“Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood.”
— Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind”
Last Friday, I took Billy’s advice and went “up the Hudson River line,” not on a Greyhound, but on an Amtrak train. Greyhound goes up the Thruway.
A change of scenery can be therapeutic, especially for those of us who work from home. Some days, the only time I get up from my desk is when my dog enters the room to demand to be walked or fed.
I didn’t go for the scenery along the way, though. I’ve taken the train up or down the “Hudson River line” more times than I can remember. I probably know every curve, station and bridge between New York and Albany by now. It was strictly to get away from desk, the house and the distractions of email and the internet.
As my destination I chose Schenectady, New York, the first stop after Albany. It’s a little more than three hours on the train, which is doable for a one-day excursion. My purported reason was to see the newly opened railroad station and the new casino not too far away.
Since I didn’t care about the scenery and the weather wasn’t conducive to sightseeing anyway, I put my time on the train to good use. I took out my laptop computer, plugged into the outlet next to my seat and spent more than two hours working on a project without interruption. How often do we get to do something like that these days?
Schenectady might not be the most exciting city in upstate New York, but it has one advantage: the station is right in the heart of downtown. There are several restaurants close by. The historic Proctor’s Theatre is a few blocks away and the new casino is a 20-minute walk from the station.
Since I had a five-hour layover, the casino was a good place to kill some time before heading home. It was busy but not crowded. No wow factor, but pleasant enough. A good place to play if you’re really into gambling or just want to take a chance with part of your estate.
The station also was pleasing. I’ve read that it is a vast improvement over the cookie cutter bus depot-like facility that Amtrak built in the early 1970s. The first thing I noticed when I got off the train was glazed stonework lining the stairwell and walls. The waiting room features a high-vaulted ceiling and large, arched windows, making for a comfortable, but not imposing, environment.
Since my train would not leave for more than an hour, I took out my laptop, again, and got more work done.
The trip home was uneventful, although the train was packed with college students heading home for winter recess. In fact, they had to add an extra car at Albany to accommodate all the riders. And, while you can no longer enjoy a fresh-cooked meal in a dining car on the trains in Upstate New York, the hot dog, potato chips and soda I purchased in the café car for dinner were tasty and fresh.
The message is simply to make time for yourself, and getaway for that holiday. The Bible tells us G-d rested on the seventh day, after Creation was complete. Observant Jews have been doing that ever since Mount Sinai. We’re at our best when we have rested.