Into New York: Diane Arbus and My Friend Phyllis

I was on a NJ transit express train from Convent Station into Penn Station in New York just after 7am on Tuesday. I had two plans for the day: to meet my friend Phyllis, who now lives in South Carolina but was in New York for a theater trip and extended for a day so that we could hook up. And, she and I were going to the Diane Arbus exhibit at the Met Breuer. All things being equal, I don’t think Phyllis would have chosen to see the Arbus were she on her own. Diane Arbus photography is an acquired taste. But she came with me, because she knew how much I wanted to go.

The train passes the tony New Jersey suburbs of Short Hills and Milburn, moves through gritty Orange and even grittier Newark, crosses the blackish Passaic River through Harrison — right next to Kearny where I grew up — passes within shouting distance of the Hoboken station where the recent train accident occurred, clacks along the tracks just above the grayish cattails and still brackish water that was the dump site for chemical plants like DuPont back in the day, and enters the darkness and dead WiFi space of the tunnels going into Penn Station.

We arrived right around 8am, rush hour, and hundreds of of people were getting off trains and crowding onto narrow escalators, After a final stair climb, I came out on 7th Avenue and 32nd, right across from the Hotel Pennsylvania, in sight of the long line at the taxi stand. I walked north past the storefronts selling cheap T-shirts, and 10 postcards for a dollar, through Times Square, and soon enough was in mid-town and the Club Quarters on 51st between 5th and 6th, where Phyllis and I were meeting for breakfast.

I love the rush of energy and the early morning light when I reach 7th Avenue. There’s nothing like it.


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