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Category: Travel / Topics: Contemplation, Insight Contentment, Satsifaction Leisure Optimal Aging Travel

What a Little Train Ride Can Do

by Garrison Keillor

Posted: April 13, 2023

It's a gorgeous ride and Peekskill is a lovely little town with a respectable café in the train depot and shops nearby. It is a fine way to get out of the city and look at the big river…

Peekskill, New York

Spring leaped out at us in New York last week — suddenly one day it was 80, just like me — it sprang at us shang a lang lang as once we’d sung so we were sprung from the steel corset of winter and I took a couple of Londoners to lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station where, when I was 11, I ate my first oyster on a trip from Minnesota with my dad. I saw him eat one and so I ate one and I trace my independence back to that 1953 oyster — when you eagerly devour something that would disgust your beloved aunts, you’ve taken a step toward becoming your own person.

It was a marvelous day, Friday. We walked under the starry ceiling of the great arcade, in a crowd of amiable people, many of them shooting cellphone video of the scene, and we felt a keen urge to ride the rails and stepped up to the ticket window and boarded a Metro-North commuter train for Peekskill, but one man’s commute is another man’s adventure, and off we went, a beautiful sudden impulse.

The underground urban rail was a great progressive accomplishment of the late 19th century — let the rich ride in their fancy carriages through the streets jammed with delivery and garbage trucks and let the workers race leisurely homeward on the rails — and we sat in the front car and looked around at an interesting assortment of New Yorkers and when the train pulled out of the tunnel at 97th Street and up through the Bronx and along the Hudson shore, it looked like the Mississippi of my boyhood and I was a kid again.

It’s a gorgeous ride and Peekskill is a lovely little town with a respectable café in the train depot and shops nearby. It is a fine way to get out of the city and look at the big river. I came back and went over to Columbus Avenue and got a haircut from a Japanese woman who also trimmed my immense bushy eyebrows and made me a new man, not so disapproving, the scowl was gone. The haircut cost $78 and I tipped her $40, that was how good I felt. Call me a spendthrift but when I left the shop people looked at me and smiled and a woman even said, “What a beautiful day” to me, which is rare in New York. “It is indeed,” I said, and for sure it was.

My sweetheart says that a haircut makes me look twenty years younger so now I’m 60 though I’d settle for 70 and I feel I’ve put the past behind so I went to church for the Saturday vigil, knowing I’d skip Easter morning due to my aversion to trumpets, an instrument I associate with testosterone poisoning. I sat in the dark, holding my taper, and the readings were unintelligible so my mind wandered, which is one thing I like about church.

I thought about how the weather inspired us to hop on a train for no reason whatsoever and in the course of the beautiful day looking at other passengers, I decided I don’t care about gender, I care about kindness. You can be a man on Monday and a fem on Friday, but look out for the lost and extend yourself to strangers and you’re okay. The essence of America is good humor and gratitude. The country, for all its troubles, has come a long way and so have I and you’re doing darned well yourself. When the country was founded, little kids worked in the mines, forty was old, food was miserable, everyone had bad teeth, superstition was rampant, so was disease, stupidity was endemic, brutality ruled the roost. Now if we can just put Donald J. Putin back in the box, we’ll be sitting pretty.

A person walks outdoors and feels the equinox, and the juice rises and life gets loose, the kiddos skip and hop across the blacktop to hip-hop and bebop and shrieks of delight, caged birds taking flight. People sneeze, releasing their anxieties in the syncopation of creation. Enough cold rain and gloom, now we resume the journal of the vernal. Henry Hudson thought he’d shine a light and find a line to China but who needs to see Beijing, our destination’s here, it’s you, my dear, and spring.

Garrison Keillor © 04.11.23

America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR. For additional columns and postings, subscribe to

Posted: April 13, 2023

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