New York City is a fascinating place to travel—and travel from. Living within a locale where constant change permeates controlled chaos amidst a sea of countless cultural influences can be as riveting as it is tiring. Many New Yorkers may say it’s hard to travel, due to demanding jobs coupled with the high cost of living. Nevertheless, NYC is not the worst place to feel trapped, as there is often something, somewhere in the five boroughs left unexplored.
On a cloudy October evening, I made this mistake myself, and ended up in Woodside, Queens, rather than the intended Sunnyside, where, en route of my unintentional backtracking transfer, caught glimpse of the Long Island Railroad Tracks. While waiting the arrival of a Manhattan-bound local train, I witnessed below a separate commuter rail network that was transporting passengers greater distances than my meager cross-Queens journey.
And because of the Woodside stop’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport, I was also able to view another vessel overhead, transporting passengers much longer distances than around the immediate New York area, from wherever that may be.
The following day, while exploring the wetlands of Staten Island, I caught a fuzzy view of the Goethals Bridge into New Jersey, packed with slowly-moving automobiles, perhaps en course of courageous journeys, or, most likely, en route of some usual stroke of life or commercial activity.
Beyond those Staten Island wetlands, did not embark on any serious journeys that day, and eventually returned to my neighborhood, where, the only unusual thing I noticed was the discarded sushi on the sidewalk.
After climbing to top heights of the hill to an open-air clearing, you can see further beyond, off into the other highlands and lowlands of deciduous plant life, a sight, which, in mid-October, offers a fine collage of shades.
Closer into the accessible entities of the regional plant life, you can gauge your environmental education to estimate whether a designated specimen is a shrub start or wilted flower — but then realize how you lack substantial knowledge on the surrounding flora whose aesthetic pleases you so.
As autumn will ultimately turn winter, and you prepare to hibernate, you must make sure to stock up on as much seasonal offering that is at hand. For instance, as many gallons of apple cider as your trunk can fit (adjacent to its resident furniture and linens).
One of the big landmarks when I think of going home is the Metro North Railroad. It is a commuter train that links a good portion of the New York City Metropolitan area to Manhattan.
I always know this transit system will be an inevitable part of my time going to the East Coast at this point in my life, and often tend to vaguely daydream about it during my flight to New York.
The Metro North public transit network is utilized by thousands of people daily. It is foremost a commuter line frequented by career people who pay peak hour fees and read the New York Post or Times or Wall Street Journal or endlessly check their Blackberries or iPhones. It is also a weekender-frequented line that is ridden by obnoxious teens with fake identification cards, all done up in high heels and make up and impractical clothing to check out the clubbing scene. Many sports fans also ride Metro North, particularly Yankees fans in popped collars who have no problem offering Scoal chewing tobacco to their fellow riders at ungodly hours.
For me personally, I think of my teenage years, when I would dread the trapped suburban cave of Westchester County, and spend all of my hard-earned money from my several pointless jobs on the train tickets to take me to a more magical place. I have countless memories of paying for tickets into the automated ticket dispensers and being angry at the gradual increase of their prices over the years. I also spent lots of my time living there standing on the platforms of Pleasantville station, the closest to where I’d lived. Or scenic Scarborough Station, where I got to watch the Hudson splash waves.
The Ossining Station is where I spent my old morning commute to Riverdale, which is in the North Bronx, where I had worked as an ESL instructor. I would wake at 6:00 AM daily, be driven there by 7:00, and wait for the 7:08 train. I would often buy the coffee from the small convenience half-store set up there in the upper deck’s shelter, then walk down the stairs, wait for the train to arrive and and watch the other commuters load onto the platforms. On the way back to Ossining, sometimes I even caught the view of the Rockland County commuters boarding their ferry to take them back across the Hudson. I would ride the Hudson Line back and forth daily, in a pre-peak hour where I would sit alone and drink my caffeinated beverage without a cup holder and correct tests and essays, or sometimes get the opportunity to daze off into the Palisades cliffs of where New York State ends and New Jersey begins (or vice versa on the return train). It was my only time being truly alone and at peace at that point in my life.
Today, I face no commute, and Metro North trains are something I always take when I’m back in New York, still having the same feeling of anxiousness to leave the suburbs and be in the city. I have pretty much memorized the Hudson Line, that goes along the river, and the Southeast Line, that goes through inland areas through the backs of many different towns that gradually turn more urban.
On both of these routes, I’ve memorized the slow-down when the train goes southward from the Bronx and crosses the bridge into Manhattan Island, where it then inevitably docks at 125th Street in Harlem.
After Harlem, the silver bullet then drives through a long stretch of underground tunnel and slows down even more, eventually weaving into the bowels of the Upper East Side and finally into Grand Central of Midtown Manhattan.
I am so familiar with the routine of getting off the train, and entering the dirty and dark, brown and grey platform station with trash cans full of hundreds of old newspapers, where all of us now-walking passengers are completely jammed and crammed through our gradually ascending exodus out of these sub-city track bowels, like some entrapped troglodyte creatures instinctively heading for the light, into Grand Central, a dome trap universe of hustle and bustle and travel and commute and overpriced fast foods and boutiques.
The final step is to either exit out the doors of Grand Central and enter the commotion of 42nd street, the reaching skyscrapers and yellow cabs and the drift-off of tourists from Times Square mixing with the thousands of commuters dressed in pressed collared shirts and shoppers carrying an abundance of brand-name store bags. Either I walk to my destination, or go underneath ground once again to the MTA subway, and ride up, cross or downtown and begin the awaited adventures.