I get letters from readers every now and then, but this is the first one to cross the international date line:
Dear Steven Hart: January 20, 2012
I’ve had an on-and-off interest in public transport, and so occasionally seek books on the subject to read. Your book isn’t about public transport, but it is in the same section in the library. That’s how I came across it when I was seeking books on the former. Since the book was concise and seemed highly readable, I borrowed it.
Having grown up in New York after emigrating there from my native Hong Kong, I knew the book would bring back memories. The first time I recalled seeing the Pulaski Skyway was 30 years ago when I took the PATH train from Manhattan to Newark for the first time. After the train left Journal Square, it hit open country (or should I say the some of the grimier parts of Jersey). When the train crossed a river, I saw a long black bridge some distance away and thought, What an ugly bridge! I was looking at the Pulaski Skyway. I tried to find it on the PATH map that I picked up at the World Trade Center Station (the one that gives a 3D bird’s eye view of Lower Manhattan and vicinity. The skyway is shown, but (if I remember correctly) it didn’t look as ugly on the map.
Later, after I’d learned to drive, my father advised me that if I was heading south on the NJTP, I shouldn’t take the turnpike (Newark Bay) extension, or I-78, right after I exit the Holland Tunnel. Instead, I should take US1-9 South, which would put me on the skyway, and enter the NJTP at Exit 13A rather than Exit 14, saving a few cents.
Your description of Frank Hague (whom I’d never heard of before picking up your book) and his hardball brand of politics make much of today’s politics look tame. With union-busting Dems like Hague, who needs Republicans?
I’ve never really visited Jersey City, treating it as a transit point rather than a destination (similar to what you said about the entire state). But I’ve visited other parts of Jersey, like a family friend’s home in Nutley that my family used to visit every year. In fact, despite having seen the grimy areas of Jersey as I passed through them on the PATH train, I didn’t regard Jersey as a dump when I was younger. Instead, I regarded it (at least the parts I visited) as a safe haven away from New York, which I saw as a place to escape from rather than the unofficial capital of the world.
Well, I finally did escape New York, having returned to Hong Kong over ten years ago. But while you can take me out of America, you can’t take America out of me – at least not entirely. That’s why I try to keep up with news in New York as best as I can.
A few copies of your book sit on the shelves of Hong Kong’s various libraries. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first to borrow my copy. I don’t know when I’ll return to New York for a visit, but if I do, I may pencil down a trip to Jersey City on my itinerary. It’s only a train ride away. I’m sure it’s doable in a day.
I find it very cool to think that The Last Three Miles is available to read in Hong Kong libraries.