Day 2: Glorious Arrival in New York

I woke up about two hours after stumbling back to my seat, half delirious from being up for twenty-two hours straight. Not sure why I did that. I should have slept for hours and hours and hours, but there seems to have been an issue with the train (one of many). There was no heat at all. We were near Canada. It is winter. I WAS EFFING COLD. I kept dozing off and waking off and finding yet another appendage close to falling off from frostbite. I put my shoes back on. I draped my coat and my sweaters over my person. I put my silly Topman beanie back on. I draped two scarves over my head — one like a turban, the other like a balaclava. I looked ridiculous, but I was still quite cold. A letter shall be written!

Later on, the heat finally returned and I managed to doze in the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever sat in. I’ve slept in planes and buses and cars and on cement floors and in the middle of the yard, but this was the most unpleasant slumber of my life. It wasn’t nearly so bad last summer when I took the Amtrak to Los Angeles — that was almost pleasant.

Finally unable to sleep anymore, I began to make small chat with the lady next to me. She and her daughter and husband were traveling to Washington DC for a vacation. Kindly, she gave me an apple, which gave me the excuse to write a hilarious joke referencing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I had hours and hours to spend on the train, so I took myself off to the club car for luncheon. I had a cheese tray. I love cheese trays. I enjoyed eating it while staring at the British man across the way who was destined to be my husband. Rudely, he decided to make a phone call to some bitch he called “his fiancé.” Didn’t he realize that I was planning our wedding and future together?

I sat and I sat and I sat and I practiced the soundtrack to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the play I’ll be seeing this week. It’s excellent. I’m sure the show is going to be a triumph.

The view from the train was nice, everything seemed to be falling down. The factories and the houses and the roads were all in varied states of dilapidation, but I didn’t mind that. I like dilapidation. New England seems to have a more constant sense of history than we do in the Midwest. There, everything gets torn down and built up again and torn down and built up again and then blown away in a tornado and then built up again. Nothing ever seems all that old or historic, so whenever I see old houses like this, I swoon. Kind of like when I lived in an apartment building in Paris from the 1600s — that boggled my mind.

We were awfully close to Canada a dozen times, which made me contemplative. Canadian boys are dumb. Boys are dumb in general.

As we reached the Hudson River, the houses became even more lovely with their collapsed widow’s walks and broken windows. I’m not sure why there were so many abandoned homes, but I wanted to take care of them all. I like houses more than people.

Bored of sitting in the lounge, I returned to my seat and talked some more with the old lady. She’s a freelance journalist for her local paper and she writes about her travels and health matters. She was convinced that if you eat the entirety of an apple — stems and core and seeds and all — you will never get cancer, so I watched her eat a core out of the corner of my eye. It was strange.

For some reason, they decided that it was a good time to do work on the railway line, so we sat for ages and ages and ages. I couldn’t bear it, so I hurried off to get a nibble and gin. I had some awful pizza. Just look at it:

Amtrak is delayed. I'm starving. I can't live off this crap. Hurry up, train!

A post shared by Benjamin Phillips (@bdphillips) on

I ate it, but it wasn’t worth it. The gin was. Gin always tastes great on a train.

Finally, we entered the Hudson River Valley, the finale of this interminable train ride, and I was blown away. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL. It is wide as the great Mississippi with mountains rising up on either side. Chunks of ice a foot thick slowly flowed downstream. It was chilly and inhospitable, but I kind of fell in love with this place.

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IMG_6676I stood between the cars and watched the scenery pass by. I felt rather like an explorer, but of course, this land has been explored long ago. It’s been populated by European settlers for centuries before my home in the Midwest.

I got a bit overly emotional when I realized that we were in Martha’s land. She knows this area. She lives here. She’s probably climbed these mountains on one of her hiking expeditions. She’s flawless. She’s my queen.

With the gorgeous scenery and the impressive river and lovely sunlight, it’s really no surprise that an entire school of art developed here. It’s gorgeous and the mountains grow ever taller.

I JUST REALIZED THAT WE’RE GOING TO PASS THROUGH SLEEPY HOLLOW:

IMG_0787ERMAHGERD WE JUST WENT THROUGH SLEEPY HOLLOW. I CAN’T HANDLE IT!

I went back to my seat for the last hour on the train and the lady next to me got ever more chatty, which was alarming. I didn’t mind discussing her Finnish background or her twenty-one grandchildren or her twenty-three great-grandchildren. That was all rather sweet. But, she started talking about industry in her area of Minnesota — she had a fabulous accent — and I don’t know why she said it. I don’t know why old people do it, but they can’t seem to help themselves. What follows made me fear for my life: “You know, we’re a melting pot up at the mines, you know? Finnish and Swedish and Dutch and so many other people, you know? (She was fond of saying that.) We didn’t have any darker people, THE NEGROS, you know? They bring them into the college for their football teams.” That was real uncomfortable, reader, because how was I supposed to respond? I was on a very diverse train and I wanted to shrivel up and die.

LOL THE BRAKES BROKE. So, we sat there for more and more time. I wanted off that train so badly! But, finally, we started moving and I was soon off and into the city. I wasn’t crazy about it at first, as I was disoriented, but then everything changed — for shining down upon me like a glorious beacon was a billboard of RuPaul. I knew I’d be all right with Mama Ru looking down upon me.

It didn’t take me long to get to my hotel, The Jane, which is a renovated “sailor hotel.” It is also where the White Star Line housed the survivors of the Titanic when they arrived on the Carpathia. The place has a great sense of history and I fell in love with it the moment I stepped inside.

IMG_0788The desk people wear traditional bellhop outfits! With hats! It’s just like visiting the Hollywood Tower Hotel — before it was cursed by a movie star’s jealous sister and entered The Twilight Zone. If you don’t get that reference, get off my website. (Don’t really, just educate yourself.) The entire place is dark and sinister and cozy and I love it tremendously. Some photos:

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Each room is just a bed and a television and a mirror and that’s it. There bathrooms are at the end of the hall, which I thought might be awkward, but it’s perfectly fine.

IMG_0794Anyplace with wallpaper so glorious is fine by me.

IMG_0795The do not disturb sign — loves it!

I was starving, so I went down to the hotel restaurant, the Café Gitane, which was utterly perfect. I had Moroccan Couscous and it was divine. I’m used to getting couscous in a tagine or something of the sort, but this was molded into a tower of vegetables. It was delicious with a generous dollop of fresh hummus on top. Absolutely excellent. As was the WINE:

IMG_0790I’ve never been too crazy about wine. I just drank it because it was something to drink. Here in America, I don’t bother because it’s so coarse. I remember the first time I had fine wine — it was in Paris at a beautiful restaurant overlooking Notre Dame. The flavor was excellent, it enhanced the meal, and it was so smooth and delicious. I’ve given up ever hoping to find such a wine again, but this one took me straight back to Paris. I am absolutely in love with it. Must buy some when I get home.

I had a very relaxing time at the restaurant. It was dark and the music was tasteful and everybody was attractive. We all smolderingly glared at each other while pulling model-esque poses as we sipped our fine wine.

Then I went to bed, because girl, I was exhausted.

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