Project Konigsberg #3 Day 1 proper
I woke up. It's dark. My phone says it's 2am. I am sweltering. Apparently sleep mode on the aircon unit works, and I wish it hadn't. In the dark I fumble and turn it back on and go back to sleep.
Later I am told that Murray and Mark both also were up at 2am. Mark had a shower before knocking on Murray's door to demand he rise because he's running late on the start of day 1. Unfortunately for both of them, Mark's 7am is true only in the UK, not in NYC where we are. I end up retrospectively glad I'm not on their floor.
There are people on my floor though. I wake up feeling decent at 5.30am and that's fine. By 6.30am I'm done composing the last blog post and head downstairs to tell them to call off the 0700 alarm call, and to take advantage of the wifi to post. Murray appears at about 0655 and Mark soon after, so fuck it, let's head to Penn station.
At the nearest Metro, Murray and I buy weekly tickets with credit cards. The machines don't ask for PINs, only zip codes, and we each put in 90210 and our UK cards work just fine. Mark shouts very loud at the guy in the kiosk who seems unable to understand the question "how do we get to Penn?". Another passenger intervenes and tells us. NYC is already teeming with people, and hot and humid as fuck.
The N to 34th and Herald is not part of the project, which probably needs a bit of explanation. There are 5 of us ploughing a Eulerian path around Manhattan in 3 days. It's imperfect, but the idea is to travel as many crossings to and from Manhattan as we can without duplicating anything. The name comes from the 7 Bridges of Konigsberg problem, one dreamt up by the mathematician Euler one day while taking a wander and eventually inventing a whole branch of maths called graph theory. We aren't really going to blaze any such profound trails, but 3 days spent almost entirely on public transport? Sign me the fuck up.
At Penn we are meeting Andrei and Andrew, except just arranging that is hard enough because Penn is mental. Us Brits hang around "between tracks 6 & 7 of NJ transit" which is a description that fits at least 5 different places. Ours has a weird creepy carousel feature though. Mark gives Murray and I a huge military history monologue apropos of what I can't now recall, then Andrew finds us and has brought lobster and cream cheese bagels.
One train, one crossing, the tunnel which takes us to New Jersey. It's 2 long stops to Penn and there's time to read about the Pope's impending visit to the area and its expected impact on public transportation. The conductor takes our tickets away, and out of the window we see the famous New Jersey turnpike as well as the Pulaski skyway. They are not fucking about with their bridges/raised roads here. Just before Penn there's a football (soccer) stadium where Thierry Henry saw out his days.
At the station we need new tickets, except some of us don't. The PATH service next does take MTA metrocards but not the 7 day passes; I already have the other kind with credit, from my Jamaica fail yesterday. Not such a fail now, is it?
Penn Newark has great fonts and styling.
and rules about how long you can sit on a platform.
The PATH at 0833 is a commuter service and accordingly rammed. It's 4 stops on PATH to Exchange Place, no new crossing done.
Before we get it an Amtrak service rolls through complete with business class carriage, fancy.
There's a statue and a view of Manhattan in its SE Asian weather glory, all humid and hot and cloudy and bleak.
Just up the way is the light rail, which are trams, the Hoboken-Bergen service. I'm tickled by there being a Bergen round here. Why aren't places called the same forced to be antipodean of one another? If I was in charge...
After helping a frail old woman who'd forgotten her glasses we boarded the tram heading for Danforth Avenue. It's a totally residential area and we walk along big roads which split a cemetery into pieces. Then we run out of pavements and skirt around large puddles for a bit, and cross a railroad. There's precious few signs of life but we do find a sign confirming this is the right direction to walk (also a sign for the turnpike, with branding that makes it look like NTPJ; isn't that a personality type?). After half an hour or so we enter Port Liberté, some residential and military district from which there runs a boat.
It isn't the most picturesque journey.
Some discussion is had about how we're actually meant to toast these crossings. Around Europe it was very simple, not to mention leisurely, to toast border crossings but here it's a bit less easy. We figure out that, Staten Island apart, on all 3 days of this adventure we'll be visiting every borough of New York: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, plus New Jersey. Cool.
The 9 stops to Myrtle involve a few stations which got flooded out during Hurricane Sandy. Bowery's tiling looks like the room from the first Saw movie. At Myrtle we dive out to a "gourmet deli" which is a ropey corner shop, for emergency fluids. The trains might be airconditioned but the stations are brutally hot as is the outside world. Back in the station, we head 3 stops to another Myrtle (many stations are named "X & Y" but I fail to note the Ys in lots of cases). Then onto the L line for 12 stops to 6th, and another crossing. Various step trackers say we are already at 9,000 steps so far today.
We get an express 3 train 5 stops from 6th to 96th, which is a bonus service not on the spreadsheet, and makes us up some of the time we are behind schedule. At 96th we step immediately onto a 1 for 17 stops up to 242nd St and Van Cortlandt Park, via another crossing. This is the end of the line, and in the Bronx. I don't think any of us have ever been so far north in NYC before.
The metro is still confusing as hell. The lines don't have names, just numbers or letters, so there's no hint in the name about where they might go and you have to commit it to memory. There are way too many of them which makes committing to memory hard anyway, and at the stations - which are noisy and too hot and ugly - there are bizarre and byzantine rules. Signs which say stuff like, the R and 3 both stop here but the 3 is an express in Manhattan in the afternoon and local at other times and goes from a different platform at night and the R is a skip-stop service (how this differs from express is unclear). It might be 24hr and cheap but everything else about it is worse than the London Underground, in my humble opinion.
Anyway. I'm humming Across 100th Street as we cross 110th Street, and not one of us can understand a single word the driver says on the tannoy at each stop. They're like the teacher in Charlie Brown. Several people are by now yawning. We go past a federal government advert imploring parents to "make a disaster plan with your kids", Doomsday Prepping as sanctioned by Obama? What? A flyer on the train offers us spiritual consultancy from a man who can tell the past.
Our lunch venue is in the Bronx, on 235th St. No-one knows why we're heading to 242nd and there's a station at 238th, so we jump off. By now we're 3 minutes ahead of schedule and celebrate this by diving into the pub right next to the stairs down to the sidewalk. It's called the Punchbowl and is dingy and dark and there's a big sign saying NO SMOKING DUE TO HEALTH VIOLATIONS but someone's smoking anyway. A round of beer is brought, the Guinness is served in imperial pints while the lagers come in those daft ounce based measures.
The other patrons are rowdy stereotypes conversing at one another along the length of the bar by shouting phrases like "he shit on me like a bird". One sip of booze passes our lips and the so far cordial atmosphere amongst us instantly descends into an argument about whether I'm telling the truth that Australians use different vocabulary for beer in each state, and the sizes they serve are different too. Then once we leave we've decided against getting a cab because it's only a 20 minute walk, and Lester seemingly disagrees that 235 is lower than 238.
This. Is. Awesome.
I whistle Under The Boardwalk which displeases Mark because there's seemingly no way to actually get under the boardwalk unless you have a pair of wire cutters. But I know of no other boardwalk-related tune to whistle. After a while we head inland on the promise of a brewery and hey presto, next to Peggy O'Neill's (which looks every bit as fantastic as the name suggests) we get there. Apparently we can't have a tour but that's OK because we didn't want one anyway. Plastics of the beer brewed on the premises arrive, I opt for the honey stout. I am suitably ambivalent about the taste, given previously I have enjoyed every stout I've ever tried and hated every honey beer.