Obama Dissed the "New Rochelle Train" and Commuting Life
Barack Obama dissed the "New Rochelle train" and commuting to work.
David Mendell's Obama: From Promise to Power, p. 148-149:
"[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn't want to be on one of those trains every day," said Jerry Kellman, the community organizer who enticed Obama to Chicago from his Manhattan office job. "The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions... that was scary to him."
....There's nothing wrong with saying, "that life, taking the New Rochelle train, just isn't for me."
But there's a fine line between rejecting that life and looking down at that life. Because some people are just fine with jobs that require them to take the New Rochelle train. Some people actually prefer it to the stress, the risk, the time away from family, the constant demands from strangers. And the world needs these people - who get up every morning, go to work to do jobs with no glamor and little or no prestige, wages modest or worse, and whose names never appear in the newspaper. These folks receive a round of applause when they dance at their wedding, and at their retirement party, and that's about it. ...Never mind the small towners who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment." Obama didn't want to be a suburban commuter.
Ha. Of all the towns in America, he had to pick mine. I grew up in New Rochelle, NY. The train to Manhatten, 17 miles away, was a part of life. My father took it to work every day. When home for the summers during college, I took it to my various jobs every day. I can remember the first map my mother drew me when I was 11 and finally allowed to go into "the city" by myself: It had directions from Grand Central Station to Park, Madison, 5th and 6th, 7th and Broadway, and from 42nd St. up to 59th and down to 33rd.
During high school, a friend of mine and I took it every Saturday so I could get to acting school while she went to classes at the Art Student's League. My boyfriends from Manhattan took it to get to my house and I often took it when meeting them in the city for dates.
I knew every stop, from New Rochelle to Pelham and on down to Harlem (125th St) and finally to Grand Central.
It was easy, fast and a time to read the New York Times and collect my thoughts. Once outside on 42nd St., I picked up my coffee and blueberry muffin at a coffee shop and walked the remainder of the way to work.
You may remember the Dick Van Dyke show took place in New Rochelle. That was because Carl Reiner lived there at the time. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis lived in New Rochelle, not far from me. Dave Brubeck. And countless others who commuted to Manhattan every day because they preferred living in a house with land to a concrete and impersonal city when a short train ride would bring them back to the city for work or to experience the cultural and other events Manhattan had to offer. (Not to mention the average apartment in Manhattan had ridiculously small kitchens.)
It had beautiful foliage. The south end was on Long Island Sound, filled with marinas, boats and beach clubs (kind of like less expensive versions of country clubs with real beaches instead of golf.) My parents played tennis there every weeknight after work. I learned to swim there and to ride a bike and drive a car on its wide streets. It was racially, ethnically and economically diverse with a population of 100,000 back then -- in other words, not a small, myopic town. It had a college (Iona), great bars that didn't check highschoolers' ID's too closely (the drinking age was 18 back then and 16 and up was usually okay.) We even had organized crime.
My high school had 3,000 students with 1,000 in my graduating class. It wasn't wealthy like Scarsdale or a tiny village like Larchmont, but it was a fine place to grow up and raise a family.
I can't magine why Obama picked it to put down and I'm sorry he did.
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