I had an odd dream last night. In it I was living in New York City, right in Manhattan. It was a typical dream in some ways (in dreams I'm almost always younger than in reality), but unusual in others. For a start, I woke up remembering it fairly vividly. Usually no matter how interesting the dream, when I wake up all I can remember is that I was dreaming and not many details of the dream itself.
I don't know why I'd dream about New York. Maybe I've watched a few too many episodes of "Cash Cab." The only times I've been to the city it's been as a transient. I've flown out of La Guardia after visiting friends in New Jersey, transferred from one bus to another in the Port Authority bus station, driven through on the interstate, and sat in a train on Amtrak while traveling from Boston to Washington, DC, and vice versa. None of those experiences ever gave me the feeling that the one thing I'd like to do in life is live in New York City. If anything, they had the opposite effect.
The Port Authority in particular stands out for its ability to evoke a "dear God get me out of here fast!" frame of mind. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on a location when I was probably seeing it at the worst of times, right around the holidays (Thanksgiving weekend, if I recall correctly) when more people than usual were traveling. It also did not help that the bus from Boston was late getting into New York (traffic on the interstate was moving at a crawl for many miles) so I missed the connection I wanted to D.C. I had to spend several hours waiting for the next one so had plenty of time to soak up the negative energy and be appalled by the ambience.
The place was packed with humanity, most of whom seemed to be using black plastic Hefty bags as luggage. I found myself thinking that the fact I had an actual suitcase instead of a trash bag or battered cardboard carton was going to mark me as "affluent" for every potential thief or pickpocket in the place. I kept expecting to see someone leading a goat or carrying a crate of chickens on to a bus. It wouldn't have surprised me a bit to see a bus driver instructing overflow passengers to sit on the roof -- that evening the Port Authority had a definite Third World aura.
The weird thing is that although the place had a seedy, dirty around the edges feeling, there were maintenance people and cleaning crews working constantly. There was no trash on the floors, and every time I turned around I seemed to spot someone with a mop or a broom. There also weren't any particularly creepy characters around, no persons who could be readily identified as definite sleazeballs. In general, security seemed to be good. There were no panhandlers or obvious crazies, no one homeless sleeping on the floor of the women's restroom, although there were periodic announcements over the public address system to be careful when one left the building for the streets of New York. If there were lowlifes in the vicinity, they were apparently congegrating on the sidewalks outside and not making it past security into the terminal itself. In short, there was no logical reason why the place should have felt as sad and rundown as it did. Nonetheless, I'm quite happy to have never had an occasion to repeat entering or leaving New York via Greyhound bus.
[Photo is of La Guardia, obviously.]