My visit to Yale was quite nice. The campus and downtown were a big improvement over Bridgeport, and it was very nice to get to talk to Tina for the first time in five years. I was a bit surprised by the degree to which Yale went and apparently still goes to—considering the newest buildings on campus—appear to be an Oxbridge university, with pretty if a bit out-of-place Gothic architecture everywhere.
From Bridgeport, it was only a short Metro-North ride to New Haven to see a fellow Caltech chemistry major who is now in grad school at Yale. After my experience with downtown Bridgeport and its Brutalist combined parking-garage and train station, I was quite positively impressed with New Haven Union Station. It’s a beautiful building that was in beautiful condition, apparently due to recent renovations. My one complaint about it is that it is some distance from downtown, and the new State Street station, while just a simple set of platforms, is actually much more convenient. I do kind of wonder why it wasn’t built in downtown in the first place.
Downtown Bridgeport was a minor stop on my trip. I wasn’t actually visiting anyone there, but since I had to transfer from ferry to train, I thought I’d take a walk around what is apparently Connecticut’s largest city. I have to admit that I was rather disappointed. The walkable area was quite small and had the feel of an essentially abandoned post-industrial urban core. One of the major intersections now had a huge one-story Firestone tire place taking up most of its frontage. There was also almost no one on the streets, though I’m not sure how much of that was due to it being Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday morning, the Small Geologist and I went to Port Jefferson for breakfast and ice cream, and spent about an hour wandering around the small downtown. It was a relatively walkable, though very tourist-oriented, town, and had the largest ice cream shop I’d ever seen.
After my tour of Port Jefferson, I got on the ferry across Long Island Sound to Bridgeport, Connecticut. There was actually about a dozen walk-on passengers, probably due to the fact that the Bridgeport terminal is adjacent to downtown and a Metro-North station, but almost everyone—and the passenger deck was pretty close to full—came with a car. The half-hour ferry ride was nice and, as I said, the Bridgeport ferry terminal was very convenient. I am fairly annoyed by the fact that the ferry company has apparently been trying to get the terminal moved to the other side of the river, which is not at all walkable and quite difficult to get to on foot from downtown and the Metro-North station. However, they’re apparently being kept from doing so for regulatory reasons, at least for now.
I made it to Penn Station just in time to buy a LIRR ticket to Ronkonkoma and board a train headed there. Despite the LIRR platform at Penn Station’s reputation for being crowded and unnavigable, I had no trouble finding my train quickly. However, I do admit that things would probably have been much different had I attempted this during weekday rush hour.
I met up with the Small Geologist at Ronkonkoma and she gave me a tour of the SUNY Stony Brook campus and of her lab. It was a bit strange to see a normal, functional science lab after having gotten used to the insanity that is my lab. It was also interesting to see the Stony Brook campus: it was largely a standard mid-century state university expansion campus, but it did have a bit of a walkable core with some interesting buildings.
After the tour, we went to a diner for dinner and I ate very tasty but kind of terrifying challah french toast. We then wandered around the grounds of her dorm for a while talking, and went to the Starbucks in the Stony Brook Hospital. Apparently, since the town of Stony Brook closes down early, this Starbucks is the only food place open late and grad students often go there when they’re staying up late working on things. It was kind of amusing.
After the transit museum, my friend headed to Penn Station to go back to Princeton, but I stopped in Battery Park for a visit, as I hadn’t actually been there since sixth grade when my class went on a day field trip to New York and we took the ferry to Liberty Island. It was a nice park, and rather cool to get to see it. Especially as I kind of needed a break from rushing around before heading to Penn Station myself.
After visiting the 9/11 Memorial, we took the subway to downtown Brooklyn to see the New York Transit Museum. Because the street grid was confusing, we managed to get rather lost and took about twice as long to find it as we should have, which gave me an opportunity to note how much emptier and, well, deader, this part of Brooklyn seemed than anywhere I’ve been in Manhattan. I’m not sure if this was due to density, less tourists, or just the fact that we were in a very institutional area that shuts down on weekends, but I wouldn’t have guessed I was in New York City if I didn’t know.
In any case, the transit museum was quite neat, although a number of the exhibits did seem a bit kid-targeted or covered history that I already knew in detail. The subway trains on display were quite neat, though, and definitely worth the visit on their own.
On Saturday morning, I took PATH back to Greeley Square to visit an MIT friend who is now at Princeton and a high school friend who is now at Columbia. We had lunch at a refreshingly air-conditioned Korean barbeque place, then went to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. As I’d only been there in mid-winter, and hadn’t been able to go inside the building, it was nice to get to see the park on a summer Saturday afternoon. After our visit to the library, my high school friend had to leave, but my MIT friend and I had a second lunch of pizza and then took the subway down to lower Manhattan to see the 9/11 Memorial. I was actually unexpectedly impressed by the memorial. The two massive holes with waterfalls around the edges were both beautiful and appropriate-seeming.
Back in June—yes, it’s been two months; I need to get better at posting things promptly—I took a weekend trip to Long Island Sound. Or rather, to various places bordering Long Island Sound, though the trip also involved a circumnavigation of the western half of it. I began by taking a Friday night Megabus to Manhattan. We arrived about an hour late, mostly due to the predictably bad traffic getting out of Boston, but that meant that I arrived just as the friend I was visiting in Jersey City got out of work in Manhattan, so we took PATH to Grove Street together and had pizza for dinner.
I’d never really been to Jersey City before, and I was actually fairly impressed by it: the area I stayed seemed like a nicely walkable residential neighborhood with retail on the main streets. I was mostly confused by the architecture of the condo that my friend was sharing with her fiance. The building had four floors, each set up as a separate apartment with a locking door to the common central staircase. However, they were renting the bottom two floors, which were configured so they couldn’t be inhabited separately: the bottom floor was a livingroom/kitchen area and a half-bath, while upstairs had bedrooms and a huge bathroom, but no kitchen. That meant that they had to take keys to get between the two halves of their condo.
This poem is more easily datable than most of my high school poetry. The spring of twelfth grade, spring 2005, the DC area had a particularly bad swarm of periodic cicadas that made my life nearly intolerable. Given that I’m fairly terrified of bugs in general, having it be impossible to go outside without being collided with by lots of huge flying bugs, many of which would stick on your clothes, and some of which would sneak indoors, made my life utterly miserable for about a month.
The foebeasts stir in their caverns,
The monsters climb and crawl up now,
To soon come out; invade the air,
And plague us with their myriad swarms,
Each swarm is many myriads strong,
A host of hosts invades us now.
They dark the earth and fill the sky,
And climb the trees and scale the walls,
They leave their shells behind them when,
They gain their wings and start to fly,
Outnumbering Xerxes’ many times,
A host of hosts invades us now.
Although a month will see them pass,
And they’ll not live all summer long,
Before they die they’ll leave their curse,
Another locust plague will come,
The cicadas will rise again,
When seventeen years have passed once more.