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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Train Love

I took the Metro North on Saturday up to Bronxville, village of my alma mater, for a Seder. I have a friend who still works as an admissions counselor for Sarah Lawrence, a fact which brings me incredible joy, as it gives me an excuse to still make the commuter pilgrimage into the suburbs every so often.

Metro-North, my constant weekend companion for 4 city-adjacent college years. My shining pathway, my own pearly gates that I would have to pass through to enter my heaven of New York City.

I took the Metro-North the first time I visited New York, with my family at age 12. At this point I wanted to be an Actress, and NYC was the focal point of every one of my dreams. We were staying at my uncle's house in Westchester, a stopping point on our way to visit my grandparents in upstate New York. I begged my parents to take a day-long detour into the city.

I still remember the leather seats, red and blue (before the new trains), a little ragged around the edges. The unmistakable Metro-North smell, the rhythm of the ticket-taker as he walked up and down the car, hole-punch snapping, calling for tickets. All these things heralded my upcoming arrival in New York City.

When we stepped out on the street outside Grand Central, to me, it was ecstasy. Taxis crawling down crowded streets which were foggy with steam rising from manholes and subway grates, horns blaring, and the shades of concrete, buildings facades and sky playing off one another in the most complex and beautiful palate of grays I had ever seen. I thought, it's just as I imagined.

Later, when I returned to New York for college, I got on the train for the city the very first weekend after I arrived. It was the same train. The same seats, the same smell, the same clack-clack of the ticket puncher. It was always the same train, carrying me into the city weekend after weekend. I love that train.

So it brings me no small amount of joy to have an excuse to hope back on that train on a semi-regular basis, although now to head OUT of the city. I love everything on those trains: the cars, the people, the conductors.

On this particular trip, when the doors opened at Melrose, a frazzled and winded woman stumbled into my car. "How much... for a ticket?" she wheezed, as the ticket taker came around. "Had to... run for.... the train. Didn't have time to buy one."

"Hey, you just take a deep breath," said the ticket taker. "I'm going to let you rest a minute and collect yourself, and then I'll come back for you." I think he felt it was the least he could do, considering the next bit of information he had for her. "Cause it's a lot when you buy it on the train. Thirteen dollars. But you just get collected, and I'll come back for you."

OUCH. Twice as much as on the platform. "I've been there," I said sympathetically, as the ticket-taker turned to me, and gave the woman a sympathetic look. There has definitely been a time or two when I just didn't quite get it together enough to buy the ticket before the train arrived, and had to pay the price. It sucks. I felt for her. He laughed. The bedraggled woman smiled.

As the ticket taker returned to her she shook her head while she dug for her money. "I'm already late as it is. I had to run.... I BARELY made this train."

"I know," he responded. "But you made it, that's the important thing. Good job, I'm proud of you." That's what he said. These are the moments that I really cherish. I don't know, maybe we were just a lady running late, an MTA employee and me, all in our separate worlds, and I'm grasping for ties that aren't there, but in that moment we felt like a community. We felt like we were all in it together, a little train family. That's train love.

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