in the trenches

I took the subway to Guam today.  I didn’t have a destination or a usual.  I ended up near your office, circling it, wondering if I’d run into you, wondering if something in you knew I was close.  I’m still here, but the first “fourbucks” had a line out the door, a string of people in drizzle, and inside, they didn’t have tables.  So I continued the circle and found a ‘bucks with everything I needed.  Caffeine, music, Internet, and close proximity to you, even if I never see you; I know you’re close.

When I was in middle school, I’d visit Manhattan often on school trips.  Sometimes we’d take the train to Lincoln Center, but mostly they’d haul us in on yellow buses.  Meryl Glass and I would sit together.  I liked the window seat so I could find cute drivers and make seductive faces at them; Meryl liked the aisle because her legs were longer than mine.  We’d use the backs of our pencils to draw shapes on the green pleather seat in front of us.  Is that a?  No, wait… it’s either a man’s head in a baseball cap or a taco.  “No, it’s a taxicab, dummy.  Your turn.”  Then we’d arrive at the museum with our notebooks and list of questions we’d need to answer for homework.  The planetarium was my favorite trip; the seats reclined, and I could daydream.  On our ride back to school, I noticed the women with their beige trench coats and briefcases, caught in a step on sparkling sidewalk.  Frozen in a moment.  I wanted to be her, that women in the trench with the attaché case.  I’m a woman now, but I still don’t own a trench coat.  I should.

I walked through Grand Central Station, past the whispering corners, into the mouth.  Blurs of people on tracks, criss-crossing, overlapping, missing one another and trains.  The engorged knot of a clock in the center reminded me of missed connections, of Moonstruck outside The Met, when we’re that close to what we’re waiting for, but we miss it, despite the looking.  Maybe our lives are drawn with erasers on the backs of things, not really clear what we’re looking at.  We all see different shapes in our lives.  Other times, it runs into us, and we tangle like fishing lines, certain we’ve caught something.  Grand Central Station is romantic, despite the rats and the rude, because it’s a hub of arrivals and departures, of people into one another’s lives.

Grand Central


  1. Grand Central is romantic, esp. at xmastime when everything stops and the music plays and theres that light show up above on the ceiling that i can stare at for hours. And they have really good food there too! It always amazes me how Grand Central can be so pretty and peaceful yet Penn Station is this stressful shithole.

  2. I remember the planetarium! I used to love to hate it. Why is it that Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman narrate everything? The seats shake like an amusement park ride. The water I bought cost more than my jeans. Ah…memories.

  3. Grand Central at rush hour is like a well-choreographed ballet. I love the rushing, the energy, the chaos and the routine.

  4. I clicked on Guam and that post and this one reminded me of grade school. This one of "field trips" to the museum and Guam brought to mind libraries (elementrary school libraries, mid school, high school, university and public libraries). You like Barnes and Noble. So do I. But nothing compares to a great library.

  5. I'm a woman who wears trench coat because of my job… I hate it! Don't get any!
    When I was a kid, I too thought it was cool, but now I'd like to go back and be that sweet and free teen again!

  6. i love this post…it is very evocative of NY…
    i wrote about grand central in a similar vein, as well.

    [Link removed. To read Amanda's post, please go to her URL]

  7. I love my trench coat. I actually have two. And now and then when I catch my reflection in a window rushing somewhere, I can't believe I look this grown-up. Someone is sure to catch on sometime, aren't they?

  8. Wow this post brought me back from when I was in school riding the big yellow bluebird bus! The trips to the city- getting all nostalgic here…

    Great post!

  9. I have a couple things to say here…first thing's first…Yankees Suck! Second of all, when I was in grade school I used to love trips on the yellow bus to the city. I always came back with stupid pictures that had nothing to do with the trip, and for some reason, it ALWAYS rained. The city actually looks its best in the rain. While we are on the subject of school, I must say…when I was back there in seminary school, they put forth the proposition that you could petition the lord with prayer…

  10. My favorite experience on grammer school field trips was everyone strategically positioning themselves on the bus next to the kid who's mom packed the greatest lunchs and snacks. He was the Sugar High King Dope Pin of his day and we all wanted a fix.

    God, I miss being a kid in the 80's.
    –South Shore LI boy

  11. Forget placing yourself strategically for the good snacks. It was all about sitting near the boy you liked, or avoiding the boys who liked you, the ones with lizard tongues, the ones you needed a circle, circle, dot, dot kootie shot from.

    I always got the crap lunch of turkey, lettuce, mustard, on white. The kiss of death apple. At least it wasn't a finger-sized box of raisins. You might as well be the kid who picks her nose.

  12. Sadly, my memories from the North Shore of LI to the streets of Manhattan via the yellow monster are stinky. Literally. There was always the kid who got car sick. Bus sick. Made me sick.

  13. I'm not a writer, and I've never been much of a reader, until recently (life just always seem to get in the way, I know that sounds sad, doesn't it?) so I don't have much for comparison. But I stumbled upon your blog this morning and I can't stop reading it. It's inspiring to me in a way I can't even explain, and you honestly, probably don't care about. But I figured I'd tell you that I love your writing anyway. It's always nice to hear you reached someone, if only for a moment. I've always loved books and such that make you want to know the writer personally, to hear their stories first-hand. It's like you have a new friend (hope that doesn't sound scary, not intended). Anyway, before I babble on…. nobody's ever made me think about my life and the little moments in it so much in a 4 hours span, I've enjoyed it, thank you.

  14. There's comfort in proximity…
    There's beauty in Grand Central's Dance of the Commuters…

    And oh how I HATED it when the raisins stuck to the bottom of the box. If only they were olives stuck to the bottom of a jar, THEN I'd know what to do.

    Give my regards to Guam!

  15. I lived on Guam for 2 years. My oldest son was born there. The people and the food are wonderful. The beaches are gorgeous. But it's not really a vacation destination… unless you're a Japanese honeymooner.

  16. The first days of flirting on a school bus away from the routine… "would you like some of my apple juice ?" flashing toward an inevitable love affair that collided with the impossible… i remember those first days of coming to the city.. boy did it smell bad ! kinda like old socks-i always thought..closer, nearer, yet farther away, can those first loves give us the signs or scenes we always knew we were going to play out ?

  17. Unfortunately I was the "Nice Guy" who never got the girl because they always like my "Bad Boy" friends. Even though I loathed the 10yr. HS reunion a few years ago, it was nice to show those old chicas that"Nice Boys" grow up very well. No anger issue here.

  18. Weren't you the kid that picks her nose, too? I think I can recognize my own when I smell them.

  19. Hey "LOLO" you got it right about Penn Station vs Grand Central (to be technical) Terminal but today's Penn Station isnt the real Penn Station, it's just it's basement! Penn Station itself died for our sins (if that makes sense) back in 1960.

    Hey Stephanie Honey you're not turning stalker on us?!;-)

  20. You said in your previous post about Guam you wanted to travel, but were afraid it was too dangerous alone. No, it's not, I assure you. Give up winter harvest or whatever it is, and go teach kids in Guatemala, or Thailand, or whatever you want to do. It's a ticket and a lonely planet away, and will make you see Manhattan so differently when you get back. Avoid the blog crazies and breath freely in tropical climes. So good for the soul, beats chicken soup and all that crap.

  21. i have always thought that the clock at grand central is the center of the universe, or somehow connected to it.

  22. To this comment:
    Posted by: Matty Rubes | Aug 30, 2005 12:07:13 PM

    I say, The YANKEES DON'T SUCK. They are having a bad fcuking year, now, the BoSox, THEY SUCK AND BLOW.period.

  23. I too wear a trench coat for work and I think it is essential. But such is the life of a flasher, right ladies?

  24. i too just started reading your blog
    your honesty is refreshing
    and when you talk of nyc it makes me want to leave dc immediately…
    i recently tried limo-scene-what a great color
    better than a trench anyday

  25. Wow Leo, that was really fcuking deep. You're probably one good cry away from being a woman. Cut the pony tail, throw out the Death Cab for Cutie albums, and stop pining for your ex (she's not returning your calls for a reason).

  26. Nathanial, don't be afraid of your emotions. Its like the time I was eating a lemon iced cupcake and sank into my 1400 threadcount egyptian cotton sheets thinking, how do all the people that have to use public transportation deal with that clock in Grand Central Station. I admire his courage to speak his mind.

  27. There's nothing wrong with Death Cab For Cutie…except for Death Cab For Cutie. What DRECK!

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