And We're Back!
We are back from Birmingham, and the trip was a rousing success. As far as I know, Matt and Shelly's traditional Indian wedding was in no way cursed, at least as far as my own actions are concerned. I can't speak for those who showed up late, wore shoes into the ceremony, or forgot to turn off their cell phones. Hopefully their kids don't wind up with three eyes or something. The Methodist ceremony also went off without a hitch, and so, being married twice over, I'm pretty sure everyone was sufficiently convinced that their love is genuine. I mean, I barely made it through planning and being married once, let alone twice in the same weekend. (And, yes, being the man, my participation as far as "planning" goes was limited to agreeing with everything my beautiful wife-to-be said.) Truly, these two are workers of miracles seldom seen by mere mortals.
Being in the south and in relatively close proximity to New Orleans, I was not especially surprised to learn upon arriving at the reception that the happy couple had hired a jazz band for the evening's entertainment. Everyone in the troupe was under thirty with room to spare, and it made me happy to see younger people carrying on "older" styles of music, especially in these days of cookie-cutter Top 40 songs churned out by the monolith that is the music industry machine. The only qualm I had with the band was that they didn't have their sound levels quite right. The trumpet and sax drowned out most of the rhythm guitar, and you could barely hear the poor soloist, a beautiful young black woman with a perfect voice to accompany their musical stylings. Most of the time one was left wondering if her microphone was even plugged in.
However, when it came to actual talent, the band more than delivered, and we danced and laughed... mostly at Brooks. You don't even have to know Brooks, a long-time friend of the groom, to know that he's great entertainment. I imagine that is part of the great burden one must shoulder when going through life with a name like Brooks. There is much less pressure on you when your name is Matt, except for when 30% of the people your friends know are also named Matt, and then it becomes a constant struggle to differentiate yourself. But I digress.
I must say that I really did enjoy traveling by train. It is by far the most relaxing form of transportation that I've used thus far. You don't have to deal with the stress of driving with the myriad of idiots that infest the American roadways, and you also don't have the stress of long lines at the airport, going through security and dealing with the jackbooted thugs in the TSA, measuring out fluids into appropriately sized containers, etc. In fact, there was no security (theater) to speak of at the train stations, unless you count a glass door that was closed (but not locked), which led out to the platform. There were no metal detectors or X-ray scanners, no glorified rent-a-cops feeling you up, and the people that work on the Amtrak trains themselves seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs, as opposed to those in the airline industry who just barely manage to tolerate theirs. (I should know; my dad's a pilot.)
The only problem I had with the trip was sleeping. The seats on the trains lean back great deal farther than those on a plane and have at least twice as much legroom, but I'm one of those people who generally sleep on their sides, which is difficult for me to do in a chair. We tried to upgrade to a sleeping car for the trip home, but they were sold out. I imagine that if you're in one of these, train travel ceases to become a way to get from point A to point B and becomes an experience. Other than difficulty sleeping and the fact that the train car was kept at around fifteen degrees below zero (I understand some of the staff are former penguins), the trip was thoroughly enjoyable. We had our evening meal in the dining car, and the food was excellent, on par with what you would expect at a pretty good restaurant. Salad, entree, a half-bottle of wine, and dessert came in at just over $50 without tip. I think that's a pretty good deal, considering they have a monopoly on hot meals. So, if you ever find yourself needing to travel a few hundred miles, and time is not a huge issue for you, I recommend trying the train. I'm pretty sure with regular use it will add years to your life.1
1 "Addition" of time to the life of the user is based on retention of years that would otherwise be subtracted had the user chosen to travel by plane or car. Train use has not been approved by the FDA and is intended for transportation purposes only. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice. This footnote brought to you by letter iota and the number zwei.