On a rainy night in New York, I venture downtown.
Have I become boring and settled, even in a town as heart-stopping as New York? I think so. Living on the Upper West Side or the “burbs” of Manhattan (as I sometimes think of my neighborhood because of the calm, leafy streets and influx of strollers), has brought out a different side of me. Most days, I feel like I’m in a small town and not a metropolis bursting with energy, as I tend to exist within in a 10-block radius. Am I that dull, or just getting older?
That changed recently when I left my neighborhood for a jaunt downtown. I hopped the subway, traipsing all the way to 14th Street on a Tuesday, and in the rain! (On a rainy night in New York, I prefer to snuggle in my cozy one-bedroom apartment with a nice bottle of red wine, a plate full of pasta swimming in red sauce, and a few hours of Netflix.) The most shocking part was the time I left – it was 9 p.m. Thanks to the MTA’s cooperation, the trip took approximately 17 minutes door to door. That commute’s not too shabby for a suburbanite.
I met a friend for a drink and gabbed for about 90 minutes. (Yes, I’m a slow drinker.) When I walked out of the bar, it was misting slightly, but I didn’t mind. Light and slow, it was the perfect kind of New York rain. (A heavy downpour is the less-than-perfect kind of New York rain.) Since I’m rarely alone at this hour, especially on a rainy night in New York, I questioned, “Should I take the subway back uptown? Would I be safe at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday?”
A cab wouldn’t be cheap if (that’s a big IF because it was raining) I could get one, and surely, car services would be surging. I was less than a block to the train station. Why would I even think of taking a taxi? This is New York – the city that never sleeps. There would be plenty of people riding the subway at 11 or 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night.
It had probably been years since I was downtown alone on a weeknight and taking the train so late. (There’s the old and boring side of me showing up again.) I knew I’d be fine. I learned how to watch my back when I was living in Philadelphia in the 1990s. I’ve always felt safer in New York.
I swiped my Metrocard and marched down the stairs to the platform as the uptown local and express trains were leaving. Crap. I had just missed both, so I’d have to wait another ten minutes for a train. That’s bad subway karma. There were few people on the platform, but it filled quickly. Sitting in one of the worn, wooden seats, I listened to Billy Joel’s “Miami 2017,” pulled out my copy of The New York Times and waited with strangers seated next to me and swarming on all sides.
Ten minutes seemed to fly by and an express train pulled up. I jumped on and grabbed a seat in the corner. Giving the car the once over, I noticed a diverse bunch of New Yorkers in their own little worlds. Some alone, and some with company.
In two stops, we reached 42nd Street/Times Square and several single women boarded the train. Soon enough it was standing room only at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday night. Where in the H were all of these people going? Suddenly, the 2 train felt like the safest place to be, at least in New York City.
I stayed on the express (rather than transferring to a local at 72nd) and exited the train at 96th Street. The station was hustling and bustling like it was 7 p.m. When I reached the street there was a calmness, a quietness that I rarely see in Manhattan. The wet sidewalks were nearly empty and the lights dim in most of the storefronts on Broadway with the exception of a few 24-hour spots. Was the Upper West Side turning in this early?
I stopped at the produce stand at 95th Street and grabbed two bananas and raspberries, two for $5. Who buys fruit at almost midnight? New Yorkers do – even on a rainy night in NYC.
I moved south on Broadway, reaching 91st Street where a sketchy 24/7 market is located, and saw night owls speed shopping. There were no lines. Late at night is the only time of day to dash in and out of any grocery store in Manhattan, even the worst of the lot.
Tempted to stop by Hot & Crusty at 88th and Broadway, I craved a carb-infused snack since I had eaten hours earlier. But I denied my temptation, because really, is a handful of doughy goodness necessary at almost midnight? My hips and tummy told me, “NO.”
Part of me was ready for sleep, or the Late Show, or both. Part of me wanted to stay out and about to see what I could discover on the streets of New York on an almost Wednesday morning. So this is what the city looks like mid-week at this hour! I’d forgotten.
Instead, I surrendered to my yawning self, continued treading in the light, steady stream of water as it bounced off the streets, until I turned the corner at 89th Street and called this Tuesday a night.