Penn Station, Washington DC + An Appreciation For The Privilege Of Travelling Coach

Library of Congress steps

AmtrakWhat time should you get up to catch a 5:30AM train to Washington? Well if you anything like me you’ll just stay up all night worrying about sleeping then in the last hour worry about not sleeping. The alarm goes off at 4:00AM and I am so tired I can’t even make coffee so I just get in the shower, put on a shirt, pink tie and dinner jacket and head off for Pen Station.

New York in the wee hours is amazing because its virtually dead, the polar opposite of the daytime and in fact it feels a lot like I imagine the hours just after a nuclear war to be when everything is quiet and the only people out on the street are the homeless. New York has always felt a bit dark and cold to me and despite the fact the the people here are super friendly it’s still a very lonely city. Everyone is rushing somewhere and there’s no shortage of people doing things and that’s is sometimes at odds with how I feel. Certainly since I lost Ajax I’ve struggled to keep a positive outlook and sometimes I think that’s the worst kind of struggle. When every one around you is cheerful and getting ready for the holidays the gap between me and my dog gets a deeper and bigger. The irony about grief is that the harder I try to cover it up the deeper it goes and whenever I’m able to just feel like full-on shit things seem to lighten up a bit.

I arrived at Penn Station at 5:02AM and I can’t even begin to tell you how confusing a train station in a new city is. At this hour there are no ticket agents, no info booth people and the place is teaming with Capitol Hill homeless people. I mean, not just a few there are literally hundreds of men and women laying on the floor or in corners, on benches and right in the middle of the foodcourt. It smells of dirty skin mixed with urine which has the effect of reminding me just how lucky I am. Seriously. Aside from being really said from losing my dog I have a train ticket to another city, I have a home, in fact two at the moment and while I’ve been feeling poor because I’m out of money I’m actually incredibly rich in comparison to all the people around me. They flash ‘Train 111 to Washington’ up on the screen and I go down on the track and board the train. The conductor motions me towards business class (presumably because I’m wearing my fancy tie) but I smile and say “no, I’m travelling coach” and I get on the next car. Of the hundreds of people that fill Penn Station in the early hours, only a select few are just passing through, the rest are already at their destination. In this moment I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to be travelling coach.

Today’s trip to DC was two-fold, first I wanted to film a segment for my video but most importantly I came to show my support for my sister in crime, Irshad Manji who is one of the three brave women being honoured with the prestigious Lantos Human Rights Prize for their human rights work (past recipients included Hilary Clinton. Irshad gave a beautiful speech and part of her speech acknowledged that fact that she no longer fears death that way she once did. I think that’s the journey I’ve reluctantly been on, to stop running from death and to just be okay with things that die around me. Even just typing this I realize what a tall order that is so for now I’ll just sit back and enjoy the view from coach.

P.S. Thank you Frank Prendergast for the lovely tweet about the book, I love you dude.

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