When living on a train means your life’s off the rails

At first glance, this sounded like a cool idea: A German student, Leonie Müller, had a falling out with her landlord. So she decided to live on high-speed trains.

She considers herself a free spirit. I like that part.

Thing is, she’s not actually living on the rails. She bathes on the trains and doesn’t carry much. OK, that’s somewhat adventurous. But the trains are a means to shuttle between her college, and her mom’s and boyfriend’s houses. That’s where she actually sleeps.

She thought the lifestyle would save her lots of money. But by my calculations, she’s saving about $70 a month.

I can somewhat identify. I’ve never owned a house; I’ve been an Amtrak commuter for so long, I shift into a different rhythm as soon as the train pulls into New York City; and have lived out of a carry-on bag for quite some time, often weathering several climates in one trip.

And having recently divided my time between my home in Pennsylvania and Airbnbs in New York City for a photography course, I did start to feel like I was living on Amtrak. And I got really familiar with the grub at various train stations.

It was a novelty at first, but got old real quick.

I predict Leonie will put the brakes on her big adventure pretty soon. For a monthly saving of $70, it hardly seems worth it. Especially since she’s not really living on or off the train. She’s merely off the rails.

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Let’s Paws: Wisdom shines in old dogs’ eyes

No doubt about it: When everything else starts to go in a dog (and a human), the eyes still have it, as demonstrated by excerpts from this touching book. And will ’til the end.

Old don’t need to learn new tricks. They know everything there is to know about life.


Right, my old girl baby Ginger? Who’s now heading toward … 19?

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70 years after Hiroshima, ‘secret’ survivor in unlikely place

Apparently there’s a survivor of the world’s first atomic attack — the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, living in, of all places, Washington, DC.

It withstood the U.S. attack that led to the end of World War II 70 years ago. And it had been around for hundreds of years before that.

No one knew its secret until relatively recently. But if you believe a pretty incredible story, a tree miraculously unscathed by war is now a symbol of peace.

As for Hiroshima, it seems like just another place on the outside. But the searing scars will never go away. Here’s what it looks like now.



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What you’re really looking at when you’re at the beach

beach facebookAs a kid growing up at the Jersey Shore, I always wondered where the ocean led. I’ve spent a lifetime of traveling finding out.

Here’s a neat cheat sheet to ponder while you’re at the beach. (Lake beaches don’t count, unfortunately.) Someday, why not go for that place across the ocean?

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Let’s Paws: Jimmy Kimmel and lion, 1; the dentist, 0

Jimmy Kimmel takes perfect aim at that Minnesota dentist who admits to slaughtering what turned out to be a famed lion in Africa. Even if that lion were a “nobody”, why?

When I was in Kenya on safari, I saw lions eating a giraffe for breakfast. I felt a little guilty for intruding on their morning routine. I was the stranger.

But this dentist is apparently used to rudely interrupting; “taking” wildlife just for the fun of it. Something I just don’t understand.

Where I come from, dentists are supposed to be nice.


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Why I love the NYC subway

I had a friend who’d lived in Manhattan since Ronald Reagan was president. She had a big job in TV and considered herself the ultimate New Yorker.

Given that she’d been there so long, who would argue?

I would.

As far as I was concerned, she was never a true New Yorker because she’d never set foot on the subway.

True, it doesn’t exactly smell like fresh laundry. And I’m not advocating taking it at 3am. I try not to be out anywhere at that time.

That aside, the subway is the best bargain around, even with the inevitable fare hikes. Given traffic in America’s largest city, it’s the quickest, cheapest way to get to some of the world’s most fabulous places.

More on why I love it:

Subway car3 Because the trains go to the same places they did when I was a little girl. Then, I rode the same  line with my mom to see my grandparents, who still lived in the apartment she grew up in.

Not to mention all the free entertainment.

Subway dog3   Subway child3

Subway hebrew4

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Some reservations about list of world’s top airlines

It’s out. The list of the world’s top airlines. If you care.

Most of us really don’t — most of us flying coach, that is. We’re flying to get somewhere, not for the ambiance or cuisine. We don’t expect much, and usually just keep our fingers crossed that whatever we get for a meal is vaguely like food.

Unfortunately, rotten fare and being hemmed in generally come with the territory in economy, so if an airline tries to make things a bit more pleasant, you notice.

As far as this list goes, flying business on some American airlines is hardly worth the money and actually worse than flying coach on EmiratesQatar and Turkish. Here’s my experience with Emirates. And Qatar. Oh, and Cathay Pacific is pretty great, too.

Fairly decent food and entertainment, and at the very least, eyeshades and socks. U.S. airlines used to hand out some goodies on longer flights, but now you’re lucky to get a blanket and pillow.

A bit surprised Garuda International, Indonesia’s airline, made the cut. Unless it’s gotten much better. I remember flying it from Hong Kong to Indonesia at the beginning of a cyclone when all the other airlines were grounded. I was in too much of a hurry to worry.

Then there was the time a Garuda jet started to land at the wrong airport in Australia with a runway that was too short. Oops. Guess they’ve figured things out by now.

As for Australia, Qantas (aka Flying Kangaroo) is OK.

They try to make those especially long-haul flights linking the homeland to the rest of the world as palatable as possible with lots of food and drink. But the food’s pretty mundane and it’s tough to eat when the person in front of you is almost in your lap along with the Foster’s.

Who’s on your best and worst lists?

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