Sunday, December 26, 2010

Swing Dancing on the New York Subway

Here is a tip for all of you would-be Amtrak riders:* You know that saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"? Well, as it turns out, complaining can really pay off sometimes, which explains why I try to do it as much as possible.

For instance, on the train north back to New York, the heating apparatus in one car stopped working early in the overnight ride. That car happened to be the one that I was seated in. I generally build a pillow fort in the Lounge anyway, so I was not bothered, but when I wandered back into the car early in the morning, the temperature had dropped drastically, and desperate, freezing people were huddled together, desperately covered in all of their outerwear and muttering about the inhumane and brusque treatment they had gotten in response from the train staff when they had complained. Snow literally drifted into the car from the vestibule. One particularly angry woman declared that she would complain to Amtrak and demand a refund. Hmmm, I thought. Refund, eh?

Upon arrival, I was on the phone immediately. If you do the math, a $75 credit toward my next ticket purchase is totally worth waiting on hold for an hour while catching up on correspondence and drinking coffee. It certainly pays more than freelance travel writing! Ha!

So the moral of that story is always try to capitalize on your discomfort if it can be blamed in any way on someone else, or if it cannot, and you can still gain from it, then I commend you more heartily still.

Back in Brooklyn, where there was sadly no snow, I asked a friend for the scoop on what interesting things were on about town. She sent me a list of events, and the first one I read was so perfect I could scarcely believe my eyes. Apparently, the metro goes old school for the holidays, and the New York City Transit Museum puts vintage subway cars back in action every Sunday during the season. The nostalgia levels run as high as the holiday spirit as old, diesel powered trains from the 30s to the 70s link up and race along the F line from the Lower East Side to Queens and back. Amazing!

(Next stop, 1940)

When we arrived at the 2nd Ave stop to await our chariot, we were surrounded by happy, expectant locals and tourists alike, many dressed in period attire. The loud, smelly, beautiful train pulled up, and we thronged through the doors, marveling at wicker seats, ceiling fans, and vintage subway ads from the first part of the 20th century.

(The things we take for granted)

(Don't I know it)

We wandered between cars while the antique train chugged down the modern tracks, coming across a woman dressed as Mrs. Claus singing carols, then finally coming to a car where a group of beautiful happy time travelers were swing dancing to a live jazz band.** We watched them perform the amazing feat of dancing while on a crowded, moving subway car until the end of the line, where we all got out and danced until it came back around and we rode again.

(Could this be any better?)

Having developed a hearty appetite from all of that excitement, we had dinner at Caravan of Dreams, a vegan restaurant in the Lower East Side, half underground, full of candlelight, and with the most beautiful wood floors. Cold pressed juices, walnut pâté, avocado salad, and banana almond butter pie replenished our spirits greatly.

I cannot think of a better way to spend a frigid winter day in New York.


*Actually, this tip is applicable in almost every situation in life, so heed my words padawan!
**I pinched myself. It hurt. I was not dreaming.