Note: Originally posted on Blogger on May 31, 2006
Unfolding the Map
Hello, Littourati! Two new points have been added to the virtual tour of Kerouac's On the Road. As usual, you can click on the map at left to go to the full Google Map.
"Filled with dreams of what I'd do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers."
On the Road: Chapter 2
End of 7th Avenue Subway, New York City
I remember the first time I went to New York for business on a regular basis. It was around 1995, and I had just taken a job as director of an organization that promoted corporated responsibility. I stayed at a guest house in Chelsea, which was the section of Manhattan that was just north of The Village, in the streets numbered in the 20s, and every day I had to get on the subway to go to the Columbia University stop, and walk from there to the building where I had my meetings. I made this trip each day for three or four days, three times a year until I left the position in 2000. I remember the first time, though, catching the 1/9 train, learning the difference between the local and express, passing by stops that had names that resonated from all that I read and knew. Penn Station, Times Square -- and the first time I rode that train, I was excited, a little nervous, and really open to the experience of the people around me, the sound and sway of the cars, the unintelligible electronic gibberish of the driver over the intercom as he implored people to not block the doors so the train could move.
Later, I became more inured. As I became an "experienced" rider, I read the paper on the train, ignoring the sales pitch of the guys panhandling on the train. I learned how to wait for the express, and transfer at the last possible station to the local so I could hit my stop. Ultimately, I became less open to the subway experience. And that's too bad. I don't know what Sal thought about on his subway ride, but I can only guess by the shortness of Kerouac's description that when Sal caught the train, most likely at Penn Station, and took it to the end of the line, he was already an "experienced" subway rider as well.
For more information on the New York City subway:
"In downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River."
On the Road: Chapter 2
Yonkers is another place where Sal briefly stops in his hurry to get out of town, mainly to transfer to another form of transportation, a trolley. I have only been to Yonkers once. In the early 1990s, I was working for a Catholic order of priests and nuns called the Pallotines, and the order had a number of Italian priests based in a parish at Yonkers. In an effort to do some in-house promotion of the the program I was running, I visited and stayed with them an evening. The head priest of the parish took me out to dinner that night, and it was about as close to The Godfather as I will ever get. Don't get me wrong, the priest was not into organized crime as far as I could tell. However, as a priest in what was essentially an Italian town, he carried a lot of weight. As he took me to dinner, almost everyone on the street knew who he was and said "Hello Father," in English or Italian, depending on their first language. When we went into the restaurant, we got the royal treatment, and our meal was, of course, on the house. It was a truly impressive display of the power and respect a priest still carried in a religious society, and slightly depressing as well because it was not the Catholic Church that I knew or grew up in but had only read about.
Of course, this account does not truly relate to Sal's experience there, which was only fleeting. But Sal meets interesting characters all along his trip, and in my travels, when I'm open to the experience, so do I.
Until next time, Littourati, happy travels! As always, your comments, stories, reflections on any of the above are appreciated and encouraged.