May 25, 2011

The 181st Street IRT Subway Station in New York City

A station entrance to the IRT Broadway line in New York City is accessible by a staircase.
The station entrance to the IRT Broadway Line in New York

At 181 street on the number 1 local, I see a man humping the platform floor. Two ladies clad in business dress call the police. The police, on arriving at the primal scene inquire, "Sir, will you get the fuck up?"

Detail of the New York City Subway Map
A flock of pigeons flies through the tunnel space. The police carry Onan away. More than one hundred feet below the surface of the street, flanêurs ascend and descend via one of four aesthetically displeasing metallic elevators, brought to life today only by the Dominican men who enter with me listing their accomplishments. “Can you believe it?” one asks. “No, to be honest, I can’t. That’s a brave man. That one. That’s a brave man.” The accomplishments are lost to me. All I know are the sounds. The pleasure in their voices was being.

The elevator brings us to ground level; the men go quietly; we hurry out to the street. My destination is the Fort Washington Branch of the New York City Public Library. I want to write in a quiet space. To escape the noise. The factotum at the circulation desk points me to an especially quiet place in the back of the library. The patrons are a mix of young teens freshly evicted from the diurnal school duty and retired folks who read newspapers and mind their own business. The Fort Washington Library, like many of the libraries in the New York, was a Carnegie gift. It is not my first visit to this particular branch. I remember my last visit here last summer. It is queer to have summer memories during winter. I remember the building that sits atop the tunnel entrance onto the George Washington Bridge. It reminds me of a battered housewife. The rumble of cars and trucks come to the surface of the street with a persistent violence. This is the ugliest building in all of Manhattan. I remember walking past it last summer, while shirtless boys on St. Nicholas Avenue played in the opened fire hydrant. Langston Hughes comes to mind. He was a flanêur of urban American streets. He wrote poetry about memories. About dreams. About IRT trains:

Sometimes a crumb falls
From the tables of joy
Sometimes a bone
Is flung
To some people
Love is given
To others
Only heaven.
Would you like to read more? Fetch Greig Roselli's book of essays, Things I Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) for more good writing, dammit.  

A Station Entrance to the 181st Street IRT Station on the New York City Subway Broadway Line