Saturday, January 23, 2010

Four months later and it took a trip down the frozen Hudson to write, again, about place.

Notes on the train from Beacon to Grand Central:

The Hudson up here in Beacon (the train has just pulled out of the station) is white with great, gray blocks of ice jutting out in a haphazard textural pattern, the best kind. White sits on the hills across the river, a vellum layer. There is no color other than white, silver, and a whisper of dulled brown. It's a sepia-tinted photograph that scrolls on as we move along. Silver sifts on quiet.

At the next train stop, I imagine a balmy summer day and hear laughter and energy on the platform. This moment now, is a contrast, a winter day cathedral in which we all silently pass through.

Further down river, sun breaks through the vellum, round and haloed. It brings a subtle wash to the sky, a pale concoction on the steel gray canvas to the west. Where are we?

Coffee and cream, hot and steamy. Cashmere overcoats, layers of scarves, leather briefcases are all on their way to some office. I want a beautiful black turtleneck, I'm reminded. Classic.

We've moved away from the river to the back allies of auto repair, large equipment lots, scrap metal. Their rust, mud, decay, sadness obscured in white. Estuaries or tributaries interrupt the scene from time to time.

We're in Cortlandt, but where is that? DOT yards, construction yards, bright orange plastic netting as fences. The color is more obnoxious than when it isn't surrounded by the white.

Telephone wires. Fog! The river again. No blocks of ice this time. Trees here grow twisted and mangled, not the straight and stalwart ones up north. The photograph has erasures.

A train yard. Rows and rows of box cars, still, and graphite. Crumbling docks. Vacant boats. An un-trampled river walkway, waiting.

A larger train yard. Croton-Hudson, no, Croton-Harmon. Pay attention to the stops next time. No need to write this again. Where is Croton-Harmon? Where are the towns I know? Track 4. 8023. Royal blue stripes and yellow rubber pads. We've stopped here too long. Let's get going. I feel the energy coming. Next stop, 125th Street. "There we go! Sorry for the delay. We're having a problem with these doors."

Canadian geese float. Do they think? Why do they wait? The fog creates hills among the clouds, and snow clumps in little balls on the tips of the tall grasses along the banks. Bent slightly with weight, a wondrous curve of line.

Barbed wire curls along high brick walls. A prison. Sing Sing. If I were a prisoner, I don't know if I'd feel solace in the routine whistle of the train or the sorrow in my loss of travel. That's easy to answer.

Sky, river, trees. One mess of tepid gray. The magic and majesty of the northern end of my journey have gone. The Tappen Zee Bridge and an itty, bitty lighthouse. Hudson Harbor condos for sale. The bridge ends in a mist.

Was that a man and a woman standing on that deserted peninsula over there or just two charred stumps?

Ice again, in jaundiced circles. Cranes at work, moving stuff. Metal cranes, not live ones. I can barely see the other side. The hill tops are a faint pencil line undulating across the page. One lone American flag says there is no wind.

The first boat of the day. A tanker moving up river. The northern tip of Manhattan begins in earnest. Winter dead vines function together with power lines, one with the promise of energy in the spring, one with the expectation of energy now.

The pencil has now drawn discernible jagged edges. A red buoy. It, too, waits. Trees and grasses are blackened here from the City soot. Even the boulders are charred. The sun welcomes us to the East River as we approach the 125th Street station, or at least it attempts to clear the clouds for our day. The towers of the George Washington Bridge are to my right, perhaps five miles away. The clouds are more distinct now with varying colors and patterns. I'm glimpsing, really. Blue among the clouds. Wow. It's hot in here, especially with five layers against my chest.

Here comes the garbage, no longer hidden under the white. Always by the tracks, forgotten things or things to be forgotten. Crossing the East River to the Isle of Manhattan. We'll soon be underground to Grand Central.

Pigeons huddle, taxis wait. So much waiting. Writing is waiting. On to the next.