Scribblerjmz Notes: Art and Amtrak


I’m leaving DC on the way to Boston, then Salem, Massachusetts. I usually cancel my blog when I’m traveling but not this time—typing on a train is interesting. Typos obligatory.

New thing for me, train travel. Only done this in Europe. Acela Express to Boston. While I have the day job and the wherewithal, I paid for business class. At this stage in my life, I want some creature comforts because I am a creature of a certain age as well. After retirement, such discretionary funds will diminish.

Speaking of this, I am finding myself more often in crowds, and disliking it more. I suppose this results from increasing population EVERYWHERE, but I have less tolerance for it. Our family always shunned crowded places too. At the beginnings and long trek through adulthood I became used to it, depending on venue; in hotels and conferences one expects crowds, and in big cities like New York and DC and Amsterdam, but in the great outdoors? NO.

In Zion a year ago, I was unhappy. While intellectually I could appreciate that people from around the world came thousands of miles to see the remarkable site of a canyon fashioned into vertical red towering cliffs by a river called Virgin. But there were too many visitors for me. On the Lower Narrows trail, me, the addicted photographer, had to time my shots to allow the great herd to pass me. And the children. Yes, cute, delighted, weary, daring. But slow on the trails and very bad drivers, always weaving in front of me.

Now this train car, so far, is nicely sparse of humanity. However when we stop at Thurgood Marshall Airport outside of Baltimore I fear my solitude is short-lived. No doubt people will come and go, as I will be in this car for 7 hours. Because I look like a nice, sweet, old lady, people don’t fear sitting next to me. With earphones in and listening to Depeche Mode, there is no threat of unwanted conversation.

Although I did chat with my Lyft driver on the way to Union Station. Erik told me about his two grown sons, how one likes to spend and the other to save, and the toy-game enterprise me works on after he finishes his driving shift. I enjoyed this, actually. In small doses and over the short term, the individual encounter can be interesting.

At the conference I just left, I was OVER the lobby-crowding, WiFi sucking mob.

Just passed the coolest-looking cemetery.

Oh boy — they just announced that one may purchase a Bloody Mary. Tempting!

Baltimore now. First time in Baltimore and only passing through. Jon Waters, where are you? The sad fact about train travel here is that we travel through America’s back yards, and they are not always picturesque.

Now more folks will get on. No one getting off, seemingly. Again, I purposefully went to one of the farthest cars for just this reason, concluding that the cars nearest to the station gate would fill up more quickly. Right-oh.

While in DC a colleague and I ducked out for a few hours to catch some sun and exercise. We had no particular goal in mind. Our hotel was a handful of blocks from the Mall, but I’ve done the Mall. The first three times it was beautiful and captured in my photos and they were good ones too.

I recalled a quiet little museum, the Renwick, a Smithsonian venue and free of charge. That too is the most wonderful thing. So far our elected representatives keep these treasures free to the public, and the public is massive, and again, international.

The Renwick was showing art from Burning Man, where descendants of the psychedelic have gone over the top building wearable art, mobile art (propelled by humans, of course), and burnable art.

Just crossed water. Gunpowder River, a fat thumb of water poking into Maryland. Moving fast!

After the Renwick, and a side trip through the over-priced gift shop, we wandered past the White House, thinking we would revisit the Academy of Sciences or the National Gallery, two of my favorite would-see-again places, which category includes the Botanical Gardens.

I look out a gabled white farm houses, and wonder if this is the same track Louisa May Alcott followed when she went to DC to volunteer as a nurse during the Civil War.

But on our way we got hot, it was very hot. And humid. And Seattlites don’t like that. When we realized we were running out of time, we punted and started back, looking for air conditioning.

We found it in the Museum of the Americas, a little gem that the crowd either doesn’t know about or finds far less appealing than the Air and Space. No one was inside. It was blessedly cool, a tiny 3 floors of squeaky boards and silent art.

Modern artists from South and Central America. Slim sculpture incorporating shadow into their design. Every painting depicted unhappy people. Oppressed people. Doomed people. As if to say, what else would you expect from a Latin American artist? Shadows again, subdued colors, abstractions.

As we followed the exhibition, we came into a tiled and wood-beamed creation, an entire vaulted room looking through French doors onto a green. Blue terra cotta tiling, indigenous carvings, and the thick-beamed dark wood ceiling one sees in the Missions. Framed in the exit door was a complex sculpture built from pool cues.

Then back into the heat and walk to hotel and laptops and email and meetings.


Flying through the tip of Delaware toward Philly. Do Philadelphians hate the name “Philly” as much as San Franciscans hate “Frisco”?



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Scribblerjmz Notes: Art and Amtrak — 3 Comments

  1. Oh I love the train. My last big trip was from Chicago to Sacramento, almost 20 years ago on the California Zephyr …I need to do this again.

    And no, we don’t hate it. We all call her Philly ouselves. 🙂

    • Good to know! I like to call it “Philly”. Don’t know why “Frisco” is so maligned.