If you’re fairly young and reading this (and I have to ask ‘why?’), I hope you get something from these writings. One of the things I would hope you do you get is the sense that you shouldn’t waste an opportunity. If life throws something good at you, grab it and use it for all it’s worth; don’t think, “Ah, well, there’s always tomorrow,” because sometimes there isn’t. Or you keep pushing it off until the tomorrows run out. I’d ask you to trust me on that, but, who am I, besides some rando on the Internet?
I used to work in New York City. Manhattan, in fact. I didn’t live there, though, so the experience wasn’t all it could have been. Mostly because I commuted and lived pretty far away. Relying on public transportation also meant that I had to do things on their (the public transportation people) schedule, which was not flexible.
The commute to work wasn’t too bad, although it was long. A lot of people in New Jersey work in NYC, so the train I took stopped at every conceivable stop along the way. I don’t remember exactly when it left my station (which was the beginning and end of the route), but it was somewhere between 5:00am and 6:00am, I think. After the long train ride, I took the PATH train from Hoboken to either the 23rd or 33rd street stations. Once there, it was a jaunt on the subway to a station closer to where I worked, whereupon I would hoof it the rest of the way.
The first job I worked at had a place on the way that sold bagels and coffee in the morning. On the way in I would always grab a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and an extra large hazelnut coffee. When I say “cream cheese,” I don’t mean they took a dab and shmeared it around with a knife. I mean they used a knife to cut a half-inch slab off a block of cream cheese and slapped it between the two toasted halves of the bagel. It was glorious.
I didn’t have any co-workers at that job, really. I was basically on my own. There was a McDonald’s right on the corner, so I almost always went there for lunch. I also ordered the same thing. Every day. If that’s not a waste of being in Manhattan, I don’t know what is. But, it was easy, it was mostly quick, so it was done and done.
Not that it didn’t have its advantages. There were times when I would walk through the door on a busy day and see a cashier waving a bag over their head and gesturing me up to the front of the line. Or the times when the manager would give me my lunch for free if I filled out a survey. Or the time when I was standing on line and looked to the left of me and saw the cast of The State. I even talked to Joe Lo Truglio (I think) for a moment, telling him I really liked the show, but MTV was making it difficult to watch because they kept changing the time slot. He agreed, saying they weren’t happy about it either. And that was that. My brush with fame.
I think the most exciting thing I did, at that time, was see Nine Inch Nails at Madison Square Garden, which was right down the street from where I worked. I didn’t have to worry about getting home, because the group of us threw in money for a limo ride home.
And that, really, was the biggest problem I had: NJ Transit stopped train service relatively early in the evening, so going out with friends just wasn’t possible. I didn’t live where there was bus service, so that, too, was out.
The second job I had was less exciting. There were no good bagel places on the way there. There was no McDonald’s nearby. I don’t actually remember what I did for lunch there. I don’t even remember there being a cafeteria. I do remember that my boss took me out to lunch at a nearby strip club, once. I didn’t make a habit of it, though.
So, you know I pretty well wasted my time being in New York City five days a week. I haven’t really gone into much that would make it seem exciting, and that’s because it mostly wasn’t. True, I was on two trains that had minor derailments. Also, I’d been stuck on the tracks for hours because the coolant fell out of the engine. Stuff like that.
There is one thing I really miss, though. I’ll use the moment to say that I wish I had brought a camera with me, every day, and I will never knock someone for taking oodles of pictures on their phone. When waiting for the train home, I would sometimes walk around Hoboken. Sometimes, during the winter, I would step outside the station and look at New York from across the river. The Empire State building was prominent, sometimes lit up in special colors for different occasions, reflected on the water.
I had read the book, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, while riding the train. In it, Helprin mentions Hoboken and a place called the Clam Broth House. During one of my walks around the town, I saw it. A lit up sign for the Clam Broth House. I thought it was made up, for the book, but it was a real place. I always wanted to go in, just to see what it was like. But I never did.
And that’s me, really. I got into photography late. I wrote a lot, but not about things that I was doing or feeling at the time. There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but never got around to it. I regret it. Regretting things late in life is a terrible thing.