My Blog List

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Can Dream Can't I?

The Winter Antiques show opens this week and, as usual, I planned on being there. Of course, I've planned the same thing these last two years, and I didn't make it those times, either. Two years ago, I ended up with the flu the week of the fair. Last year, I was perfectly healthy and it was the weather that threw me for a loop. A big winter storm messed up a lot of people's travel plans, not only mine. This year I've been under the weather again--so to speak--and although I can't say I'm actually sick, I don't have the energy. There's really no point in traveling 1000 miles to spend a week in bed because you're too tired to go out. I know.  I've done it.  

Seeing the Antiques Show--especially, the stuff from Newport, this year--isn't the only thing I'll miss. I don't like flying but I love taking the Lake Shore Limited to New York because it's one of the few trains that still has a real dining car,  although, truth be told, even in there,"dining" isn't quite the word. Not anymore, it isn't. But, at the moment, it's the best thing available, so I don't complain. Cary Grant wouldn't complain. Not, of course, that I'm comparing myself to Grant, seen here dining on the 20th Century Limited--although we do have the same sunglasses. Of course, I don't wear mine at the table.

And although the rooms on my would-be train don't come--even if I were getting on it, tonight, which I'm not--with quite the same level of appointments as the rooms on the 20th Century Limited did back in the old days, well, let's be honest: even back then, not everyone's bedroom included Eva Marie Saint.

And if Amtrak's lounge cars aren't as elegantly streamlined as the one in which Cornel Wilde met the radiant Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven,

or as glamorous as the one where Farley Granger met Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train. I have to admit, today's trains  also don't seem to attract good-looking psychos the way the more stylish trains seemed to do.  Or, at least, if they do, none of said psychos have tried to chat me up. Which, feeling the way I did for the last few weeks, is probably just as well.

No, when I travel, I don't want excitement & intrigue, I want calm. I just sit in my chair and stare out the window for long stretches of time. Hours, sometimes. Or I read. Sometimes I have to read the same paragraph over and over. Stare, read, repeat. Then I fall asleep and drop my book. What time is it? I ask the attendant  (mostly so I know how long I have to wait till they start serving dinner) which question I would probaby ask even if I were wearing  a watch, which I'm generally not: on vacation, there's no need for a watch. I'll get there when I get there. 

Then I rouse myself and go down to the diner, where I always follow Eva Marie Saint's suggestion and tip Floyd the Barber's brother to pre-screen  the people he seats at my table. Attractive people, yes--as long as they don't give off that looking-for-trouble vibe that the blonde in the first picture has. That I don't need. If there are no good-looking people, then interesting-looking people are great. Just no psychos. Either way, I get better service. Why wait till after the meal to give a tip, when it's too late to do any good? 

Then after a stop in the club car for a cocktail (or two or three, depending on who's there) it's time for bed. Of course, the Lake Shore Limited is only a dim echo of the 20th Century Limited, but it shares the same route, right along the water, and nothing's more therapeutic than staring out the window at calm water under moonlight, even if, sometimes at this time of year, the water is frozen.  Not this year, probably, or maybe never again in our lives. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

At any rate, once again, the train is pulling out without me. Oh, well. I can't take the train I'd really like, anyway: it's last run was decades ago. Fortunately, however, I can visit the Antiques Show-- vicariously, anyway, via Reggie Darling's blog--and as far as the trip itself goes, I 'll just have to imagine the winter landscape speeding past my windows as I lie at home in my own non-streamlined, non-mobile bed. Not that I don't have physical reminders of the mental journey.  I have, rolled up in closet, somewhere, Leslie Ragan's classic poster of the 20th Century Limited in its glory days, which era I missed by about three-quarters of  century, and which poster I bought thirty-five years ago but never got around to framing. That's OK. It probably wouldn't go with the decor at home, anyway. But next to my bed, I have a a sleek, gray-enameled Thermos carafe designed by the great Henry Dreyfuss--who just also happened to have designed the train it was inspired by. Like you couldn't guess that by looking at the two pieces. I guess I'll have to dream the rest. 

The Winter Antiques Show 2014: I'll be there. 


  1. So wonderful to see you here again. A friend had ear problems and took the train from DC to Chicago and said it was great. Not the same route as you, but wonderful nonetheless.

    Reggie has been our eyes on the Antiques Show this winter, hasn't he? (Marvelous guy, btw).


    1. Meg, I've never failed to meet somebody cool on the train, and if the food on Amtrak isn't really First Class, well neither is what I serve at home. You know what I say about that? Oh, well. As Magnaverde says "The secret to contentment is setting one's standards low."

      And, Yes, I'm glad Reggie is our eyes & ears at the show. Did you notice in his Sotheby's review a pair of the kind of painted Baltimore chairs that inspired your pal David to make his own handsome version? I'd love to have a pair of his chairs in my shop.

  2. This country needs a great, fast and dependable passenger train system. (Unless I am flying on a client's jet) who knows when one will actually arrive at a destination these days? As for Antiques Week, there'll be another. Do take take, and drink lots of water.

    1. TDC, I may take a 2-day trip somewhere this spring just so I can ride the train--to someplace where it doesn't matter when I get there. And yes, there are other shows. We have the Merchandise Mart's own big-deal show every Spring and it's always cool. One year I was invited to join Mrs Blandings & Thomas o'Brien for dinner, and last year, after Emily Eerdmans' talk on Madeleine Castaing, we got to for cocktails.

      And if anybody is coming to Chicago the week of the show, let me know ahead of time so we can meet up. The Brown Line train has a stop inside the Mart itself. How convenient.

  3. God this post brings back memories. The last time I was on a train I was in France traveling at an ungodly speed but it was the best and first class all the way from Paris to the south. I'm not a big fan of flying either and if I could do all my traveling by train I probably would. What a great idea for a spring trip.

    Thanks for the memories

    1. Speaking of memories, Debra, one of my own earliest is a trip on the Super Chief out of Chicago with my grandparents one winter when I was about two or three. I have no idea where we were going, and my grandparents are dead, so it's not like I can ask anybody, but wherever it was, it didn't impress me nearly as much as the beds that fell out of the wall of our room, or the icy blasts of the accordion-curtained platforms between cars on our way to the observation lounge in back. I think I imprinted on Winter for life, right there.

      Personally, I'd love to go First Class on a modern train south out of Paris, but so far, there's no direct connection from Union Station. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Thank you for comment on the Winter Antiques post - I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you regarding Wheeler William’s Spring & Summer. And I hope you feel better - I got sick immediately upon my return from Maison et Objet and was barely recovered to attend the antiques show. It's a virus with long claws. On another note, I am delighted to add to your story and tell you that I actually did take the 20th Century Limited from NY to Chicago (and then the California Zephyr from Chicago to LA) as a child but I will never forget it. My mother, sister and I had a drawing room and I still remember the elegantly appointed table in the dining car - starched white linens, china, crystal and fresh roses. Of course the white glove service was impeccable. I'm hoping to try the new Italo service in Italy next that I wrote about not too long ago.

  5. my favorite mode of plane travel was to jump out.

    in my dreams i would be an undercover (good looking dame) agent that quietly finds my way to a 20th c. luxury european train car. my table mate would be cary grant for looks and lively conversation, then.......ooops, cannot share the remainder........