Times Square, New York

I decided to go to New York for 48 hours to scope out the changes to the city in order to get my latest manuscript, a thriller based in New York, up-to-date. Very sadly, I need to find a new literary agent, since my previous agent, the wonderful Bob Lescher, passed away last year. One agent who is reading my manuscript wrote to me saying:

“I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse for you to have been represented by Bob towards the end of his life…a blessing for the positive publishing influence you received through him, or the curse of finding another agent who will live up to his high standards.”

Amen, is all I can say. No one can completely embody the particular kindness, warmth, and erudition of Bob Lescher, but there are a good number of other agents whom I would be thrilled to have represent me.

Next decision:  how to get to New York.  There are many ways to get to New York from Boston, 200 miles to the north:

–a plane, which I consider a huge waste of carbon for the 32 minutes that you’re actually in the air.

–a bus, which can cost as little as $15 (but be aware–one of the Chinese bus companies that takes you from Chinatown in Boston to Chinatown in New York was shut down after one of their buses rolled over and another hit a toll booth).

–a car, which can be stressful, especially if you take 95 with its high volume of trucks, and/or if you have to leave your car in Manhattan where you could easily drop several hundred dollars or more just for a few day’s parking.

Amtrak's Acela

Amtrak’s Acela

–or my favorite–Amtrak.

I think that trains are a great way to get around, and I wish the US had more of them. Trains in the Northeast Corridor–from Boston to New York and New York to Washington, D.C.–are well-traveled and actually make money.  They are also quite comfortable and offer Wi-fi.  The fastest train, the Acela express, can get you from Boston to Penn Station, New York, in 3 hours and 30 minutes;  the fastest regional Amtrak train in 4 hours and 8 minutes–also quite respectable.

The main train station in Boston is South Station, downtown by the waterfront, but Back Bay station is closer to me and near to the Copley stop on the Green Line. Here’s a fine fellow wishing all of us well on our travels:

A fine fellow at Back Bay station

The train ride was lovely.  I marveled at how quiet and thoughtful people were–no yammering away on the phone, no loud conversations, only quiet, blissful peace . . . and then I realized that I’d accidentally stumbled into the “Quiet Car.”  Highly recommended!

A sign in the uni-sex bathroom looked a tad Satanic.  I did, indeed, “clean up” (the devil made me do it).

A satanic figure in the women's restroom on the train

Lovely views over the Connecticut shoreline from the train.  I always try to get a window seat on the left side going down (i.e., to New York), right side going up (i.e., to Boston) just for this view.

The lovely Connecticut shoreline

Now into the hustle and bustle of New York.  It’s a different city from when I lived here for 15 years prior to 9/11, much less crime-ridden, much more calm.  I walked 70 blocks uptown and across town, and in that time I saw few of the problems on the street that used to make living in New York so difficult:  the clearly mentally ill people, the homeless people, the aggressive panhandlers, the truly dangerous taxi and car drivers.

--The big board at Penn Station, New York

–The big board at Penn Station, New York

A lot of New Yorkers are happy that there’s no longer an empty hole in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers used to be:

Liberty Tower

Things have changed in New York under the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and billionaire. Among other things, such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants and banning the use of transfats in restaurants, he’s introduced traffic-calming measures, put an emphasis on “green” buildings, and brought a bicycle ride share program to Manhattan. You’ll see (below) that he has also adopted a European system of protecting bike lanes from cars through the use of a line of parked cars between the cars and the bikes. He’s also allowed many more “stop-and-frisks,” particularly of young black and Hispanic men, which has created a large racial divide and which helped catapult the Democrat, Bill de Blasio, into the position as the new mayor.

Legacy of the Bloomburg year.

One thing that Michael Bloomberg, has done to/for the city is to encourage development through the creation of huge new buildings. While it has no doubt benefitted businesses, it has also served to help drive out more of the middle class and encouraged wealthy people to move to New York, creating a situation where many apartments are simply not lived in (“warehoused”) and/or are so expensive that only hedge fund managers or Russian or Asian plutocrats can afford to live here.  My own two-bedroom coop apartment at 82nd and Riverside, which I bought in 1994 for a reasonable $250,000 (and then sold) is now worth $1.6 million.  I wish I’d been able to hang onto it!

As I walked past this new building (below), a man near me said to his companion, “It must have been hard to design it.”  “Harder to build it,” I said.  I know I’m in New York when I’m talking back to random strangers.

A strange New York building.

More about New York here and here and here.