Ties that bind.

I should not be allowed out of the house without adult supervision. And perhaps a leash.

Two words about my trip:



See how those two words are not quite the same? Two whole different letters and also TWO WHOLE DIFFERENT STATES.

And yet -- when spoken by an Amtrak NE Corridor conductor over the loudspeaker, they sound very much the same. Especially since some jackass decided that Penn Station is pretty much the greatest train station name in the history of train stations, so...yeah.

I was listening to my iPod and wondering how much whiskey I would have to drink to sound like Amy Winehouse when I heard the conductor over the loudspeaker. I yanked my headphones off and heard something like: Newyweark Penn Station.

Hooray! Am in New York! And look! We're about 10 minutes early. I can meet Isabel early and get started on that whiskey plan.

So I grabbed all my stuff from my cushy delicious business-class seat (snob! snobby snob!) and hopped off the train. I stood on the platform and yanked on my thin little jacket (please note that I was dressed for DC weather, including short sleeves and bare legs and open-toed wobbly heels, and my only source of actual warmth was a scarf my mother had forcefully knotted around my neck that morning in PA, while wondering how she managed to raise a daughter who consistently forgets that weather is not the same across the entire East Coast and also showed up with a coatless, sockless toddler).

And this point I actually looked at my surroundings and...hmm. This doesn't look right. I've been to Penn Station a million times and this...hmm.

Oh look! A sign! Newark Penn Station.

Newark. New Jersey.

Oh. Fuck.

I spun around right as the doors shut and then stood there while my train and my delicious cushy seat pull away from the station.

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckity FUCK.

First I kind of panicked. Then I kind of laughed at THE IRONY, THE BURNING IRONY.

My mom had tried to convince me to take NJ Transit (a super-cheap and sort-of grody light-rail line, for you non-locals) because she hates driving to the Amtrak station in Trenton. And I sniffed and snobbed that I don't like NJ Transit -- there are no bathrooms or assigned seating on the train and it takes 30 minutes longer to get to NY and the people on it are always smelly and one time we saw a fight break out and did I mention how many times I've sat next to smelly people?

So there I was, stranded in fucking Newark, silently praising the baby Jesus for NJ Transit as I dashed upstairs to fork over an entire $3.75 for a ticket to the Other Penn Station.

I missed the first train to New York by literal SECONDS (there's a symbolic lesson for my elitist ass in there, with all the doors that slammed in my face, and also something about why the sneakers-while-commuting look is actually pretty smart), and then had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I had goosebumps all over and my feet were getting swollen and angry in my leopard-print open-toed shoes. I kept checking my watch in terror since I had no idea how long it would take to get to NY. (I could have just asked someone, but was scared to, lest the answer was "an hour" or "three days, by boat, beware! Ye skurvy dogs!")

The train came, I got on and sat next to a lovely young woman. I heard Amy Winehouse emanating from her iPod headphones. I continued to check my watch and grit my teeth over HOW SLOW the train was going -- look! that guy on a bike! can we at least go that fast? -- and was ready to claw my eyeballs out when we stopped at Seacaucus. I sent Isabel a number of increasingly-enraged and profanity-laden text messages. She didn't respond so I stopped, lest she was re-thinking her decision to employ such a freaking dumbass.

I called her when I got to the Other Penn Station, only to realize I had the wrong number. BECAUSE OF COURSE I HAD THE WRONG NUMBER. MOTHER OF GOD.

Dear Random Person Out There: I really hope you don't get charged for those text messages, and I'm so sorry about all the bad words.

Can you believe I was still the first person to arrive at lunch? My nervous-traveler-tic had prompted me to buy a train ticket with an arrival time of over an hour-and-a-half BEFORE the meeting, and thus saved my ass from my should-not-be-allowed-out-unsupervised tic.

Laura arrived next, looking SO FREAKING LOVELY (and warm! in her winter coat! I wanted to steal it! so I could use it for kindling to start a fire because I was SO DAMN COLD). I jumped up and said hi and shook her hand and immediately started yammering away about this and that and Laura smiled politely for awhile and then finally asked me who exactly the hell I was because I'd never actually told her my name.

(Oh! And how about later when she caught me intently checking out her dress and asked me if her boobs were leaking. Yes. I am a master at this social interaction stuff.)

Anyway, Laura Bennett from Project Runway (I say that only because up until yesterday morning Jason thought I was going to meet with a contestant from America's Next Top Model and was really getting disturbed by all the "she's such a ROLE MODEL! she's my IDOL!" stuff I was saying) is one of the nicest, funniest and most-down-to-earth people you will ever meet. You will want to be her best friend and throw dinner parties in her honor. The PR gossip she dished just about made my head explode and we ate fondue and drank wine and I kept interrupting everyone with my stupid jokes and also kept thinking about what outfit I should have worn instead.

Then we all piled into Laura's minivan (!!) and went to pick up a couple of her boys from school. Then she dropped me off at my sister's apartment so I could visit my little nephew and go with him to...where else? Gymboree.

Isabel took all the photos for the day and I will have those soon, although judging from what I saw on her camera I believe Twiggy's verdict would be that while the camera absolutely loves Laura, it absolutely dispises Amy and her giant shiny head.

The only picture I took was this one, last night, at the Other Penn Station:


I hope I don't need to tell you which train was mine, and whether all those other lovely ON TIME trains were Amtrak or NJ Transit.



I'm dying to know the context of your meeting with Laura.


Well.. it could have been worse... Like... New Jersey... Oh. Wait.

kate b

Look! I'm first!!!

At least you were traveling alone and did not have to haul a toddler around with you, eh?


At least you planned ahead and had yourself getting there an hour and a half early. I had friends who were going to San Fran from Baltimore and were planning on getting there a day early for a concert they were going to, and still almost missed the concert. because the trains are always running late.

kate b

Shit. I thought I was first.


Kari -- I christened Laura the Patron Saint of the Advice Smackdown over at, so Isabel (the CEO) met her and arranged the meeting to see what we could all do for each other (promoting her business, getting her advice to other moms, etc.).

But mostly we just gossiped. Heh.


Sounds a lot like San Diego public transportation. There are no less than 3 separate #15 buses and you meet the most interesting people on the bus.


OMG, OMG, OMG! Yay Laura Bennet!!!! What's the PR gossip, do share please please please. I have nervous delurking tic right now, but can't help it, and am super excited about your meeting with Laura. LOVE Project Runway, and LOVE your site. Sooo PR and Amalah wittiness together at last! Please share more, (please please please?). !!!


OMG OMG how jealous I feel! Yay Amalah for navigating public transit AND meeting a celebrity all in one day! How exciting and jet-setting the east coast lifestyle seems - popping around from PA to NY to NJ to MD in less time than it takes this West Coast Canadian to get to just one "city" which is nowhere near as exciting as New York! And even Newark!

Vaguely Urban

I'm so glad you pulled off Plan B in heels. My image of you would be ruined forever if you'd commuted in clunky sneakers.

heather b

Hee! i've done that. Septa to 30th st, to go to work, i fell asleep and thought I was AT 30th.

it was north philadelphia.

I got halfway down a flight of steps before I realized "the hell? this is not my station!" and ran back up, and then had to call my boss and tell her just why i was going to be late, on a platform with other people on it, who all turned to laugh.

Y from the Internet

You make it so easy to love you.


You're a rock star!!

Can't wait to see the pics.

Maxine Dangerous

Oh my god. Your adventures kill me. :)


I'm impressed you left so much time in the schedule.

I could so easily also get off a station or ten early, but would NOT have built in that extra time. That was brilliant!


*lol* I have to agree with Y...your misadventures are very endearing.

And I bet Laura was thinking, "Why is this pink haired freak talking to me?" until you introduced yourself. *lol*

Pink Herring

I did the exact same thing, except on the dirty, grimy, disgusting Greyhound bus. And except I was trying to go to Newark, and ended up in NYC instead. Oh, and this was before the Everyone Has A Cell Phone era, and I was a freshman in college. My overly nervous mother was waiting outside Newark Penn Station to pick me up, while I was zipping by on the Turpike toward NYC with no way to notify her.

Worst. Trip. Home. Ever. Damn the person who named Newark so close to New York.


I just need a nap after reading that post...Exhausting. Especially envious over here since I seem to never leave my house for more than a few minutes at a time unless I'm grocery shopping. Penn Station, either Newark or New York, sounds like a dream!


Amtrak sucks, that's all there is to it. I periodically take it when I'm coming home from visiting the boyfriend in Martinsburg, WV, and in one and a half years, it's probably been on time twice. Once, it was six and a half hours late. Anytime there's a non-Amtrak option, take it!

Glad you made it to lunch on time, though.

Daily Tragedies

Wow! Sounds just like my day yesterday, only substitute getting locked out of my office for TWO AND A HALF FUCKING HOURS for your train mishap. And, um, minus the lunch with Laura Bennett. But yes, there was wine at my lunch, too.


I have no idea how much whiskey it would take but after the better part of a bottle of rum I was quite convinced she and I were seperated at birth.

I was also quite convinced that betting my just as drunk husband a dollar he couldn't jump over a bonfire was a good know... take it with a grain of salt.


This is all very entertaining but WHERE IS THE PROJECT RUNWAY GOSSIP? Huh?

Also, she drives a minivan? Hee!


Bwahahahahaha! I swear I am laughing *with* you, Amy, not at you, because I am capable of the exact same kind of "duh" moments. Glad you made it though!


Beings I am from South Jersey, Newark would totally scare the s@#$ out of me. Plus I just don't like North Jersey. Except that it takes you to NY so it is necessary.

Now I live in a Seattle suburb and by suburb I mean 80 miles away, on the other side of the Cascades, but still a suburb because Seattle is getting so freaking big it's taking over the whole state and please just make it go away.

Wait? What? Oh, sorry. I'm glad you had such an awesome day and can't wait for pictures.

Great story, too.

Lisa Ann

Just be thankful your detour through Newark was during the day. That train station can be a very scary scary place late at night.


It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who does not understand what y'all on the right coast are saying.


Wow. Sounds like you had quite the adventure. Don't feel too bad, though. I bet I would have done the exact same thing.


well, first rock. period.

second....laura bennett? i might have to forget how much you rock since my jealousy is threatening to take over and have me kill you. must be special, b/c for the first time EVER i purchased sephora shit online yesterday for my daughter and i based SOLELY on your recommendations. and everyone that knows me knows i am not a girly-girl, but i just moved to seattle and i don't know whatthefuckitis...but something here has our skin all messed up.

and that's it. well actually, gotta give zoot a shout-out here, too. she's my bff, and i thought i already knew why...turns out another plus? is her turning me on to you and your blog so long ago.

ok, that's really it.


I love NJ Transit. Unlike every form of public transportation in the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas, NJ Transit has never once let me down. And dude, I totally rode one that had a bathroom on it once. Newark is scary. And so is Trenton. Glad you're home safe.


I wish you had gotten a picture with the two of you! I am relishing my 2 degrees of separation. I met someone who met Larua Bennett!

I am 13 weeks into my second pregnancy, and damn if she didn't make it look easy and GLAMOROUS to be pregnant. I LOVE HER! LOVE HER!!!


That last picture! The Dover train! That was MY train! I once rode it when I was commuting in the middle of a blizzard and it was so crowded that I spent the entire hour BETWEEN CARS. Which was OUTSIDE. Where there was SNOW. On ME. I may have clung to complete strangers for fear of falling out of said train that night. Goooooood times. But well done in averting disaster and catching the Newark transfer - that is not a place for the faint of heart. And in HEELS? Laura would have been proud, Amalalalalah.


I was just there last week! I agree, they need to better enunciate the difference btw NEWARK and NEW YORK, and I think this would best be accomplished by the addendum of, "Newark, Armpit of the Continental United States".


Of all the places I've been to where public transportation is the norm, the NY area is the most confusing. Last year we tried to get from downtown to Central Park and ended up in Queens. Yeah...

Wacky Mommy

It is always an adventure, riding along with you. Have a fun trip...


Laura was one of my favorites, mostly because you have to admire a woman who is perfectly turned out at all times but will not hesitate to tell someone they are full of shit.

I'm still just pissed off that Jeffrey won.

GOD, I can't wait for the new season. I miss Tim Gunn.

(I chose to concentrate on the PR aspect of the trip rather than the train aspect because I have never been on a train (except while in utero while my mother rode The City Of New Orleans))


Well, I guess I'm in the minority here, but I actually prefer taking Amtrak from DC to New York much better than flying. I've gotten screwed too many times on the shuttle flights to New York. One time I was flying up to make a Big Important Filing and one airline canceled their shuttle flight, so my boss is all, "RUN! RUN! to the other airline!" with only half an hour before the flight and no plane ticket purchased. Yea, um, screw that. Give me Amtrak any day. (And Amalah's right, the business class seats are definitely the way to go and really not that much more expensive. Way less than upgrading to first class on an airplane).


I just wish I could've seen the face of the person who received all those texts... I sat here and belly-laughed over the mental images this produced.
Gawdamighty, you crack me up.


At least that is better than the time we were sitting on a train in Germany, heard them announce something - I understood about every other word - and then watched the front half to the train detach and chug away from us. We waited nearly 4 hours in the middle of BFE Deutschland for the next one. ;)


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I just found you - AWESOME. I took my daughter to NYC this past weekend for her 13th birthday. Guess where she had to go...Parsons School of Design and Mode Fabric. I can't believe you know Laura...who so should have one. Anyone with six kids or was it five and one on the way should have won. We froze too, but never missed a subway stop.

I write too, today it felt more like an attempt. I'm peddling a book, have an agent and lots of edits. You can see what I'm up to at
Love your stuff. Kathy

Lisa M

That is hysterical! Thanks for not being to proud to share. I got mixed up on public transportation in Seoul, South Korea, where everyone thought they could speak English, but I couldn't understand a word they said. I finally found an American Soldier who helped me out. After that, I never left my apartment without my address (in Korean) written on a card and taped to my jacket. I am not kidding!!

Raynok Eggman

I grew up in central NJ all my life and moved from NYC to Scottsdale last October. I have done that NJ/NYC commute more times than I care to remember, and I too have been perplexed by the decision to have two distinct train stations on the same route that are called New York Penn Station and Newark Penn Station. Why? WHY would they do this? After much soul-searching I have decided that the only reasonable explanation is that NJ Transit wants to confuse tourists.


Wow, you are kind of dumb and snobby.


I'm cold just reading this story. I can't stand being cold like that.

I heart Laura Bennet. You know all the fabulous people. I guess that just exemplifies your fabulousness.


I am SOOOO jealous that you got to meet Laura Bennett! OF course if I do the whole 6 degrees of separation thing I technically now know Laura since I "know" you in a roundabout way... I am such a bigger dork than you ever could be!


I have never thought of NJ Transit as a light rail, I thought the Path or the, you know, Light Rail, was more of a light rail. It can be very confusing, the Newark/NY Penn Station. But I think the Newark one was there first maybe? Anyway, it's very hard to understand, but now you'll know.

Also, I too have used the bathroom on the NJ Transit train. How strange, I thought they were on all of them!


i forgot to warn you. it's a common error!

i blame myself.

usually the GOOD conductors are clear to say, "Newark Penn Station, Newark New Jersey" a few times to set the record straight. your conductor sucked.

Katie Kat

Oh Amy... I do SO love you! I want to be your best friend and throw dinner parties in your honor. Seriously.

But, I digress from the stalkerific talk to say "DUDE! You are so much like me." I love your neuroses because I feel so much better about myself knowing I am not alone out there. We were just out with friends last nite (okay, it's my gynecologist/ obstetrician that I somehow enticed to want to get to know me through, what... my witty repartee on the examining table?), and after we got home I spent an hour lamenting to my husband that I had probably been TOO loud, and TOO overbearing (we were watching basketball at a sports bar and I was standing up, screaming, and yelling to people to "get their hands UP" during free throws), and that maybe I was just too chatty all the time, what with me always being the dominant voice, and sounding so DESPERATE (like "I never get out, and I never have adult conversations, so I have to cram everything into this 2 hour slot and be sure I am witty, passionate, funny, attentive, supportive, knowledgeable AND look good doing it")... anyway... where was I? Oh yeah. I was talking about YOU, wasn't I? ("Enough about ME, let's talk about YOU... what do YOU think about ME?")

You ROCK and you make me laugh and wonder at the world, and you are brave and funny and a truly great presence. Thanks for sharing yourself with all of us!

Seriously... we'd be a DEADLY combo of friendship, unadulterated goofiness, and wacked out "DOH!" moments. Oh, and yes, I have parenthetical disease (like this) and capitalization-for-sake-of-effect disease, and also I USE! A! LOT! OF! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! And my daughter's b'day is October 3, 2005. She and Noah are SO meant for each other. :)


so what did you WEAR?

Occidental Girl

Oh, I hate thinking of what outfit I should've worn instead! I like to be right when it comes to clothes.

I think the conductors might have a little fun in screwing with people on trains, seeing how many they can get to jump up at the wrong stop by mumbling the names....


Wow. A more interesting array of comments than usual, I must say.


*waves to BaltimoreGal*

Three guesses what the Baltimore train station is named.


And that right there is why I make my boyfriend take the train to see me in CT and do the drive to NYC when it's my turn. Seriously - trains are scary!!!!! (maybe not the trains so much as keping track of all the schedules/stations)

Maxine Dangerous

I read part of Occidental Girl's comment as "I think the conductors might have a little fun screwing people on trains," which, needless to say, caused a bit of a double take. :)


Saw this and totally thought of you. Oh yes I did!

I may be late to the party, but I am never boring!

And you're welcome.


It's like a mirror into my own life. Well, except for the part about going to NYC and meeting one of my Gods. But the missing the stop part, yeah, that's totally me.

Can't wait for the pictures and the PR gossip.

Her Bad Mother

Um, your shoes sound REALLY COOL.


Missing stop due to headphones is better then missing stop due to falling asleep and having to rush off the bus to the great amusement of school children and then being late for work. Like me


Have you heard that Jane Magazine is now calling their advice section the Advice Smackdown?? Sounds like you might need to rumble!!


I remember once sleeping through my stop and having to get off at 125th street back in high school when that wasn't such a good place for a white girl to be. So I'd say all things being equal, Newark? Not so bad! Just so long as you didn't breathe in any of the air...

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