The Missus took Little G and Little Miss C away for the weekend, which meant I was an entirely free man. Then again, The Missus also took the car, so I was not.
My old rugby club was competing for New York’s Div. II championship on Randalls Island Saturday, on the lovely new artificial turf fields (hey, don’t knock them until you’ve been tackled on them!) at the bottom of Randalls, in between Manhattan and Queens. Kickoff was high noon Saturday.
Village Lions vs. Lansdowne
So I set out a plan, to walk to Hawthorne station, hop the 10:53 train, exit at 125th Street, take the 6 to 103rd, and jump on the pedestrian foot bridge going over the East River and letting out just a few minutes from the field.
The 10:53 was held up considerably just south of White Plains, the conductor telling us that just one track was servicing both the northbound and southbound trains through Hartsdale and Scarsdale.
So we got to 125th about 10 minutes late, cutting it a bit close for kickoff.
I just missed the 6 at 125th, and had to wait five minutes for the next one. (The digital scoreboards telling you when the next subway arrives…absolutely love it.)
I got off at 103rd, and had that confusion one gets when one exits a subway station for the first time ever, or at least the first time in years. Without a familiar landmark nearby, I had no idea which way was east. I scanned the streetscape like a dopey lost tourist.
“Which way is east?” I asked a thuggy guy with, yes, a series of tattooed teardrops under each eye. An old Tom Waits song runs through my head: “The girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear, One for every year he’s away, she said.”
“You ARE east,” said Tat Man.
“I wanna head east,” said the whitest man in Spanish Harlem, careful not to upset Tat Man on his own turf.
“Oh,” he says. “That way.”
I head that way. A few minutes later, I’m waiting for the light to cross 1st Avenue. Spying the whitest man in Spanish Harlem, multiple gypsy cabs pull up to offer their services, like a lady of the night to a Fleet Week sailor. I turn them down with decreasing politeness.
Still waiting for the light to turn, I spy a dark man in a dark car, half a block up, gesturing for me to get in his car. I tell him no, repeatedly, and he keeps gesturing.
Just as the light is to turn, he calls me by my name. It’s an old rugby teammate, a guy from Morocco who I played rugby with for a decade. An old friend, in fact. I immediately apologized to him for the racial profiling, and hopped into the SUV.
So effort #1 to get to a destination without a car, failed.
The reverse crawl of shame for a train that has overshot the station.
Effort #2 was my morning commute today, which turned out to be anything but ordinarly. I was lamenting the fact that it will likely be pitch dark when I leave work tonight. But at least it’s an hour warmer when I leave in the morning, I told the Missus. That extra hour of sun must count for something.
Not today, it didn’t. The hail started pretty much soon as I climbed on the bike, and picked up as I got closer to the station, tat-tat-tatting against my pleather jacket.
8:41 came and went without a train. At 8:44, one came zipping by, roaring its horn, not taking passengers.
“Were we supposed to jump on that one?” asked a woman rhetorically.
At 8:48, the northbound train approached the station, then chugged a good 150 feet past it, a victim of slippery conditions on the rails. It slowly, bashfully backed up to let the passengers out.
At 8:51, which is, ya know, 10 minutes after when the train was to arrive, the loudspeaker crackled to life.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the robo-announcer, “the southbound 8:41 train is operating 10 minutes late.”
It pulled up at 8:53. We board and it took off into the dull gray central Westchester morning.
Three and a half minutes later, we approached Valhalla, and exited Valhalla as soon as we got there, not even stopping. The poor people on the platform looked dumbfounded. No respect for poor little Damsico.
“If you planned on exiting at Valhalla, we’re sorry,” said the announcer. “Due to slippery conditions, we were unable to make that stop. Please exit at North White Plains, where a northbound train will make local stops.”
At some point it will, anyway.
We finally made Grand Central at 9:34–not that far off our scheduled time. I opt for breezing past Valhalla every day.
I exited at Grand Central, and alas–the hail was coming down good. I was up early, my body clock stuck on last week’s time, and saw all the NY stations’ weather reports this morning, and all said chance of rain in the afternoon. Nothing about a.m. hail! (Speaking of clocks stuck on last week’s time, I wonder when they’ll update the fancy new grandfather clock at Hawthorne station.)
Without an umbrella, I walked a block and was cold and wet. I saw the light of an available cab beckoning me, and sprinted after it.
Six dollars later, I was in front of work. Foiled once again in my bid to exist without the automobile.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
[image: Gary McCormick, Rugby Magazine]