Going to Hofstra University, I can say that there are a lot of perks when it comes to our location, such as being a short drive from Jones Beach and a quick walk from Nassau Coliseum. Though, neither of these can even compare to the fact that we are only a short train ride away from the city that never sleeps, New York City. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Hofstra student who has never gone to the city on a weekend or day off to see some sights, walk through Central Park, or take in a show. You see… aw, fuck it! Hofstra students mainly go to the city for one reason and one reason only: to drink.
It’s your birthday? You’re looking to have a night hanging out with your fraternity brothers? Looking to “get it in”? The city is usually the next response. Endless bars, slutty girls, and Italians. It’s like a stereotypical frat boy’s wet dream. The formula seems so simple too: take train from Mineola to Penn Station, go buckwild and crazy, take the train back. However, there is something dark and twisted in the Big Apple that most people never talk about. That is the two faces of Penn Station.
Let’s say you get to Penn Station around 4 or 5 pm. Everything looks perfect. Businessmen are bustling from work while “Nuts 4 Nuts” vendors are selling their delicious roasted peanuts. You may even see a flute band or ex-music-major-turned-starving-artist playing “Wonderwall” on his guitar. (It’s ALWAYS “Wonderwall”) Everyone is, for the most part, happy and friendly. It looks a lot like the opening scene from Beauty and the Beast, people hustling with glee on their ways. You walk with the busy, yet organized, crowd as they head from the train to the main strip of pizza places and KFC’s which line the exit. Walking out of the station and hitting Madison Square Garden, you remember that picture of happy-go-lucky New York and expect to come back to it when you’re done raving and macking on girls.
But you won’t.
Hours and hours have gone by. You and your drunken friends are stumbling over each other to get back to the station, cursing the girls who rejected you and calling them lesbians. You guys hope to God that you can catch a train before you get stuck in one of those weird gaps (between 1:37am to 3:07am or 3:15am to 4:54am) where the trains decide to stop taking drunken Hofstra students home. You descend into Penn Station and see it’s not how you left it. Not at all.
Something dark and twisted has happened to Penn Station while you were gone. The giant mass of New Yorkers is now replaced with blacked out college students and schizophrenic homeless. The guitar guy and flute bands are gone and a fat, old hobo who’s walking around and cursing George Washington for stealing his welfare checks. In the corner, a sorority slut is crying and no one knows why. You’re afraid to sit against a support beam because it looks like there’s pee there. You can’t go in any of the restaurants because you see a possible drug deal going on. Past you walks a fat and monstrous man drinking straight vodka, paying no attention to you as he bumps into you and curses. You and your friends huddle up close for protection. You’re pretty sure that one of those thugs against the opposite wall wants to stab you in the face and you’re not sure why. This vibrant New York train station has been replaced with a dark and gloomy cavern of despair that looks like you just fell ass backwards into a Tim Burton wet dream.
You look up and pray to God that the next train will arrive soon so you get grab a seat and be safe. As you and a hundred other drunken students look up at the big board, a fight between some guidos is going on and you’re trying hard to watch but not be seen. You smell a weird smell that can only be described as a bunch of dead cats that haven’t taken a bath in over a month. The name of your train shows up on the board! Of course, it says that your train leaves in 2 minutes. The second you realize this, a monstrous wave of drunk/terrified college students bolt for the track. You try to keep up but lose your friends in the hustle. It’s just like that scene from The Lion King where (spoiler alert!) Mufasa gets killed by the stampede. After walking a mile down the train and finally finding empty seats, you sit down and swear that you will never again catch a train from Penn Station after dark.
Of course, you know that’s bullshit.