Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Did you know there is such a thing as a New York subway schedule? And that, according to it, the No.6 leaves the Bleecker Station, heading uptown at 4:36 a.m.?

By 4:30, we are at the station. Ed is making sure I get to my proper subway/bus connections at this horribly early, or horribly late hour (depending on your habits). As I slip in the money for a subway ticket, we hear the train stop and then pull away. Six minutes early. And now it’s a mystery as to when the next one will come.

The unreliability of these early hour trains and buses causes me to give up on total frugality. I wave to Ed (who’ll be traveling later that night) and catch a cab for Grand Central, where I wait for the first airport bus. Forget about the whole subway to M60 bit. This time I am like one of the anxious in a hurry New Yorkers who can’t be late no matter what.

Even as in New York, it can be tough to be in a hurry.

The streets are almost empty still. Down in the Village, I would come across the occasional dispirited person walking away from someone’s apartment, or the restless night person who sleeps on a different schedule. Here, in these downtown blocks where no one lives, I only see the occasional person who waits, like me, for the working day to begin. Or who is starting to work. Or who waits for work.


But New York is never really quiet or dark. As the bus approaches and I get ready to board, I take one last look.


For a long long time, this was pretty much the America that I knew. Like for so many here, there was only New York, and then some nameless other regions beyond it, they say with purple mountain majesties with oceans on either side. I’d driven through them, I even occasionally stopped for a week-end or a week. Quaint places where I could see more trees or ripples of ocean water, but then I would return to the city that was, for me, the familiar America.

One last look. As the plane taxis in the hour just before sunrise, in the black and white world of a cloudy hazy morning.


I take out my papers and focus on the day ahead.