Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Friday, April 25, 2008


I'll be spending a lot of today on the subway, which is as good an excuse as any to talk about the New Jersey PATH train. For those from out of the area, the PATH train (short, apparently, for Port AuTHority) is the subway train line that links much of New Jersey (Hoboken, Newark, and Jersey City) to Manhattan.

My brief tenure in Jersey City as a house-sitter has acquainted me pretty well with the PATH train, and I have to say that it's pretty irritatingly inferior to the New York City subway in almost every way. With one exception: it's way cleaner. I don't have the statistics near to hand (and don't care enough to look them up), but I assume the main reason it's cleaner is fairly obvious: way fewer passengers. That's in its favor. But here are its many sins.

* No maps in the terminals. None! They have very handy maps inside the cars, but not in the places where you wait for them. It's amazing. Admittedly, there are only about 9-12 stops on the PATH train (depending on which one you're taking), but unless you've memorized the schedule ahead of time, when a train pulls up and says JSQ on the side, and you're trying to get to Grove Street, there's absolutely no way to figure out if the Grove Street stop is on the JSQ line unless you actually climb aboard the train and read the map. Then, if you're on the wrong train, run back out quickly before they shut the doors and you're trapped in this tube, to be dumped in a place that will confuse you further.

(Note: I'm primarily going to and from the Grove Street station. If there are maps elsewhere--I seem to recall seeing something vaguely helpful at 14th Street--that's only a minor improvement, as far as I'm concerned. How much can a map possibly cost?)

*Almost no signage. At the World Trade Center station--one of the biggest PATH stops--the only sign over each track is "Track 3--Newark." Which, again, isn't helpful unless you already have a grasp of the geography involved. On the New York subway, the signs over the tracks say things like "2 uptown to Queens via Broadway. For the 1 local, go across the platform. Doesn't run weekends." Plus there's a huge map (called "The Map") at every station. See my first point.

* No trash receptacles in the PATH terminals. They sell food in kiosks topside, but you can't eat it on the train, and if you eat it while you're waiting, you have to stick the wrapper in your pocket and wait till you get out at Christopher Street. Admittedly, this makes the PATH train's relative cleanliness all the more impressive. But I ask again: how expensive is a trash can? Yeesh.

* Far fewer seats on the train itself. Admittedly, most PATH trips aren't that long. But still. Even in the middle of the day, I've found myself forced to stand--and when it's busy, I often find myself actually far away from the nearest grabbable pole. If you're going to make people stand, at least add a grabby-bar down the center, like track lighting. As a result of this dearth of seats, I've seen people on the PATH routinely do something I've almost never seen on the New York subway: they actually sit on the floor. (Good thing it's cleanish!)

I should add that my former British roommate, Lizzie, informs me that the London Underground is even easier to use than the New York Subway. So I'm willing to be still further impressed if I ever get to travel abroad. But until then, New York is my gold standard: I got on the subway and figured out how to use it immediately, even though I'm not only a yokel but pretty bad with directions. The PATH is about twenty times simpler and STILL puts up a series of unnecessary obstacles between me and my transit confidence.

If I actually lived in New Jersey, I'd write someone a sternly worded letter. But since I'm a gypsy wayfarer, this blog will have to do.



Blogger Rhu/nmHz said...

PATH = Port Authority Trans Hudson Railway. (Which I'm sure you'd have been able to determine if you'd found a map.)

4/25/2008 1:14 PM  
Blogger Chad E Burns said...

London Underground is the bomb--I thought DC-METRO was easier (though less extensive)than NY--but either way; if NY is your Gold standard London is the Platinum AND Diamond cobined--BEST in the world! I arrived @ Heathrow, little southern boy never been outside US on my way to Germany--I navigated the entire thing including 3 changes with ease and made it to the Waterloo to transition to the Chunnel Train 1 hour ahead of time---LONDON underground is the BOMB!!

4/25/2008 4:40 PM  
Anonymous The Dating Guru said...

I get your drift, but you might not want to mention "London underground" and "bomb" in the same sentence. Just a thought.

4/28/2008 1:45 PM  

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