Riding Metro North. With William Edward Hickson.

6:16 am to Grand Central.

Train car is packed but Silent.

I’m riding backward, feeling lighter, refreshed, alive. Looking East, now in Daylight Savings Time, it’s a ride in morning light, following months of lurking in darkness. A orange glow lights up the horizon and triggers Cummings: “the / mercy of perfect sunlight after days // of dark, will climb; will blossom: will sing (like / april’s own april and awake’s awake).”  

I can feel all that.

Back to the morning reading.

New thing: Riding + reading = Nausea.  Eyes, knees, shoulders, and now stomach. Middle age creep. Oh, how to be blessed for 50+ years with a cast iron stomach that can be filled with any grade of fuel, and bam, like a light switch, Gone. I’ve become a delicate flower, a petal to be handled with care. Stress? IBS? I softly lick my lower lip and find the sweet remnants of one of 2 glazed, cheese danishes from last night. Who the hell knows. It’s all exceedingly fragile, I’m teetering like a Jenga Tower.

I set the e-reader down, lift my head. Need to stabilize.

There’s a Dell advertisement affixed to the wall in front: “Real perspective.  Larger than life with Infinity Edge. Visit Dell.com.”  I look to the left wall, the right wall and the vestibule – The Dell ad is plastered all over, with an apparent strategy of try and try again (if you don’t succeed) in an immersion program in perspective.  I lift my smartphone and peck “try and try again” in the browser:

Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again.

William Edward Hickson said it, I’m guessing sometime between 1823 and 1850.  Hickson, a British philanthropist, music scholar and educational writer.

So, there he sits across from me. Him in stage coach. Me on Metro North.

The scholar dips his quill into the inkwell, and writes. The steel wheels of the coach slam into the deep ruts in the track, interrupting the smooth flow of ink on paper, his thought is broken, the line smudged. He slides his heavy manila paper into his satchel and waits for calmer waters.

His counterpart, not a scholar, 167 years later, pecks out his blog post on an iPhone in a OneNote app. The ride is smooth, the cabin is air conditioned, each sentence is backed up to the cloud enabling retrieval on any device anywhere, anytime. And he’s able to hit publish and send it into the hands of his blog followers in less than a minute.

Hickson pulls out the New York Evening post from a day ago to catch up on the local news. Grain prices, market conditions, and upcoming shows on Broadway. He makes quick work of the 10 page paper and then turns to a hard cover by Emerson, digging into his essay Self Reliance.  His counterpart, meanwhile, has read the latest news from the NY Times, wsj.com, RSS feeds from 30 various periodicals, all beamed real time to his handheld device.  Forget waiting for the opera on the weekend, he has a concerto beamed into his head, 6937 owned tunes, and millions more streamed via Apple Music, any flavor: Chill, Jazz, Classical, Rock, Reggae, and if he’s really bored, he turns to Netflix and watches House of Cards.

The horses pulling Hickson’s carriage need a break, water, feed, and rest for the day long journey.  The iron horse pulling this 150 ton train car in which his counterpart sits, runs and runs, needs few breaks, and is rarely more than a few minutes late. Ever.

Hickson, waiting at the oasis for the horses, pulls out his pocket watch. Winds it. Checks the time. Polishes the face against the sleeve of his jacket. His counterpart’s smart watch shows 6:55 am, a step count of 820, 43° F, a tiny red light signalling a “Hi Dad!” text from his daughter who is an hour away, and his appointments for the day.

Hickson is back in the coach and continues on his trek, another 7 hours to go. His counterpart arrives at Grand Central in 55 minutes. After a brisk walk down the tunnels and hallways, up the escalator, he’s ejected into the light, onto Madison Avenue, and shot into Paradise.

So, needing real perspective? No, Dell, today, I got this.

And, oh, by the way Hickson, thanks for asking.

My queasy stomach?

Gone.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “We have reduced the average working hours to about half what they were one hundred years ago. We today have more free time available than our forefathers dared to dream of. But what has happened? We do not know how to use the newly gained free time; we try to kill the time we have saved, and are glad when another day is over… Society as a whole may be lacking in sanity.” ~ Erich Fromm, The Sane Society  (via brainpickings.org)
  • Photo: Kathryn Donohew, Metro North in Harlem
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series.

Comments

  1. Society as a whole IS definitely lacking in sanity! Great writing Mr K and a good reminder of where we have come from, but sadly I’m not so sure we are further ahead. 😞

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My friend David rides the train to work. I fly across the oceans. Some walk up the street. But it happens to us all at some point – the growing unease that we are far from teenagers anymore. And that damn feeling just won’t go away. Live with it and get on with it is our motto. Uggh, my right knee again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the parallel worlds you travel in, David. And the thought of you as a ‘petal to be handled with care’. Love it. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Can’t decide which analogy amused me more…the delicate flower or the Jenga tower. Loved this ‘wrinkle in time’ post, DK. Modern technology and all of its conveniences *is* a marvel, and yet…. Keep on writing pal!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tis a lesson indeed.

    I read this more than once, for the delight of it.
    One of many reasons your blog and writing stand out,
    Your affair with words is like a baby’s fascination the instant they discover their hands and feet, and oh, they’re attached to them and actually can control them. Infectious. No, INFECTIOUS.
    I hope the rest of the day brings you more magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What she (Sawsan) said. You are truly a wordsmith. Loved the juxtaposition with you and WEH. Worth reading again, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lacking sanity cause we can’t stand to not be occupied every single second!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Christie says:

    Love your writing, love the contrasting of parallel times…so much took place in America and Britain during the years! , you mentioned “I’m guessing sometime between 1823 and 1850” I think of You in your commuter train, in 2017 Probably close to the historic “Post Road” Hickson in Horse Drawn Carriage, on muddy roads in the English countryside and cobblestone streets of London…and I think of how the Oregon Trail Pioneers braved all types of conditions in their covered wagons to reach the West and the Overland Stage Coach was delivering passengers and payrolls starting in the early 1850’s & how ten years later in 1860 the Pony Express made it’s impact, until the Iron Horse and telegraph, took over…My husband relative(s) have a ranch that has been in the family for generations and on that ranch is an overnight stagecoach stop (log bldg, which I’ve touched) the final destination was Deadwood, SD…(my hubbies grandfather was a real cowboy in that state’s Cowboy Hall of Fame) and I think of the fancy leather horse buggies my aunt kept in her barn rafters… and I think of the cast iron tie down rings for the horses lining the curb in front of the home I grew up in. We used to sit on the curb in the summer and lift the rings, to hear them clink and we though of how different life was that people got around on horses, not that many decades ago and how when I was a little girl, the neighborhood gathered at our house in July to watch the color TV Landing of First Moon Landing…how rapidly life moves forward…and how their are people like Hickson and You, who take the time to express in written words, honesty, encouragement and a slice of life…forever imprinted…influencing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. i became queasy the moment that you mentioned that you were sitting backwards. i love your musings on the train. it seems to be a place where you feel free to let your mind and soul open and wander, observations flow freely here for you. zen in the midst of a big, busy city.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. OK i think i finally got it. Sometimes they way you write reminds me a bit of some of Bruce Cockburns poetic narratives.
    Yeah, throw in some sun dogs, a tank rolling through St Petersburg, and a pair of lace stockings in neon lights, and you got Bruce Cockburn.
    Hey David!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes, well, just in case the queasiness returns (as it very likely might, sorry to say – I’m a few years ahead of you in age), remember our food supply is beyond tainted, even the organic stuff. Different wheat than once grew; different practices, standards for agriculture. We grow a lot of what we eat and stay away from all wheat, soy and corn – the three most tainted crops in the US – and anything packaged or processed commercially. Lucky us, we have many choices in a year-round growing climate, including year-round weekly farmers markets. Anyhow, wishing you luck, it’s so interesting to navigate with the body as we age into our fifties and beyond. Picture the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy throws a bucket of water onto her, “What a world; what a world!” ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really like your style of writing. Hence the follow!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Such wonderful prose! No train journey will ever be the same again…

    Liked by 1 person

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