Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Forty Days Back

Since Blogger's timestamps are based on the Pacific Coast Time, this will pop in as the last post of 2013. Which it is. As for the momentousness of the occasion, tonight is the end of the whirlwind known as the 2nd Trimester at Kings Point. This year, 2nd trimester began the Monday before Thanksgiving with Sea Project turn-in (for land-lubbers, this is turning in 12 credits' worth of work, which midshipmen have hopefully dedicated 40 hours to each credit). I then found out that my classmates and I had our terms on the "Midshipmen Council" extended until Senior Year. This gave us the task of co-coordinating the Winter Ball, held the weekend prior to the end of classes. I had the joy of watching the whole show come together. Raffle prizes were purchased, decorations went up, the DJ set up, and the soft drinks and finger food set out. Festival of Lights, held at the chapel, featured a healthy turnout for the voluntary activity. The Festival consists of a series of Bible readings, blessings, and words of encouragement, interspersed with choral anthems and Christmastide hymns. New this year was the use of the Jewish altar setting for the first half of the Festival. It was the first time I had seen it, and I was glad to have. My goal for any sit-down formal dinner at Kings Point is to leave room for desert. I was looking forward to the yule log ice cream cake, a Christmas-at-KP staple, but was wholly satisfied with the chocolate cake. It was quite warm in the dining hall, and midshipmen were found in shirt-sleeves. Cigar Night, held after the Christmas Dinner, is less de rigeur than in past decades; its key mission is to allow sons- and daughters- to participate in the tradition their fathers partook in. Many of those who did light up a smoke found themselves in a skittish mood after one cigar; a sign of the times. I was fortunate to not have anything to study for Friday, so I lingered around the patio, and engaged in listening to salty sailor exploits. This was recorded on one midshipman's Go Pro camera. I arrived home on Friday the 20th. My brother and I rented a car, and caught the early part of rush hour, since I had a late class. I was bringing home a crate of items that had accumulated over the past two years- on campus and at sea. Namely, though, the contents of this crate were textbooks and graded papers. As is said, the making of an upperclassman is when he or she views Kings Point as "home". Homesickness will predictably reduce the size of the freshman class by 5 members. Most often, a high school girlfriend/boyfriend is involved. That said, Washington, DC is still my home port, and I replenished my gear, including new running shoes and a black tie. I also attended to housekeeping, including organizing and cataloging the music collection which my brother and I wrote- and still continue to write, though at a slower pace than our Choirschool days. Happy New Year for 2014!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weekend Commuter Rail Service in DC

This weekend, my hometown of DC will join an elite group of cities offering commuter rail service on weekends. (Among the number are New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago). In the past, as in the pre-Amtrak days, the B&O line did run a couple of Saturday trips to and from Harper’s Ferry from Washington, DC as late as the 1970’s. This would’ve been a fun and low-cost day trip; however, Amtrak consolidated the weekend commuter service with the long distance train, which multiplied the price of a ticket. Now, 40 years later, weekend commuter service is coming back on the Penn Line between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. Looking at the schedule, the primary intent is to serve Baltimoreans who want to visit DC. Which is a huge complement to us; saying that we are no longer just a 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday town. The new rail service is one of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s pet projects, on the planning board since 2007. However, there was no funding until this year’s transportation bill. But it was not a post-recession surplus or economic growth that made the money available for this project, and a light rail in Baltimore City—it was a hike in the gas tax. Of course, suburbanites and rural pols were shocked with the audacious plan, but O’Malley represents the inner-city, and Baltimore City is his base of support (in his 2010 re-election, he carried only the City of Baltimore, and DC’s inner suburbs, while losing some 20 other counties in the state). Only in Maryland, it seems, could a city get the state to pay for an urban light rail; or to subsidize rail passengers who intend on spending money in DC. But indeed, I have wanted this new rail service, and will likely visit Baltimore more often because of it. I feel that many fellow Washingtonians share this view. Yet as I will enjoy the view out the panoramic windows of the railroad car, I’ll remember my gas-guzzler-driving high school and college Marylander friends who helped to pay for my ride to Charm City.