30th Street Station will always be my favorite. I've looked at its soaring ceiling while waiting for my father to come home, while fleeing my brother's death, while trying to warm up or cool down on yet another journey. I am small and large, young and old in that place. In the midst of such transmigrations, I've got a lot of reading done in 30th Street.
Last time I was there, days ago, I decided to check out the station's bookstore. Though I was nicely prepared for my trip with a few issues of I Love Bad Movies and a copy of lost traveler Cookie Mueller's Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, I figured that I'd kill some time away from the ghost smell of McDonald's past. Amid the usual magazines and Victorian porn novels, the bookstore carries Tin House, displays Two Dollar Radio and other small pub books, and boasts a decent sci fi and short story section.
Debating whether to buy a (gasp! full-price) novel, I headed up to the counter, behind which the several staff members screamed catchphrases at one another in a jovial manner and avoided eye contact. Hmm. The door looked locked. "Are you closed," I asked. "Yeah," grunted the security guard.
After all, no matter how good the surprises, it is still Philadelphia.
A new thing that the New Jersey Transit train has been doing is being a time machine. Before every stop the speakers emit the strangled warble of a dial-up modem before announcing that you are not as close to your destination as you thought. No superhighway, then or now.
It is no secret that the anachronistic nature of train travels is part of the appeal. Despite today's florescent lights we can all be an incognito heiress or a man on the run on the train from big city to bigger city. There are always people to watch. If you are lucky, layovers include not only a reasonable bathroom but also food made by a human. The newly remodeled (well, new in the timeline of government and memoir) Trenton train station has both of those things. Despite my love of old things, I am so glad that the former Trenton transit center is gone, taking all of those chicken grease, brown-lit, bad boyfriend memories with it.