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Posts Tagged ‘amtrak’

Heading Home

Heading home today. Will go back after my sister gets her treatment plan.

Here you see me leaving the varied wonders of New York behind and traveling by train and boat. The only picture that needs explanation, I think, is the Penn Station sink fixture, the like of which I had never seen. The left end of the metal bar dispenses soap, the middle provides water, and the right end is a blow drier!

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Time to share my travels on foot again.

First up, plain folk waiting for their train. Next the street lamp in Narnia’s endless winter on the other side of the wardrobe.

The bird in the nest was given to me by an expectant mother as a thank you for “helping to feather my baby’s nest.” The baby is now in his late 20s.

I thought the snowy dogwood branches had a hopeful lift to them.

Finally, a team from the company Life is good put a lot of energy into building this giant Adirondack chair beside a beach ball, encouraging photographers to tweet pictures with the hashtag #ligbeachday. I saw a lot of homeward commuters snapping away en route to their trains. Quite a lot of advertising potential in this playful installation in Dewey Square, Boston.

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Photo: Jake Naughton/The New York Times
Ayun Halliday creating a new issue of “The East Village Inky”  as part of the MTA Zine Residency

Remember the Amtrak Artist Residency? Here’s what might be called a “stealth residency,” organized by a librarian in New York and taking place on the New York subway system.

Colin Moynihan writes at the NY Times, “Thirteen people formed a sort of mobile salon just after noon on Friday, boarding an F Train in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn with the aim of riding for hours through three boroughs while writing and illustrating zines — self-published, photocopied periodicals usually made by hand. …

“The two-day event, called the MTA Zine Residency, had been organized by a librarian and an archivist at the Barnard College library, which they said has the largest circulating collection of zines in an academic library. …

“Despite the initials in its name, the event was organized without the knowledge or collaboration of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subway system. The peaceful takeover of the subway car reflected the do-it-yourself spirit that is a basic prerequisite to zine making, said the other organizer, the archivist Shannon O’Neill. …

“ ‘Remember the promise and betrayal of the #AmtrakResidency?’ the organizers of the subway project wrote, while announcing their own subway and ferry trips. ‘We won’t pay for your MetroCard, but we also won’t demand to own your stuff!’ …

“Transit officials had no objection to the activities. ‘As long as they abide by our rules of conduct, we certainly welcome them in the subway system to nurture creative self-expression,’ said a spokesman, Kevin Ortiz.”

More here.

I’m thinking of several artistic readers of this blog when I say you may want to get on board this train the next time it comes around.

Photo: Jake Naughton/The New York Times 
Composing zines on the F train on Friday during the MTA Zine Residency. 

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I love Amtrak, and I love writing, but I don’t think I am ever going to do an Amtrak Artist Residency, so I am passing along the info so you can apply. It sounds like fun. Just glimpsing the exposed backs of houses along the tracks with their hints of the private lives lived in them is inspiration for a ream of stories.

William Grimes writes for the NY Times blog ArtBeat, “The wheels have begun moving on Amtrak’s plan to offer writers a rolling residency aboard their trains. … Up to 24 writers, chosen from a pool of applicants, will be given a round-trip ticket on a long-distance train, including a private sleeper-car room with a bed, a desk, and electrical outlets. …

“The idea was born in December when the novelist Alexander Chee, in an interview with the magazine PEN America, casually mentioned his love for writing on trains, and added, jokingly, ‘I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.’

“When Jessica Gross, a writer in New York, echoed the sentiment on Twitter, Amtrak arranged for her to do a trial residency on the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago. She agreed.

“Her account of the trip, ‘Writing the Lake Shore Limited,’ published by The Paris Review in February, grabbed the attention of The Wire, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. Soon after, Amtrak decided to turn the trial run into a full-fledged program.” More on when and how to apply.

Even before that series of events, there was the Whistlestop Arts Train, you know. I blogged about the rolling public art project by Doug Aitken last July, here.

Trains for dreaming. Holiday model train layout at Amtrak’s South Station, Boston.

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The last time I looked, Travelers Aid helped people in train stations and bus stations who were lost or confused or needed a translator. The website still notes that history.

“Travelers Aid Family Services began in 1916 as an all-volunteer effort, one of hundreds of organizations that emerged around the country in response to the needs of the thousands of new immigrants arriving in the United States each day. The agency, which was incorporated in 1920 as the Travelers Aid Society of Boston, provided help with housing, transportation, and employment to new immigrants, stranded travelers, and the poor at Boston’s train stations and docks.”

I wish when I directed a stranded Amtrak passenger to the Travelers Aid office office this morning that today it has the deeper purpose of ending homelessness. Oops.

The traveler was a pleasant if anxious man in his 40s who had come up from Virginia to meet a flight his 14-year-old daughter was taking from Greece. Not knowing our wily ways up north, he gave money to another train passenger who asked for $10. After he got off the train, he realized his wallet was gone.

Amtrak police were surly and told him to go a Boston Police station to file a report — but didn’t tell him how to get there. He wandered around for a couple hours. Then he stopped me and asked where the police station was.

I am pretty wary of these hard-luck travel stories. People of all ages make them up on the subway (one woman has a different story every day about why she doesn’t have the fare for Fitchburg or Worcester), but the traveler was only asking for directions to a police station that I didn’t know how to find.

So I sent him to Travelers Aid across from South Station. At least there will be kind people there, right? Even if he isn’t homeless and doesn’t fit their new mission? I sure hope so. if you know anything about Travelers Aid today, please tell me.

Photograph: Travelers Aid Family Services

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For several years now, there has been a concert series right in the middle of all the comings and goings at Boston’s busiest Amtrak Station. Sometimes chamber music is played, sometimes it’s movie music, sometimes it’s cabaret. The concerts go from 11:30 to 12:30, and people just wander in and wander out. It’s great to see the look of surprise on travelers’ faces and the cellphone cameras being whipped out. Chairs are set up for those who want to sit to listen, or to eat their lunch. This year’s schedule is here.

Today we heard jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant, who has a website with a great URL, www.hipharp.com. She plays a small, 11-pound, blue electric harp from France and dances and sings while playing blues and jazz and songs she wrote. She has been called the Jimi Hendrix of harp and had us all singing along.

See the demo. It starts out with an original song that she also performed in South Station today.

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