Gia and I are headed to Islip for the wedding of Jeremy and Ellie. We’re going together, but I’m boarding the train at Penn Station and she’s boarding it at Atlantic Avenue. It is our plan to meet when the train hits Atlantic Avenue, which we figure will be the first stop after Penn Station. Somehow, last night on the phone at 1 am, this seemed like it would work. But then my train doesn’t stop at Atlantic Avenue; heads on toward Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.
She texts me: Where are you?
I text her: I think we’re on different trains. Mine goes straight to Babylon.
She texts: Mine goes to Jamaica. I have to transfer to the one to Babylon. Will we meet at Babylon?
I text: Yes.
She texts: Okay.
L: I am hungry. I am wearing a black and white dress.
G: Me, too!
I look out the window, at the strip malls and trees. It will be at least another hour before we hit Babylon. I’m bored. I’m hungry. The train leaves Rockville Center. Next stop: Baldwin. I pick up my phone again. I text Gia.
Now it’s not often I do American travel writing, so pay attention.
Hey, Gia. They named the next stop after the Baldwin brothers when they became famous. It’s their hometown. It used to be called Cutlerville.
Gia: Really? That’s awesome.
Next stop: Freeport
They named the next town “Freeport” because it has the largest population of Bahamanians outside of the Bahamas. Rihanna has a home here.
Gia: How do you know this stuff?
Next stop: Merrick
They named the next town after John Merrick – the rapist, not the Elephant Man.
Next stop: Bellmore
They named the next town “Bellmore” because this was the last town in the U.S. to adopt phone service. Which is ironic considering that Alexander Graham Bell grew up in nearby Cutlerville.
Next stop: Wantaugh
Did you know that “Wantaugh” means “Land of the Best Wontons” in Mohawk?
Next stop: Seaford
Not many people know this, but Seaford holds an annual jamboree to create weird dog hybrids.
Next stop: Massapequa
I went to Massapequa once. It was a secret visit. Black ops. I rode shotgun in a big jeep and kept my head down like a good gun moll. The city is famous for birds.
Next stop: Massapequa Park
Oops. I was wrong before. I was on a black ops mission in Massapequa Park. But Massapequa is still famous for birds. Massapequa Park, not so much.
Next stop: Babylon
Home to one of the oldest racetracks in the world.
The train slows to a stop, and I push my way out onto the platform, looking for someone in a black-and-white dress. Our eyes lock through the crowd, and we board the 11:28 to Islip.
“I’m not trusting you for the rest of the day,” she says.