“Just so you know, sir, these are Beiber nuts. From the Beiber animal. I just want you to know in case you have an allergy or something.”
The Muffin Man, who didn’t seem to speak English, nodded slightly, and squinted. I, who do speak English but still didn’t understand, also nodded and squinted.
“That’ll be four hundred and ninety eight dollars and thirty six cents,” she crowed, handing over the Beiber – “it’s really banana” – nut muffin to its new and befuddled owner.
“My shift ends in 20 minutes, y’all!”
And sense it made. See, witnessing an employee of Not-My-Dream-Job (a broad category that includes anything hourly, anything tipped, and anything involving adult diapers) right before the end of her shift is one of the rarest gems of an opportunity to see unadulterated je m’en foutisme in its purest form. It’s the actual eleventh hour on your feet, you’ve talked to seventy eight people in the last ninety minutes, and now the end is nigh. Soon enough you’ll be back in your civvies, destination: Couch, with nineteen whole hours between you and your next double at the Greyhound Cafe.
I listened to this exchange as I stood at a high top table drinking boiling coffee in the aforementioned non-fictional Greybound Cafe, located in Subterranean Level XP-Demon: The Bowels of Port Authority. I had an hour to go before my 49-hour transcontinental bus trip to Colorado, and I figured the cafe was a good way to ease my way into the next two days of my life. A pointer finger in the ass, so to speak, before the main event.
Growing up on the Hudson River side of Westchester was boring. One big perk was the Metro-North, fast track to fun which terminates in Grand Central. Grand Central is regal. It is fancy. It has a market where strawberries cost ten dollars and a wine store with tastings. There is (was?) an independent bookstore and a Zabar’s, an Apple store. Cipriani’s! The Oyster Bar! The Campbell Apartment, for god’s sake! There are literally stars dancing on the ceiling! This, for me, was the representation and manifestation of non-air travel to and from NYC.
This all changed at six am today.
The Port Authority, just a few avenues from GCT, is where luxury, shine, beauty, and intellect go to die. Gone are the click-clacking power people en route to wide-windowed workplaces, Starbucks in one hand and iPhone in another. On 8th Avenue there are Starbucks cups but they’ve been picked out of trash cans and filled with change. You can’t buy an iPad mini while waiting for the 6:04 to Greenwich, but you can watch porn movies in a booth if you have an hour to kill before the next shuttle to Newark.
Why, you may ask, was in the Bowels of the Port Authority at six am waiting for a two-day bus? I was asking myself the same question. This Saturday, I’m going on a weeklong Outward Bound Wilderness Course. I understand this is confusing, since OB courses are usually associated with drug-addicted teens and veterans. Sort of like the Greyhound Bus. In fact, there are courses for regular, non-addict, war-dodging adults who want to test their boundaries while exploring a somewhat uncharted part of the country. I did such a course already, in Maine and New Hampshire in 2010, and it was amazing; I was dying to do another. I found a canyon backpacking trip in southeast Utah, and enrolled straightaway. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was a holiday weekend, and plane tickets to the pickup spot in Colorado were nearing $900 round trip. And since my idea of fun involves marathons, spicy foods, writing classes, and needles, I thought that taking a really fucking long bus ride would add two days of diversion to the upcoming Utah expedition.
I’ll be hitting up all the most beautiful cities in America: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Topeka are just a few of the highlights. I’ll also be stopping about 19 times in these and other cities, in what I can only assume are the most unsavory areas of each metropolis. I’m pretty much going to be terrified. I’m also going to be bored as fuck, and certainly not sleeping when it’s dark out, so I guess I must write.
Here’s the first of many posts coming to you from The Road, America, USA.
Six thirty in the morning, Times Square.
Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.
Best gate to leave from, IMHO.