Freeways, small towns with lights shimmering like stars and football stadiums dominate the landscape on the cross-country flight from LAX to JFK. The most thrilling element of the flight is flying over Manhattan. With the neon of Times Square, Central Park and the various bridges below overwhelming the eye from a high distance. Once the plane circles around the narrow island, I know I am home.
Throughout my life in New York, I had always said to myself “I am gonna take the JFK air train to save money.” It was a different story when I would actually land at JFK; pick up my bags and a hit a wall of jet lag. Therefore, it was always taxi to apartment and a couple hours sleep.
I had moved back to California, which left me very homesick for the city. When I returned, I just wanted to be on any sort of train as opposed to an automobile. I saw the air train circling JFK and decided to finally take the leap. My friend Ben gave me directions on how to use the air train. However, I was still slightly disoriented.
That chilly morning, I was meeting with Ben and Bill for brunch on the Upper West Side. So, I had to make my very important brunch date on time. I made it on to the air train as it circled Queens, nostalgia kicked in. “Oh my old borough, how I miss thee.” Everything looked exotic. The highway, craftsman style/ red brick homes and even the signs directing traffic toward Midtown.”
I hoped off at Jamaica station and had to take the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station. The LIRR was also a first, since any trip to Long Island involved a car. I rode the train into Penn Station, everything seeming glimmering. Then I actually arrived at Penn and remembered how Grand Central Station was so much prettier.
I made it from the airport to the city. As I descended down into the 1 train going uptown, something rancid happen. The subway station was muggy, smelled awful and looked dirty. At that moment it finally hit me,” I’ am home, I am home,” I declared internally. It didn’t feel like I was away for very long. I hopped into the subway (yes like a bunny). As I starred into all the diverse faces, I was reminded why I didn’t love suburban living. My slice of the Southern California avocado was homogenous. It also lacked gays and was devoid of high culture.
I descended on the Upper West Side and felt New York soil again. I walked up Broadway toward West 85th Street. There were people making an art form out of jay walking, beautifully adorned brownstones and avid newspaper readers dominating the outdoor cafes. Successfully, I made my brunch date. It was wonderful to enjoy my favorite New York tradition with wonderful friends.
Eventually, I decided to give up Southern California for New York. After having spent too much time in a car, I would never take public transportation for granted. Even though, the fares rise, runs at a snails pace late at night and feels like a sauna in the summer, I still love the subway. Perfection is boring anyways.