Chill out. Instead of lamenting the summer from hell, embrace it by finding meaningful activities for your “elongated” commute. Read. Listen to music, or a book, or a podcast. Meditate. Summer always goes so fast; the Explore LI staff offers some ideas to make the most of this one.
Here are three albums that might help you keep calm.
- Adele, "21" (XL/Columbia): You can't have road rage if you're tearing up listening to "Someone Like You." A recent neuroscientific study found the ballad to be one of the most calming current songs.
- The Beatles, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Apple): Who wouldn't want to trade the "Summer of Hell" for the "Summer of Love"?
- Sade, "Diamond Life" (Epic): The British Medical Journal published a recent study showing that "Smooth Operator" helped soothe patients undergoing elective surgery better than anesthesia.
Or go to iTunes for free podcasts: Movie buffs can check out Mad About Movies or The/Filmcast where current films are reviewed and movie news gets discussed. Get some Long Island flavor as Massapequa native Alec Baldwin does in-depth interviews on "Here's the Thing" or laugh with comedian/"Kevin Can Wait" writer Pete Correale, who grew up in Oakdale, on "The Pete & Sebastian Show" or comedian Jim Breuer, originally from Valley Stream, on "Jim Breuer's The Metal in Me."
Francis Spufford's novel "Golden Hill" (Scribner, $26) is set in 1746 - when a trip to Manhattan most likely involved a sailing ship or a horse-drawn carriage. This charming historical novel, full of colorful period detail, follows the fortunes of a mysterious stranger who has arrived in the colonial city - a delightful romp to help modern-day commuters pass the time.
If you're driving and need a few good laughs, the audio edition of Mindy Kaling's "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" ($15 on Audible) is full of silly stories, lists and shtick, read by the creator and star of TV's "The Mindy Project."
Drivers with Sirius XM (or mobile users who've downloaded the SiriusXM app) can tune in to two channels that can serve as chill pills. Spa (Ch. 68) programs commercial-free New Age music guaranteed to bring serenity now. Let the soothing sounds of Soulfood's "Endless World" and Magical Strings' "Lullaby" wash over you and you'll think you're in a massage studio, or by a peaceful lake. For something a tad more upbeat, check out Escape (Ch. 69), which SiriusXM promotes as your "recipe for relaxation." Here you'll find non-stop easy-listening music (or less charitably, elevator or dentist's office music), ethereal, instrumental versions of pop songs like The Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy ( He's My Brother)" and Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Making Love."
With a decent signal and air conditioning, you could almost pretend you're at the multiplex. Kick back with these comedies with a transportation theme.
- "Silver Streak," with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Jill Clayburgh, is a delightful time-capsule from 1976 set almost entirely on a Los-Angeles-to-Chicago passenger train.
- So close and yet so far -- if you know the feeling, you'll empathize with Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), the hero of Martin Scorsese's 1985 "After Hours." He's an office drone who can't even make it from SoHo to uptown Manhattan without being attacked, seduced, kidnapped and otherwise delayed.
- And of course, we have to mention "Trains, Planes and Automobiles," John Hughes' 1987 comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy as reluctant buddies who undertake the mother of all commutes.
Behind on your TV binging? Skip anything with a rich mythology or complicating factors and go for something with no backstory.
- "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBOgo) is one of the funniest series in TV history, and there's not a bad episode in the bunch.
- "Black Mirror," (Netflix), a cautionary series about the negative impact of technology on our lives, seems appropriate for a broken-down train.
- And the two seasons of Ira Glass' Showtime adaptation of "This American Life" (Showtimeanytime), his long-running radio series, offers many oddities, all easily consumed.
Now's the time to try a short guided meditation. Download a mobile app like Headspace (free) or Simply Being ($1.99) and you'll get quick, basic session that will divert your attention to relaxation mode via deep breathing and focused thoughts.
Don't leave the house in the morning without a bottle of water and a banana or a bag of nuts or pretzels or some other shelf-stable snack. Carry an insulated bag with a few freezer packs in it so your beverage will always be cold, and you have more options on the snacks--in the event of an unanticipated sojourn in an un-air-conditioned train, your Snickers bar won't melt. Once you have your own cooling capabilities, the snack sky's the limit: Pack a Camembert (with a baguette), a tub of guacamole (with chips), a tub of hummus (with pita).
Use the time to educate yourself. Download free audio lessons for up to 48 languages from Ancient Greek to Yiddish from OpenCulture.com. If podcasts are your thing, Language Pod 101 (languagepod101.com) offers free and easy lessons in 34 languages. For drivers, the "Behind the Wheel" audiobooks (audible.com) starting at $9.99 and the "Living Language" series (livinglanguage.com) starting at $22.99 offer lessons in French, Spanish, Italian, German and more.
For those moments when you will surely fantasize about what an ideal LIRR commute might look like, download one of the many train simulator games to your phone, tablet or PC and be the conductor of the most efficient, clean and on-time train on the rails anywhere around the world (you decide where). You can even sound the horn. Woohoo! (Don't try this if you've decided to drive to work instead.)
That misery-loves-company adage is even truer in the digital age, thanks to social media. Get your nightmare commute trending on Twitter by jumping on any one of a number of hashtags, from #LongIslandFailRoad to #WeDeserveBetter, while tweeting out to accounts such as @lirr_grievances. Or just entertain yourself (and know you're not alone) by peeping at an Instagram account such as @mylirrnightmare.