Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On the Way Home This Car Hears My Confessions

Since moving to New York I've found a lot of favorite things about the city. Free museum nights, free summer concerts, 4am bars and a pervading sense that a person is only as old as they let themselves feel. Near the top of the list is the erratic, nerve-wracking, frustrating, convenient and indispensable New York public transportation system.

For $2.25 I can travel from Coney Island to the Bronx Zoo; from the Hudson River to the Atlantic Ocean. On any given Friday night I can see one of the best modern art collections in the world at MoMA in Manhattan, catch an outdoor show at the Prospect Park bandshell in Park Slope, crawl into one of my favorite dive bars in Williamsburg, and be in bed without having to worry about traffic, falling asleep at the wheel or a DUI. I don't have to be alert during my morning commute and can begin to veg-out during my evening commute. Hydroplaning, warming an engine, defrosting and scraping a windshield and black ice are issues my past self had to deal with but that my current self can blithely ignore.

For all of the construction, delays and hours spent waiting for infrequent late-night trains the subway is undoubtedly my lifeline to New York City without which I'd probably spend most non-work hours holed up in my apartment playing video games and drinking whiskey (which isn't to say I don't sometimes do that anyway.)

As a child of the midwest, however, that grew up with wide streets allowing cars to drive at or over the speed limit (except in Lynndale!) in a city sprawled out enough to warrant a long drive just to get to a friend's house I can't deny there is a certain experience that only private transportation can confer.

I look back through rose-colored glasses and remember a certain serenity in my morning and evening commutes. The individualism that existed on even the most packed freeways as people traveled en masse, but were still encapsulated in their own little four- and two-doored worlds. I remember driving through a sleeping city surrendering its roads to me and my compatriots coming back from late-night jobs, shows and poker games. I remember the freeway between cities at midday, the sun hitting fields for miles around with only road ahead and behind. I remember road trips to Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with friends packing into cars packing into caravans four or five deep with only one of us in the whole group really knowing the way.

Above all else I remember the music.