Well we have had a massive change (at least for me!) … Jersey City is now behind me. Work decided to let me operate out of one of the offices nearer to the Fam, so I moved “Home” and work from the Darien office.
Accordingly, I no longer need to rely on Public Transportation … Apart from 2-3 trips back to Jersey City each month. That permits me to be subjected to the old Metro North-NY Subway-PATH grind. Manhattan is so wonderful (not).
I am now the proud owner of a Nissan Xterra and of course at the mercy of the masses of “lemmings packed in shiny metal boxes”. Most drivers around here are extremely aggressive, ducking and diving on the highway & tail-gating constantly on any other road.
So I make my return to the roadways full-time and can officially report on my travels, travails and trials on the roads of New England.
Once the days got longer (and hotter!), the shorter walk to the HBLR became more viable. But this time, I walked to the end of the line station about the same distance. The route tool me down a stretch along Lincoln Park & West Side Avenue. Not unlike the balance of my experiences here in NJ, the environment was dirty & smelly. There are equally as many stores to visit … although on my first attempt to buy food, was told there was a $10 minimum on any Debit/Credit card. Odd.
I found out that this area is supposed to be so unsafe that stores open @ 10am and close by dusk and many operate Cash Only (counter-intuitive IMHO). I didn’t worry about it & continued to use the Light Rail all summer. There were several time the walk was VERY hot, so I resorted to bringing a full change of clothes. The office people have poked fun at my shorts constantly.
The PATH was only an option if we stayed too late & it was dark by the time we left and we couldn’t use a car service home.
I have had a good stretch in my buddy’s place and – for the most part – the situation was hard to beat. I moved in when it was cool & not dark at Rush Hour yet, so the HBLR was just fine. However, once the time changed and days got shorter, I changed to the PATH train about a mile from the house. The walk is about the same … maybe a little longer & a much busier street, but with the busyness comes a semblance of safety. The PATH train itself is another story.
The Journal Square Transport Center is pretty big, with a full Bus Terminal at one end and the PATH Trains underground. The trains themselves are in fairly good shape, especially considering the abuse they take. Invariably, there is something spilled all over one car, a panhandler working another & someone with loud music cranked in another.
This area is also over-populated with Indian workers, so much so that there was a 3-story advertisement on a wall outside with Imran Kahn (I think!) plugging Western Union rates to India!!! The riders from this station are 90% Indian, many of whom have lived there until recently, so have Zero manners on the train & Zero understanding of Personal Space!
That said, the trip is quick, the walk uncomplicated (punctuated with a Rite Aid, grocery stores & beer stores).
So once we’ve enjoyed the delightful Sardine Cans that are MTA Subways, we emerge into Grand Central Terminal itself. They names this place correctly; Grand it is! And COMPLETE CHAOS! If you stand still or even slow down while walking through, you will be trampled. People are running through this madness at full tilt ( with Headsets/Earbuds on! ) dragging bags, suitcases & general crap … Rarely children though, oddly?
My train is the Metro North New Haven Line, which runs along the same route as I-95 through southern Connecticut. There are Local and “Express” versions here too, although the Express only goes non-stop as far as Stamford most of the time. Finding & boarding an MNR train is not for the fait of heart! The Ticket Machines and Windows have lines longer than Disney World, the platforms are scattered around the Main Level AND the lower level. Travel times vary for me between 1h 5m up to 1h 30m, depending on the Local vs. Express train. The Milk Train is the Connnecticut Local, stopping at ALL the stations. Now and then I can hit one of the few that are only 2 stops until mine…although that is very rare!
I may as well completely Out myself, by describing the commute up to see the Not So Little Wookettes & Mrs. Wookie. Lucky for me, the new office is literally overlooking the Hudson River. And as mentioned before, the 2 trains (NJ PATH & Light Rail) have stops right in front of our building too. Pretty convenient, must say.
The PATH station is one of 2 routes that leads under the Hudson into Manhatten … One goes all the way up to 33rd Street on the West Side, while ours ends at World Trade Center – this is where my own version of Homeward Bound begins on Friday night. Hop the PATH into Lower Manhatten, one stop, usually not crowded so get to sit down. Then we walk out of the PATH station (large!) and up to the Brooklyn Bridge Subway station, along past City Park & City Hall. Maybe a 15min walk total.
This is the Lexington Line, home of the 4, 5 and 6 trains (a/k/a Green Line). Once on the platform, the choice is: the 6 which is the Local, so EVERY stop; painful on a good day! Then there’s the 4 or 5 Express trains … the better choice! From City Hall they only stop at 14th St./Union Square and then our destinations: Grand Central. I could write an entire book about the varied characters, situations and visions on the Subway. But on to Part 2…
It is truly remarkable that there are not more accidents, muggings, etc. here in the Tri-State area. Invariably, EVERYONE has earbuds or headphones on … On the Trains, Subways, in the street … everywhere. Being somewhat nervous walking through the urban areas, I try to avoid even checking my phone. Any distraction could be someone trying to shake you down, so I stay alert. The worst example I have seen is mothers pushing baby buggies with earbuds in, looking at their phones; what the fuck is going to happen if the kid suddenly chokes, throws up (or worse!) and this idiot doesn’t hear it? Amazing!
Aother side is the trend on commutes to avoid interaction AT ALL COSTS! This is completely facilitated by having headphones/earbuds connected. Those same people somehow are supposed to hear commands from the conductor ( a Federal Requirement I believe? ), know when someone is saying “Excuse me” when trying to get off the train and acknowledge any other sound. Of course, the running joke about New Yorkers in the Subways is “Never make eye contact” and it is strictly adhered to! You can tell the non-Commuters … they’re the ones looking around at everyone!!!
Then there’s what I call Sleeptending; the sitting & pretending to sleep on the Commuter Train. This is an interesting activity employed a) to avoid interaction of ANY kind and, b) avoid being asked to give up the seat to someone more needy. This is usually employed by able-bodied men…usually in suits & shiny leather shoes!!!
At the first platform I used (Micro Pad), there was a really large parking lot, so many of the Commuters drove in from other areas. This made the group a bit more upscale & diverse. Lots of Execs and the odd Beautiful Person, sprinkled with a variety from earlier stops. After the move to the House, at the Yellow Line stop, I was a complete novelty! Folks were not sure what to make of me; little kids gave me a wide berth, teenagers looked at me almost in disbelief … even the pan-handlers passed me by.
While on the Light Rail, particularly to & from the Micro Pad, my fellow passengers were varied and fall into several categories:
1) School Kids: as related earlier, they are the loudest & most profane group of them all … the GIRLS in particular. Most hogged the seats, fought in the aisles, all the while holding phones & earbuds in.
2) Older Folks: usually rode the length of the line, since the passes are free for 65+ … should get myself one! Sometimes they had small kids in tow, which were shuffled out quickly to avoid the School Kids!
3) Jane/Joe Blow: Regular folks ( like yours truly ), making their way in. Most keep to themselves, avoid eye contact, 99.9% have earbuds or headphones & fiddle with their phone the whole trip.
As mentioned before, while living in the Micro Pad, either Light Rail line (Blue or Yellow) went to BOTH of my stops. The move restricted me to the Yellow line, which meant waiting for a while for my off-peak trains = sucks! And the the time change, Light Rail home was NOT an option. The House actually sits directly equidistant between a PATH station and a Light Rail station … a 20min walk in either direction. I started to ride the Light Rail into work & the PATH home, if nothing else to use up my Light Rail tickets in the morning. The evening trip home opened my eyes to all sorts of delights!
The walk between the PATH station & the House runs along a main 4-lane thoroughfare. As such, it is VERY busy at all hours. And very LOUD! With 2 medical centers at either end plus Firehouses at regular intervals, the sirens go non-stop. The route home takes me by, in order: fast food, large drug stores & shops. Then bodega-style places of various ethnicity & restaurants. Then comes the 1st pseudo-residential section; mostly older homes that have been converted by Indian professionals (Doctors, Accountants, Lawyers, Insurance salespeople, etc.). After that – with the exception of a university – it is ALL Apartment buildings, of varying condition. With the variety of tenants that go with them … some of which I go out of my way to avoid!!!
So after the few weeks in the Micro Pad, I hooked up with an old friend who owns a house in Town. He & his wife work down a few towns to the south and moved into a house owned by someone who moved to Bermuda. They commute back into Town for weekends & I planned on heading up North to the family on weekends – works out perfect!
The 1st time coming out to the house, I took the Light Rail out a couple stops farther than normal … not a big deal. That is until I emerged from the train.
The neighborhood down there … well, without sounding bad … is very black. The white guy with grey hair, pulling his valued possessions in a suitcase stood out like a sore thumb. Lucky for me all I got were some questioning looks!
As I had bought a Month’s Pass for the HBLR, I stuck it out. Since I got moving early, only families walking to school were around in the mornings & it was still Daylight Savings, so at night the sun was still up. But that first walk home after dark changed my mind. At every intersection, there was at least one Cadillac parked, tunes pumping & a crew wandering around with Brown Bag Beers. No one gave me sh1t, but all of them stopped to watch me walk by!
Time to test out the NJ PATH train.
While being solo in Bermuda the past many months, my schedule has been Early morning to Late Night. Most of the reason was ( as noted in the past ) that I was avoiding Rush Hour on Harbour Road + getting a workout in the evening.
First few commutes in NJ, that was easy when at the Micro Pad … Light Rail was 200 yards away & stops directly in front of my building. That is until I had to go in a bit later one morning, after binge-watching Vikings the night before 🙂
I get to the platform groggy & slugging, climb on the next train and I’m met with shrieking, yelling & cursing. WTF? I say – the sources of this cacophonous barrage? School GIRLS! F-ing each other off, calling eachother Pu-y and Nigg-r & Cu-t. I was totally blown away.
Welcome to New Jersey, Bermie Boy!