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.