Because I couldn't concentrate enough this morning to review answers for yesterday's milestone exams, I read a piece
on the enduring necessity and accidental poetry of Greyhound buses. At 4.30pm, I will board one.
They've been a fact of life for my entire adult life, long having supplanted too-expensive Amtrak trains and unfeasible drives. The sharp edges of the routine have very much smoothed in the intervening years since that first 3-hour college-era trip. If I'm home and allowing myself to be dragged back to New York, I walk to a local bus stop on Main Street near where it intersects with Cedar, and the 41 bus rounds a corner and slides to a stop. 45 minutes later, I get off in front of the Wadsworth Athenaeum where I used to go on field trips every Christmastime during elementary school, and I walk another 10-15 minutes to Union Station in Hartford where a Greyhound or Peter Pan bus will spirit me to NYC in a promised 3 hours. Occasionally, adventures have turned that 3 hours into as many as 7. Sometimes, traffic forgives previous slights and allows us a swift 2 hours and 30 minutes.
There was a time when my biorhythms were so tightly wrapped
around the trip that I would fall asleep as we pulled out of Union Station and awake precisely as we turned into Port Authority, same for the reverse trip. A similar thing had touched me when, for a year and a half, I commuted
along Metro-North from New Haven to New York for graduate school
Public transportation has, for a long time, been one of the features I've found most virtuous of cities, the way I judge establishments by how well they make a Shirley Temple.
home, particularly during law school, was especially emotionally fraught, such that I could feel the very shape of my personhood change once we crossed the border into Connecticut. The world's edges were sharper, the color clearer, the mind less fogged by stress and grief, the heart lighter
for having the weight removed from it. The very quality of the air changed.
In the piece mentioned above, the author writes of the terrestrial wonders to which one can pay witness during one of these rides, and I'm fortunate to count myself among those privileged with witnessing
a naturally beautiful thing unfold, operatic, celestial turnings.
The commutes where so much of my own movement and impulse towards forward motion slows have also provided opportunities to track personal growth
, particularly useful at a time in my life when I was little more than a comet on speeding towards total immolation and with less interest in averting my course than trying to leave something beautiful behind
An inquiry into the "why" demands its own post, but on Saturday as I took the 41 to Union Station to board a bus to New York, I was listening to old Eminem, The Slim Shady LP. I'd fallen in love with the beat production again, but I was also pushed into contemplating once again the alchemy at work. The horrorcore on that album, much maligned and dissected and picked apart and blamed for the ills of the world, is certainly something to be reviled if that is one's inclination, but, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows me beyond a certain extent, my immediate impulse is to look beyond that and try to figure out how fury can be molded into a coherent piece of art. I've written before about the ties between anguish and art using Eminem as a lodestone, and this is the first time I've done it with my faculties intact (more or less). A drier rumination, perhaps clearer for it.
I thought about him and "Guilty Conscience" and "Role Model" for the duration of that ride on the 41, then on the Greyhound I got some work done, both for the Bar and for another, less odious project, and as soon as we breached Manhattan, my thoughts turned to Paris. We'd been gliding down Museum Row when I realized what ease accompanied my going to museums back in Paris, whether on my own or with a copine
. That year wasn't without its trials, but it was certainly without tribulations. I'm led to wonder, however, if it is the very first time I appreciated a place while in it. Surely, my longing for it has piqued my love for the place and sanded the rougher edges of that sojourn so that the whole episode seems like one glorious, musical stream cutting through the city's center like the Seine. But maybe I only appreciate Connecticut as much as I do because I'm not trapped there. It is always a place I can go back to because I'm always coming from somewhere else.
My best friend is moving to Texas this summer to prepare for medical school, and she was one of the biggest reasons for my frequent returns to Connecticut, especially in law school. The narrative-maker in me wants to mark this as the end of some sort of era, but maybe this is simply what attends growing up. Pieces fall away or branch off, planets create their own orbit and the illusion of being the center of the universe is further strained.
There will come a time when I have no family left in Connecticut. Mom may retire somewhere with more forgiving weather, if retirement is in any of our contemplated futures. The others may remain in Massachusetts and Texas. And yet another reason for making the NYC-CT commute will have vanished, perhaps the biggest reason of all.
And solace becomes something to be created on one's own rather than something sought.
Which is perhaps why the Greyhound piece spoke to me the way it did this morning. The author rides without destination. She's not on her way to welcome back a son from service overseas. She's not off to school or coming back from it. She's not in search of a job with a truck driving outfit. She's simply riding.
She's simply riding.