1 Train Downtown

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1 is for: 1 way or another I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha

wr1tten by: Bonnie

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Over 4.3 million people ride the subway in New York City every day. I, myself, am one of those riders, and just about every day at that. Usually, on the trains, we bury ourselves into our iPhones or iPods or Kindles. We don’t look up when kids are doing amazing dance moves, lest we have to spare a dollar when they walk around with the collection hat. We shut our ears off when someone starts telling their sad story or proselytizing. We avoid eye contact. We just try to get to the next point in time as quickly and quietly as possible.

Then there are those times when this need to shut off while commuting doesn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite.

One such time is when you’ve just spent the night somewhere other than your own bed, and you’re on the ever-so-infamous walk of shame. Which is a particular feeling when you have to take public transportation. You’re acutely aware of the smudged eyeliner and last night’s outfit choice and perhaps unfamiliar smells on your skin as everyone else is moving along to work or wherever. You’re sure that everyone knows exactly what you’ve been up to, that you must be branded with the scarlet letter S for, well, take your pick. Truth is, no one pays too much attention, and I’d venture to guess the only time this is really obvious in New York is probably the morning after Halloween (pro-tip: an excellent day to ride the train!).  Admittedly I love this feeling. I love sitting there in the morning commute but heading home, with last night in my skin, smiling with my secrets while other people are just pushing through. If you’re unfamiliar, I’d say you’re missing out.

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The other time that I actually pay attention on the train is when we go on these End of the Line Dining treks. We move to the corners of the city, keenly aware of every detail. Maybe it’s because ultimately we write of the whole experience, but suddenly we listen to the proclamations, looking for signs or reason within our journey (remember Eastchester-Dyre?) and we experience our commute and our city with wide-open eyes. I love these trips because we are aware. Every move has meaning. Every step is symbolic of the bigger picture of our lives—whether that be some awesome memory or some awesome plan for the future. Every instance contributes to the whole, and we soak it all up, get drunk off the experience, but not numb. It’s living at its best.

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Last Sunday morning I met up with Tania in Manhattan to take the 1 train to South Ferry. I may or may not have just spent the night in Manhattan before meeting up with her. I may or may not have asked her to bring me a hair tie to disguise my bedhead. I may or may not have been living the experience of both of the scenarios that I just described above. A lady doesn’t kiss and tell. But I will say that we met up on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, and by 12:10pm we were heading downtown on the 1 train.

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Okay, so we had one of those proselytizers. And he started his speech when the train was stuck in a tunnel for close to five minutes before moving into the last station. We listened at first, as we always do. A passenger across the aisle rolled his eyes, but I didn’t acknowledge his annoyance. Tania and I agreed that the speech started with a promising note. He was talking about the law of gravity and the law of suction and then helicopters (Hey cool! Was this going to be a science talk!?). But after that great intro, he sort of started to glitch out on his speech (Thank you, oh lord. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Over and over and over and over and over). And while I don’t have a problem with thanking God, it felt like we were being hit in the head with a hammer over and over and over. A baby started crying. Tania was recording (ask her if you ever want to hear it). And the train was not moving.

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When we finally escaped this K-hole, we found our way out to the icy tip of Manhattan and saw our Lady Liberty and Ellis Island across the water. We took a couple of snapshots for posterity, and then began winding our way toward the Brooklyn Bridge and the South Street Seaport.

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Neither of us had been to the Seaport since Hurricane Sandy and we wondered how much would be open. If you remember, it was hit pretty hard down there.

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And sure enough, not much was open. The Seaport itself was entirely closed. There were many boarded up buildings within the historic district and the brick roads of that neighborhood. I’ve always found beauty in urban decay, but when it’s the effect of a tragedy, there is a different vibe, for sure. Nevertheless, despite the wind chill (read: it was fucking cold!) we had a very nice walk. That neighborhood holds a few very key memories in the history of my friendship with Tania.

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The first being that the Brooklyn Bridge used to be our spot. Where we’d go to find some serenity. And we had a ritualistic approach to the crossing. We’d walk halfway across the bridge without turning our eyes back until we reached our mark. Then we’d turn around at the same time and let the majesty of the New York City skyline assault us all at once. Mind you, when we started this ritual, the twin towers were still part of the glory.

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The other memory is from when Tania was a Resident Assistant at a dorm down there on Water Street. This one:

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This was when I lived in San Francisco but was out for a visit. One day, we went to City Hall Park (most likely after a Brooklyn Bridge walk), and we found a fountain. In that fountain we made wishes, and Tania reminded me how she felt with the penny in her fingertips (must have been in 2000 or maybe early 2001). She said she can only remember a couple times in her life when she felt so happy and satisfied that she honestly didn’t know what to wish for. And there was a kind of charmed feeling in the air. Later that night she treated our friend Marissa and me to a fancy dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, where we got way dressed up and lavished in the extravagance. Then she sprung for a bicycle cab to take us back down to 14th Street for a night at Barmacy (which is now Otto’s Shrunken Head). That’s about a seventy block bicycle ride through Manhattan. And it was magical. We definitely felt on top of the world. When we got to the bar that’s when I first locked eyes with a boy that would soon after become kind of famous and we would engage in a long distance romance that was wild and passionate and unforgettable. There were many trips to New York after that. And many walk of shames through Manhattan back to wherever Tania was living during subsequent trips. Not to mention when his band adopted mine and we got to play at the Fillmore in San Francisco and the Troubadour in LA. Also, unforgettable experiences.

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But I’m digressing. This is all just to say how powerful associative memories can be. And how by just paying attention, the experience of life is so much fuller and richer. Maybe too much sometimes. We definitely need to numb out sometimes. But checking back in with the hustle and bustle is so important.

So, back to our wandering in the here and now… After a quick pop-in to a boutique pet supply shop (Tania got Peanut a toy lobster),

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we eventually found a bar/brunch spot called Cowgirl Seahorse. We agreed that was a hard name to pass up.

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The theme of the décor was sort of an underwater rodeo. Everywhere you turned was a seahorse lamp or a horseshoe or an anchor, and even a fish with a horse’s head. The bathroom was for “Gulls and Buoys”

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and hanging from antler chandeliers were the doily hearts and sparkly hearts left over from Valentine’s Day, no doubt. Not to mention the calming glow of twinkle lights set against wood paneled walls. Very cozy. Very kitsch. And we felt right at home. It was a sweet little brunch spot, one that I’d be happy to return to. Tania even mentioned it’d be a fun place for a birthday party, and I agree.

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I ate biscuits and gravy with eggs over-easy and cheese grits. Washed all that down with a Bloody Mary. Tania had shrimp and grits, washed down with a coffee and a Virgin Mary (she was hitting Soul Cycle later that evening so booze didn’t seem like a good idea.) I thought the food was great.

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I babbled on about the things I’ve been reading and writing lately. Tania filled me in on her craziness at work. This is the time of year that her job is so demanding that it’s kind of amazing we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon wandering.

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We’ve been told (jokingly) we should change the name of our blog to Girl-Talk. And to be fair, an AWFUL lot of girl-talk happens on these trips. But an awful lot of dream-talk happens too. We passed a gorgeous flower shop and Tania told me of a particular dream to have her own flower shop at some point in her life. I’ve recently been offered representation by a literary agent (AND ACCEPTED! YAY!) so there’s a good amount of dreaming going on about what’s going to happen to my little edgy and gritty young adult novel (Oh, yeah, I also graduated. I now have my MFA since last we checked in here. YAY again!). These trips are a perfect blend of past-present-future. Past: because of how powerfully our memories are conjured up. Present: because we are so focused on every moment’s detail; and future: because of, well, that dream-talk that I just described.

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It was a perfect Sunday, if I do say so myself. I was full, tired, a little buzzy from the booze, and oh-so-ready to get home to my shower (yep).

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But before I could get there, we experienced another one of those instances in which people are forced into awareness on the train. This is when you run into someone you may or may not know very well, but end up sharing your ride with them. There are a whole range of feelings that can come along with this: from joy (rare) to awkwardness (often). There are the people that you run into that you wish you had maybe looked a little better (y’know, today’s clothes instead of last night’s), and there are the people that you maybe know very peripherally and have never really talked to, but are all of a sudden forced into a conversation by proximity. So Tania and I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in awhile, but our particular captive conversation actually ended up being quite pleasant: we talked about love and relationships, and whether it’s okay for your girlfriend to leave her ukulele at your apartment. But I was sort of squirming the whole time, wanting to inform Tania of the connection here, who this person was. They both exited at Bedford and once I was out at Halsey, I texted:

Me: If that wasn’t obvious….He’s in what’s-his-name’s band

Tania: I figured. A lot of world colliding going on!

Me: My life is a romantic comedy

Tania: Sure is!

My life as a romantic comedy: I mused on that for the rest of the afternoon. I’m waiting for that triumphant ending that comes along with that type of movie. Until then I’ll revel in the wacky irony of all these little moments.

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And I’ll just keep fucking paying attention.

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