Hudson Valley, NY

There is a change of trains at Crot'nawn'armin for passengers traveling to Pk'psy on Metro-North's Hudson Line from Grand Central Station. The change is daunting enough to encourage any able-bodied passenger to experiment with the alternatives: either going on Amtrak, that is to say, either

  1. Taking the Montrealer out from Grand Central at double the price;

  2. descending the train at Crot'nawn'ar'min and hitch-hiking the rest of the way;

  3. returning to New York City and forgetting about the damn trip altogether.

On rare occasions I've used Amtrak, though I derive no pleasure from financing acompany too closely associated in my mind with the notorious Robber Barons of the 19th century. When the prospect of changing trains is to forbidding to contemplate I prefer to hitch-hike to Dutchess County from there. Descending from the train takes one on the side of tracks away from the river. Crossing a parkin'glot one turns left, then walks up a steep hill until coming to the highway, Route 9. From there the road is straight north.

Over my two years of hitch-hiking from Crot'nawn'ar'min I'd been taken on board by Catholic priests, truck-drivers, roving handymen and salesmen. It is not a bad place to stick out one's thumb and begin the ascent along the East Bank of the Hudson.

Why is this change of vehicles so troublesome? Unlike the comfortable train that delivers one to Crot'n , the boxcar in which one must pass the remainder of the trip most closely resembles the steerage decks of the ships which, in the early part of the 20th century, brought immigrants to our shores. One invokes more insidious comparisons from recent memories of World War II - but let us avoid exaggeration: it is not HELL . However, on the crest of a heat wave in August, to sit for one hour in its broiling confines constitutes, at the least, a major health hazard.

The single long , unattached coach is primitive, hot, jolting and filthy. All of us learn about filth from the cradle, and that it comes in many, shapes, styles, shades, varieties, species, modes and categories. The sort of filth one finds on the Crot'nawn'ar'min - Pk'psy coach sticks to your clothes, seeps into your scalp, crawls up your back and into your backside, worms itself up through the soles of your shoes and between your toes, and never wears off in less than three days.

Of course the boxcar also smells bad, and is terribly over-crowded, yet these are not the worst parts of the ordeal. The one indelible impression remains the stifling heat, licking one's body like the tongue of a foul lust. Although there is a door at each end of the coach, both of which could probably be opened to generate a breeze, they are mysteriously closed and locked 10 minutes after the train jockeys onto its trajectory.

The trip probably takes only one hour, even less: it feels like much more. I am less qualified to speak of the reverse procedure, namely, hitch-hiking down from Pk'psy to Crot'n and catching the train to New York from there, because my usual procedure in hitch-hiking in that direction is to stay on the road all the way to the City. There are many drivers going that way.

However I've tried this alternative on a few occasions. Last winter I was picked up outside of Pk'psy by a homosexual elementary school art teacher headed to the Big Apple for some kind of wild weekend with friends and lovers. He himself was taking the train and, as it was already 5 o'clock by the time we reached Crot'n and getting dark, I asked him to lend me 5 dollars for the train .

For the benefit of readers who don't know me, I should explain that I both look more respectable than I am, and am a bit more respectable than I seem , so he didn't know what to make of me. However he did lend me the 5 dollars. Once we were seated in the train I gave him a copy of New Universe Weekly,my newsletter at the time, and he gave me an issue of a publication promoting gay rights.

After I'd gained his confidence to some extent he began outlining a project that he and some of his friends were working on. They were planning to set up a commune for homosexuals. They needed backers and a plot of land, and he wondered if I could recommend a magazine in which they could advertise. Apart from the Village Voice, in which they'd already placed ads, I didn't know of any others to recommend to him.

As we spoke sparks and smoke began pouring out of the left side of the coach. This in combination with the bone-slicing sounds of metal grinding on metal threw the occupants into a panic. The train didn't stop right away, but as these unsettling symptoms persisted, it finally came to a halt. A few minutes later I stood up and looked out of a window to see what was going on. Three conductors were down on their knees on the gravel bed, trying to pry something out from between the wheels with a crowbar. It looked for awhile as if we would have to change trains, which meant waiting for a long time until our replacement arrived.

However the problem was fixed in 15 minutes and the train started up. a We arrived safely in Grand Central Station only half an hour late. Everyone who travels this line knows that the trains are falling apart, and the incident produced the usual commentary from the passengers around the coach. My trusting driver got his $5 back a week later.

There's not much more than I can say about the town of Crot'nawn'ar'min since I've never visited it. All that I know of it is the train station, the parkin' glot, and Route 9. By the conventions of modern literature,( notably the Nouveau Roman ), this material suffices to write a complete novel about the town. It is my intention to do this: the novel takes up about half a page, and is entitled:

The Monocle

A woman with straw-blond hair descends the train station platform to the parkin'glot. As she walks she adjusts her monocle. The monocle is too large for her eye socket. It falls to the asphalt and splits into 5 pieces.

Each piece reflects a separate entelechy. The first piece reflects the train station. The second piece reflects the first piece reflecting the train station. The third piece reflects the body of a green Volkswagen van on Route 9, driven by a Catholic priest. The fourth piece reflects

  1. The third piece

  2. A blade of grass smeared onto the bumper sticker of the car , on which the words "The Monocle" are printed

  3. Part of the first piece reflecting part of the train station, that part in fact which was built 10 years before the battle of Reichenfels and is no longer there.

The fifth, and most important piece reflects nothing at all. The green Volkswagen van has come off of Route 9 and entered the parkin'glot. On the dashboard of the car stands a photograph of a straw-blond woman with a monocle , being run over by a green Volkswagen van. The monocle drops on the ground and breaks into 5 pieces which reflect, etc...

The image in the photograph of a man driving a van ( the one in this photograph ) is not that of a Catholic priest. The man in the photograph, that is to say, inside the green Volkswagen van in the photograph, is a homosexual elementary school art teacher.

On the dashboard of the van, ( that is to say the van in the photograph), stands yet another photograph. This one shows a woman sporting a monocle who is sitting inside a car being driven over the body of a Catholic priest. This car is not a green Volkswagen van; it is an old Lincoln-Continental. In the lens of her monocle sits the reflection of the train station, where one can see that the passengers just arrived from New York City are all being transferred to the boxcar that will take them further north, perhaps as far as Pk'psy.

On Route 9 two cars are colliding. One of them is a green Volkswagen van being driven by a man reading a book. The contents of the book describe certain aspects of Crot'nawn'ar'min: the train station; the parkin'glot; a piece section of Route 9 passing by the town. It also mentions such things as a straw-blonde woman sporting a monocle and stretched out on the asphalt, and a baby carriage that carries its crying cargo down from the steps of the railway platform into the river.

The other car is an old Lincoln-Continental. Its interior is filthy, and unbearably hot. The 10 passengers inside are inmates from a local home for the retarded, all gasping for breath, their hands and arms stretched forth through the open windows in gestures of supplication and extreme unction.

The sun sinks into the bowels of the Hudson. The mountains are moulting. Passengers bound for New York wave to passengers bound for Pk'psy .

A woman descends the train station platform to the parkin'glot, adjusting her monocle.

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