Getting places on time in NYC

I was late to brunch on Saturday. I’d left my apartment with plenty of time to get to my friend’s neighborhood, pick up some apple cider, and show up on her doorstep, but I wasn’t paying attention when I got on the train and only realized I’d messed up when it started going across the Manhattan Bridge. Oops!

How to handle lateness in NYC? With Patience.

How to handle lateness in NYC? With Patience.

I was only fifteen minutes late, not a huge deal when you’re meeting at someone’s apartment instead of a restaurant, but it still annoyed me. I was late a lot growing up and as an adult I try to always be on time. That’s not always easy in New York – you don’t have to drive anywhere, but the subway has its own problems. Delays and construction aside, if you’re running just a couple minutes late and miss the train, you can suddenly be ten minutes late, or even later depending on the time of day.

Fortitude works, too.

Fortitude works, too.

Sometimes it really doesn’t matter if you’re late. I had a few friends over to watch a movie a couple weeks ago and people were running late. But it was Friday night and I was home, so I just watched TV till people arrived. No problem! But other times, being late means missing the beginning of a show, or being late to a rehearsal, or getting to work later than you planned. Last month I was on my way to dinner with friends and I got off the train a stop early rather than wait on a crowded platform for the next one. Bad move – it was a long walk, and my friends were left waiting at the restaurant for a while.

The solution, of course, is to leave extra time to get anywhere, especially when you’re going someplace for the first time! But somehow it seems that the days when you need extra time – when the train’s packed and you have to let it go by, or the doors close as you’re swiping your metro card – are the ones where you’re already running late. The days where you leave early? They tend to be the ones where all your connections work out perfectly and you end up at your destination ten minutes early. And on the days you’re early? The person you’re meeting up with is probably going to be late.

Some people would say here, “Thank goodness for smart phones!” But since I am still clinging to my dumb phone, I’ll say, “Thank goodness for books!” and wait patiently for you to show up, because I’m a little early.

What’s your surefire way to get somewhere on time?


Sunday in Williamsburg and Greenpoint

At a party recently someone asked me if I lived in Brooklyn . When I said yes, he said, “Williamsburg?” and I scoffed, then felt bad. He lived in Williamsburg. Oops.

I haven’t spent much time in Williamsburg. Some of my reasons have to do with the fact that I’m not a hipster, but more of myreasons have to do with the fact that it feels very far away from everywhere I’ve lived in Brooklyn, and getting there involves the G train. Since i lived on the G train exclusively for two years when I first moved to NYC, I have a higher tolerance for it than most people – yes, it doesn’t come often, but it reliably doesn’t come often – but I still avoid it when I can.

A few weekends ago my friend and I headed to an event in Greenpoint, Williamsburg’s neighbor, a mini craft fair that we were not super enthusiastic about. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything exciting. But en route we did see something worth the trip: Brooklyn Mac. After ducking out early on the fair, we picked up some mac ‘n cheese and headed to McCarren Park to bask in the sun, eat delicious cheesy pasta, and talk about life.

From there we decided to head to the Williamsburg Flea. We’d both spent plenty of time at the Flea in Clinton Hill, but neither of us had been to the Williamsburg version. It had a lot the same vendors, and some of the same Brooklyn-y crafts as the craft fair, but there was also a ton of miscellaneous stuff, which is what I go to flea markets and tag sales for.

My old roommate once got a set of really neat silverware at the Flea for about $25, and my friend picked up a great coffee table there. I’ve mostly stuck to buying food – People’s Pops has awesome popsicles – but I love checking out all the random jewelry and keeping my eyes out for old Nancy Drews among the books scattered in the stalls.

After a lap around the Flea we noticed that the sky was filling with clouds and it was time to head home, but I plan to give Williamsburg and Greenpoint another chance to win me over – if only to go get some more delicious mac n’ cheese.

Anyone have favorite places in Williamsburg or Greenpoint to share? I went to Beacon’s Closet a few years ago and had a lot of fun trying stuff on.


PS On hiatus next week, back the following! Happy almost June!

A quiet Saturday in New York

I’ve been asked to do more slice-of-life posts, and I have to admit, I’m not sure how I can pull off. Most of the time my life is pretty repetitive: get up, exercise (sometimes…), go to work, come home. Throw choir rehearsal in once a week, some dinner or other evening outings with friends, and that’s my life. I won’t be writing about work here because I want to keep my professional life separate from my writing life, as best I can. So I think the best way to do this is to occasionally give you a window into what going about my regular life can be like.

Today is Saturday, and it is over 50 degrees out – a miracle after this winter, and yet I didn’t leave the apartment till 3 p.m. I meant to get out earlier, I really did, but between talking to my mom and letting myself watch episodes 2 through 4 (#1 was last night’s activity) of the BBC’s “North & South”, well, time got away from me.
But I’m fed, showered, and dressed, and my laundry has been deposited at the laundromat. That’s one of my life splurges in NYC, letting someone else do my laundry. It’s worth the extra $10 to drop it off and pick it up the next day, clean and folded.
I am on the subway to Manhattan, something I don’t often do on quiet weekends. But I’m on a mission to Macy’s, as I need to pick up some things for a friend’s wedding that’s coming up in a few weeks. I’m not a huge fan of shopping (except for books!), so I’ve put it off, but the time has come.
The subway’s not too crowded at the moment – I get a seat easily – but everyone is chattier than on weekdays. People are going places together, whereas during the daily commute most people are heading to work alone. It’s nice to see, but I’m battling a headache and wishing I brought my iPod.
This train goes across the bridge and I’m sitting on on the east side to get the best view. But I’ve got a stop or two left before we’ll cross, so I close my eyes, just for a minute.
Okay, for longer than a minute. Actually, I let myself doze all the way to Macy’s as the subway car slowly fills with people. I get off at Herald Square and make my way into the store, stopping in the departments I need and admiring, as always, the wooden escalators that clearly have been around for decades. I even stop for a Starbucks hot chocolate, right in the store, because shopping is hard work.
I’m successful in my endeavors, but the commute back to Brooklyn goes less smoothly. I’m meeting a friend for dinner and the train I want doesn’t come after fifteen minutes of waiting so I snag a seat on another train and thank the powers-that-be for it, because the car quickly becomes packed. Standing on crowded subway trains can bring out the carsickness that plagues me on road trips, and I avoid it whenever possible.
I meet my friend and we head to a diner, the perfect place for a cheap, unhealthy catch up session. Afterward we walk back to my apartment planning to chat some more, or maybe watch a movie. There are no museum visits this weekend, no concerts or trips to the theater, but there’s something satisfying in finally taking care of the errands you’ve been avoiding, and in spending time with good friends.

Subway art

I wrote recently about some of the joys and frustrations of commuting, but I didn’t mention one of my favorite things about the NYC subway system: the art. I was reminded of it when riding the B train from Brooklyn to Manhattan this week. As the train leaves the Dekalb stop, before it crosses the Manhattan Bridge, there is an art piece to the right of the train—an animation given motion by the movement of the train.

At (and in that case, between!) stations throughout the city, there are fun and thoughtful works of art. Spotting them as the train pulls in or as you wait on the platform can make a long commute far more interesting. The first time I noticed the grimy mosaics of steam trains on the Grand Central 4/5/6 platform was magical, even if I did wish they were a bit cleaner.

The more noticeable (and better kept up) art is often part of the Arts for Transit program sponsored by the MTA. Two of my favorites are the mosaics of revelers in the Times Square station, meant to represent the intrepid souls who brave Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and the hats at the 23rd Street stop on the N/R. I also love the metal people sculptures at the 14thStreet/8th Avenue stop, and, of course, the creatures above and below sea and from the past and present at the Museum of Natural History stop.
Looking over the MTA’s Arts for Transit projects makes me want to visit all these stations and look for their works of art—or at least pay better attention to the stations I already visit. Maybe someday I’ll make up a checklist and go on an art scavenger hunt across the city.
In the meantime, what are your favorite pieces of subway art?

On the commute

One of the hardest parts of living in New York is how long it takes to get anywhere. I’m not saying I’d like to be driving to work—I’d much rather keep my fifteen or so minutes of walking and twenty minutes on the train reading than be stuck in traffic (or have to finish learning to drive)—but sometimes a commute can become downright frustrating. My first two years in New York, I lived off the G train. The easiest route to work, with cross-the-platform transfers, involved three trains.

Then I moved, and it only took one train to get me to my office. I moved again, and again I took one train, and managed to get a seat every day—until construction forced me to transfer to a crowded express train. Sometimes the express skips my stop and I’m back to three trains. Reading is a challenge on such a crowded, claustrophobia-inducing ride, and when you’re constantly getting on and off trains it’s hard to focus on a book.
But. The express train goes across the Manhattan Bridge, and as I went one day, the lack of seats left me perfectly positioned to watch the Statue of Liberty pass the window as the sun made its way toward the horizon, and I thought, maybe it’s worth it, this bother, if I get a few more rides like this, where I’m reminded that the sun and the water and the Manhattan skyline make a lovely view.
And when I do get a seat, or even when I don’t, if I have the right book, a subway ride can pass without me noticing how long it’s taken. Just me and my book, the way I used to be with reading before I discovered Netflix. The subway ride is the perfect place to escape from, into a book, especially when I’m jostling elbows with the woman next to me or straining to reach the overhead bar.
So as much as I look forward to October, when I can just sit on one train with my nose in a book, right now I’ll try to enjoy the ride. Today as we crossed the bridge I thought the city looked unreal, like something I was seeing in the swooping opening credits of a movie, or like an oversided Panorama. Maybe next week I’ll watch it disappear into fog.
What are your favorite (and least favorite) parts about your commute, in NYC or elsewhere?