Europe Trip, Part 8: “Train Spaghetti”

Day 5, continued.

I rode the bus back to Flushing and walked around the neighborhood a bit just checkin' it out before deciding on one of the endless Korean or Chinese (?) eateries.  The one I went into was buffet style, and I was definitely the only round-eye in town at the moment.  It occurred to me that this would be my first of many experiences on this trip of interacting with people whose language I couldn't understand.  I didn't recognize any of the food but a lot of it looked okay.  I pointed at what I wanted and they plopped it on my tray fo' five dollah.  It was actually really good for the most part, but strange...wish I had a picture.  I decided that it was time to head back to Manhattan and try my luck at the Freedom Tunnel.  If I couldn't meet up with Control and do a real underground mission, at least I could do this.  I also wouldn't mind seeing Central Park, or the Bronx a little.  

I began the long train ride back to Grand Central, this time taking the 7 train all the way to GCT.  I knew that the infamous Freedom Tunnel lay underneath Riverside Park on the west edge of Manhattan Isle, and that the north entrance was near Columbia University, which meant getting off at 116th Street, or I could enter at the south end near 72nd Street.  Either way I would have to get to the 1 train, which meant taking the 7 all the way to Times Square.  But I had already gotten off the 7, so I decided to take the GCT / Times Square Shuttle.  This departed from a weird curved platform in a different part of the terminal than I had been in before.  It was also just about rush hour now, or such as NY has on a Sunday anyway.  There did seem to be a lot of people taking this shuttle train.  

I was so fascinated by mass transit by this point that I could almost feel myself begin to foam, hahaha!  I was getting as much entertainment from using the system as I was from seeing the sights.  Anyway I popped up in a very busy Times Square just to scope things out again since I hadn't been here in a decade and a half, then looked around for the 1 train.  Back into the underground I went, and decided once I was on board that I might as well stay on to Harlem, just to take in the scenery and say I've been there while I have the chance.  Somewhere around 122nd Street, the subway popped out of the underground and became an elevated line.  
I got off at 145th, and crossed over to the other platform to go back.  The sun was setting and I wanted to have light inside the Freedom Tunnel, which was several miles long, so I probably shouldn’t dilly-dally in getting there.  The view from this platform was pretty cool though.  What's funny is that now I can say I have been to both Harlems—the one in NYC, and the original Haarlem in Holland, heheh.

Getting off at the Columbia U. stop, the station itself was of the nicer Tiffany-tiled variety, but the neighborhood above was also very architecturally stunning, as one might expect.  I walked to Riverside Park, and sought out a water fountain to refill my bottle again, as I had been doing.  I hiked through the wooded, well-manicured park amongst roller-bladers and joggers.  When I saw the first of several giant metal grates in the ground, I knew I was on the right track.  I continued north along my somewhat-memorized path, much further than I thought I would have to.  There were a series of tennis courts I passed as well, all situated directly on top of this tunnel.  I recognized the spot where I had raced down a spiral ramp to the Sawmill Parkway after sitting on the George Washington Bridge the night I arrived in town.  I finally came to the spot where the tunnel opened up and realized it was quite a long drop down to the grade.  Worse yet, it looked to have pretty recent fencing.  Despite the fact that some people had obviously been climbing it in a certain spot, with an old shopping cart to land on below, I was a little sketched out wondering if there had been a recent crackdown?  I sat up top for awhile letting my feet air out in the cool breeze before finally getting up the courage to take the leap.  Getting back up would be a good climb, but doable.  
Well, here I was...I moved briskly into the cover of the giant tunnel.  No one seemed to be around.  
It was just like you imagine.  No Mole People though.

I walked in maybe a couple hundred yards.
All of a sudden I heard a sound that made me freeze in my tracks—the clanging of a train's bell.  An Amtrak was approaching!  Shit!

I leaped for the darkness of the nearest shadow and sprawled on my belly.  I wondered if this was entirely necessary, but better safe than sorry?

The train was rolling pretty slow, and of course had headlights.  I wonder if the engineer saw me.  If he did, he saw a human form face down on the ground.  It occurred to me that he might not bother reporting a person in the tunnel, but he just might report a corpse.  I should've just sat down, but being prone allowed me to snap a steady picture of the train passing.  Meh, whatever, I had seen enough I guess.  Not wanting to get in an entanglement with MTA cops, I started jogging back toward daylight and heaved myself back up the embankment and fence.  It was probably time to start heading back to Caveman's place if indeed I was going to try and stay the night there.  God damn was I tired.

I got back to Grand Central and put in a call to Caveman.  He gave me basic instructions, though it was hard to hear everything he said on my stupid phone.  My impression was that I was supposed to go to Jamaica Center, Queens, then get on the LIRR to Port Chester, Long Island, and stay on til the last stop.  Then he would drive the last bit out there and meet me.  I started to get sleepy on the E train or whichever one it was that I rode.  When I got to Jamaica I looked around for the LIRR platform, and called Caveman to inform him of my progress.  But I couldn't find any LIRR train for Port Chester.  That was when Caveman told me that I had gotten on the wrong train—I was supposed to have taken the LIRR right from Penn Station.  Oops.  There was a possibility that if I got back on the subway and went back one station to Sutphin Boulevard that I could catch the train I was supposed to be on.  I checked the times, and the next one going back would not make it in time to catch the LIRR arriving there—and that was the last train of the night for Port Chester.  Looked like I was fucked.  Oh well.

I got back on the inbound E, took it all the way back to GCT, and got a ticket for the Metro North to Irvington.  There was about an hour wait for the next one out.  So I wandered around outside for awhile, and took some pictures.  I noticed the New York Public Library nearby and checked it out.  

Pretty impressive fucking structure.  I wondered how its interior grandeur compared with that of Detroit's formidable book palace.  I definitely would have to come back tomorrow when they're open to find out, and maybe use some free internetz.  I remembered the scenes inside the library from the movie Ghostbusters, and that made me want to see it all the more.  Coincidentally enough they were also advertising exhibits on photography and ruin, and I wondered if I would see any pictures from my neck of the woods in there, haha.

I went around the corner and got some McDonald's, because I was starving again and I knew they would have a pisser I could use.  I walked back and sat in front of the library to eat my chikkin sammich.  Manhattan was pleasantly calm and quiet at this hour, and I much enjoyed my leisurely sit in this scenic oasis of the city, despite the snores of homeless dudes sacked out on their cardboard sheets nearby.  Well, time to head back up north I guess.  

I plopped myself down into a seat on the Metro-North, perched my ticket in the seat cushion, and was off.  God damn was I sleepy.  I noticed myself starting to nod a bit once we got past Spuyten-Duyvil but made sure that I stayed awake.  The automated voice was calling out the stops, so I could at least rest my eyes and relax until I heard Irvington called.  I noticed after awhile that the ticket lady was poking me in the shoulder repeatedly, saying “Sir...sir...sir...sir...sir...” and just what the fuck did she want—god damn, can't she see I'm trying to sleep?!  

Fuck, I missed my stop.  Like, four stops ago.  Why the fuck didn't she wake me up earlier?  Lol.  I remembered waking up once and seeing Yonkers listed as the next stop on the marquis, and thinking, “Okay, your stop is next, so don't fall all the way asleep this time,” before closing my lids again.  Dammit.  I stumbled off the train into the dark, and it faded into the distance.  The omnipresent hum of NYC was gone, and as the faint, tinny ringing of the rails subsided I found myself in the deafening silence of upstate fuck-me-runnin'-land.  I looked at the sign hanging on the platform.  It read Scarborough.  My eyes were so bleary and I was so groggy that I could barely understand what I was reading on the system map, but I knew that I was too far away to walk back to my truck.  It was past 1am or something.  I doubted there would be another inbound train tonight.  I thought “Fuck it, I'll sleep here at the train station tonight on one of these benches, and if another train comes, I'll get on it.”  It was actually kinda cold out.  I had started to nod off when the rails began to ring again signaling an approaching train, but it was only an Amtrak, and blew through the station without slowing down.  I stood up and realized I could go inside the little “warming room” where I'd at least be out of the wind, but I had only hard, cold concrete to lay on.  That sucked.  I started to fall asleep.  

A half hour later another train came through, and I stood up to see what it was.  Just another Amtrak.  I realized that if another MTA train did come, I would need a ticket to get on it, and even if one didn't come, I’d need a ticket for tomorrow anyway, so I prolly should get one from the machine.  This was quite frustrating, as I was so groggy that I could barely understand the instructions on the screen.  After a few tries I finally got what I believed to be the proper ticket, and laid back down on the hard concrete in the annoyingly brightly lit warming room.  I realized that there was no fucking way I could sleep now.  This was just way too uncomfortable.  Damn.  Not five minutes later, I heard a train slowly approaching from the north...I'll be damned, it was an inbound MTA.  Hell yes.  I jumped on, got to Irvington, climbed wearily into my surprisingly not ticketed truck and was asleep seconds later.  

Stay tuned.

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