Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New York City: A familiar face in the madding crowd

By Jim Heffernan

Crowded New York City subway
Whew! The holidays are over. Ours were especially active this year, punctuated by our whirlwind trip to New York City in mid-December.

Wonderful experience -- to be in New York at holiday time. Crowds at mid-town – everywhere, really – are amazing, including on the subways. No surprise there.

When you’re from Duluth, New York City is one place where you are fairly confident no one will recognize you, especially when you scurry aboard a crowded subway with scores of people sitting and others standing, hanging on for dear life to metal tubes running the length of cars.

Grand Central Station Main Concourse
On one run from Battery Park, Wall Street and the nearby 9/11 Memorial north to Grand Central  Station, the subway car was particularly crowded, although they all seem to be all of the time.

We had squeezed into a seat, other passengers indifferently hovering above us, when suddenly I heard my name loudly beaming from somewhere to my left. What a coincidence, the thought quickly flashed through my mind, there’s another Jim Heffernan on this packed subway car.

When a smiling face and proffered hand connected to one of the nearby standing passengers extended my way, I looked up, utterly baffled. Couldn’t be, I thought. Yet the face looked familiar and recognition began to find its way to my consciousness. “Proctor,” I uttered. Flabbergasted, that’s all I could come up with at the moment.

I had the right town – our western suburb. That Proctor. And the smiling face belonged to Jake Benson, the publisher of the weekly Proctor Journal and civic activist there. I’ve known him for years, but couldn’t immediately connect the name with the face on a crowded New York subway. You just don’t expect to meet people you know under those circumstances.

But Jake it was, himself on a whirlwind trip to New York where he has relatives and to take in a Rolling Stones concert.

You exchange “small worlds,” of course, and it can be, but not as small as Duluth…or Proctor.
Grand Central Oyster Bar 
Note: Grand Central turns 100 in 2013. This famous vintage NYC building is a true transportation–and so much more–hub. We met some friends for dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on our first night in NYC. 

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