Arrive Magazine, July-August 2004
The Journey Continues
Confessions from one happy traveler, who still manages to keep
his life on track.
By Bruce Kluger
trains have always been a
touchstone in my life.
I was just a little boy living in
Baltimore when my parents
divorced, and my father moved
away to New York. Despite the
domestic turbulence of that time,
I found great solace—and even
greater excitement—in the
regular train trips I would take
north to visit my dad. To this
day, I can still conjure up images
behind them. That lone headlight rounding the bend; the loud bell clanging proudly.
To a five-year-old, the scene was nothing short of breathtaking.
dining car, as men in white waistcoats methodically set our table before us, gently
placing polished silverware on the smooth canvas of starched linen below them.
There was always a special treat for children, too: the kids’ menu, which folded up
to create a silver train car that we could take back to our seats with us.
Once when I was in elementary school, I took a trip to Philadelphia with my mother,
traveling north along the east coast corridor. Somewhere around Delaware, the
temple bar of my glasses unhinged itself and fell to the floor. Witnessing my
dilemma, the man next to us casually—miraculously—pulled a small black case from
under his seat, opening it to reveal a glittering array of eyeglass tools. Selecting a
tiny screw from a red velvet compartment, the man promptly, wordlessly, fixed my
glasses. Mom and I told that story for years.
During my last year of college, I began taking regular train trips from Washington to
New York to audition for Broadway shows. Suddenly, the familiar journey I had
taken as a child now had a new and exciting purpose. I was traveling to stardom.
Practicing my songs beneath my breath, or running lines from a Shakespearean
monologue in my head, I’d stare out the window at the greenery whipping by,
hoping that my nerves would settle. They eventually did, of course—that is, until the
skyline of Manhattan broke over the Jersey horizon. That’s when the jitters would
Hours later, I’d be back on the train, heading south. No matter how the audition
went, I recall, that ride always felt triumphant.
Eight years later, I would take the Silver Meteor from New York to Florida for my
honeymoon, in what would be my first overnight train trip. The ride was bumpy and
fun—until we reached South Carolina, where a pack of college kids poured onto the
train and into the compartment next to ours. Were they loud? Were they ever. But
when sleep ultimately came, it was peaceful and unusually deep.
Alas, the marriage didn’t last very long, but the memories of that train trip still do.
Now I am a husband again—and a father—and trains continue to color my days.
How wonderful to re-visit the thrill I felt as a child, as I watch my own young
daughters beam with anticipation as they board those great silver behemoths on a
trip to Baltimore to visit their Grandy.
And how funny that, even as time moves forward and air travel becomes the norm, I
refuse to give up my seat on what has become the longest and most delightful ride
of my life.