Monday, October 08, 2012

Citizen Whistlestop

In the spirit of election season, I spent my recent vacation taking a personal whistlestop tour of the United States to reacquaint myself with people who will, come Nov. 6, be reduced to binary: R or D, yes or no, boxers or briefs. Departing from New York Penn Station on Aug. 29, I stopped in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta and D.C., returning to New York on Sept. 24. Ultimately, I'm not sure that trapping myself in a steel box for hours on end with people, their cell-phone conversations and crying children was the most pleasant way to bond with my countrymen, but it was certainly efficient; two or three times a day I sat in the dining car with complete strangers and heard about their lives. Add the incidental chitchat of the coach cars, cafe cars and lounge cars, and it felt like I'd like speed-dated my way around the country.

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Before I went on the trip I envisioned a photo essay that could tie in the people, the landscape and the political moment, with the railway as connective tissue. In retrospect, it was too diffuse and overly ambitious given my timetable. But I came away with a few seeds of future projects and a few pictures I like. Here's a random sampling. You can see a larger set on my Flickr account.

On the train to Pittsburgh:

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Pittsburgh:

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On the train to Chicago:

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Omaha:

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On the train to Denver:

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Denver:

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On the train to Salt Lake City:

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Salt Lake City (or nearby):

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On the train to San Francisco:

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[My time in California was consumed by family and friend gatherings and I took approximately zero photos.]

Los Angeles:

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On the train to Tucson:

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Tucson:

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On the train to San Antonio:

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San Antonio:

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On the train to New Orleans:

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New Orleans:

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Atlanta:

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Friday, September 28, 2012

With Coats of BBQ Sauce, Coats of Arms

There's my fake newspaper headline for a story someone should write about the metastasizing signage that adorns vendors' tents at the country's barbecue competitions. I encountered these signs at the Heinz Field Rib Fest in Pittsburgh in late August, before a preseason Steelers game. I'd love to know who started this trend, though it seems like the banners simply grew to accommodate the veteran companies' proliferating awards ("'Best Rib in America' - Jamestown Rib Fest"). To compete for eyeballs, less accomplished pit masters were forced to pad their plumage with more generalized accolades ("Bone Lickin' Good") and solicitations ("Get Your Bone On").

When I googled this competition later I learned the results. In the category of Best Ribs, first place went to Big Boned BBQ Co., second went to Old Carolina, and Texas Pit came in third. Big Boned also won in the category of Best Sauce. I'm disappointed I couldn't try them all.

Click on any of these images to view them in their larger sizes on Flickr.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Omaha

Here are a few pictures from my 24-hour visit to Omaha, the third city on my cross-country train trip. I'll double back and post a few from Pittsburgh and Chicago at a later date.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Getaway

Some guys take their girlfriends on romantic train trips around Europe. Others go Dutch on an Amtrak trip to French Canada. I think we all know which kind of guy I am.

Mythili, at our hotel in Montreal:

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Skyline over the Lachine Canal:

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A defunct grain elevator:

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Another view:

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Tracks by the Old Port:

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Inside Montreal's Notre Dame:

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Looking out the window on the return trip:

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