Outside, a different Acela corridor rolls by — one roiled by isolation, decay and societal changes, a world ghosted by technology, corrupt politicians and bad city planning.
Shuttered machine shops, refineries, steel mills and manufacturing plants near Trenton and Philadelphia slide past the window like a kaleidoscope of sorrow; scores of once-charming century-old houses are now covered in graffiti and dot areas in and around Baltimore, Newark and Wilmington, Del.
It used to be that the people who lived and worked along the Acela corridor were held in at least as much esteem as those in the urban bookends that connect them. They were the people who made the stuff that made this country great, mostly blue-collar, mostly union members, mostly middle-class.
They worked hard, they played hard. On Friday nights, when their shifts ended, they went to the neighborhood bars; on Sundays they prayed for their sins. And, in between, they coached their kids’ softball games or volunteered at the concession stands.
Politically, they mostly have been New Deal Democrats, believing that government was there to hold together the social fabric; they depended on it as much as the government depended on them.