So today I am in the midst of embarking on a trip to Boston to see a close friend and celebrate her birthday. I'm going all the way from my home via public transportation, with the exception of my mother driving me to the train station in the morning. The ride into New York's Penn Station via NJ Transit is one of the most awesome experiences I think a person can have. Granted, I never travel during the morning rush hour, which may very well affect my feelings toward the trip.
However, I think that trains in general are sort of a lost art. They are disappearing or getting too expensive or just don't carry the same number of passengers that they used to. But why? There is something that is always sort of exciting about being on a train for me. And I'm not just talking about subways or a metro or something like that, I mean a legitimate train. The ride into NYC begins with waiting on the platform in Middletown, and today was a perfect morning. The air was cool but the sun was warm and it was probably my favorite temperature. The humidity and heat of South Carolina has not quite crept North yet, though New Jersey is still seasonally mild. There are a few other people sitting on benches or standing under the overhangs, and as the train comes in with a blow of the whistle and a whoosh of air, your coattails flap in the wind and you feel a nice breeze on your face.
Inside the train you settle in for the hour and 20 minute ride, and the train starts with a lurch. There's between 10 and 15 stops on the way to the city, and each time a few more people trickle into the train. I never listen to my iPod on the way, only because I just like sitting in the silence, hearing the clickity clack of the trains and rocking back and forth with the coach. The conductor makes his rounds every time the train stops, taking off the old slips of those who have gotten off and punching the tickets of all new patrons, adding slips to their seats.
Without fail, there is always the teen with their music plugged in, and you can hear the music of rap and hip hop beats softly and faintly. Some might find this annoying, but I find it delightful and I can't help but smile to myself that once more, I'm on my way to the Big Apple.
As you get closer to Newark, the area around starts to deteriorate and the houses seem a bit more run down but I still have a faint smile as I am thoroughly enjoying the natural scenery that exists as we cross bodies of water and go over bridges made in the old style of trusses. This time I make a mental note to one day get off and walk around South Amboy, because from the rails, the town looks delightful.
By the time we get to Newark Penn Station, the train is almost full and all slips are removed because everything past there is either Secaucus Junction or New York Penn Station. The platforms are bustling with people and finally we make our final journey under the water to pull into New York. You only catch little glimpses of sunlight until everything goes dark as you slowly creep into the station platform. Penn Station is mostly underground, after all, underneath Madison Square Garden. You slowly ascend the escalator and all of a sudden the noises grow with the sunlight.
You push through the door, exiting onto 7th Avenue (also known as Fashion Ave) and there you are, right in the middle of New York City. It is a different world there. There are so many people, so many noises, smells and cars. There are taxis and horns and people talking and no matter where you are you'll hear languages of all types, though of course the closer you get to the touristy things.
I made my way the 10 blocks or so it is from Penn Station to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, only a block away from Times Square. Man, is this station huge. I've passed by but never inside. They have over 400 slots for buses to park, like gates in an airport, waiting for their passengers. I got a little bit lost, but ended up being able to find a restroom, a much needed commodity since I had drank a coffee early in the morning.
Even driving out of the city, your eyes are opened to so many types of people, neighborhoods and lifestyles. Because we were going North, we passed right through Harlem, one of the rougher areas of the city. And yet, in the sunshine, it still all looked beautiful in its own way. I'm sitting on the bus right now, one of those silly green Peter Pan buses, which surprisingly has Wifi aboard and unsurprisingly not much leg room. Regardless, it's exciting to travel alone and sort of figure things out on your own, even if there is a fat Spanish guy next to you that is using your arm as an armrest... Rule #32, Enjoy the little things.
More updates to come soon.