Day 1245 – Back in The Bronx
The reason for this most recent trip has come and gone. I managed to make it to Ithaca for my interview at Cornell with time to spare. Too much time to spare, i should have slept another hour at least. Yes, i faded during the interview. I was not on my game. I was unimpressive. I want to believe I scored well on the visual portion. No, that’s incorrect; I was 100% honest during that portion of the “test” so if i didn’t earn points i shouldn’t be working there.
Aside from sleepwalking through the last 1/3rd of the interview it was a good experience. Perhaps most importantly i learned that Cornell’s public facing website is not a chrome-steel mechanism with jewel escarpment. They, like BSU, are wrestling with the same questions and issues. But the kicker is they have about a five year head-start and they have far, far more resources to devote. So now i wait to hear what the decision is. I’m either out of the running entirely or i’m low on the short list. I wouldn’t rank me number one given my performance and i can only assume the other candidates had a full night’s sleep before showing up. But, as runners have told me, sometimes it depends who else shows up for the race.
But enough about that part of the trip. Let’s focus now on some of the sights along the way. First, for anybody who has lived in Boise their whole life i don’t think it would be possible for me to fully describe the experience of driving a portion of the Cross Bronx Expressway and onto the George Washington Bridge and then on to route 80 at 5 in the morning. The Cross Bronx is a primary artery for trucks moving goods between Long Island and the rest of the world… and in the early morning it is bumper to bumper with semi’s and hi-cubes of all description desperately trying to escape the city before the unavoidable jam-up begins. For those familiar with logging trucks (both laden and empty) imagine 200 of them all jockeying for position simultaneously while traversing a four-lane highway that runs in a trench with no shoulder on the left side. It is something that must be experienced. God help you if you blow a tire on the unbelievably bad road surface. It is the worst part of any trip.
But i survived and managed to find my way to the countryside of New Jersey and the Delaware Water Gap. I regret not stopping at the first scenic pull-off since the rising sun was lighting the massive table of rock with a spectacular orange glow. I won’t go into a whole discussion of the landscape of New Jersey/Pennsylvania (John McPhee did it better than i could in “In Suspect Terrain“) but suffice to say that for the majority of New Yorkers the “Del Water Gap” is just a point on the road signs of Interstate 80 West. But it’s so much more than that. It is a unique geological formation for the east and when seen at a distance has the same impact as any of the west’s claims to fame.
Ithaca is Ithaca. I’d not been there in years yet i still knew my way around. It’s sort of like a smaller, slightly grubby-around-the-edges version of Eugene, Ore. The campus of Cornell University is nearly as large as the city limits of Ithaca. Ithaca is the quintessential university town. I was there on business. I tried to keep my focus.
My route from Ithaca for Roxbury covered some remarkable country. New York is a huge state and is a good example of my idea to re-draw the states with more attention to ecosystems and physical boundaries. New York tries to differentiate regions with non-official names: the southern tier, the northern tier, the high peaks (adirondacks), the roman valley, the catskills, the hudson corridor, etc. There are many names i don’t know. My favorite name is the “central leatherstocking region.” Not entirely sure where that is or how it originated. But one thing for sure about my route was i saw simply desperate poverty. Towns hanging on by their fingertips, elegant red brick schools closed and abandoned, small farms with falling down barns, but cows out on the sloped fields.
But i’m going to jump to one of my very favorite subjects: the NYC Catskill Water Supply. On my way down from Roxbury i had to stop at the Ashokan Reservoir. I’d not seen it in years. Actually, that’s not true, i’d seen it several times from about 21,000 feet flying in to LaGuardia airport. But this was the first chance i’d had in years to actually stand on a portion of the dam and marvel that this giant swimming pool actually exists. Finished around 1915 the reservoir is “tiled” with New York bluestone slabs, carried and fit by hand, around nearly its entire perimeter. Anybody who questions the efficacy of immigrant labor needs to visit New York and just look around.