This afternoon, I caught a flight to New York.
Leaving Madison. Leaving small city life. I park just on the approach to the airport and walk the last quarter mile. Fifty minutes to departure. I have time.
But I’m stalled at security. My carry-on is flagged. It’s full alright. A sleeping bag takes up half the space. A change of clothing, and Ed’s favorite teeth cleaning gizmo fills the rest. (He’s in New York already, but the gizmo stayed behind – it didn’t fit in his own pack: that space was used up by an inflatable bed. And, I hope, a change of clothing.) It’s the gizmo that set off the security alarm. Suitcase unpacked, suitcase repacked.
Still, I have time. In a big city, 25 minutes before-take off with a flashing security system would make one nervous. But I’m in Madison. I’m okay. I even have a few seconds to pick up an espresso before I board.
I’m flying local this time. That is, the airline (Midwest) is local. Some of my out-of-state students had never heard of it. I tell them it’s the one with the leather seats and warm chocolate chip cookies for everyone. Progressive. Everyone’s special.
The pilot – Justin something or other, welcomes us and leads us in a round of applause for Candy, our attendant. She was just featured as Midwest’s best or brightest or something grand like that. We all shout – go Candy!
Hey, she tells us, it's also Captain Justin’s birthday. We sing happy birthday, dear Captain. Thanks! Just for that, I’ll try to give you guys a smooth landing.
I connect in Milwaukee to the LaGuardia flight. While boarding, I encounter a colleague. Not unusual. I’ve come across many over the years of flying in and out of Wisconsin.
I don’t want to suggest Madison is small and homey. Okay, maybe I do. Because it is.
And then there is that other town. The bigger one.
The arrival is spectacular. Oh, Manhattan! You’re so impressive!
But now comes her tough face. I take Ed’s advice and wait for the city bus. M60. Harlem bound, it connects well with the subway on 125th street. But the bus doesn’t come. People come, people wait, more people come. No bus.
In New York, everyone is in a hurry and yet it is the worst place to be in a hurry.
Finally. Many delayed moments later, it is here. I put in the quarters. All eight of them. One more – the driver tells me. Oops. I have no more. Get off. No, that’s not going to happen. Anyone have change? Surely in this shoulder to shoulder crowd... Someone comes through. We lurch forward.
At 125th and Lexington, I get on the express subway. Crowded. Vibrant. A woman talks rapidly to her friend. Another texts a lover. I glance at her phone: sorry. will do better, she writes. I wonder if she will do better. Or whether she wasn’t the one to mess up, but she’s willing to take the blame, just to get him on her side again.
I get off on 14th, switch to the local and finally I’m on Bleecker. In the heart of the Village. I walk past music venues, tattoo parlors, bars and undefined shops selling -- well, I'm not sure what. Maybe things that make you think of sex?
Up four flights of stairs, into an empty apartment where Ed and I will stay for the next three nights.