joy magnetism: Ain't that America

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ain't that America

Magnet #907 – Van Gogh’s House at Auvers

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love traveling by train. If I can get there by train, rather than fly, I’ll do it.

Part of it, is that it’s cheaper to fly, given that I can get to the train station for the price of a subway ride (vs. a $20-40 cab), and, on top of that, I don’t get charged for my luggage.

But, that’s not even the real reason.

Train travel feels like I’m going somewhere, like I’m really traveling to get there. You don’t feel that when you’re flying, because half the time you’re lost in the puffy clouds, then you descend and you’re in another place. With roadtrips (which I also love), you’re concerned with rest- and gas-stops and attractions along the way.

But train travel, whether it’s Europe or America, you get to watch the countryside go by. And if you’re travelling Amtrak’s 79/80 Carolinian up and down the eastern seaboard, particularly in the summer, it’s amazing.

When you pass the big cities, you’re seeing the poorest neighborhoods fly by, and you can see where the phrase “wrong side of the tracks” originated. The way is littered with dilapidated clapboard houses, the empty industrial wastelands, tags on every surface you can see, and abandoned cars by the roadsides.

When you pass the small towns, you see history. If the train still stops there, you can see the bustling city and school centers close by. But, where the trains have abandoned their stations, you can see the remnants of the former centers of town, with beat-up brick buildings and empty cafes, and blocks of storefronts not touched since the middle of last century.

But, in between big and small America, oh, in between, it’s simply gorgeous. I love passing the forests of green, with canopies and carpets so thick that that surely no humans have ever lived there. They leave you staring into the woods, going for a glimpse of animals…ok, fine, yes, I look for bears. Always. I can't stop myself, either, from scouring practically every lake, river and swamp that we pass, just hoping to catch a bear in its tracks.

But, I think my favorite is seeing the farms in the windows – the tractors and irrigation machines in the fields, giant bales of hay, the dusty service roads lining the hundreds of acres of lush tobacco, tall corn, what I think is soy, and sometimes even cotton. It truly gives you hope for the future of the American agricultural industry, kinda like those Borden commercials, where those farmers are friends of Bessie.

The 95/85 corridor doesn't necessarily match the countryside commune shown here in this Van Gogh magnet, but at the risk of sounding jingoistic, if that corridor ain't America, I dunno what is.

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