I'm riding the rails baby! Bound for Exton en route from NYC, the Big
Apple, Gotham City, The City That Never Sleeps. This is the first time
I've enjoyed travel by train in the good ole USA, and it's a dose of
relief for the ills of the soul...
Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Though I hear this sound, the ride is
surprisingly smooth. Sitting near the rear of the train, the sound of
the horn is distant...the horn of a train, the loneliest sound in the
Why am I on this train? Because I had to save my soul. Or because I
sold my car to a Haitian dude named Johnny, while parked in the middle
of W 39th St., about 5 blocks from the Garden and the Empire State
Building. But I needed an adventure, I wanted to sell my car anyway,
and I've accomplished both today in the span of about 3 hours.
Johnny from Haiti first called me last week, responding to an ad on
Craig's List. I will never understand people who buy vehicles off of
this website. This is the second car I've sold via The List of Craig,
and both times the buyers lived quite far from where the car was
listed. Yet both deals went through without a hitch, despite the
distinct feeling I was a drug dealer. ANYWAY, I drove the 3 hours to
NY today after hastily unloading the beast into my childhood bedroom
at home. Originally it was Johnny's idea...I immediately said "no way,
you can come get the damned thing yourself." I reconsidered.
I crave adventure right? Crave the unknown? Suddenly I had the perfect
opportunity to experience both. So fuck it. I went.
It began snowing while I unloaded the last of the crap off my boat
into the basement. A sudden and intense fear struck my gullet, the
fear of wondering "what the hell am I getting myself into?" I've
experienced this fear before...before leaping 450' off a cable car
with a rubberband strapped to my ankles; before hurling myself out the
door of a wonderful airplane, 15,000 feet above New Zealand; before
setting sail in a blizzard last week attempting to leave Oxford; and
before my first big triathlon two summers ago. The outcome? Those were
some of the best experiences of my life, and the sense of dread at the
outset only made the outcome that much better. "Without the bitter,
baby, the sweet ain't as sweet."
I forced myself to get on the highway, put some distance between
myself and my out, before calling anyone to tell them of my plans. By
the time I reached Allentown I was committed, and upon hearing the
news, Dad responded as I expected: "Are you nuts?" Well, yes, I
When I emerged from the darkness of the Lincoln Tunnel, I burst smack
into the center of fucking New York City, with all the lights, tall
buildings, people and traffic wreaking havoc on my driving skills
while filling my senses with awe. I'm a kid in a candy store when you
put me in a big city, especially behind the wheel. It's rather
ridiculous, actually. In the city, I am so far removed from my element
that it's almost a wonder I don't just stand and stare like a
dumbfounded idiot, paralyzed. I drove the Rover around town for a bit,
joyriding for one last go in the last vehicle I hope to own for a very
long time. Actually I was simply trying to find Penn Station, naively
thinking it'd be a nice big train station with a gloriously empty
parking lot in which I would have my choice of wide, cozy spaces in
which to complete this wild deal of mine. Poor country boy I am.
All of the streets in NYC are one-way, of course, and I happened to be
driving on them at precisely 5pm. Perfect. Finally, with a little help
from Nate, who is a much more savvy city-goer, I found Penn Station at
the corner of W 33rd & 8th Ave, which unbeknownst to me, is also the
location of Madison Square Garden. And of course, parking was nowhere
to be found.
I ended up pulled off the side of 8th Ave, in an apparent "commercial
vehicles only" zone, which the not-so-friendly police officer angrily
informed me of, but not before issuing me a $115.00 ticket. We'll see
if I pay that...Me and the beast then made our way to 39th St, which
felt like a seedy back alley, enhancing the feeling that I was here to
deal in the deeds of the ill-willed. I waited in the car for Johnny
from Haiti, regretting that I was alone and didn't have someone like
Dane at my side to protect me from the unsavory characters that roamed
the streets of NYC.
Not long after I parked, making sure I was legally allowed to be
there, a white sedan pulled up behind me, and two dark-skinned,
well-dressed men emerged, followed by a knee-high little boy. His
presence simultaneously made me feel at ease and like I was about to
be shot. Half of me assumed they had brought him along precisely to
make it easier to kill me. "He'll never suspect anything with this
little boy here!"
I had already prepared a hand-written (in pencil!) bill of sale,
signed away the title, and packed up all my things to be ready for a
hasty departure as soon as I saw that $1200.00. For one, it was nigh
on 5:15, and my train was scheduled to leave at 6:30, the last one out
for the day. Moreso, however, I just wanted to take the money and run,
scared of getting stabbed on the way to the station. I got out of the
car and greeted Johnny from Haiti and his incredibly brawny
driver-friend whose name I could not understand, and both men were
very pleasant. Johnny very briefly inspected the car in the waning
daylight (for $1200.00 I'd hoped he wouldn't utter a peep of protest,
and he didn't). I gave him the title, the three keys, retrieved my
cd's from out of the back, and walked as fast as I could toward the
train station. My jacket was now worth $1200.00, for I'd stuffed a
massive wad of twenties in it's inside pocket. The deal was done.
The further I got from W 39th St, the slower my gait became. My
confidence soared after a successful adventure. Almost. I still had to
get home, yet the hard part (the scary part) was over. I descended the
escalator into Penn Station, sauntered over to the Amtrak counter and
picked up my ticket which I'd so thoughtfully reserved in the car on
the way up (I was determined to leave NYC by train. If it came to it,
I was prepared to leave the hulking beast on the side of the road,
remove the plates and leave a nice little note offering the car to
anyone who wished to have it). Ticket in hand, I had an hour to spare,
so I hit the city.
Mia and I made a pact on the way back from Lake Placid to never again
buy a coffee from Starbucks. This will be an easy pact to adhere to.
Of course, as is the case nearly everywhere else, there is a Starbucks
on every street corner in NYC, but I resisted, wandering further
downtown in search of the local cafe, or at least a charismatic Irish
Pub. That I did find, but passed up in favor of some fancy looking
coffee house that was not a Starbucks, and I sat down and enjoyed a
latte that was finally hot enough for me. The barista certainly earned
his 50 cent tip.
Back on the train now. It's raining outside, but I don't have to worry
about that, because I'm not driving the train. I'm not driving at all.
I'm traveling via my favorite method, enjoying the conclusion of my
adventure, and savoring the notion that I'm now free from the burden
of the automobile. Free from the financial burden, yes, but also free
from the burden it places on my soul. While my life may not be as
convenient after today, it will certainly be more interesting, and
that's exactly what I crave.