Many of you know that I have weird ambitions; today is no different. I am determined to walk through Newark, in the space between the Newark Penn Station Path train stop and the Newark Liberty International Airport.
- Because I’m crazy
- Because I woke up mad early from a nightmare and now have the time to make the journey
- Because I’ll be sitting cramped into an economy airline seat from, across two flights, for the next 8+ hours, as I move from NYC to Miami, Fl to Quito, Ecuador.
- Because I believe every privileged NYer ought to spend a day in this underserved community, to understand what this world outside their precious bubble is like for the many people both and raised there.
This summer or fall I intend to walk from one end of Newark to the next. 26 miles squared, Newark is the second largest city in the NYC metropolitan area. 36% live below the poverty line, and many more live near it.
It is in this city, seven years ago, that I enrolled into the Newark Teaching Fellowship. Studying during evening classes to get my Elementary and Special Education teaching certification, I sought to get the education I needed to teach the students at Ivy Hill Elementary, reputably one of the worst cities in the district. My teaching certification wasn’t enough to keep me there as at the end of the school year, the non-tenured teachers were pink slipped. Although told that many of us would be rehired at the end of summer when a new budget was set for the city, I chose not to take any risks and found a job in private education.
First Things First: Getting to the Newark-Bound Path Train
I had to leave my cozy apartment for the past two weeks, where I’ve been kicking it with Lambeau on a petsit.
My nightmare woke me at 5:30a, granting me plenty of time to ensure the home was in pristine shape for the owners’ return, before heading to the office to drop off my belongings from that stay and packing for the Ecuador trip.
Third. Citibike Ride.
Cloud coverage made for a cool, gray morning commute to Newark with my larger orange backpack on and a second backpack strapped to the front of my bike.
Despite living in NYC, the World Trade Center doesn’t feature much in my life, since living and working further uptown, but it is a magnificently large structure.
Also impressive downtown is the Occulus, a recently built ———- million transportation hub and doing center. It was a scandal when it was built with many claiming that the construction was priced well above what it should cost, and well above what the city should be spending when our transportation system has so many areas that need attention.
However, stopping in there on my way down to the Path, despite adding extra time to one’s commute, is a luxury. As I stepped down into the Occulus, I was bemused to see so many others stopping and looking all around them, breath held, taking in the stunning expansiveness that is the interior of the Occulus. Add a large public exhibit, central to one’s view upon entering the structure, of Michelangelo’s Sistene Channel, and you’ve convinced me that the money went to some public good.
The Beginning – Newark Penn Station
I’m not used to walking out of this station, as I used to merely pop off the PATH train onto a bus, whenever I was there. I wonder towards the Prudential Center, where hockey is played, and then walk along Magnolia, parallel to the 62 bus that runs between Penn Station and the airport.
I’m comforted that I’m not the only one walking along the sidewalks, and that I’m not walking through the busy downtown center where all the shops, dealers, and other people eye me as an odd woman out in a sea of dark skin. I used to feel so put out there, an outsider looking as though she had mistakenly stumbled into the city. I wondered if I’d feel any different as an older, more mature 32 year old, compared to the actually stumbling 25 year old that I indeed was.
However, it was peaceful walking along a busy road, with no yelling or distractions from the other pedestrians. Nothing could be heard over the steam of cars buzzing by.
I’m glad to see so many myself as I make my way through Newark.
I don’t make it very far, just a couple miles, before I realize that my path has bottlenecked me into a highway. This is “where the sidewalk ends.”
I’m glad I got in a decent bike ride between the office and the World Trade Center Path train stop. I also feel less bad for not wearing sunblock, as although the morning clouds have dispersed, and the sun is out, it will be no bother to me as I sit in the 62 bus enroute to the airport.
A man approaches me asking for a dollar. When I say no, he offers no curt “Thank you,” like some of the more polite beggars in NYC do when you refuse to give them money. Instead his eyes linger on me, and he does not move from the spot, as I beat a retreat to the bus stop.
At the car wash across the street from the bus stop I’m surprised to see only women drying the vehicles.
The papaya in my bag sets off a bag inspection at security. The officer is amused when he finds out what the unidentified object is. I celebrate making it in time with some papaya photo love and some bagel eating selfies.
I’m reading the American Airlines magazine, American Way, listening to Emily Haines’ (of Metric and Broken Social Scene) Knives Got Your Back. It’s really lovely.
My brief layover in Miami, enroute to Quito, Ecuador was smooth. I disembarked my plane from NYC and walked the long corridor from Gate D19 to D44. Dotted along one’s 1/2 mile path are mostly local restaurants. It is not bombarded with fast food places with sugar. Carreta, the Cuban restaurant Branch and I used to like to drive out to, was there.
I’m happy to find myself on the second flight sitting next to two empty seats, although I switch seats so a family can sit together. Nothing on the plane works though – the audio doesn’t come out for the movie and the flight attendants keep stopping Boss Baby as it plays and starting it over.
I’m in Ecuador!