robert zverina

photography >> Between Here and There Is Better than Either Here or There Travel photography; scanned 35mm prints





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I was flying from Brooklyn to visit my then-girlfriend in Tampa. The golden early morning light over Chesapeake Bay. View from Seat 12A.
Statistically, flying is safe. But I still don't like it. I much prefer slower modes closer to the ground. I haven't flown within the USA in a long time, but I do grudgingly fly overseas. But the next time I go to Europe, I hope to get there by cargo ship. Seriously.

When I moved to Seattle from NYC in Fall 1998, I took Amtrak--in part because I could transport a lot of extra baggage for just $5 per 3'x3'x3' box. I brought six! Back in the day, the Empire Builder used to have a smoking car, but nowadays most trains don't. Thus smokers like this woman need to get off at infrequent station layovers where they huff and puff in haste regardless of weather until "all aboard" is called. This is St. Paul.
click for enlargement
Havre, Montana is one of the lengthier layovers on Amtrak's Empire Builder. I usually take it as an opportunity to buy a six-pack of beer for $6 at the Oxford Sports Bar, which you enter through the back door which faces the train platform. Havre Nice Day!

Newark International Airport ticketing area on a slow day. I think I was on my way to Prague in May 1998. I ate a special brownie at the gate, where I struck up a conversation with a lovely young Czech woman who was taking a break from being an au pair in Kansas. As luck would have it, our seat assignments were adjacent so we spent the flight getting drunk on Czech "martinis" (vermouth on the rocks) and holding hands. As we moved towards kissing, she suddenly remembered she was flying home to spend a week with her boyfriend and went back to her own seat.

First glimpse of Pacific Northwest from Empire Buildersleeper car, morning of October 28, 1998. If you buy your ticket far enough in advance, it's actually pretty economical to travel in the utmost luxury in a private compartment with 2 chairs, 2 bunks, and a little table. It's also quite romantic, if you know what I mean. The Chicago-New York run's sleepers all have their own toilets, which I found a bit unsavory. After all, hasn't Amtrak ever heard the adage, Don't shit where you sleep?

I think I was diverted to an overnight stay in Phoenix, Arizona on a flight from the east coast to Seattle. I remember sitting in an outdoor hot tub in moonlight. It was all right. It's pretty amazing how sometimes the cheapest flights include free overnight hotel stays. Phoenix was no great shakes, but I did once get a full day and night in Helsinki on my way back from Prague. I still have the sunglasses I bought at the huge Stockman department store there in 1995.

Siloes, ranches, crops, big sky, other trains, tiny towns. The Empire Builder offers a visual feast, even when--and maybe especially because of--it's just huge apparently repetitive expanses.