I meant to consider New York City as one grand adventure. And then I went. And I experienced so much more than I expected so I decided that each day was a totally different adventure.
I live in a beautiful cocoon of polyester fibers and stained glass. Everything is beautiful and wonderful and yet not always within the exact levels of perfection. Yet, in those puckered seams and uneven hems are the layers of my life and I am happy in those imperfections.
So, last year, when I went to New York City and pulled myself out of my cocoon a little, I pulled out all these different threads that were painted with the stories and myths of New York City and added them to my tiny tapestry. I wove into my world stories that ranged from the streets of Little Italy to the sour perfume that hangs in the subway stations to the quiet hum of life as people walk on the hallowed ground of the 9/11 Memorial. And I knew I had to return, much as though I had cast a coin over my shoulder into the Trevi Fountain and know that someday I must return to Rome.
Starting last summer, I started researching, started looking for places to stay in the city, for new experiences that I wanted to live. And then, the trip fell into place. I made the decision to go. I chose my week. I snagged my travel companions (the Girl and my mother-in-law).
And then, I decided to pull myself out of last year’s cocoon and do everything different that I could.
I like change. I am terrified of change. I want to live my life to the fullest and sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. I want to emit nothing more than a silent whisper into the mouse hole of my world.
But I knew that I wanted to do something different with my days and I decided that this year’s New York City vacation was going to be different. Last year, I drove to New Jersey and stayed in Ramsey, traveling into the city daily.
This year, I rode the train.
Last year, we stayed in a hotel.
This year, I found an apartment through Airbnb. Worth every penny. Worth every moment and every nuance of a crazy apartment that I will talk about today..later…tomorrow..
I thought about driving to the city, into the city until I went to the city last year and walked the streets and watched how aggressive everyone drove. I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone drove aggressively. I really felt like the concept of traffic laws was a questionable, malleable concept that could be considered and interpreted a million ways depending on the moment and the context. I paid off my car five years ago. I will not buy another car anytime soon.
So I looked for a new way of transportation. Plane tickets were cost-prohibitive. Don’t get me started on the bus. I haven’t ridden on a Greyhound bus in two decades. I still have those smells inhabiting my nightmares. I will not return to the bus.
Therefore, I chose the train. Amtrak. And I made a fabulous decision. For roughly the same cost as gas and tolls and parking fees, I bought the tickets.
Living in Germany, riding the trains was a normal and continual occurrence. For a relatively low cost, I would ride the train from Garmisch to Munich and spend the day in the city. I could wander anywhere I wanted so long as I had the money to ride on the subways or busses, and I exulted in the freedom. Maybe the train made my mom forget her tether because she felt that I was still walking in the shadow of her fears.
Maybe, the train just offered a security that enabled me to shake off my mom’s worries. Regardless, I loved the train. I memorized the stops, figured out the halfway point (Weilheim), and learned that sitting on a certain side of the train and leaning at just the right angle, I could see Lonely Tree (a tree that stood on the top of a hill and served as a “guardian” for the valley).
I learned that the last fifteen minutes of the train ride into Garmisch were the longest fifteen minutes that exist anywhere in the universe. Because in my desire to get home, time stretched into its most infinite of its elasticity and one second would last at least ten times longer.
I know this. Every time I dream of coming home to Grainau (the tiny town on the outskirts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen), I always ride the train and I can see the mountains….I can see the long arched branches of Lonely Tree….but I never get home because of how the miles will stretch….
Riding the train means quiet rocking and a cool window on which I can lean my head as I stare at the blurring of the branches or the gravel on the edge of the rail lines. Riding the train means sinking into the nuances of my music that I can barely hear but stand as a punctuation to the train wheels striking the rails.
Riding to and from New York City with my mother-in-law and my daughter, I didn’t listen to my music collection on my iPod. I listened to the symphony of the train whistle hanging as a extended melody against the bass of the train wheels hitting the tracks. I was hypnotized by the spasming light falling through the tree branches and striking the windows. I lived in a suspended world of opposing landscapes, of cityscapes on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other.
Riding on the train to and from New York, I re-engaged with my adolescence and kept waiting to see the heavy mounds of the hill-mountains become the rocky edges of the alps. I kept waiting to see the Bavarian homes. I kept waiting to see the artistic geometry of the New York City skyline.
My husband used to dream about being a train engineer. Briefly, he considered pursuing a career as a train engineer and I pushed him away from that career. We would spend days apart. I wouldn’t see him for at least six months a year. He went into a different career. We had children. Our children are growing. And I have shed the necrotic strands of my insecurities related to my Beloved.
A week ago today, I rode the train to New York City. Last Friday, I rode the train home from New York City. And in the hours I spent sitting on my seat while staring out the window or chatting with my mother-in-law, I understood why my husband would love working on the train. Between stops and his duties, the conductor found a quiet place to sit and would read a book, eat a meal, look out the window, chat with the other conductor.
My husband and I dream about traveling the world and seeing everything. Not just the tourist sites, but the world. And as he nears the ability to retire from his first career, I told him about the trains and the musicality of the rails. And I told him about the quiet hum of life as the conductor checked our tickets and walked down the aisle checking other tickets, helping people with their bags. Or staring out the window at the changing countryside.
And I could see my husband, my beautiful and wonderful husband looking out the window, staring at the acres of land stretching out in front of him. And maybe, if I can, I’ll sit next to him, reading a book or writing….or looking out the window with him.