Thursday, September 22, 2022

Autumn In New York

To my surprise, I awoke to sunshine. We were supposed to have rain all day. Celebrated the weather and the first day of autumn while I ate breakfast with the Charlie & Lola fall special, "Everything Is Different and Not the Same." Lola isn't a fan of changes. Everything around her is changing. She has new tights that sag, a new teacher she's not used to, a new desk with her friend Lotta, and her favorite tree is losing all its leaves. She and Lotta are ready to hibernate after they ruin the big tree artwork with real leaves they made for class, but Charlie coaxes them out to see how important fall and changes are. 

Switched to The Cat and the Hat Knows a Lot About That as I made my bed and packed anything else I'd need. Nick and Sally can't decide which season is their favorite, so the Cat takes them to the Garden of Seasons. They meet three young animals - a Canadian goose, a frog, and a rabbit - during "Spring and Summer" and follow them as they grow and change through "Fall and Winter."

Headed out after the show ended. To my surprise, I got an Uber driver willing to take me in a minute or two, and it didn't even take him three to arrive. We had a lot more trouble on the road. Not only were there heavy dark clouds on the horizon, but the traffic leading to and going over the Ben Franklin Bridge was awful. It barely moved. The clouds finally burst as we got over the bridge and pulled away from the road work that caused the trouble. Fortunately, there was no traffic anywhere after that, and we arrived at the 30th Street Station within ten minutes. 

30th Street Station is a gorgeous Art Deco treasure that more closely resembles one of the hotels in downtown Philly than a train station. I always feel a little more elegant just walking through there. I didn't really need much, so I mostly just walked around and read Key Lime Pie Murder.

I really got lucky today. It did start raining while I was at the station, though not heavily. I suspect the originally advertised thunderstorms either arrived later in the afternoon or blew south. The Northeast Regional rolled in ten minutes late, not bad considering the trains coming from Washington and Miami were nearly a half-hour late or more. 

When I did get on, the train wasn't busy at all, especially surprising for the lunch hour. I ate my Caesar salad from WaWa and listened to music on my phone. It showered a little bit off and on during the trip, but if it ever thundered, I didn't hear it. We made it into New York slightly late, but not too bad, given the weather. By the time I crossed a noisy and heavily trafficked 8th Avenue from Penn Station to Moynihan Train Hall, the precipitation had died down to spitting.

The food court, newsstand, and downstairs bathrooms finally opened at Moynihan last spring. I first stopped at a lovely little Italian bakery stand next-door to Starbucks. Their prices were surprisingly reasonable for downtown Manhattan, and their wares looked divine. Tried "pignoli cookies," little almond-flavored cookies topped with pine nuts that were only $1.50 each. Oooh, they were perfectly sweet and soft, and very almond-y. Very yummy. 

Found the bathrooms next to the new food court. All of the restaurants were upscale pizza and salad eateries I'd never heard of before. No fast-food joints for a former post office! The dining area had soft dark-red vinyl seating and wooden trim that looked more like a nicer version of the bars in Cape May during my childhood. 

I couldn't settle down. Tried reading in the waiting area for a while after I finished in the bathroom. Not only was it pretty full in there, but I was too jumpy. Walked around the main concourse for a while until I spied the very long line for the train going to Albany.

The Lake Shore Limited lives up to its name. The view from New York to Albany is stunning, all shining rivers, bobbing sailboats, crumbling factories, and sprawling summer mansions, with the majestic Adirondacks rising above it all. It kept my mind off the full train. A young businesswoman worked on her laptop while I listened to music and watched two Match Game PM episodes from 1977. In the first one, Richard and Betty do hilarious impersonations of Brett and Charles when Gene reads a question to the lower tier. Marcia Wallace's salty mouth gets her into trouble in the second when her answer to a question about where a guy loses a few inches is censored! 

Though the train arrived at the Albany-Rensselaer Station ten minutes early, Lauren kept track of it on Amtrak's website and knew to come early as well. I stopped to use the bathroom really fast before we headed for Mario's Restaurant, a fancy Italian eatery in New Lebanon on the border of New York and Massachusetts. They remind me of many of the more upscale restaurants in Cape May, with a large porch, stone fireplace, and a real purple-red carnation and candle-holder on the table.

Lauren had eggplant Parmesan. I ordered soft round cavatelli pasta with tomatoes, shrimp, and homemade crumbled fennel sausage. Mine was spicy, but otherwise a tasty mix of earthy flavors. Lauren certainly seemed to enjoy hers. She ate the whole huge roll and half the spaghetti that came with it. She had her favorite Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake for dessert. I opted for a simpler Parfait with vanilla ice cream, fresh brownie rounds, thick, rich hot fudge sauce, and what I believe to be real whipped cream. We shared amazing mushroom beignets - savory fried donuts filled with small portabella mushrooms and topped with cream sauce - sourdough bread, and a dish of navy beans with vinegar and olive oil.

We finally pulled in at Lauren's house around nine. I'm now downstairs in her bedroom, writing this at the vintage scarlet chrome-and-Formica table she uses as a desk. Tomorrow, we'll be driving into Manchester, Vermont to check out their outlet mall and a pinball museum Lauren discovered online. 

(And I really got lucky with the weather today. The clouds broke up as the train left Moynihan, and it was sunny and windy in Albany. The streets were wet when we got out of Mario's, but to my knowledge, it hasn't rained since then.)

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