Routine. It's a way of making travel less stressful. Which is why I indulge in it, when I can.
That's why I'm flying to Newark. I know the airport. And it has a train station. Pretty important, that, as I'm catching a train later. Penn Station to Albany.
Preparation. Another way to lower stress levels. I've a shiny new laptop, noise-cancelling headphones, two issues of Private Eye and a bottle of duty-free Laphroaig. (Bit of a tradition that last one.) Should be enough to keep me entertained over the Atlantic and beyond.
Though it said alcoholic drinks had to be paid for, they're handing out free wine and beer. That's saved me a few quid. The food isn't great. And there isn't much of it. That's what you get flying with a US carrier. And cabin crew close to retirement.
We arrive at Newark a little early. Then there's the bonus of almost no queue at immigration. I'm through so quick, I beat my bag to the carousel. This is amazing. One of my least painful arrivals yet. I tootle along on the monorail to the Amtrak station. Though I won't be taking an Amtrak train. Not yet. My train to Albany isn't for several hours. I'm just taking the New Jersey Transit train to Penn.
I'm not the only one. There’s soon quite a crowd on the platform. Considering the route we're on, there aren't a great number of trains. When one finally trundles in, it's pretty full. Though it is quite new. One of the fancy double-decker jobs. Luckily, I manage to find a seat.
The area around Newark must be one of the most desolate in the US. Rusting factories, marshland with evil-looking brown, scummy water. Empty lots, railway lines and motorway viaducts. Maybe it's deliberate to make New York look nicer, when you finally arrive.
I've deliberately left a few hours between touchdown and train. You never know how long immigration will take. It also gives me chance for a couple of beers in NYC. I consulted Google maps to work out where. Stout and Rattle 'n Hum aren't too far. But I've been to them before. Not that impressed by Stout. Can't stand Rattle 'n Hum. S, I looked for somewhere new, not too far away. I settled on District Tap House.
District Tap House looks the part. Pubby enough to please, despite rather too many TVs. I settle at the bar and get a pint of something IPA-ey.
I've mentioned on the internet that I'll be here today. A couple of people said they might show up. I wonder if they will? I get some scran while I'm waiting. They really were economical with the nosh on the plane.
After a second IPA I've moved on to an Imperial Stout. That's pretty much the whole spectrum of US beer covered: pale, strong and hoppy and dark, strong and hoppy. Truly a land of diversity.
I glance towards the door and who should walk in but Jim Barnes. Friend of Dann and Martha (formerly of Pretty Things). He's a top man with whom I've shared a couple of sessions. Including a memorable lunchtime in Boston. We're soon chatting away like crazy.
He mentions my music. I sent him a USB stick of my stuff. He actually listened to it. Probably the only person who ever has, other than me.
Jim helps me carry my luggage back to Penn. Now there's a bonus. The long queue at the gate suggests that the train is going to be crowded. Luckily the carriages going to Albany aren't that full. I settle into my seat, whip out my flip-flop and indulge in some Fresh Meat. Series 3, which I still hadn't finished watching. I'm so behind with television. If they stopped making programmes tomorrow, I'd be good for another year or two.
I do give the scenery the odd glance. Leaving New York, the line hugs the Hudson as flats and houses teeter vertiginously on the cliffs above. No way I'd get Dolores to live in one of them. As we head further North, the valley gets wider and greener, but still bounded by sheer slopes. It all looks very glacial.
My chum Craig Gravina is waiting for me at Albany Rensselaer. Thankfully. It doesn't look like a very nice walk to my hotel.
After checking in and cleaning up, we hit the town. Not quite sure of all the places we went. Beer Belly and Lionheart for sure. Somewhere else, too. It's all a bit of a blur. Must be the time difference catching up with me.
I make it until almost midnight. Then sleep the sleep of a weary traveller. Have to be up early tomorrow. Lots on the schedule.
District Tap House
246 W 38th St,
New York, NY 10018.
Tel: +1 212-221-1822
The Beer Belly
281 New Scotland Ave,
Albany, NY 12208.
Tel: +1 518-487-4152
448 Madison Ave,
Albany, NY 12208.
Tel: +1 518-436-9530
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