When I started the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles series I did it with the full intent to start exploring the various rail services in my area. Little did I know it would take a full thirteen days before a trip I could actually take a rail trip.
Even more surprising to me was the route – Springfield, Massachusetts (SPG) to New York’s City’s Penn Station (NYP), hop the A train down to the 14th street station, and then a quick stroll over to 11th Avenue and 18th street ... to board a yacht for a cruise around the southern tip of Manhattan.
I’ve been seeking visibility and power along many lines including the financial, but hooking up with a whole yacht load of investment bankers and hedge fund managers on the spur of the moment was a pleasant surprise.
Springfield’s Amtrak station is in the gritty downtown area. There were a spate of murders in the area about ten days ago and my one previous train trip that ended here terminated in a fairly scary wander around the area well after midnight searching for the lot where I’d parked my car. The whole thing seemed much more benign in the early morning light as we made our way to the 7:40 A.M. Northeaster #147 southbound. We picked a continuously staffed lot to ensure the car would be in one piece when we returned; vehicle burglaries are apparently a not uncommon thing.
My previous ride on this route was a nighttime return from Manhattan so I’d not seen the route. There are open spaces but mostly you zoom along in a canyon of trees, many so close they practically brush the car windows.
The ride terminates in Penn Station, where you can find Amtrak, New York City subways, the Long Island Rail Road, and trains to New Jersey. I worked off and on in Manhattan during 2000/2001 until the international voice carrier I worked for was destroyed in the 9/11 attack. I’d stay at the New Yorker Hotel right across from Madison Square Garden, which is set above Penn Station, and I’d catch the subways to our facilities near the southern tip of the island. Despite having spent a good six weeks living in the area and riding multiple trains daily I find Penn Station to be an incomprehensible maze. I take whatever entrance I see and I follow the signed until I get to what I want. I’m always surprised to see World Trade Center signs in the subway, seven years after the destruction.
People who’ve never been to New York may have a view of the subway from 1970s crime dramas and that image has not been correct for a long, long time. The subway stations are as clean as can be expected for a city of such size, they don’t stink, I’ve wandered Manhattan at all hours of the night, and I’ve never witnessed any sort of criminal activity. I pay the $7.50 for a Metrocard which permits all day rides and I roam at will.
We walked three blocks over, four blocks up, and found Chelsea Pier. There are many yachts of various sizes and a driving range surrounded by a giant cage. Our host docks elsewhere, a place where many ferries go, and the purpose is simple – fuel for $1.00/gallon less than other marinas due to the volume they do.
The boat itself was a tidy forty eight footer – a Meridian 459. I cringed when I learned of the one mile per gallon fuel efficiency, but we crammed twenty of us on the boat so we were doing as well as any SUV.
I’d seen Manhattan from the air and from the inside but never from the water. The Hudson river is a busy playground for the residents of the area who can afford the price of admission. I was quite surprised to see many, many kayaks in use near the shore. There are large boats that frequent these waters and I’d be fearful of wakes, but it is apparently not a problem. Can you guess which famous street this is?
This trip was a spur of the moment event made possible by my writing here at DailyKos(!) The host is a financial blogger, I noticed the invite for the cruise, forwarded the links to the economic diaries I’ve written here, and we were welcomed aboard for the trip. Whom do you envision when you hear the phrase “investment bankers”? I bet this is not the picture that comes to mind ...
I’ve got a raft of stuff sitting in my “invest in this folder” – ammonia production, next generation ammonia and methanol technology, customer wood boiler financing, pellet manufacturing, and the like, along with the purely pro bono work we’re doing for things that are just really, really good ideas. This trip was nothing more than a “get to know you” but I ended up with three business cards that came with firm “call me” instructions. Hopefully we’re about to start matching opportunities to eager investors ...