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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

City of New Orleans

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2010

A friend called me last night from New Orleans. She and her niece took the train down there from Memphis for the jazz festival. It sounded like a great time and a great trip — something I'd like to do one of these days.

During the phone conversation, Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans" began running through my head, and it's been running through my head ever since. Kris Kristofferson called it "the best damn railroad song ever written," and I won't dispute that. Gordon Lightfoot's "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" ranks right up there, IMHO, but it's about the building of a railroad, not about a train. So I guess I'd say "City of New Orleans" is the best damn train song ever written.

In the course of consuming a few adult beverages last night, I checked out several YouTube postings of both songs. Sang along with them, too. Several times. My favorite "City of New Orleans" renditions are two by Steve Goodman himself. 

The best, IMHO, is this version from Goodman's Easter Tapes album:

A couple of the comments say it all: 

  • pablocruiser songs like this seem like they fall out of the sky, written by gods. almost too good to be human. and what sweet guitar picking. this guy was one of a kind.
  • AZHappy This song is so lovely it makes me weep. This is such a unique country. It's defined by the landscape and by it's people. Get out of your houses and go see it! Take the train. Drive your car. Ride your bike. Breathe it. Smell it. Just get out there and find out what Steve Goodman wrote about.
    Lord, I hope somebody, right now, is writing a song this sweet. 

This live performance with the legendary Jethro Burns is pretty awesome, too:

[YouTube link]

It just wouldn't be right not to include a version by Arlo Guthrie, who made it a hit record. Here's a pretty good one from 1978:

[YouTube link]

What a great song! What a shame that leukemia claimed Steve Goodman at such a young age. He was a national treasure, and it saddens me immensely to think of all the songs he never had a chance to write and sing. If you're not familiar with Steve Goodman, I strongly encourage you to learn about and listen to more of him. Check him out at YouTube for starters. "You've Never Even Called Me by My Name," "The Dutchman," "Penny Evans," and "Chicken Cordon Blues" will give you a sense of what a terrific talent he was.

And then there's "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" — which could serve as his epitaph.

If you're wondering about "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," I recommend the original 1967 recording, available on this album. But here's Gordon Lightfoot performing it live just a couple of years ago:

[YouTube link]

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Passengers beat hijacker

Posted by Richard on February 16, 2007

The era of airliner hijackings really is over. After 9/11, it’s doubtful that you could find an airplane anywhere full of people who’ll sit still for someone commandeering their flight. Not even in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania:

TENERIFE, Canary Islands (AP) – A quick–thinking pilot thwarted a gun–toting hijacker on a flight from Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands by discreetly warning passengers he would brake hard upon landing, then speed up just as abruptly to knock the man off balance – and telling them to be ready to pounce, Spanish officials said Friday.

The trick worked to perfection, with travelers and crew waiting until the hijacker was on the floor to douse him in the face and chest with boiling water from a coffee machine and beat him into submission.

"The man deserves a medal," Air Mauritania spokesman Ahmedou Ahmedou said of the company’s veteran pilot after the ordeal Thursday evening.

The hijacker, who wanted to be flown to France in order to request political asylum, brandished two pistols. Apparently, airport security isn’t so hot in Mauritania.

So, how did the clever pilot and passengers pull off this trick?

Speaking to the gunman during the hijacking, the pilot realized the man did not understand French. So he used the plane’s public address system to warn the passengers in French of the ploy he was going to try: slam on the brakes upon landing, then accelerate abruptly. The idea was to catch the hijacker off balance, and have crew members and men sitting in the front rows of the plane jump on him, the Spanish official said.

The pilot warned women and children to move to the back rows of the plane in preparation for the subterfuge, the official said.

It worked. As the plane landed on Gran Canaria, the man was standing in the middle aisle when the pilot carried out his maneuver, and he fell to the floor, dropping one of his two 7mm pistols. Flight attendants then threw boiling water in his face and at his chest, and some 10 people jumped on the man and beat him, the Spanish official said.

According to at least one Spanish news source, authorities are looking into the possibility that there’s more to this hijacking than meets the eye:

The security forces are questioning – via an interpreter – the hijacker and are investigating whether anybody else was involved in the attack, after one passenger said that other people possibly could have been in on the plan.

Eyewitnesses said they had seen several people take off running across the airport’s runways after exiting the plane.


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A very white Christmas

Posted by Richard on December 21, 2006

It’s shaping up to be the worst winter storm to hit eastern Colorado in many years. At 6:30 AM, it was snowing moderately, and my 20-minute commute (18 miles, almost all interstate) took 40 minutes. Mid-morning, the snow became heavy and the wind really picked up. As I headed for home around lunchtime, the Dept. of Transportation imposed the chain law (requiring chains on commercial vehicles) in the Denver metro area. I can’t remember the chain law ever applying to metro Denver. The plows on I-25 clearly weren’t able to keep up with the heavy snowfall. My trip home took an hour and a half. In a 4WD SUV.

It’s been snowing easily an inch per hour all afternoon, and it’s expected to continue at least through tomorrow morning. Just about every highway in eastern Colorado is shut down in one or more places, including I-70 and I-25. The Postal Service suspended mail service. RTD is suspending bus service and limiting light rail. The governor declared a state of emergency. And tonight’s Nuggets basketbrawl game has been canceled.

For most of the day, Denver International Airport management, which insists that the multi-billion dollar facility is an "all-weather airport," maintained that they were open for business. But, um, they really didn’t recommend trying to drive to it through the whiteout blizzard conditions east of Denver because, um, well … you’d probably end up sleeping in the terminal for a couple of days because … um, well … there was this lack of takeoffs and landings … but the airport was still open! Honest! Well, they’ve finally given up and closed down until Thursday evening. I think that officially makes this a Monster Storm.

Those of you in milder climes who want to experience it vicariously can find lots of stories and photos at the 9News, CBS4Denver, Rocky Mountain News, and 850 KOA websites. It’s definitely going to be a White Christmas in Denver — ho, ho, ho!

UPDATE: The entire length of I-25 from Wyoming to New Mexico, including through Denver, is now closed. Hasn’t happened before in the 23 years I’ve lived here. Somebody call Al Gore and tell him we need more greenhouse gases — pronto!

12/21 UPDATE: The sun came out late this afternoon, so the storm’s over. It looks like it will go in the record books as the fourth-worst snowstorm in Denver history, with over 2 feet. Totals around the metro area ranged from about 20 to over 40 inches. I measured 21.5 on the level in my front yard. Drifts in the back looked about 3 feet deep.

Flights in and out of Colorado Springs resumed about noon. Jefferson County airport reopened in the afternoon. Denver International? They’re still plowing runways. They plan to open at noon Friday. I’m sure that some of the 5000 people who were stranded there overnight were a bit bemused to learn that the nation’s most modern, multi-billion dollar "all-weather" airport might be the last one in the state to resume operations.

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Thinking about air travel

Posted by Richard on November 29, 2006

Ben Shapiro came up with an interesting thought experiment:

You are sitting in the concourse of an airport, preparing for your flight, when out of the corner of your eye, you spot six Arab men praying loudly in Arabic.

"Okay," you say to yourself, "that’s a bit disquieting. But praying isn’t terrorism."

You glance at your watch. It’s time to board the plane. Sure enough, there’s the boarding announcement. Suddenly, you hear the six Arab men chanting loudly. "Allah! Allah! Allah!"

"Okay," you say to yourself, "maybe they’re still praying."

You board the flight and take your seat. You notice that two of the Arab men sit at the back of the airplane, two more sit in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle, and two sit at the front of the airplane.

"Okay," you say to yourself, "perhaps they couldn’t get seats together."

A few seconds later, you hear a stewardess explain to another passenger that the six Arab men moved from their assigned seats to the new seating arrangement. And it seems that the two Arab men up front are now asking for seat-belt extensions.

"Okay," you say to yourself, "they don’t look overweight. But perhaps they have indigestion."

Except that the two Arab men quickly tuck the seat-belt extensions underneath their seats. Then they begin speaking in both English and Arabic about President Bush, the war in Iraq, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

You spot another passenger signaling a stewardess. Minutes later, the six Arab men are escorted from the airplane.

Secretly, you’re breathing easier. You make it to your destination without further incident. But when you turn on the television that evening, you see the six Arab men telling the media that their removal from the flight was a reflection of American xenophobia and ignorance.

Go read the rest to see what he imagines happening over the ensuing months. And then a year later. See if you don’t feel a shiver down your spine.

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