Personal Post #2: Tunneling

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm

This weekend, I forewent the Jon Stewart extravaganza that I had originally planned on attending in favor of being boring and going home for the weekend. But my boringness was not without just cause.

I have been yearning for what feels like forever to see my favorite actress – Laura Linney – perform on Broadway. It’s where she got her start, and though she used to make an appearance on New York’s stages with regularity, she hasn’t returned to theater in many years due to her heightened “mainstream” successes (The Savages, John Adams, Love Actually, Kinsey, etc.). This past spring, she debuted in a play called Time Stands Still, portraying a gutsy war photographer who has recently returned home to New York after almost being killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq. Getting tickets was of primo importance on my “to do before I move” list, but it never happened, largely because a Tony nomination followed the debut rapidly, and available, affordable tickets became nearly extinct. So I had to deal with the fact that I probably missed my opportunity to see her on stage before I hit 40.

Cut to last weekend, when I found out that Linney was taking a temporary hiatus from filming her new Showtime drama The Big C in order to return for a limited engagement to Time Stands Still. I sprang to action, and had tickets within the hour.

But this post has little to do with the play (which was too good to be subverted to the tag-along topic it has become in the context of this post). No, this post is about something that I got to do because of the play, something I get to do every time I go home, and something that is in my Top 5 Favorite Things of Life. No, it’s not that I got to visit the secret Phantom of the Opera-esque downstairs bathroom at the Cort Theater (though this is probably in my top ten favorite things – it looks like no one has been in the room since 1925), and it’s not that I got to climb the rickety wooden ladder at The Pink Pony to stow my coat in the hole that’s carved crudely into the top of the wall above the cash register (also ranking in my Top 10 — the restaurant I mean, not the hole…though the hole could probably land a Top 50 spot as a standalone submission). Nor is it any of the other things that populate my Tops – pumpkin soup, crows lined up on wires, feeling your nose de-thaw after being outside for four hours, charcoal pencil sketches, newsprint, abandoned childhood bedrooms with Transatlanticism posters lining the inside of the closet door, the framed certificates and diplomas of strangers (A brain on a wall? Or a bank account on a wall?), people who knit on public transportation, deformed umbrellas shoved unceremoniously in trashcans, cluttered attics where you can find things that confuse you like brass birdcages when you never had a bird, an on and on and on. I like these things. A lot. But not like I love riding through the Lincoln Tunnel on the top of a Megabus.

Yes, I am easily amused. But this isn’t just about amusement. Have you ever ridden through the Lincoln Tunnel in the top-level front seat of a double-decker bus at speeds that are entirely inappropriate? No? Don’t knock it ’til you try it, friend.

Some people feel God or Life or Faith or Biggerness or Moreness or whatever you want to call that feeling of blissful inconsequentiality in cathedrals. Some people feel it in airplanes. Some feel it standing at high altitudes on mountains or observation decks of skyscrapers. I feel it sitting on the top front seat of Megabus while hurdling like Evil Knievel through the Lincoln Tunnel.

I used to ride Amtrak between New York and DC. I can’t imagine a time in which I didn’t know the glory of Seeing God from the Megabus, but it is so. A mere six years ago, I didn’t know any better. Amtrak, which in theory I love (The romance of the rails!, The Boxcar Children!, Water for Elephants!), but in reality I hate (Not getting to choose your seat and getting stuck on the aisle under an air vent blowing 20-degree tundra wind onto you while you rest uncomfortably next to a heavy breather who wants you to scratch his back!) simply cannot compare. And I will never take Amtrak again.

In this new Megabus Era, I show up an hour prior to my departure time at H and 11th Streets in order to ensure I get the good seat on the top – the one in the very front with the footrest and panoramic view of my impending death on the other side of the window. Don’t tell me I’m a nerd. I already know. Arriving at the Megabus stop an hour before departure is the chronological equivalent of wearing knee socks with sneakers.

The unfortunate thing about the choice seat is that it also happens to be the seat of most-likely death. Did you know that Megabus has been at the center of multiple safety controversies recently, controversies that have to do with the drivers taking unsanctioned alternative routes and driving at top speeds into overpasses that are too low for double-decker clearance? Most people view this as a reason to switch to the single-level security of Bolt (or at the very least sit on the bottom level), but for me it only increases the excitement. Every looming overpass is like a coin toss! Will we clear it or won’t we? Ooh, the anticipation! It’s hard to pinpoint the origin or my masochistic fear-induced thrill seeking, as I hate roller coasters and it’s like pulling teeth to get me on something as dinky as Space Mountain.

But all of this pales in comparison to the feeling of excitement I get when the city looms into view and we pass Weehawken Stadium, the signpost that indicates the Orwellian entrails of the Lincoln Tunnel are a mere minute away.

For the optimal experience, the driver needs to be breaking the inner-tunnel speed limit (35 mph), which is highly dependent on traffic. Scheduling the tunnel portion of the trip to occur during non-peak hours is crucial. Because the moment you’re inside, you need to be going 50 to experience maximum Twilight Zone/drugless LSD-type conditions. On the top deck of the bus, your head is placed at the exact same height as the fluorescent lightbulbs placed every five feet along the tunnel wall. And if the speed is right, the alternating blink of the lights blurs to a tube of epileptic-inducing glare and SHABAM! — you are officially experiencing something completely unearth-like that just made your exorbitant last-minute fare of $15 worth the while.

My favorite movie of all time is an overlooked gem called Winter Passing with Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrel, and Ed Harris. And all it took to bump my previous favorite from the top spot was a scene in which Zooey’s character climbs on a bus and flies through the darkened Lincoln Tunnel, all the while listening to “Rise” by Azure Ray, which officially became the soundtrack to this whole experience. Adam Rapp is probably the only one in the world besides me who appreciates the power of combining the Lincoln Tunnel with a bus enough to feature it in a film.

And thus I begin the week on a high note. I got to see Laura Linney perform live. I got to climb that rickety ladder and dump my coat on top of a bunch of strangers’ coats in a hole in an East Village wall. And I broke the barriers of the time-space continuum for $15 on the Megabus.

If more people only knew how inexpensive wonder really is…

  1. […] tales of tunneling provide the springboard for this post. Well done, lady, your post was hilarious and as you already […]

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