“Thinking doesn’t pay. Just makes you discontented with what you see around you.”
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
I wish I didn’t think when I travel to NYC. It only makes me discontented. My last article about New York City – Uneasy in NYC – produced a lot of commentary pro and con about New York. That two day trip last October was more eventful as we met world renowned financial mind David Stockman. When my son got notice he had to leave for Penn State this weekend to start his job as an RA (saving his old man $6,800 in rent), we decided to do something fun before he left. The choice was a one day sightseeing excursion to the Big Apple.
My wife plotted out the day and the boys and I just went along for the ride. The plan was to drive to the Hamilton Station and catch a NJ Transit train to Penn Station. We got up early and were on the road by 8:10. We should have been able to easily make the 9:22 express. Everything was going smoothly until we were ten miles from the station on Route 1. First there was an accident, then one car overheated in the left lane, then another car overheated in the left lane. We picked a day with a heat index of 100 degrees to go to New York.
We didn’t make the 9:22 express. We got the last spot in the parking lot about a quarter mile from the station. We made the 10:00 local. I expected a 50 year old piece of crap train with standing room only to pull into the station, but to my pleasant surprise a brand new double decker train with dozens of open seats pulled in. Life was good again. We got a four seat combo and settled in for our 1 hour and 15 minute trek to Penn Station. The family were pecking away on their iGadget phones while I started reading my tattered copy of Running Man, bought at the used book store – Hooked on Books – in Wildwood a few weeks ago.
It looked good for a 11:15 arrival until the engineer came over the loud speaker (which sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown) and announced that a train had stalled in the tunnel and we’d be delayed for 30 minutes. The concept of on-time is meaningless in our paradise of crumbling infrastructure. As you get closer to New York, the decay comes into clear view. Dilapidated vacant factories covered in graffiti dot the landscape along the tracks. The disappearance of our manufacturing base is clearly evident. Instead of producing capital goods we produce financial derivatives, debt and despair. As you approach the tunnel into New York you see the Empire State building and off in the distance the new Liberty Tower, where you once saw the Twin Towers.