Navigating New York

As many of you know, Megan and I recently spent a bit more than a week in New York City. The proximate cause was Megan’s niece’s wedding, but we’d often talked about taking a trip to New York and making like tourists. Here was the perfect excuse to do just that. Thank you Lynden and Brendan! (BTW, you two put on a wonderful wedding!)

If you’re going to get around New York quickly and at reasonable cost, you have to use the subway system. Megan and I have been on subways in various cities around the world, and usually get the hang of them fairly quickly. First you have to find the right line to your destination. Got it. Google Maps makes that easy. The next think to know is what direction you’re going because any given stop has trains going in both directions. In NY, the station directions are marked with the name of the station at the end of the line. Well, I don’t know whether the direction we’re going is to Jamaica St. or Coney Island (where is Coney Island, anyway?) I think there will be a map of the line in the station, right? I thought wrong. OK, we need a paper map. Got it. But then you have to figure out where you are in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s a pretty big place. OK, we’re getting this all figured out. Then when you get to your stop and emerge from the depths to street level Manhattan, which way do you go? Google Maps will know, right? Well, kinda. I think the maps were designed more with cars than people in mind. In a car, you know immediately, from that nagging female Google voice if you’re going in the wrong direction. On foot, you can (and we did) often walk a block or more before your location on the screen and the direction you’re going catches up with you. Another thing is that I think with all the tall buildings in Manhattan, the GPS signal often is weak or lost, so Google Maps estimates your position and thinks you’re in the middle of some building well off the street.

After a couple of days, we’re starting to feel like natives, making multiple trips to Manhattan and back. Then one night, going back to Brooklyn, we caught the F train toward Coney Island, planning to get off on Bergen St. The train was marked Express, but that just means it goes faster, right? Wrong. The train went faster by skipping several stops, including Bergen St. We got off as soon as we could, and then looked around to catch the F train in the opposite direction. In a very unmale-like fashion, I asked a fellow passenger on the platform. He very courteously told me that trains 2 or 3 on the adjacent platform went to Bergen St. Great! We wouldn’t have to walk up to street level, cross the street and go down the other side to the F train. Train #2 came by shortly, we got on , and got off at Bergen St. a few stops later. We got off and went up to street level, and yes, it was Bergen St., but it was a Bergen St. with which we were unfamiliar. After some discussion (which did not enhance marital bliss), we ended up walking about 12 blocks and eventually found our place.

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As it turned out, there are TWO Bergen St. stations in the same general vicinity! There ought to be a law against that sort of thing. And looking back on it now, I can’t retrace the route we took, so I guess I’m still confused.

But we did become familiar enough with the subways to get to Manhattan to see Hamilton (which was absolutely fabulous), the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Fiddler on the Roof, the Metropolitan Museum, the Neue Galerie, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Jewish Museum, and I had a huge plate of pastrami on rye. We were tourists indeed, and we lived to tell the tale.

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