Thursday, November 8, 2012

I Was Determined

As I stare at the little ovals on the presidential voting form, I am struck by the ironic humbleness of it all. After years of campaigns, and millions of dollars of advertising, the entire election boils down to one simple piece of paper with a few ovals and a few names printed in an ordinary font. To see the names “ Barack Obama”, and “Mitt Romney”, just waiting on the page, waiting to be chosen, I was flooded with a sense of personal power. I have a choice, I have a voice. My vote does count. It was a strange moment of both great power, and great serenity…

New York is an amazing city. In the wake of hurricane Sandy, while the lower third of Manhattan was still without power, restaurants and grocery stores were giving out free food, and those with electricity were sharing with those who were without. That being said, New York is also a frustrating city. Sandy took out most of the subway systems, and because everyone is so dependent on public transportation, this resulted in over-packed buses and congested traffic. Trying to get into New York from where I live was nigh impossible. The Monday and Tuesday of the hurricane I didn’t leave my room, because all of my jobs were closed so there wasn’t anywhere to go. But The Flea was having rehearsal for Restoration Comedy on Wednesday and I decided to venture into Manhattan, and what an adventure it was.

Lines of buses and people for miles
The subway near where I live (the 7 train) was still offline, so the options I had to get into town were to walk, take the bus, or take a taxi. Taxi’s are too expensive for me, so that option was out. To give you an idea of my area of Queens, there is one main road into Manhattan: Queens Boulevard. Typically, it is busy during the morning and evening rush hours, and calm during the rest of the day. Well on the Wednesday after Sandy it was backed up for MILES. The city had brought out every bus in its fleet to transport people who were without subway transportation. Plus, anyone who had access to a car decided to drive it into the city that day, so the result of this, plus the additional buses, was a traffic jam for miles long. So taking the bus was out.

I was determined to get into Manhattan, and since I had literally spent the last 48 hours in one room, I decided I would walk into Manhattan. I joined the river of people flowing down Queens Boulevard that, like me, wanted to get into Manhattan and figured walking was the fastest way.  It took me two hours and I walked 4 miles to get into the city. By that time my feet were sore and my backpack felt like a lead weight. Since I was in the city I could take a bus, because they were less congested. I took a bus down to where The Flea rehearses, but the buses weren't going all the way down. So I had to walk the last mile.

The Flea rehearses in the area of town that lost power, so walking that last mile was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. It had literally felt like I walked into a post apocalyptic wasteland  The streets were relatively deserted, there were no lights on anywhere, and most of the stores were closed and boarded up.  It was a haunting walk to rehearsal, but I got there.

After traveling 3 and a half hours to rehearsal that day, I decided I would take up biking. I bought a bike and since have been biking everywhere.  I love it because it is faster than the subway, and cheaper too. And there is nothing like weaving through the streets of New York on a bike. I really feel connected to the city in a way I haven’t before. Taking the subway is nice, but you don’t see anything when you are traveling on it. You sit in a subway car and travel through dark tunnels and only see what is around your subway stop. Biking puts you on the streets, in the heat of the mix of things. You get to see buildings and people and street vendors and alleyways and equestrians you wouldn't normally see. I honestly think it will be the closes I will ever get to web slinging my way through New York City like Spider-Man. So, from this point on, I travel by bike.

The days after Sandy were interesting, and the city was very loving and caring. It was as if the disaster created a sort of camaraderie between everyone. It was the first time since I moved here that I had random conversations with people on the street. Most of the time it was complaining about the transportation problems, but at a deeper level it was saying that we were in this together. I witnessed many random acts of kindness, and there just seemed to be a loving air about the town. We all made the best with what we were given.

Bookends are a great way to tell a story. You can wrap up a messy plot between neat idea caps. So to get back to the election, I find it quite interesting how high the stakes become in the American election. As the days draw closer to the election, American becomes increasingly fevered  with the extremes of each candidate. One is the end of the world, one is the devil, one will lead us down a road to ruin, the other is God incarnate. The extremes of each person's ideals are elevated to a level of, literally, life and death. When in reality, both want to lead America to prosperity and success in how they see fit. All the candidates want to see at the end of the day is peace and happy people. For the majority of the time, the people don’t really care what the leaders are doing, just so long as the trains run on time and their comfort isn’t threatened. So here’s to another four years of peace, prosperity, and efficient public transportation! Until next time!

“Winter is Coming”
- Motto of House Stark, Game of Thrones

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