There and Back

Dear Reader,

One of the most convenient things I have found about moving to Boston is just how connected the city is to other parts of the U.S. and the world. For example, the Boston Logan International Airport offers non-stop flights to over 50 international destinations, even including a 15-hour voyage to Hong Kong and a 12.5-hour flight to Dubai. While I am not flying nowadays, I did experience the wealth of Boston’s interconnectivity through a daytrip to New York City.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, an appointment that would have normally been accessible to me in Boston was temporarily unavailable and I chose to visit the New York location rather than wait indefinitely for the Boston re-opening. Although I knew that the New York office was an option, I did not immediately jump at the opportunity, because of concerns about the virus. However, my hesitation did not last long, and the next day, I looked into tickets.

Flying from Boston to NYC is one of the shortest flights I have ever taken, just over one hour. Regardless, with the pandemic pandemonium, whether rational or not, I decided to take a 4-hour train ride from Boston’s South Station to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan.

My journey began in the wee hours with an Uber ride to the train station. I arrived at the quiet station before 6am and my train left promptly at 6:15am.

Because of the pandemic, Amtrak requires that all passengers wear face masks, covering both nose and mouth, at all times except when eating and drinking. Additionally, because of social distancing, seats were limited, and everyone had an empty seat next to them to themselves — a luxury. Another COVID-era change—I was not expecting—was that the dining car operated on a plastic-only purchasing policy, i.e. no cash. This was not a problem for me; however, I was surprised that such a rule was not published on the ticket confirmation or elsewhere.

I enjoy train travel to an extent. When I have plenty of things to occupy myself with (laptop, charger, a nice view, phone, notebook, audiobooks, etc.) and the trip is not so long, I find trains quite relaxing. However, they can also quickly become tedious with any minor discomfort (temperature, loud neighbors, insufficient entertainment, cramped space, etc.). Though I was tired, I did not sleep much on the train and mostly stared out the window. One of the advantages of this particular journey is that the train travels along the coast. After cutting south through Providence, Rhode Island, we hugged the Connecticut shore and made stops in New London, New Haven, and Norwalk among others. The morning was so foggy that at times, the boats looked as if they were moored in the clouds and that the train window was not a window, rather a dreamscape.

My actual time in New York City was incredibly short. Because of wait times, my appointment, which was booked for 15 minutes, turned into a 2-hour affair. This unexpected delay forced me to cross off the Museum of Modern Art from my agenda, and the only bits of the city that I saw were the streets that took me to and from my appointment.

To be honest, I have never been a fan of New York City. In a memoir I read, the author said something along the lines of, “it’s far better to live in New York City than to visit it.” A city so huge takes time to get to know and all of my short trips leave me feeling on edge. I really will never get used to the lingering smell of cigarettes, car exhaust, and dare I say urine. Additionally, I will never not find the homelessness appalling nor the angry, unexpected cries of profanity and utter nonsense not jarring. Perhaps, I just need to do a better job of steering clear of Times Square. New York is not my city, or at least not yet.

However, it is big, diverse, and full of things you cannot find anywhere else. New York City is the world’s microcosm. People come from everywhere and bring their cultures and their customs with them. Also, as a side note, I walked into a small deli that had a full menu devoted to avocado toast, as if it were as generic as a “salad” or “sandwich.” The City has its merits.

On my train ride back, I was lucky again to be seated on the side facing the coast. The heat of the day evaporated the fog and the sun shone, making the water sparkle. The little coastal towns came to life on these final days of summer. So many long-legged birds perching in the tall grass, tens of painfully, red-skinned locals shuffling across the sandy beaches, and the little New England-style cottages painted in light colors gave the coast a distinctly, riviera-like feel.

From Boston to NYC to Boston in 12 hours, perhaps, one of the beautiful advantages about Boston is just how easy it is to leave it 😉



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