There Will Always Be Another Train
Bleary eyed, I waded through the next morning’s holiday hoopla at JFK airport and found Amy parked illegally, arguing in expletives with a Port Authority agent. She was some kind of magnificent Long Island tiger, released by game wardens into her natural habitat and inhaling her first wild boar in months. Kisses, Saturday Mass, a meatball hoagie and we were in Brooklyn. Then Manhattan. Then Hicksville, on Long Island. Kielbasa, Jones Beach, whiskey ginger and we were back in Manhattan – just in time for the first citywide transit strike in 25 years.
Still reeling from the effects of bicoastal time travel and meeting every member of an East Coast Polish family bigger than the earth’s sun, the sensation was surreal. Just days before, in Brooklyn, the transit strike was looming but easy to disregard, soaked as we were in a spin cycle of drunken twentysomethings. Now, sober and alone in Manhattan, it was impossible to deny. Without access to subway or bus and uninterested in the triple-fare price structure imposed by taxicabs, we spent our time on foot, shoulder to shoulder with nearly every inhabitant of the sovereign nation of New York City.
The ephemeral stand of the TWU Local 100 would end three days later, on the same day we left the city, but not after we had spent the days leading up to Christmas 2005 drowning in the most wonderful crush of humanity I have ever experienced. We listened in on endless debate about the merits and perils of the strike. We took advantage of desperate retailers trying to recover strike-induced losses. We trekked from near midtown to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with a sea of commuters that had no other option. We spent more time being still or slow and letting that landscape rush around us. Without question, the strike took a fantastic trip and made it motherfucking fantasticker.
Yesterday, I was sorting through the photos I took on that trip and came across a video I’d forgotten about. I recorded it in the dusk of December 20, after arriving by rail in Penn Station. What we experienced was the chaos of thousands of commuters trying to leave Manhattan for outer boroughs and cities, via the only transit service still operating – the Long Island Railroad. Inside the station, the line was constrained to a column five people wide. Outside, it sprawled hostile and unorderly for blocks in every direction.
In two parts, below.
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