As promised when I wrote “From Madrid to Segovia“, here is my half-assed video from another train ride — Washington, DC to New York City — with Frank Sinatra’s version of “I Thought About You”. The train took me from DC to NYC through Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton, and Newark. And on the way back, well, I had to go first from Queens to the Bronx and then back to Manhattan to get return train. New York City is all about the weather and traffic reports. In other words, it is just like any Seinfeld episode. Thanks to my bro, I had all of the bases covered.
One thing that I thought about a lot on the train was how much the US is being left behind. Our infrastructure is outdated and doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Most of the train stations are old and falling apart. For example, even the Washington, DC Metro has the same cars from when it was first inaugurated some 20 years ago. In Madrid they are constantly upgrading the trains and the stations. In comparison, the entire ride up the US East Coast looks like some old forgotten world, much like what Spain must have looked like to an American some 15-20 years back. Ironically, the US seems in many ways historically older than Europe does. We got modern first, now our modernity is older than the European’s.
Also, cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Newark are plagued with bombed out rowhouses. You expect abandoned old buildings in New York City (and even Baltimore), but what is so frustrating to see is how so many Americans are left behind in these old rowhouses festering away and not taking part in the so called “American Dream”. The decaying infrastructure and dying inner cities may seem to be rejuvinating due to gentrification and urban revitalization, but definitely not everywhere. Those “pockets” of poverty are much greater and more desperate than what you’d imagine, and their causes are not new. They are the legacy of a long history of neglect and it doesn’t seem like anyone is doing much to change things.
Maybe not all is lost. I saw a quote on my grandmother’s calendar attributed to Bill Clinton that read something like, “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be corrected by what is right with America.”
On another note, what is truly wonderful about the traveling from DC to New York City is the shere natural beautiful — especially New York City that is often thought of solely as a place of skyscrapers. New York is surrounded by bays, rivers, the ocean, and such massive natural beautiful that we often forget to glance at these because we are too busy looking up at the buildings or trying to avoid the gaze of one of the city’s finest weirdos. Next time you’re entering the City on one of its bridges, instead of taking a look at the Manhattan skyline, look the other way towards the vast aquatic wilderness.