities of a hotel room and the wild sense of possibilities that come from camping. It also had the space of travel by sea, along with swaying side to side. Still, it was a civilized experience, complete with coat hangers and a closet.

Coat hangers (not wire)
Closet space

There were sheets, pillows, shampoo, soaps, towels, conditioner, beauty kits, tweezers, shower caps, mending kits, and water bottles all offered to me as a traveler.

Sundries
Unfortunately I was traveling at night so there wasn't much to see. I was also too tired to stay awake and look for it. However, if I was traveling at the time, I could've used the swanky chairs of the observation car to watch the Great Lakes fly on by, plus the wonders of the Rust Belt: Cleveland, Toledo, and the time difference between Central and Eastern Standard Time.

You can pretend to be Captain Kirk