Spent the weekend in the Catskills, visiting with my brother and his family. Did a one mile hike up a mountain and back. Calmed my soul on the back porch of his home there. Took videos and photos, and breathed the pristine air. Met with my mother via Zoom for Friday evening dinner while there. And, saw an orthodox Jew and a Hassidic Jew, while stopped at a gas station near Monsey, on the way back from the Catskills.
Arriving at Penn Station,in Newark, N.J., I had thought it would be a brief walk to the local train station. I sought out the Information Desk, and asked how to get there. I was told that I needed to take the light rail to the Broad Street Station. So, I purchased a ticket to my destination, via the light rail to Broad Street. When I found the entrance to the light rail, after walking down and around several corridors inside of Penn Station, I opened the door, and, lo and behold, I was astonished to see the following:
The stairs down to the platform were full of people, and the platform was completely occupied by would be passengers waiting for their train. I was not sure what to do, nor what side of the platform the train that I needed to take would be arriving. All of a sudden, a guy walked in behind me, and as he passes by and walks down the staircase past all of the people on the stairs, he says into his cell phone at his right ear, “Yeah, Broad Street, I’m going to Broad Street.” I instantly thought to myself, “Follow him.”
So, I followed him, down the stairs to the platform, where he got on the train that had immediately arrived. To be sure, I asked somebody sitting on the platform on a bench, if that’s the train to Broad Street. He responded, “yes.” So, I hopped on the train. I asked the guy who had unknowingly led me to the right train, how long until the Broad Street Station. After letting me know, I told him that I’m trying to catch a train at 5:28 p.m., he said that I had plenty of time. Yet, he would only have one minute to catch his train, once the light rail arrived at Broad Street Station.
Before the light rail left Penn Station to Broad Street, an onboard ticket agent asked to see my ticket. Apparently, even though I purchased my ticket from an employee at the ticket counter, after carefully explaining that I needed to take the light rail to Broad Street, then on to my next destination, I was given a ticket to Broad Street by subway, and onward. So, the onboard ticket collector graciously decided to overlook this.
When the light rail (that runs on tracks on the street, like a subway car on trolley tracks) arrived at the Broad Station, I motioned to the guy on the light rail to go ahead of me, because I knew that he only had one minute to catch his train. Yet, when I walked off the light rail car, he was still standing out there. He asked me, “Do you know where you are going?” I said, “I have no idea.”
So, my guide, who I believe to be a godsend, courteously led me around to the side of the station, up a staircase to an elevated platform. He said that his own train was running late. He showed me how to know for sure when my train would arrive, and upon what track. He said your train is on track 3, as listed for 5:28 p.m. When I looked at the digital board for arrivals, my train was listed as Mount Olive (a biblical name for a sacred place near Jerusalem). I told my would-be guide that was not the name of the particular train line that I was taking. He explained that it was indeed the train for the route I needed to take. I would not have known this, unless so propitiously guided by someone who appeared at the right time in my hour of need. It was then that he told me that he worked for the transit authority. And he showed me his I.D card, attached to a lanyard around his neck, that I had not previously noticed.
When I explained to him that I hadn’t a clue of how to proceed back at Penn Station, when I was waiting on the staircase, until I heard him say that he’s going to Broad Street, he explained in the following manner: He was only talking into his phone, saying that he was going to Broad Street, so that the people he was hurriedly passing by wouldn’t get angry at him for butting in line. We both realized at this point how much of a coincidence this was. We even talked for a while until his train arrived. Baruch H’Shem (Praise G-d), for this truly was hasgacha peratis (divine guidance). Shalom.
I have arrived, after a three-day journey via Amtrak, across the country for the first time in three years, to attend my nephew’s bar Mitzvah and visit with family in New Jersey. I will be travelling onward in several weeks, down the coast, in order to visit my mother who was unable to attend the bar Mitzvah, because of a serious heart condition. If you feel inspired to contribute a few dollars to my travelling expenses, I would greatly appreciate your contribution.
I still recall how in my rear-view mirror, the desert highway stretched for miles, receding into the Eastern sky. As I approached city limits, the first visible landmarks were the San Francisco Peaks; Humphreys, the highest peak at 12,633 feet, looms over the otherwise level desert region of Arizona, at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The humbler peaks complement the majesty of this mountain range, especially when snow-capped in the winter.
Now, twenty years later, the village square in historic downtown Flagstaff, reminds me of Boulder, Colorado – one of my favorite cities along my journey years ago. Since the pandemic, there has been an added dimension of rustic coziness, via the planters, and environmentally friendly receptacles for recycling downtown. Also, because restaurants have expanded their seating onto the sidewalks, and into the streets, somehow, every time I walk past Heritage Square, I am reminded of the small park in downtown Boulder, lined with shops. And, the retro-hippies, aka New Age spiritual folk, playing frisbee.
That same crowd can be found in the most popular local coffee shop, south of the tracks, right past the train station in Flagstaff. When I frequented the place more often, I would engage in conversation with those who embrace the All, I would try to find common ground for the sake of conversation, while remaining in my own integrity. Yet, even so, in reminiscence of my past engagement with new age spirituality, this can be dangerous, like treading water in a whirlpool, rapidly increasing in speed. I left that phenomenon behind me years ago, a smorgasbord of spiritual delicacies that only amounted to a collection of subjective experiences, one after the other, to entertain the soul. The last time I stopped by the coffeeshop the doors were closed. I waited in a long line at the takeout window for a cup of genmaicha tea.