A Mighty Wind: Where Were You When the Tornado Struck NYC?


Well, that little storm kind of snuck up on us, now didn’t it?

I was actually heading to Citi Field for the first time all season, Metsies tix for my birthday, compliments of the generous Missus.

G. Francis and I planned to meet under the giant hat at the new ballpark. I considered my options–LIRR or 7 train–and opted for the luxury (and 16 minute ride) of the commuter rail.

That involved a 10-minute walk to Penn, as opposed to the 10-second walk to the 6. But I’m no fan of the 7 during rush hour, so it was worth it.

Or so it seemed. There were sheets of rain falling from the sky when I left my office at 5:45. You simply could not walk in it; the few that did were absolutely soaked to the fleshy tissue under the skin.

I waited it out for about 10 minutes, then set out into the drizzle.

I hadn’t been to Penn Station in years; not since the parents left the island for points south four years ago. I was thinking of doing a blog post about just how miserable the Penn experience is, compared to Grand Central. That’s been done a million times before, with probably 500,000 of them coming from me, but bears repeating. Coming into Grand Central is arriving at Emerald City. Coming into Penn is being stuck in a third-world country. You’re only in Grand Central for about 60 seconds before finding your train…not that you’re in any great hurry to get out of Grand Central. You’re in Penn Station for several long, lousy minutes before being stuck in the scrum en route to your train, miserable trappings all around you.

Even the walks to both stations are vastly different: the quiet, clean, open-sky approach to GCT from Park Avenue South, versus the dark corridors lined with dollar stores linking 6th Avenue to Penn.

You get the picture. Sorry to beat a dead horse.

I was able to fully appreciate my lousy surroundings in Penn, as I was prompty stuck there. It was hot and crowded and cranky; no one was getting into the LIRR section of the station. There was confusion, those trying to get out, and those coming in, not realizing the station was shut. People tapping at Blackberrys and calling loved ones with the bad news. In the middle of the mosh pit, a man in a suit and a sweaty face screamed at his female partner–a full-blown fight in front of a thousand of their closest commuter friends.

I high-tailed it out of there, thankful for the cool air as I climbed the steps.

No option other than the dreaded 7, I crossed the street to the 1-9 train. Life was sane on the platform, and my one-stop ride to Times Square was blessedly uneventful.

I made my way through the subterranean Times Square labyrinth for the 7, each level a bit hotter than the one before ([insert Dante reference here!], sweat clinging to my Mets t-shirt.

7 trains were on both platforms, and both trains were pretty full–despite the constant announcement on the loudspeaker informing would-be readers that the 7 was not, in fact, running.

I was full-blown sweating at this point, and desperate for some outside air. I found a revolving door and popped out to Earth at 41st and Broadway. I wiped off a seat in one of Mayor Bloomberg’s little concrete plazas in the middle of Broadway, and tried to reach G. Francis on the cell. No luck.

Ten minutes later, suitably cooled off, I ventured down the same stairs I’d climbed up. Alas, I could not enter the subway from that spot. It was just as well; I asked two strangers if the 7 was running, and both said no.

I wondered about attendance at the game. The Mets, playing a meaningless game against the lowly Pirates, a giant thunderstorm, and no public transportation to the game from that little urban center to the west called Manhattan. Would there even be a thousand fans?

The realization crept in that G. Francis and I would not be among them.

I walked over to Bryant Park. A jazz band was set up on a stage near the library; a few hundred people sat under umbrellas and watched. The music cut through the cool, rinsed out air.

I had four texts from G. Francis, each essentially saying what I truly knew: the trains are f***ed.

We spoke. I used the shockingly pleasant restroom in Bryant Park. He showed up a few minutes later.

We shook our heads. The Metsies would have to win without us.

We spied a bar at the southwestern corner of the park and ordered up a few cups of brown beer. A worker mopped off a pair of seats and we sat.

I asked G. Francis if he’d visited the cute Parisian carousel a hundred feet to our north. (Little Miss C had loved it when we visited the city a month ago, and screamed when we ran out of tickets.) G. Francis said no, he did not want to ride the horses with me. I rolled my eyes and sipped my brown beer.

After a Brooklyn Lager and a burger at Pershing Square, I headed into Grand Central, where life was about as far a cry from Penn Station as possible–the usual light thrum of commuters after the evening peak.

I climbed on the empty 9:22, scored a barren 1-3/4-seater, and dialed up the loneliest Met game ever on my Blackberry.


The Feb 2010 Snurricane

The Dec 2009 Super Soaker

The Aug 2008 Harlem Line Closure

The July 2007 Steam Pipe Explosion

This entry was posted in 7 Train, G. Francis, Grand Central, Little Miss C, Penn Station, Pershing Square. Bookmark the permalink.

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