Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Road From Change - Jan. 22

We left Philadelphia - or "Phila" as the road signs refer to it - around 1 PM, and headed for New Jersey. Stopping for gas just north of Trenton, we were hoping to hear some good Sopranos-style Joyzee accents, but to no avail. We continued north on the fabled New Jersey Turnpike. It was my first time driving the length of the Garden State and I had high hopes for such a place that brilliant thinkers like Bruce Springsteen and Kevin Smith couldn't shut up about.

New Jersey proved to be uninspiring, it was like Orange County at thirty degrees. But given that we were expecting that, it didn't work out so bad. We decided to stop in Newark and ride the PATH to New York for a brief walk, seeing as we rarely ever get to visit the East Coast. Newark is remarkably similar to Oakland; it's old and run-down, it has a sports stadium, and it's built on a swamp. However, the most striking similarity between the two is that they are clearly set apart from the "desirable" city centers of Manhattan and San Francisco. I find it remarkable how how much both cities benefit from waterways; they allow the tourists and businesspeople to confine themselves to stunning civic cores while the nasty urban realities of Newark or Oakland are kept thoroughly out of sight, out of mind. Call it the theory of urban moats.

We boarded the PATH at Newark Penn Station - apparently all train stations in the Tri-State area have "Penn" in their names. The train rumbled past downtrodden railyards and forlorn ports before turning underground. Eventually we emerged at the former WTC site. I stopped to take a picture and was promptly repremanded by the New York cops. Apparently taking pictures in PATH stations is bad. But to be barked at in that inimitable East Coast style was actually an "authentic" experience - awesome!

Our walk around Lower Manhattan was short but sweet. There was of course the requisite gaggle of skyscrapers, the Duane Reade drug stores, the lack of public restrooms. We walked by Trinity Church and the entry to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. We ended our walk at Battery Park City, which is more park than city. The sun was setting over the statue of Liberty, but all I could think about was how cold the Hudson must be right now.

With the sun down, we turned back toward the PATH station. The ride back to Newark was smooth, and thankfully there was no traffic on the way out of town. We headed north to Massachusetts, crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and the diminutive state of Connecticut. By the time we got to our family's home in rural Massachusetts, our relatives had already gone to sleep. But that was just as well, we were tired and didn't particularly feel like talking.

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