Friday, June 13, 2008

Like Simon and/or Garfunkle, I’m Homeward Bound

I’m back in New York this weekend to attend the illustrious Tony Awards. No, not because when I was younger I dreamed of someday taking musical theater by storm with my frenetic dance moves and fine-tuned timbre. (That was but a pipe dream, lost after the ego-crushing Debbie Gibson concert my sister and I performed for my mother in third grade. “Only in My Dreams” was never so apropos.)

No, in fact my good friend from college produces the show (with some help from bosses and a few co-workers) and I just like crashing the afterparty, showing up all boozy in my tux, waving around a martini glass saying things in a deep British accent like, “Jolly good fun! Not take off that pantsuit and sing it again!”

Not only that, but it’s the first time I’ve been back in the city since we moved. While it’s only been three and a half months, the longest I was ever out of New York in the previous ten years was two weeks. And I have to say – it’s a bit shocking. Not just readjusting to the faster pace, the crowded streets, and the towering skyline, but mostly just feeling like a visitor in your native land. (Home may be where the heart is, but it helps when you have a familiar bed, TV, roof, and bath products. Ever try washing yourself with a heart? It’s not easy.)

And even worse, I seem to have forgotten everything about New York. Like I only have a limited capacity for geographic information, and the names of Miami’s causeways have replaced where the fuck the N train stops. Which has made riding the subway a thrilling adventure. I always took for granted knowing where I was going: You don’t realize how much you run on autopilot in New York until you have to start making a concerted effort to travel in the right direction.

So after much effort to find my way from Mott St. to Times Square last night, I land on the R train and sit down having forgot both an iPod and a magazine. The subway ads are of no help entertainment-wise because they haven’t changed since I left. So I’m left sitting there, prone to sporadic conversation.

Enter doofusy tourist – the kind of guy that’s wearing his high school ring and carrying a bottle of flavored water in his cargo shorts. He’s trying to look cool and conceal the fact that he has no clue where he’s going. Nonchalantly, he looks my way. Having no defense system (iPod, magazine) I’m caught.

Guy: “Hey, do you know if this train stops at Penn Station?”
Me: (internally) Are you wearing your class ring?

Now, as everyone knows, New Yorkers pride themselves on their knowledge of the subway. Generally speaking, if someone asks for directions loud enough for a group of bystanders to hear, at least three people will chime in with responses, with at least one know-it-all offering a faster route (“Transfer to the J!”) and one elderly know-it-all calling it “the IRT.” I was never one of those know-it-alls, but yes, if I overheard someone asking for directions and the person gave them the wrong answer, I would politely step in and say with a chuckle, “The 4 doesn’t stop at 23rd. Only the 6 does. Oh the folly!” (I can’t shake my internal British accent.)

Suddenly, though, I was caught speechless. Did the R stop at Penn Station? Who the fuck knows? How could someone possibly answer such a difficult question? What do I look like, a cartographer? Did I design the New York city subway system? I LIVE IN MIAMI!


I live in Miami.

It’s like I didn’t believe it until right now, when this poor schlep eating a bag of trail mix needed directions that me, an out-of-towner, couldn’t provide. I was crushed. If New York was my lover, I just walked in on her tea bagging an investment banker from Ohio.

Granted all this happened in about two seconds, because of course I coolly responded, “Yup,” and went back to reading an ad for the latest six-month old inspirational self-help book. I avoided eye contact with the dufus, perhaps out of shame. Of course, with some time to reconsider my answer, I remembered that the R train didn’t stop right at Penn Station, rather a couple avenues over. But I couldn’t correct myself now.

Either way, when we pulled in to 34th St., the guy was too busy trying to look like he knew where he was going to notice that this was where he was supposed to get off. I considered grabbing his attention again to tell him, but in the end decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble.

And with that, I felt like a New Yorker once again.


Blogger Camels & Chocolate said...

Um I lived in NYC for a couple years and never really knew where the subway stopped. I always tried to live within a couple blocks of work (Midtown, ew -- I KNOW) so I could avoid it entirely. And either walk downtown or take cabs on weekends when necessary. Still, if ever I were stopped by tourists, I would totally fake it like I knew what the Hell was going on.

June 13, 2008 at 2:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger A Lil' Irish Lass said...

I think the conclusion you've drawn is an accurate one. Still an asshole? Still a New Yorker.

Welcome back, Dan.

June 13, 2008 at 4:02:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Moose said...

I was in New York a few years ago trying to navigate the subways again. All of a sudden, the train emerges into the light. And...over water. My boyfriend at the time asks if we're supposed to be traveling across a body of water. I'm forced to shake my head no. So he says, "How did this happen? Didn't you LIVE HERE FOR FOUR YEARS?" The only reply I could give was, "What? Like that's supposed to MEAN SOMETHING?"

June 13, 2008 at 4:12:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you let that poor guy miss his train?

June 13, 2008 at 4:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Amber said...

No, anonymous, he didn't "let that poor guy miss his train." He gave him the opportunity for a real New York style adventure!

June 13, 2008 at 4:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dan said...

I like the way you think, Amber. It's like they always say: "If you can make it through a stabbing here, you can make it through a stabbing anywhere!"

June 13, 2008 at 4:55:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous vodkamusings said...

Oh Dan...New Yorker or Floridian you make me laugh out loud!

June 13, 2008 at 7:58:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Tara said...

Hey - so this is totally unrelated to the current post, but I realised I don't think I have your e-mail address now that you're not at your old job. AND, we're going to Tuscany in a few weeks and I need your advice on such things as: Siena horse race - would you go again? Any things you wish you had known before you did? Favorite towns that we shouldn't miss?

So shoot me an e-mail when you get a chance!

June 14, 2008 at 6:01:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Arielle said...

This post makes me sad because I'm moving out of New York in August and I always assumed that when I come back to visit I'd be as good with the subways as I am now. I don't want to forget how to use the trains! Damn.

June 14, 2008 at 11:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger the frog princess said...

You may have forgotten where the R stops, but you haven't lost your loathing for tourists... You're not a completely hopeless case!

Welcome back! :)

June 14, 2008 at 1:31:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to visit my brother regularly in new york, and although i'd become somewhat familiar with manhattan, I'd always let him guide me around on the subway, so I never had to figure them out.

So, about two years ago, I was on the subway, alone, and I had to figure out where to get off to connect to the 6 train. Despite not wanting to look like a tourist, I stood, in my ski jacket and boot cut jeans (what?), gawking at a subway map. I'd finally figured it out when some seemingly normal guy from Queen's approached me, and started trying to talk to me/hit on me.

Probably thinking I was your run of the mill tourist who had never been to new york before, he proceeded to not only give me wrong directions, he then asked me out for a drink to a "great place" at location that didn't exist because ... it was in the MIDDLE OF CENTRAL PARK (6th and 62nd or something). And no one on the subway around me said SHIT to correct him. (which was surprising, because I've always found new yorkers to be super helpful and friendly).

His giving me bad directions and discussing a place that I didn't think existed really creeped me out , and to this day, I'm not sure if he was a psycho with the intent to kill me and leave my dismembered body in the middle of the park, or if he was just a confused new yorker. After reading your post, I suspect the latter.

June 14, 2008 at 1:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Princess Sophia said...

Holy Dan...have you outgrown the game of giving tourists the wrong directions just for fun??? I'm glad you got the answer wrong, even if you didn't mean to. Part of going on a holiday is finding your way around and having adventures!
Say hi to Whoopie at the big event!

June 15, 2008 at 1:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

I feel like a bad ass when I know lots of stuff about my fair city, and conversely, emasculated when I don't know something.

I F up some things here and there, but I think I'm the man at telling people where to eat what, so I got that.

June 15, 2008 at 3:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger PMJG said...

Flavored water in his cargo shorts? He got what he deserved.

Also, washing yourself with a heart is pretty tricky, and not recommended by the CDC as an effective method of preventing the spread of contamination.

June 15, 2008 at 9:08:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first thing I do whenever I'm about to visit New York is to study the train maps and know exactly where I'm going. The last thing I want to come across as is a Jersey girl.

June 16, 2008 at 11:42:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG...I moved to North Carolina 2 yrs ago and when i go back to ny I totally cannot drive anymore. I freak out if I have to drive over 60 mph.

June 16, 2008 at 7:31:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally get it! I did the same thing to someone the other day. I get a little enjoyment out of it. Like pissing in front of the store that wouldn't let you use the restroom.

June 16, 2008 at 8:14:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

caitlynintherye - wait, so, you check subway maps in advance of travel, so that people don't think you cheap acrylic nails, and bouffante hair?


June 16, 2008 at 8:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Bill From Gainesville said...

I go to NY city about once a year and I ride that subway with nary a clue about any of it, I sometimes pretend to be John Rocker cause I think he really had some skills about the whole subway stuff,but usually I ask the locals and they tell me and NOT once was I given wrong advice. I see through you NYers ...

June 16, 2008 at 11:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger  said...

I'm from Brazil and I read your blog regularly just to laugh a little when I get tired at work. This post made me laugh a lot 'cause here in São Paulo the subway's always been sort of tricky to me... I have no idea where the stations are (north, south, east, west?!?!) and I've done lots of stupidities whenever I try reaching different places.
Well, thanks for writing so well and keep doing it so that I can have some relaxing moments, ok? :)

June 17, 2008 at 1:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sid said...

Loved the way you described cheating on New York. Man when I go away next month I hope someone doesn't give me the incorrect directions.

June 19, 2008 at 1:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Dana said...

I'd give you kudos but blogger ain't playin'.

Dear Dan -- It's Friday again.

Miss you,
Dana in Virginia

June 20, 2008 at 3:22:00 PM EDT  

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