You know that thing where a book or show or movie will speak to you so strongly that it takes on importance of monumental proportions deep in your soul? That’s what The Station Agent was like for me. I saw this phenomenal film when it came out in 2003. Not sure how that was 10 years ago. It seems like I was just lining up an hour early at the Angelika. Now here I am a decade later after watching The Station Agent a hundred times and obsessing over the town where it was filmed. That town is Newfoundland, New Jersey.
Regular readers of this blog know that I’m from Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey. I’m from the country. We’re talking rural, cows and dirt roads, woods for miles nowhere. So I immediately connected to the setting of The Station Agent. Newfoundland is a small town that’s remote in a very similar way to my hometown. Even the trees looked the same. Newfoundland was portrayed with such sweet nostalgia and old-school charm that I set Something Like Fate and part of All I Need there. Those of you who’ve read both books might have recognized the same setting…and even a few of the same characters.
But guess what? I’d never been to Newfoundland. Until one Saturday a few weekends ago when my BF/soul mate was like, “Want to go to Newfoundland?” And I was like, “When? Today?” And he said, “Yeah. It’s about forty-five minutes away,” all super casual like we were going on a Home Depot run. When in fact he was talking about visiting a place I had tried to get to for years. The train doesn’t stop in Newfoundland anymore. I don’t have a car. One thing about Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey and its surroundings is you need a car to get around. So after doing lots of research, I concluded that it just wasn’t my time to visit.
Until it was.
The Newfoundland train depot was at the top of my list. That’s where Peter Dinklage’s character, Finn, moves to after his only friend dies and he inherits the depot. Finn loves trains. He loves walking the right of way along the tracks. He loves the sound of a train in the distance. Like Finn, I’ve always been obsessed with train tracks. The train tracks in my hometown were a symbol of hope for me. They led to the better life I would be living one day. I would stand on the tracks when I was 13, 14, 15, visualizing the happy life I would have one day when the worst part of my life was over. The train theme was another reason The Station Agent spoke to me.
Here’s Finn and Bobby Cannavale’s character, Joe, chilling in front of the depot. Which I was determined to chill in front of myself. We didn’t know exactly where the depot was. But I knew we would find it serendipitously. And we did! Bigelow Road, baby!
I look calm in this photo, but trust me, I was freaking out. I was running all around like a spaz, pointing out where Joe’s food truck (Gorgeous Frank’s Hotdog Emporium) was and where Finn hung his mailbox and of course the train tracks. And yes, I totally walked the right of way on those same exact tracks.
Any film featuring Bobby Cannavale is a winner. You automatically know it will be indie gold. Same with Patricia Clarkson. Who doesn’t love her? Seeing them together in The Station Agent was a thing of beauty. There’s a scene where Patricia’s character, Olivia, climbs into a red train car by the depot. Finn has a meltdown in the same red train car later. How stoked was I to see that the red train car was still there?
Leaving the depot wasn’t easy. But we had other fun landmarks to check out from the movie like Olivia’s house and Green Pond Road and the Good to Go Deli (which we didn’t find). We also visited Echo Lake and Green Pond since they were featured in Something Like Fate. The area is just as beautiful as I pictured it while I was writing the book. There was even a house on Old Lake End Road that looked exactly the way I was picturing Lani’s house. It was as if I could see the house in my mind even though I’d never been there in person. We snuck a sand sample from Green Pond for my sand collection. The whole trip was awesome. And it was all possible because my BF/soul mate knows me so well.
Train tracks will always symbolize hope and endless possibility to me. Whatever symbol you carry in your heart, may it help you stay strong and always dream big.