Tag Archives: New York

New York

I love New York.

I love the buzz of the city, I love the subway, the crazy yellow cabs, the skyscrapers, the tiny neighborhoods, and of course the theater.

The other evening I saw two plays back-to-back: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Father.  This was two days after I had gone with my daughter to see The Sound of Music. Nuns, nannies and Nazis, all intertwined around a delightful and timeless score. The Nazi bit was a little grim but it’s pretty light with the sing along stuff! So here I was in NYC taking in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, an intense play, three and a half hours long, by playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Father is a French tale by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton who was the one who single handedly transformed a 1782 Choderlos de Laclos novel to make the incredible play Les Liasons Dangereuses.  It’s pretty intense. It’s a study of the tragedy and gradual deterioration associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my father too.  And what to do after all of that? Head to a great restaurant of course and that would be Esca, my favorite restaurant in New York on 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenue.

The next day, I grabbed the metro and went down to the Empire State Building and took a stroll from 33rd to 14th street on the High Line, a fantastic community effort along the discarded elevated train tracks. It dropped me off right in the meatpacking area and I got to pop into Soho House for a quick bite and a view from the rooftop pool across the Manhattan skyline. I then took a walk through Central Park, saw the seals in the children’s zoo and thought how amazing to have such green space in between all of this bigness and towering glass structures.  Of course I ran out of time and jumped a yellow cab to La Guardia. I should have taken the Acela, but honestly, at three hours and 50 minutes, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense when you have an urgent appointment back in Boston.

Plea number 100: Open up this Eastern seaboard corridor Mr. President and run fast trains down the line.

The Acela is anything but accelerated! It’s slow and the service on board is dreadful. Why is Amtrak so bad?

High Line Park

High Line Park

Central Park

Central Park

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Wandering under the Skylight

Wandering under the Skylight

Serendipity in travel is what I always find provides the moments, the surprises. I was down in Soho strolling around, wandering through the village. I’d walked from 5th Avenue down through Washington Square along Bleecker into Soho and was thinking, wow, I used to come down here all the time in 70s. I ended up on Spring Street and grabbed coffee at some bar and needed to get uptown. The traffic was looking bad and it was raining – thank goodness I had my 2 dollar umbrella with me.  A lovely lady, because I think I looked lost, asked if I needed help and like a lost schoolboy in the rain, I told her, “Mam, I need to get uptown.”  She pointed me all the way down Bleecker Street and off I went.  Who says New Yorkers aren’t nice?

So here’s what I don’t get about the subway in New York. It’s not intuitive; it’s not an Apple product- it’s more like a Microsoft product. It’s not stylish and it’s not simple and it’s almost barely functional. Getting a ticket is a hassle, scanning isn’t brilliant – it cost me $9 for one ticket because the scan didn’t work on the previous two and there was nobody around to help me. And then I went looking for signs that are everywhere in the London Underground and the Paris metro, and guess what, they don’t exist! You have to ask somebody.  Times Square?

And then you jump on the wrong train, not the express train and you realize it’s going to take an hour to get up town, so you jump off and get on the right train, and then you have to peer out of the window to see what station you’re at. There are no maps in the carriages except a tiny one at the very end that you can’t see. So I got off at Grand Central and walked about 5 miles to get across town on another train that takes you to 42nd Street and I have to say that the whole experience was awful. I mean everybody complains about Boston and how it’s a little toy town train, but the subway in NY, honestly, sucks. It’s grimy and overcrowded and hot and unclear. But I made it.

And this is why I love travel. As I came out of the subway, it was still raining and then I was guided by the lights.  When you walk in New York you zigzag with the lights and there I came across the most remarkable sight, a show I had been dying to see in London called Skylight was in previews on Broadway with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan and I landed a ticket. Pure and fabulous coincidence that made my day. So thank you subway for delivering me to the not quite right place, and thank you chaotic New York for zigzagging me past a theater I would not have passed if the lights had led me elsewhere.


The Acela Train That Couldn’t

Not to rag on the ACELA train that services the Boston – New York – Washington corridor, but it is a particularly painful experience, costly and inefficient. Compare the Limoliner at $89 where the wireless works, the seats are like first class on an airplane and you get movies to boot vs. the ACELA at anywhere between $130 – $275 where the wireless rarely works, the service on board in first class is a joke and in business class non-existent and there are no movies. Not to mention that you leave from a beat up station like South Station in Boston and arrive at one of the most horrendous in the world, Penn Station in NY. It’s grimy, it’s confusing, it’s full of people who seem to not be catching trains.

And you wonder why America runs on Dunkin’ or buses rather than trains. The journey time is more or less the same, except you have a far greater chance of being delayed on the train, than on the bus. But it’s the service that really stands out. The Limoliner wants you to come back. Amtrak doesn’t care and what’s more, given that the price is half the price of a one-way ticket by air, you would think that the appeal of the train would inspire Amtrak to try and make me want to come back.

I haven’t given up, but I find it incredibly frustrating that in this day and age, when trains are flying along in Asia and Europe at speeds of 200mph or more with friendly service and efficiency, that we seem still to be tied up with a ragged antiquated system along the Eastern seaboard, which is a prime artery for train travel. Boston to Washington, DC (about the same mileage) takes roughly 7 hours and that’s on the fast train. We could learn a thing or two from the Italians: Rome to Milan – about 362 miles in just under 3 hours.