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Manhattan Madness

I left for New York City on Valentine's Day with all my talismans. Bush's war is about to begin... were we taking the train into the maw of the beast? I wore my Tibetan dZi bead, fabled for its power to bring good fortune. Hadn't it protected me on that plane trip across the Andes? But just in case the dZi didn't quite work, I wore my giant Turkmen ring with the Islamic inscription. I thought I might be able to trade this for my life -- or Jim's life if I were feeling noble. Or maybe I would have a case of instant Stockholm Syndrome and claim to the terrorist that I was a fellow traveler. But then (because an amulet can always benefit by a backup plan) I tucked a small folding razor knife into my wallet.

But alas, I'm more a romantic than a strategist. US foreign policy aside, I didn't play the probabilities correctly. Instead of drama, we got farce. Or maybe the dZi worked after all.

First, about Amtrack. Could someone please BAIL THEM OUT?! Our 4-car train out of Rochester was a rattletrap. Doors wouldn't shut. Toilets wouldn't flush. Around Albany the heat cut out.

So we arrived at Pennsylvania Station already iced. We trudged off the train in the usual traveler's trance only to look up and realize we were surrounded by those big burly heroic NYC firemen. They were calmly ushering everyone out of the building. Outside (where the taxis were supposed to be), were a dozen fire trucks. Not terrorists, no, but a smoky cable fire in the Long Island Railroad concourse -- and hundreds of stranded commuters. By the time we did find the taxi stand, there were a hundred folks ahead of us and not a taxi in sight. The wind howled around us and froze our ears and noses. After 20 minutes or so, we decided it was only 70 blocks to Fugai and Troutman's apartment and started walking. Luckily, (the dZi bead?) we were saved from our madness and snagged a cab after 2 blocks.

The weekend was full of great food and great conversation with our friends. We should have joined the big peace demonstration but hid away at the Met, soaking up the magic of their African sculpture exhibit.

On Sunday, we learned that the beastly maw was not going to be self-immolating terrorists but a massive blizzard working its way up the coast. No way out. Who knew how bad it would be?

Creaky old Amtrack was looking much more attractive than plane or car, but we fretted and ruminated about how to travel that 70 blocks back to Penn Station.

By Monday morning there was a foot of snow. But, out Fugai's window, we could see buses, trucks, and the occasional taxi lumbering down Broadway. We suited up. Our plan was to hope for a taxi but prepare for the subway. Fugai and Troutman trotted with us for the 3 blocks to the subway entrance. At the last second on off-duty cab came by and Troutman persuaded the driver that Penn Station was a desirable run.

The rest is anticlimax. Delay, delay, delay. When the track was finally announced, we elbowed our way to the front of the line to be sure we got seats together. The train was s-l-o-o-o-w but the safest and surest way out of the white maw. We were home by 10 PM. Like I said, more farce than drama.

There is also snow in Rochester, but only the daily inches we've been getting since Thanksgiving, piled in great mounds around us. Easy.

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Station, President's Day Blizzard, 9:30 AM, Monday, 2.17.03

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