Thursday, April 7, 2016

When we were younger oh, oh, we did enough

As I write this I'm somewhere in east-central Pennsylvania travelling to New York City for some sort of college newspaper conference. We somehow convinced the university (who is handling the bill for this venture) to let us [being my editor and I] travel to NYC by train, My guess is that it was comparable pricing, plus a professor recommended it. 

So, I'm writing this from the relative comfort of the 42 Pennsylvanian. Taking a nearly 9 hour train ride leaves a lot of time for window-watching and reflecting. So often in life we're given opportunities to do amazing things - cover a presidential rally, head to New York City, cover the bicentennial of your city - that we focus on those things. The accomplishments, the clips, the resume lines, all that fancy jazz that we're trained to give value to. And there's something to be said for that, but still, and it's cliche to say but it'd be nice to not focus on the destination.

I've always been fascinated with road trips, and trains in particular. I don't particularly understand why, but I've begun to realize some things through this venture. 

Railways are continuous by design. They don't turn and wind as much as roadways can afford to, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Towns aren't built around railways anymore, they're built around exits, creating that uniform artificiality that surrounds a stop - that gas station that serves the food, that hotel that's there, and some sort of attraction. 

Railways are unblinking - you see the shiny and new bastions of industry, the windmills, the rolling hills, the Civil War era Main Streets, and, most fascinating to me, the dilapidated and the abandoned. 

Graphs are made by connecting points. Individual, dotted, unmoving points. The same applies to railways - the stops are little burgs and villes and sometimes larger cities, but for some reason someone decided to connect them directly. 

The train I'm taking, the 42 Pennsylvanian, is the most direct route from Pittsburgh to New York. It goes via Greensburg, Latrobe, Altoona, Harrisburg, Elizabethtown, Philly, and some places I'm no doubt forgetting. Those are the points - large and small - that are connected. The stations are placed by necessity - sometimes in an offbeat place with a small shelter and other times a block from the Pennsylvania State Capitol building

It's rare anymore that people have the time to talk extensively about the things they work on, but more specifically how they got there. You hear the story about a presidential candidate speaking but what you're missing is the story of how your press credentials were sent to a spam folder or how you followed a random camera guy and next thing you know you're in a private tour given by the mayor and the CEO of the history center. 

Those stories - those anecdotes on how you got the story - are fascinating in their own rite but you don't hear them because all to often you only have time to tell the one, largest story. So you do it and you move on.

I covered a Bernie Sanders rally last week, and it was amazing. Who ever thought that this freshman would get press credentials to cover a major political candidate? That deserves its own post, but the short of it is, I asked and was granted. 

I'm living this wild and crazy life I never expected to be able to be living this early on, but here I am doing it. It's an exhausting and exhilarating life to lead. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to resume staring out at the world now.