Thursday, September 23, 2021

Last Poems of 35

Outing my age, sorry if you thought I was a young hot thang. Anyway, thanks to Jeremy Scott of the Sparrow's Trombone for publishing two funky poems of mine. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Not an Open Book, but an Open Leaf

A journal in India, sponsored by Open Leaf Press  has published a poem of mine in a journal of theirs, appropriately titled the Open Leaf Review. That's not the title of the poem (though maybe that's a way to get editors' attention in the poems after their magazines) the poem is called Carrot and Writing Stick

Friday, August 6, 2021

Ridin' the Rails, Part II: Sleepy Joe's Revenge


To read part one, click here

After spending the night in New Orleans it was time to take the Sunset Limited in the morning. I wish I could've stayed longer to debauch myself, but at least I had a fairly decadent bed. The New Orleans station is small, but they did have a waiting area for us special sleeping car passengers. While it was no Metropolitan Lounge, they did have a coffee pot and some baked goods, which were mostly still in their packaging.

Guess what's behind the doors? If you said gambling, you were right.

Alas, the roomette was not as interesting as the one I had aboard the Crescent. There was no toilet near my bed, no hidden sink for me to use for my ablutions. The way the bed folded down also meant I could not turn it into an Amtrak-Style folding desk. But there were some differences in my favor. The dining car was open. That meant eating in style, with three course meals while watching the country go by. More importantly, the Sunset Limited has an observation car. It was where I spent most of my time when I was not using my sleeping car for sleep.

Laptop case for scale

Half of the time it was packed with Mennonites speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to one another while filling out coloring books

The observation cars, like the whole train, had no wi-fi (it puts the "limited" in the Sunset Limited) but they had outlets spread through the area. I spent my time at the tables but you can sit in one of the seats and imagine yourself on the deck of a spaceship. One that is hovering very low to the ground for some reason. The tables were a rare commodity. I had to park myself at one early and the day and stay there until lunch, if I wanted any chance of a place to spread out and work. For passengers not using the sleeping cars, they provided an area to eat. Under this level, the Sunset Limited keeps its regular café area. Normally the seating around it would be open too, but because of Covid it was closed off.

As mentioned above, the meals were more elaborate. Unlike my past trip on the Empire Builder, everybody sat by themselves while eating. I can't say if this was a good or bad thing. Last time I did meet some interesting people from North Dakota, but there were also plenty of silent meals. Some people just aren't talkers. Especially if they haven't had their morning coffee or their evening whiskey. The dining cars are only for the sleeper car passengers and while I sat in the observation deck I watched the other riders curiously wander over, only to be turned back time and time again. I imagine it wasn't too bad for them. The staff were friendly while waiting on me. 

Lobster Cake: I thought it was good, a nice amuse bouche in a sense before the main course

The steak was decent, I normally don't eat much of it to be honest let alone in a brown sauce. But it was a nice cut and the vegetables were well done. I enjoyed the polenta it came with as well. 

The desserts were probably the best thing on the menu

The French Toast was good, but then again it's a hard dish to mess up. It didn't taste eggy, which is a plus. Not pictured: a side of breakfast sausage I ordered

A simple lunch, I got a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon. It was advertised as "artisanal" but, anyway, it was bacon. Pictured: wine. The choices are limited, but when the view is great, who cares?

The cheesecake. For some reason I forgot to get a picture of the carrot cake, which was my favorite on the trip.

There were some ethnic options. They had tortellini (which I avoided since I make enough of it in NYC) and a tamale. It was good, and the salsa verde was a nice addition.

The chicken. Yes, it looks like the steak. But notice, no potato! I liked it. The sauce was better than the one that came with the steak.

The Sunset Limited took me past Lake Charles, Houston, and San Antonio. I went over the Mississippi, and saw Cajun Country. Refineries and above-ground graves sat side by side. The swamps and bayous gradually gave way to the plains. Cattle and horses grazed on them. Neither seemed startled by us. Yes, I ate my steak while looking at them. 

The depressingly small Houston train station

I woke up in the big bend of the Rio Grande. Now things were arid and the ground rough and rocky. Cacti and other desert plants dotted the landscape. Compared with my time on the Empire Builder (and at a similar longitude), the scenery was more engaging. 

The titular mountain. The title itself I forget, but it was obviously titular

It was like being in a Western, in part because even the cell service was down now. We went by Marfa, but saw no lights. A couple of hours later, I understood just how big Texas was. Thirty minutes after that, we were in El Paso. 

El Paso, where all the Mennonites on the train got off.

There's a woman who comes by to sell burritos to the passengers. She's got enough renown in these parts to get an announcement from the crew when the train pulls into the station. I wasn't able to get one, but wandered through the station instead. Compared to Houston it's much nicer and spacious. However like Houston there's nothing inside of it. All of the extra levels are occupied by an architectural college. 

We were somewhere near Lordsburg, NM when the wine began to take hold and I took a nap

The Sunset Limited made its way out of Texas and into New Mexico, followed by Arizona. The clouds were just as impressive as the brown rock formations. There were salt flats as well, which seemed to mirror the white of all the nimbuses above us. I had my final meals of the journey near Tucson, entering the heart of the Gadsden Purchase. As I slept, the train rolled on. It took me and the other passengers over the Colorado River and past Yuma, Arizona. I actually woke up at this point because it was so damn hot outside. 93 degrees at 1 in the morning. 

But I fell back asleep and when I woke up, we were on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Palm Springs, then Ontario, and finally Randy Newman's favorite city. We were an hour late, which I was actually thankful for. Usually one wants to be on time. Yet the train normally gets in at 5:30 in the morning. This way I could arrive with more sunlight (despite the name of the route I was on). The Sunset Limited pulled into Union Station and I grabbed my things. it was all off-board now and they like to make quick sweep of things. As a whole, Union Station might be the nicest in the system. Shame that at 7 AM there's no place to eat except a Starbucks, a place hardly known for its food and only somewhat acknowledged for its drinks. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Ridin' the Rails, Part I

Last week I embarked on another cross-country journey across this country's rails. No, I didn't pack up my bindle and hop on board a cattle car like a hobo in search of adventure and vittles. Instead, I took the Amtrak from New York to Los Angeles, by way of New Orleans. From New to New and LA to LA. The first leg of the journey was on the Crescent. It took me along the first 1,377 miles (2,216 km) of the trip, through Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Meridian, Mississippi. 

It all started at Moynihan Train Hall. This is the new waiting area for Amtrak passengers. Although part of Penn Station, it is housed in the former Post Office building that used to be next to Madison Square Garden. No more huddling in a bunker, waiting for announcements, or wandering with bags in a circle trying to find the Primo Cappuccino you swear is different than the three others in the station. 

As you can see, it is a much more spacious facility. There weren't a ton of options for food and drink set up yet. However, that was not of much particular concern to me because on this trip I was one of Amtrak's very special passengers. part of the elite, the elect, the chosen. Since I was taking a sleeper car, I had the privilege of hanging out in the Metropolitan Lounge. Situated on the second floor, it had space for me to spread out, store my luggage, grab a few complimentary bites to eat, and surf the web.

Amtrak Valhalla, where only the bravest and least claustrophobic travelers go

I recommend the provolone and fig sandwich

Ha! Peasants! Ha! Look up my free bag of chips and despair!

They called my train number and I went down into the bowels of Penn Station. While the entryway where I made my descent was changed, the actual platforms where the trains pull up are the same.

My roomette was interesting. It was a different setup than the one I used on the Empire Builder last time I took the train across this great land of ours. 

Looking at it reminded me of the Skylab exhibit at the Air and Space Museum

You can't say they don't use every available inch of space on the train. One of the steps leading to the top bunk opens up and underneath is a toilet. That's right, folks, you can do your business while watching the country fly right by you. You can do it while going through the woods at night, or as the train passes over a river. You can even do it while looking at people stuck in traffic down below.

The light is not as ominous as the picture makes it out to be

And above it is the sink. Good for washing of hands and drinking of cups of water. There were other watering holes on board as well. But, for sleeper car passengers these are the bathroom facilities, right in the roomette for your convenience and possible slight embarrassment. The showers are outside, shared by the neighborhood. Other amenities in the roomette: a table that pulled out, as a bunk to be pulled down, and another that I formed by sliding out the seats.

The table that folds out isn't big enough for a standard laptop

I found the secret storage rack! 

We pulled out of Penn Station and started to head south and west away from the city. The first stops on the Crescent were all familiar to me since I go between DC and NY on the train quite frequently. There was nothing drastically new to see while this part of the country flew by. I took a leak while looking out at the Meadowlands, so that was a change of pace from usual. It wasn't until the train left Union Station that I got to see a new side of America. Now I got to experience going over the Potomac in a passenger car and the sight of the Alexandria, Virginia station. 

Playing hide-and-go-seek with the Capitol

They do feed you on the train and the food and soft drinks are complimentary. For my first meal I had the shrimp and andouille sausage creole, in honor of my first destination: New Orleans. 

I watched Chinatown in honor of my second destination

I had eggs for breakfast, and for my second lunch I went with the vegan/vegetarian option of enchiladas. I can't speak for the sourcing of the materials (especially the rolls or what was used for the cheese) but they tasted good. 

The salads come with two dressings: ranch and Italian.
Oh, and you get a free alcoholic drink on the train. 

You spend roughly a day and a half on the train and get into New Orleans at night. That meant one more dinner. I went with the chicken marsala. It was fine. Overall I rank the enchiladas first, the marsala second, and the creole last. To accompany it, I bought a glass of white wine.

During my time on the Crescent, I found myself contorting myself in all manner of positions, surprised at how limber I still am. It felt like playing around in jungle gyms, Discovery Zones, and ball pits as a child. One of my projects was to find a way to use my laptop on the train. As my previous picture shows, the table provided is good for playing chess but little else. To that end I developed a standing-desk, Amtrak style. I put the top bunk down, placed my laptop on top of the bunk, and stood on top of the cover for the toilet. 

Metro Card for scale

With a little innovation you too can transform your spaces to help with work and play! From this perch I watched Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi roll on by. Lots of lush landscapes, forests, glens, farms, paddocks, and some cities.

Like Birmingham, Alabama

Then as night fell, the Crescent went across Lake Pontchartrain (putting the "train" in Pontchartrain you can say) It was too bad that it was dark out and I couldn't see any of the water or the city or the other side. It's one of the issues with the long journeys on Amtrak. You can't time things just right so you see things when you want to. The train keeps going and stops when its wants. You're a passenger, along for the ride, surrendering your control, in exchange for the ability to stand on a toilet and write.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Mentioned in the Secular Press

Happy end of July everybody. Today, I learned that I was mentioned in the Falls Church News-Press, as part of Charlie Clark's "Our Man in Arlington Column." It is part of a general review of a collection I appeared in last year focused on Arlington County, Virginia, my hometown. It was edited by Katherine E. Young, the county poet laureate. The anthology is titled: Written in Arlington: Poems of Arlington, Virginia, and it still available for sale as far as I know. It also features work from my friend Christine Stoddard.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

I Am a Dope Fiend Again


Greetings from Tuscaloosa. It's here that I've received news of a poem of mine being published in the Dope Fiend Daily. Yes, it's another one in that august blogspot site. It's called "the Dankest of Avatars."

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Two Poems in TWO Publications


Hello all, it's been a while since I had any news to share. Well here's two. One is in the Summer 2021 edition of the Split: Quarterly, a publication from Splintered Disorder Press. The other is in Cerasus, a publication based in the United Kingdom. Sigh, here is the Amazon link

Sunday, June 13, 2021

I Was in a Play


Yesterday I was in a play, "The Values of Gold, Silver, &Bronze," by Meagan J. Meehan. I played a Burglar. Credit to John Cappello for the art (not the statues).

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Follow the Flight of the Dragonfly


Two poems of mine are at Flight of the Dragonfly. They've got a Classical theme of sorts. 

Also, I'm in the inaugural issue of Whimsical Poet, edited by Sara Altman, for sale on Amazon.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

It's a Prose Day in the Neighborhood

The drought of short fiction is broken folks. Up at Short Story Town there is a piece by me called "Plugged into the Jacket." It's at the top of the page for now. In a week or so you might have to scroll down to find it. It may or may not be based on a time when I wrote essays meant for other people to use for studying purposes. No comment.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Poems on the Verge of Being NSFW


Two poems up at the Dope Fiend Daily. One political, one abusive, figure out which one is which! I'd warn about strong language, but isn't that what all decent poems should have?