Tag Archives: subway

If You See Something

Earlier this year, on one of the first nice weekends of the spring, me and my family decided to venture out of the house so we would hopefully no longer be tempted to murder one another. It was that kind of winter.

Unfortunately, everyone else in the city decided to do the same thing. So we waited forever for a bus to take us to Queensboro Plaza hoping to take the N/R into Manhattan, only to find the platform packed three deep with scrambling, antsy folks who’d clearly been waiting for quite some time. After a ridiculously long winter, the mild, almost-70-degree temperatures felt downright balmy. Everyone was a little sweaty and nervous and pushy. Especially me, as I tried to keep my daughter from running around the platform and zipping toward the third rail like a magnet.

And while I was trying to corral her, I noticed something odd: A large suitcase sitting on the edge of the subway platform, in the yellow space where you’re technically not supposed to stand. It was the wheeled kind, designed to be dragged behind you as you run through an airport or knock pedestrians over on a busy street while you talk on the phone. Its retractable handle was fully extended. The reason it stood out is because on this crowded platform, it was all by itself. No one was standing near it. The suitcase had either been accidentally abandoned or was left there on purpose.

Continue reading If You See Something

The Return of the Fashion Ninjas!

About a month ago, I wrote about seeing a young lady in the 14th Street subway tunnel between the L and the 1-2-3, who wore a t-shirt with a fashionistia/fascist slogan: THOSE WHO SACRIFICE BEAUTY FOR EFFICIENCY GET WHAT THEY DESERVE.. Her outfit and aggressive manner of zipping through the corridor made me think she was part of some secret, fabulous paramilitary organization.

However, I’d completely forgotten about her until this morning. I was in the same tunnel, beginning my walk from one train to the other, when I was passed on left by a girl much like the one I saw not too long ago: in workout clothes, on her way to or from the gym, hair done up in a neat, tight ponytail. Completely, disgustingly toned and tanned and young and extremely aware of this fact. I’m not sure it wasn’t the same girl. A millisecond later, I was passed on the right by a nearly identical girl, also in gym gear. They converged in front of me, linked arms, and forged ahead with speed and determination. Other pedestrians parted for them without even seeing them; others could just feel them approach from behind and gave way in fear.

I searched my memory to try and think if I’d ever seen something like this before. There are, of course, those infuriating times when you’re stuck behind a group of slow-walking people strolling in tandem. But I couldn’t recall ever seeing two people actually link up like this, and for the purposes of going faster.

I couldn’t think about this for more than a few seconds before I had the sensation of someone trying to pass me again. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another girl to my right. Down in the tunnel, people are always passing one another, trying to get out in front of the slow, the slightly slow, and the just not fast enough. It’s the law of the jungle down there–pass or be passed.

My first inclination was similar to that I get when driving and someone wants to pass me: I feel vaguely insulted and want to speed up. (The operative words being “want to”; my car’s ability to speed up is severely limited.) But before I could even think about doing so, the girl was past me. Once she was past me, I saw that she not only in gym clothes, but she too had linked arms with another girl.

The two sped up ferociously and caught up to the first pair, filing behind them, like ranks in a military parade. Together, they dashed through the tunnel with brutal efficiency. In no more than 10 seconds, they were completely out of sight.

I was totally joking before about there being a silent army of La Femme Nikitas. But guys? Now I’m a little scared.

Beauty Knows No Pain

Part of my morning commute usually involves trekking through the tunnel between the Sixth Avenue L train station and the 14th Street 1-2-3 station. It’s like a supercollider powered by anger, all the individual particles seeing just how fast they can zip around each other from urine-soaked end to another.

This morning, as I ascended the stairs from the L platform, I spotted a young lady whose outfit–particularly, a pair of tiny shorts–suggested she was on her way to or from the gym. If the clothing didn’t give this away, her bearing would have. Her hair was up in that kind of ponytail that only women at the gym have–short, severe, yet completely symmetrical and untouched. And she just carried herself in this very athletic “I’m in great shape” manner. I sensed a scooped-out bagel in her immediate future.

None of this is remarkable. The back of her shirt, however, was. She wore a bright red tee with white writing that read:

THOSE WHO SACRIFICE BEAUTY FOR EFFICIENCY
GET WHAT THEY DESERVE.

Holy crap! I haven’t heard a slogan that confrontational since “It’s Nerf or nothing.”

Words like this shouldn’t be on t-shirts. They should be hanging from the rafters during a fascist rally, in a country with a military junta led by Anna Wintour. Is there a paramilitary organization I don’t know about, filled with perfectly toned female assassins who can kill a man with their thighs and look wonderful while doing it?

In truth, this quasi-Ayn Rand-ian trope was followed by a URL for what appears to be an A/V systems integration firm in North Carolina. Nothing about their Web site suggests they are training an unholy army of the night to murder us all fabulously in our sleep. But then again, that’s what they’d like us to believe, isn’t it?

Two More Notes from the Delayed but Impending End of All Humanity

NOTE #1: When I stepped on the 1 train this morning, I soon discovered I was standing right next to a Jesus Guy. Like most subway panhandlers, this Jesus Guy was smart enough to start preaching only after the doors had closed and the train began moving. Although it’s not really accurate to call this guy a panhandler. He wanted no change, only a few moments of your time so you could be informed that you were going to hell, and why.

He was not a rant-y rave-y Jesus Guy. (Once a ubiquitous feature of the New York landscape, the Crazy Jesus Guy has all but disappeared from our midst.) He spoke in measured, mellifluous tones buoyed by a West Indian accent. I had headphones on, but I was listening to a podcast, so I was catching about every third word that came out of his mouth.

The train paid him little mind. Subway crowds seldom give Jesus Guys the time of day, but this one seemed to aggressively ignore him. This is not a good week to be a Jesus Guy, what with the postponed Apocalypse. It was like he was selling Y2K insurance on January 1, 2001. Nothing this guy said (that I heard, anyway) indicated he was on board with the Family Radio Ministry theology, but simply being in a subway car at this hour preaching at people on their way to work implied he might be.

As I said, I missed most of his sermon until one line stuck out at me: “I have the mayor’s son coming over to my house.” I think he may have prefaced this by saying, “Let’s imagine,” or something to that affect, as if he was relating a parable. But since I didn’t hear that part, it sounded like he was describing an actual impending visit from the mayor’s son.

“I have the mayor’s son coming over to my house. I am going to prepare a feast,” he said. At that point, the train had pulled into a station, and as soon as the doors opened, he beat a hasty retreat into the car behind us–mid-story! You finally piqued my interest, Jesus Guy, and then you bolt because you got a tough crowd? You’ll never play the big rooms with that kind of attitude, Jesus Guy. Now I’m left hanging, wondering where that story went. What did you serve the mayor’s son? Did you serve cordials afterward, or just coffee? So many unanswered questions.

NOTE #2: As I wrote in this post, there’s this odd dichotomy amongst the millennial Christian set, in the sense that they seem to want the world to end because they think it’s so rotten, and yet they also vote in droves for people who they think will prevent the world from ending. But I wonder if a politician could capitalize on the opposite instinct. What if you actually declared yourself the Antichrist and promised to bring upon the Biblical Apocalypse?

There’s a million variations on what the Apocalypse would entail. But if you believe that it’s coming and coming soon, you also believe it is ultimately a good thing, because it will end Satan’s grip upon this planet and bring Jesus back and, I dunno, make more puppies or something. So wouldn’t the person who pledged to make the Apocalypse happen be the best person to elect? In other words, shouldn’t you want The Antichrist to come to power?

Believers, I’m sure, would counter, The real Antichrist would never openly declare himself as such. Okay, so how about some enterprising young politician works on molding himself into a vague resemblance of The Antichrist as described in the Bible? Then, people will subconsciously vote for him hoping that in so doing, they will hasten the day when they will be assumed into heaven?

Any politicians who want to steal this idea, I will gladly accept a minor position in your Satanic cabinet.

Random Acts of Retro-Rage

This may come as a shock to those who read this site, but I hold on to grudges for a long time. Even when they don’t directly involve me. Scratch that: especially when they don’t directly involve me. I’m still furious at Chuck Klosterman for something he wrote in The New York Times year-end “The Lives They Lived” back in 2002. Ask me about it some time if you’d like to hear me rant for 45 minutes.

This is why it may be unwise for me to live in New York City. Conventional wisdom says people get lost in such a large metropolis, but that’s not true. You actually run into people you know all the time, because with so many people in such a relatively small space, there’s a greater likelihood of meeting an acquaintance (math!). Running into random folks can be a wondrous thing. Back when I was younger and childless, a chance encounter on a weekend could turn into an odyssey of awesomeness. “Hey, we’re gonna go to this bar and then check out this band and then we’re gonna barbecue on somebody’s rooftop at 3 in the morning. Wanna come with?”

Then there’s the alternative. Last week, I was exiting the West 4th Street station on my way to work. Some days I’m already in a bad mood before I even arrive at the office. This was not one of those days. I wasn’t whistling and twirling a cane and doffing my cap to young ladies, but I wasn’t predisposed to be angry or grizzled, either. I was simply wondering what the day might bring me.

As I got to street level, I saw a few paces ahead of me, heading toward the subway I’d just left, an old boss. I’ve had good, civil relationships with most of the bosses in my life. This was not one of them. Although truth be told, it wasn’t the work relationship that was strained. It was more the laying me off when I had a toddler that bugged me.

I saw this man trudging up the sidewalk, hands thrust into the pockets of his khakis, head slumped downward, his thinning hair sloping toward the sidewalk, and I felt all this rage bubble up within me. Did I still wish I had the job from which he laid me off? No. Am I happy where I am now? Yes. Did everything ultimately work out? I suppose it did. Still, I had this intense, fist-clenching fury at the sight of him for putting me through the worry and self-doubt and pain and struggle of looking for a new job when I had a tiny life to care for. Fuck this guy forever for doing that to me, I thought. I don’t care if he donates his entire salary to the Red Cross, this guy’s a monster.

And as I’m thinking all these things, he must sense my eyes on him, since they’re trying to bore a hole in his pasty head. He looks up, locks eyes with me, and gives me this quizzical look, like Why is this person staring at me? He clearly has no idea who I am. I’d like to think I don’t look all that different from the last time I saw him, and that’s probably true. But my face has been lost in the mists of time for him. He hasn’t a clue who this scowling weirdo is, and picks up his pace a bit, proceeding as quickly as he can into the underground.

I hadn’t thought about this person in years, and all it took was one second to make me furious at him all over again. Meanwhile, Ex-Boss has clearly given me even less thought, since he hadn’t even recognized me. There’s very few things worse in this world than unrequited hate.

Never Forget (The Condiments)

In my brief time working in the Wall Street area, I’ve discovered that the shortest route between two points is not always a straight line. Certain streets are completely choked with tourists and narrowed by incessant construction, and should be avoided at all costs unless you want some homicidal inspiration.

Broadway is particularly awful, so if I need to get somewhere on that street, I will often double back on a parallel avenue, walk as far up- or downtown as I need to go, then cut back to the main drag. Though this might seem unnecessarily complicated, it’s actually much faster than trying to wade through acres of gawking Midwesterners (no offense, Midwesterners).

On Tuesday, I ventured away from the office to grab some lunch, and on the way back, I walked uptown on Trinity Place. While not completely crowd free, you can actually move along this street faster than a snail’s pace. It runs behind Trinity Church, at a lower elevation than Broadway. A majestic stone wall marks the church’s western extremity, and a beautiful walkway connects it, mysteriously, to a much more modern office building across the street.

As I walked past the stone wall, I noticed one entrance–called Cherub’s Gate–was wide open. I realized that I’d never been to Trinity Church, somehow, and that nothing was stopping me from going now. So I climbed the stairs and found myself on a tiny little green island of the 18th century in the middle of downtown Manhattan, filled with crumbling headstones, most of which are more than 200 years old.

It was bizarre to walk among the dilapidated tombstones and read their somber, weirdly spelled inscriptions. (“Here lyes Goodye Price, ded of Consumption aged thirty-fyve yearf.”) It was even weirder to see people spending their lunch there, yapping on cell phones, chowing down on deli buffet food in clamshell trays. Though odd, this didn’t seem disrespectful, really. It was a surprisingly quiet, calm oasis in a very noisy part of the city, and one of the few spots in that neighborhood where a person could truly get away from it all for a little while.

I should also add that as I strolled between the graves, I was listening to a Jean Shepherd show from 1960 on my iPod. During that period, Shep’s shows were particularly philosophical and dark. The setting plus the soundtrack combined to give me an eerie, melancholy feeling.

And then I felt something else. Actually, I smelled something else. Something acrid and pungent. Such smells are not unusual in New York, of course, but this smell was not bad per se, just unwelcome. And yet also strongly familiar.

And then I remembered: There was a Subway franchise right next to Trinity on Broadway. I was smelling the unmistakable reek of pickled Subway vegetables wafting through the churchyard. I have smelled that smell many times, coming from my own hands, several hours after eating a six-inch Veggie Delight. I don’t know what they use to preserve those vegetables for longhaul truck travel, but you need auto mechanic-grade abrasive soap to remove that stench from your fingers.

This smell was not faint. The churchyard was drenched in it. The final resting place of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, overshadowed by the olfactory shadow of five-dollar foot-longs. If such great men can be overtaken by the thorny talons of Jared, what hope is there for a rest of us?