Riding the rails

Sitting at the river-side window on the NY-Montreal train. Not that I’m going to Montreal; I’m on a family junket, first to Saratoga to see the oldest of the Four Fabulous Nephews and his family, then on to Boston where his younger brother will run the Boston Marathon on Monday. (And yours truly will be at the goddamn finish line, yes I will.)

Rolling through midtown, looked down on a scraggly, potholed parking lot. Chain link and razor wire surrounded a dozen broke-down cars, and a car-sized white Chinese lion. He had a parking spot of his own.

Where the tracks pass under the roadway it’s dark except for occasional spills of light from cut-outs above. Each of these is graffitied, like art in a spotlight. Three are good, one is spectacular.

In northern Manhattan, between the train right-of-way and the river — serious no-man’s land — we just passed three lean-tos made of branches, old lumber, and blue tarp. One has a barbecue grill outside it. This is the area where Pete Hamill set his cave in FOREVER. If you love NYC or love good writing or both, and you haven’t read FOREVER, you’re in for a treat.

Farther: two fishermen with five fishing poles among them. Doesn’t look to be any action, though. A rack of bright kayaks in all sorts of colors, and a duck chasing a loon from his breakfast spot. Across the river, evidence of a recent big landslide on the Palisades: a cone-shaped treeless cliffside covered in scree. How recent? I think, the last few years, but not this year. I could see the green of small new trees leafing out here and there in the gray of the rocks.

In the general way of things I’m grumpy, cynical, pessimistic, and depressed. (And no, I won’t give up my Oxford comma.) But give me a cup of tea and a window seat on a train, and contentment reigns.

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