No direction home [B5 – 31 December 2006]

For the 30 days following this blog’s five-year anniversary, I am reposting some favorite, popular, or unique posts. Feel free to contact me to suggest some of your favorites. If you’d like to comment, click through to the original post.

Travel is a recurring theme on my blog. I’ve been on road trips, I’ve been to Mexico several times and spent a Christmas and New Year’s in New York. I love going away because it’s different than home, and going away means coming back and seeing with new, refreshed eyes.

Here’s a post that amuses me greatly, written during my New York trip two years ago.


  1. I’m standing at the Long Island Rail Road station in Jamaica, Queens, New York, having arrived in the tri-state area via airplane about an hour previous. It’s about 8:30 PM. I’m waiting for my connection to Glen Head, New York. I’m tired and out of sorts. I’ve only been in New York once before in my life. I’ve got a messenger bag (with the logo of a Seattle radio station on it) and a giant piece of luggage.

    And a guy, tall, dark chocolate skin, sweater and jeans, walks up to me, ticket in hand, staring at the signs, obviously lost and confused. He spots me and approaches. “Is this the train to West Hempstead?” he asks me.

    I shrug. “Dunno. Sorry.”

  2. I”m in Greenwich Village, crossing Houston (which is pronounced locally as “HOW-stun”, hands tucked in my pockets, my eyes hooded by my baseball cap, scarf wrapped around my face against the wind. It’s 9:30 PM or so, dark and cold, but this neighborhood is filled with people. The odors from dozens of restaurants fill the air and delight my nose, overpowering the smell of car exhaust.

    I’ve heard people call Portland’s NW 21st Street “Portland’s Greenwich Village” but now that I’ve seen the real thing, the comparison is not appropriate. The real neighborhood is much much more interesting. Maybe in another 100 years Portland’s will approach it.

    A couple pauses, he tall and blandly handsome, she short, thin, dark-haired, Roman nose, crossing the opposite direction from me. I glance up, smile softly, keep walking. She pauses and turns to me. “Is Bleeker Street this way?” she asks, pointing in the direction I’ve just come.

    “Yeah,” I say, in my best New Yorkian accent, “It’s one blawk up.” I surprise myself with how easily the accent, and the directions, come. And they’re both accurate.

    “OK, thanks!” And they scamper off like puppies.

  3. Later that same night, I’m walking west along Canal Street, having tried, and failed, to find Ground Zero (I just didn’t go far enough). I guess I should have asked for directions…

    Another generic hip urban couple in their black wool coats, male and female, are walking in the direction from which I came. She looks at me and asks, “Is Little Italy this way?” The boy tugs on her arm and avoids looking at me, his masculinity threatened by having to ask, even by proxy.

    “Sorry, I got nothin’. I’m a tourist, too!” I say with a smile. They walk away.

  4. I’m scrambling down the stairs at Penn Station, Saturday afternoon, trying to catch the New Jersey Transit train that will take me back to the airport, and eventually my hotel. It’s the New York Coastal train (I believe) and all I know is that it stops at Newark International Airport, where I can catch a shuttle to the Hilton.

    An older lady, in her late 50s or early 60s, bottle-blonde hair, coming down the stairs with me, looks at me. “Is this the train to Secaucus?” She pronounces it with the accent on the first syllable.

    “Uh, I’m not sure. I’m just taking it to Newark. Sorry.”

    She nods and looks around for a porter or conductor as we reach the bottom of the stairs and the train platform. I hustle onboard and stand near the door.

    The first stop after Penn Station was Secaucus. I saw her get off there. After all the directions I’ve given it’s nice to see that some folks do reach where they’re going, after all.