Sister Stations

April 22, 2011

April 20, NYC, 6:20 a.m.
I’ve never been to Grand Central this early in the morning and as I enter from the buzz and bustle of the Manhattan streets (somehow I exited my prior train directly onto the street even though I want to be in the main part of Grand Central before moving on to Penn Station), pulling the heavy gold-crusted door toward me, Grand Central announces itself. I rush in, powered by the morning energy of the city streets and the desire to set down my increasingly heavy bags. But as the door shuts behind me, the street noise trailing off in a whisper, I hear Grand Central. The squeaky wheel on my roller bag bows in reverence as I slow and then stop at the top of the stairs, looking down into the basin of Grand Central, and I take in its silence. As if the entire city of New York took one long simultaneous inhale and held it — the vacuum, cozy, meditative and robust silence of Grand Central Station at 6:20 a.m. Like a speaker who needs no introduction, a dance exquisite without music, the silence is astounding. I’m hesitant to move and join the crowds below, content to be an observer rather than a participant.

Eventually I have to move on to Penn Station, Grand Central’s wayward sister station. It does not disappoint. Within 5 minutes of my arrival I see a man with blood dripping down his face. Police officers quickly surround him as he explains how a man punched him, then ran away with his bag. I can’t avert my eyes from this scene and most of all it bugs me that 15 minutes later, still no one has addressed his bloody face. Classical music loudly plays over the sound system and it irritates rather than calms me. I want to escape into my Ipad, shopping, reading, anything that doesn’t involve me being present here at Penn Station. I need the train to arrive and ferret me away from this craziness!

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