Showing posts with label new york city subway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york city subway. Show all posts


Quotes from Bonesana and Rimbaud: Embracing Unity in Diversity: The Strength of Our Collective Individuality

Explore the beautiful intersection of individuality and collective unity as we dive into an unconventional New York City commute experience. Find solace in the words of Cesare Bonesana and Arthur Rimbaud, reminding us of our shared humanity and continuous evolution.
"Happy is the nation without a history."
- Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria

Reflecting upon Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria's words, "Happy is the nation without a history," I found a profound truth in the heart of an enigmatic dream. A regular New York City train became the stage of an unconventional tableau. Suddenly, as we pulled into the Atlantic Avenue station, the train erupted into a harmonious chorus of "OK!" But this wasn't a robotic reply, common to our daily commute.

In this spontaneous symphony, every passenger became an active participant, their voices coalescing into a vibrant affirmation of the moment. Each voice retained its individuality, yet melded into a harmonic collective, creating a soundscape antithetical to the cacophony we associate with the city's hustle and bustle.

I think about this moment when I read about how divided we are as a nation: red and blue, gay and straight, white, brown, black, and I know we have a lot of work to do to come together. But when people have to come together, when you have to buy your books from the bookstore and not shop online, in the comfort of your apartment, or when you have to pick up your laundry from the local laundry-o-mat, you come into contact with faces, with someone, an identity. Another who has a story.

Individuality is the idea that I am a unique being on this planet. No one is more unique than me. But as someone once told me, "You're unique. Just like everyone else." It is not that individuality is wrong or bad. I love embracing individuality — but individuality is different than solipsism. I exist because of the other, as Arthur Rimbaud, the French Symbolist poet, wrote, "Je est un autre." I am the other. It is a line from Rimbaud's poem "A Season in Hell," published in 1873. The poem is a semi-autobiographical account of Rimbaud's spiritual and psychological crisis. In the line "Je est un autre," Rimbaud expresses that the self is not a fixed or stable entity. Instead, the self is constantly changing and evolving. We are all "others" to ourselves because we are continually becoming new people.

The line "Je est un autre" has been interpreted differently. Some scholars believe that it rejects the traditional notion of the self. Others believe it is a celebration of the fluidity and mutability of the self. Still, others believe it is a call for us to embrace our inner "others" and see them as a source of creativity and growth.

Whatever the interpretation, the line "Je est un autre" is a powerful and provocative statement about the nature of the self. It reminds us that we are not static beings but constantly becoming.

I was probably feeling like Rimbaud. On the train. With others. But totally myself. And that recognition, that shared "ah ha" moment when we had all reached Atlantic Avenue on the D train. Together. This dream encapsulates the beauty of individuality with each other — a nation that reverberates in unison, even amidst such identity. Such a country may not have a shared history, but it suggests happiness from the serendipity of the present.


Subway Diary: That Time I was Struck by a Man on the F Train

Riding the F*#) train one morning . . .
So, I was just sitting next to a mother and her son on a chock-full F train this morning. The mom and son were talking about the "fake poetry" posters that have been splayed about subway cars as of late - a marketing ploy by the Internet start-up PolicyGenius (they compare life insurance policies - *boring*). Noticing the rapport between the two of them, I laughed and acknowledged that I also found the ads a bit twee and said, "I know how you feel. Fake poetry. It hurts my heart." The kid wanted to get out of his seat and explore the other posters, but the mom pulled him back.

Suddenly, Out of Nowhere
At that moment, a man appeared in front of me, a white, middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair, a bit harried, and in sweats, said to me, "I have something for you. It's your turn next." And he struck me in the face. Unprovoked. I did not know the man nor did I expressly notice him in the car until that moment. The woman and the child immediately got up and huddled in the corner and, I said, "That man just hit me." The train pulled into the 63rd street station and, I got off - and so did the woman and the child - I heard someone say they were calling the police. We three went up to the upper level to escape. The woman asked if I was OK and I told her I was an English teacher on my way to work - and that I was worried I'd be late. I then texted Ms. S and wrote, "A man just hit me on the train unprovoked." After a few beats, the nice woman who had become my reluctant protector told me she was an English teacher, too. I started to cry. I think she was worried about her son about to witness a grown man have a nervous breakdown so, she gingerly asked, "Do you want a moment alone?" I said "Yes," and the woman smiled at me warmly. I felt comforted. As I watched her go, I wondered if she would look me up later and we would figure out why this random act of violence occurred.

Getting the Heck Out of Dodge
I figured it was safe so I went back down to the lower level and, the same F train was still lingering in the station. The conductor, the guy who sits in the middle car and announces the train stops, noticed me and said, "They apprehended that guy who hit you and, the police are looking for you." I did not want to deal with the fallout - and I was also relieved that the police had caught the guy, so I just got on the train. And I went to work. I felt shook all day - like a mild shock had invaded my system. Mr. V made tea. Doc consoled me and, Ms. S hung out with my first-period class. Mr. H told me his own story of subway assault and Mr. G. said I should try to get the violent men thrown behind bars. I am just relieved that the man did not have a knife or a sharp object. So. What's the moral of the story: stay alert but don't let one man's crazy act of violence ruin your life.


Photo: I Wish I Were the Camera's Eye

A straphanger waits for a train at the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn.
A straphanger is focused on his phone as he waits for a subway train in New York City
I wish I were the camera's eye. I would watch the world the way a film camera surveys its filmic world.

I would be a rare film, one that danced when it surveyed the world, but rarely seen, not distributed like a Hollywood classic.

I am a fan of the long take. Maybe it is because I admire the way some filmmakers are able to capture a moment for as long as it can last.

I'd be the eye on a Max Ophul's film-watching Madame wind a staircase. Or, I'd be the eye in Raiders of the Lost Ark, inventorying lost treasures.

I imagine the camera's eye is lonely and I'll admit I don't agree well with loneliness - who does? - but every once in a while I just want to zoom out and take on what the philosophers call "The God's Eye View."

I'd catch myself in a frame shot - kind of like what happens when I dream. I see myself in the corner of my eye. It's me. In my own dream.

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Photo Credit: Greig Roselli


Selfie in the Subway

West Fourth Street Station New York City
Roto-Scope Style Selfie at West Fourth Street Station, Manhattan
So. I was exploring the city the other day. I took off from the 45th Street Station in Brooklyn. It's my home station. The one I depart from most often. For the commute, for everything. It's my everything station. Lulz. And by the way, there are two entrances,  one on the west side of the avenue and the other on the east side.

Did you know the station is not deep? - in fact, it is like many subway stations in New York City built according to the cut-and-cover method of subway infrastructure building. It is crazy to think that construction on this segment of the subway system underneath Fourth Avenue started in 1906. It took a couple of decades to complete the final project but now - today! - you have a one-ticket ride from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Forest Hills in Queens.

On this particular excursion, I, a straphanger with a 30-day MetroCard, took the Sixth Avenue bound express train at 36th Street and ended up at West Fourth Street station in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Hence the selfie - notice the rotoscope-style photograph. I noticed Facebook added cool animation layovers to supplement the iPhone's camera function.


Scared D Train (Repost)

Just to say: this is my neighborhood subway station at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue, the contractual confluence of the D, N, and R trains! Sometimes the D does hide in the hollow of the station entrance. This phenomenon also occurs at Delancey/Essex Street most commonly with the M train waiting to go over the Williamsburg Bridge. 
Scared D Train: Reposted from Adam Sack's Youtube Channel


Repost: People applauding commuters in Port Authority


Video Repost: "No Man Is an Island" Recited with Music by Joan Baez from her Album Baptism

A clip from Joan Baez's "John Donne" piece from her album Baptism sets the foreground for the arrival of a northbound G train entering the station at 4th avenue-9th street on the IND crosstown / Culver line in Brooklyn, New York.
Here is the text:

No man is an island
Entire of itself
Every man is a piece of the continent
A part of the main

Any man's death diminishes me
For I am involved in mankind
Never send to know
For whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee


Aesthetic Thursday: City Hall Station

City Hall Station, IRT Lexington Avenue Line
(Image credit: John-Paul Palescandolo, Fred Guenther)
Take the Local 6 Train
If you take the local 6 train in Manhattan to its southern terminus at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, don't get off the train even though it's the last stop. Stay on the train. More than likely you will be the only one in the car. The train will start up again and venture forward through the tunnel. What you may not know is that the local tracks at this station form a loop. 

The Remains of the First New York City Subway Station
Along the route are the remains of the former City Hall Station. It was the inaugural station of the city's first underground transportation system. As the train loops around, you will be able to see it — and if you are lucky the train may stop, or slow down enough, to get a good glimpse of the station's architecture. The station was built in 1904 and served the New York City subway system's IRT line until 1945 — when it was shuttered to make way for new trains that could not fit the older station's tight curve. The station had become redundant and has laid dormant for seventy-five years. 

Imagining a Turn-of-the-Century Gem Come to Life
Unlike other abandoned stations in the system, the City Hall station has remained protected from graffiti vandalism. Seeing the station while riding the loop is not as good as seeing it on foot, inside the station, with the lights turned on, but for a moment imagine the once touted travertine-tiled ceiling are aglow with the gas-lit chandeliers that once filled the space with illumination. When the New York City subway first opened back in 1905, it originally went from City Hall to what is now Grand Central station, but it turned west along what is now the 42nd Street shuttle, and at Times Square the line ran north, where it eventually meandered to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. I imagine I am one of those original straphangers, paying the five-cent fare, wearing a black coat, a top hat, white collared shirt — the same get-up one notices if you happen to like looking at men's attire from the turn-of-the-century.

What's your favorite subway station? What makes it your favorite?


Vintage Columbus Circle 59th Street Subway Sign

Meet me next to the glazed red wheelbarrow at Columbus Circle, she said, mimicking William Carlos Williams ...
Notice the symbol for the now defunct 9 line


Travels on the IRT: 207th Street Station Postcard

207 Street Station Postcard, New York City, 2010
The IRT 207th Street Station of the New York City Subway is on what is today the 1 line, located near the University Heights Bridge. Not to be confused with the IND 207th Street Station on the A line, parallel to where I stand now. At surface level, 207th Street on the east side runs directly below the Manhattan train yard to the north. The street is unassuming. Dull, really. I wish I could be on the A line now, so I can wander through the elevations of Fort Tryon Park.

Planning to Write about the New York City Subway
     Here on the 1 line, I am convinced the neighborhood has nothing distinctive to offer that the other northern Manhattan and Bronx elevated stations of the IRT division have already offered me. I already feel like a worn-out straphanger who has grown accustomed to the repetitive re-iteration of station after station. Does technology point to an anthropology? Are we just cookie-cutter human-shaped-molds without unique attributes? One damn cut-out after another? Observing the majority of commuters on this train, it is easy to judge that not much makes us different from the other.
     I grow easily tired. I think of my friend Ecce, a freshly minted Ph.D. student, who had laughed when I had told her I was drawing inspiration from subway stations for a possible book. "What are you going to call it?" she had asked me at a bar in Greenpoint. "I don't know," I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. She smiled. "You're definitely new here," she said. "You better write that book while you at least have some modicum of enchantment left in you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Eventually you'll get bitter and just want the damn train to arrive in the station so you can get to wherever you're going."
     I think about what she said to me as I walk to the end of the platform to get a better view of the train yards. I still find pleasure in the MTA system. I wonder if I will ever lose a fascination with iron and electricity. I hope to see a surplus train veer off from the track spur into the yard below, but I am antsy and decide not to wait. The backpack I wear is heavy. I am not in shape. The joints in my knees send a sharp pain to the pain receptors in my brain. I am sadly a normally sedentary beast. I tend to find solace in the undisturbed moments of casual book reading in a library. I write at a pinewood desk.


MTA Service Change Notice With Extras

On a service disruption memo left on the subway platform, a straphanger has scribbled the phone numbers of the New York Police Department Internal Affairs Department and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Someone Wants Us to Complain to the MTA/NYPD
I'm not so sure a call to the NYPD internal affairs office will help much with a planned service change. Gotta love the subways on the weekends. The funny part was two police officers were reading the sign just before I snapped the photo. The bottom left of the poster includes the phone number for the "Commission to Combat Police Corruption, 212-487-7350."


A Spring Update on the New York City Subway Stories Project

My Latest Book
In between teaching, being a philosophy graduate student, and making ends meet, I've been spending lots and lots of time writing about the New York City Subway. If you don't know about my project, read about it here - where I collected all of my writings into one book about riding the subway, living in the city, and how it feels like to be a New Orleanian wherever I am.

Why I Write
I write like a flanêur. What this means is I write as if I am collecting stories. What this means is that my entries on the subway are impressionistic rather than expository pieces. I am allowing the stations that make up the subway system to be points of creative entry for me. I try to draw philosophical and creative energy from the stations, the neighborhood surrounding the station, the people, and my own neurotic life to portray a pastiche for each entry.

I have no idea what the final product will look like or whether or not it will it have a completeness to it.

The coolest thing will be that I will have written my way through the system. It's my motivation.

But, I'm going at a snail's pace.

I think the reason for this is that I first thought the project would be simpler. But as I go from station to station the immensity of the system makes my project seem more immense. I feel like I am trying to pull a particularity out of a vastness that cannot be particularized.

I Write Non-Fiction Fiction (because it's all I know)
So, I make stuff up. Some of the stuff I write about is real while other are condensed (like in a dream) and other stuff is literally the way it happened.

The thesis of the subway project is as follows: by writing about individual stations and individual stories I will end up having a literary representation of a subway system that has only been thought of in terms of anything but Benjamin's flanêur.

I hope you enjoy this collecting project.



View from the K-Mart Adjacent to the Astor Place Subway Station (6 Train)

View from K-Mart (6 train), New York City, 2011
If you enter the K-Mart at Astor Place in downtown Manhattan, go to the lower level and you can see there is an entrance to the Astor Place subway station. Get your essentials and hop on the local Lexington Avenue line. Caveat: the K-Mart is only accessible on southbound trains, though. If you are going uptown you will have to forgo this convenient lifehack.


The 4 Train On Sunday

He told me this morning the four train is beast. Not beast as in animal. But beast as in best. I had taken it on Sunday after a visit to my Shrink. (I capitalize her name to make it proper). So I knew what he was talking about.


Video: Free Music for the Masses

A video taken in the Union Square subway station of musical performers in New York City.

A troupe performs in the public concourse at 14th Street Union Square station.


Video: Train Enters the Station at 14th Street Union Square

With accompaniment by Joan Baez, "Old Welsh Song" from the album Baptism

Manhattan-bound Local 6 Train enters the station at 14th Street Union Square Station in New York City. Notice the curvature of the tracks. People are visible both on the platform and on the mezzanine level. At a brief moment, one can see the train's motorman through the car window. Union Square Station services subway lines L, N, Q, R, 4, 5, and 6 trains and is situated directly below Union Square Park. The Soundtrack is Joan Baez's lyric piece, "Old Welsh Song." 
I take with me where I go
A pen and a golden bowl
Poet and beggar step in my shoes,
Or a prince in a purple shawl.
I bring with me when I return
To the house that my father's hands made,
A crooning bird on a chrystal bough and,
O, a sad, sad word!


207th Street Train Yard

View of 207th Street Yard from University Heights Bridge, Manhattan


Photographs: Multiple Self Portraits On the A Train

PDF Copy for Printing


Photographs: Rat Ascending Staircases at Union Square Station


Poem: "Is It Me Or Is It Not Me?"

image credit: statue of liberty crown
A man on the Astoria line
wears a foam green
Statue of Liberty hat

"Did he just come back from the Statue of Liberty?"
"Can I trust my inductive reasoning?"
Maybe he just likes to wear plushy foam green Statue of Liberty hats.
I have never been quick to trust inductive reasoning,
so to test my hypothesis I hazard a guess to which stop he will disembark:
Long Island City, I bet! All the hotels near the 59th street bridge 
it must be it!

The N train is spit out by the East River
and diligently speeds towards its station
stop. And, JUST AS I THOUGHT, the passenger with the green foamy hat
gets off,
no smiles, his head turned downward to his mobile device,
tapping away a message to his kids, perhaps?
An inductive me postulates thus: "Hey just got back from the statue of liberty! Love, dad!"

The funny thing is,
I just got back from the Statue of Liberty, as well,
but I am not wearing a green foamy hat nor do I text anyone, at this point;
I have no doppelgangers.

I am as distant from this human being with the green foamy Statue of Liberty hat as I am distant emotionally from everyone in this car.
We are all scrunched in like sardines on the train because the Q is on hiatus. No W, either.
A haggard woman with an aquiline nose (like my aquiline grandfather), like the kind of noses that busted through Ellis Island,
tells me she never comes to Queens and the days she comes who would have thought there would be such a mess. Signaling problems, I tell her; but we don't sweat. No one sweats; The small stuff! Everyone is easily leaning on each other, following the curves of the line, anticipating the next stop

But I still think the guy with the Statue of Liberty foamy green hat looks silly 
even though, like I said, I went to the island myself today, paid the twelve bucks and licked the undersides of Lady Liberty's fanny; and I am still not so silly as to wear a silly, ridiculous hat. My silliness has already been done, lying on my back in the registry of Ellis Island pretending I was my grandfather with the aquiline nose and the legal inspector asks me a question in Italian, and I say, "Did I come to America to learn Italian?!" The legal inspector tells me that he needs to know if I am literate in my native tongue or not and I cry to my mother country to let ole liberty let me pass. When my grandfather was dying my dad bought him a six-pack of beer to drink for the night. We had to sneak it past the doctors and I wonder how many times my grandfather had to sneak past people: sneak past the inspectors in the registry, sneak past the medical examiners and the anti-immigration protesters. To sneak past, again and again, to see the face of liberty sans a green foamy hat. I was silly today. I cried in the registry. Not, long fat sobs, but the kind of cry that sheds one fat tear on your face  small enough not to be noticed but fat enough on my face to feel emotional. I get up in the registry and thank the Park Service ranger — "Thanks, for the tour!"

"Make sure you see the washrooms, sir!"

But, I think, even though I had my moment of silliness, nonetheless, that I should get a hat like that for myself, put it on my head on the way to Lex and 59th street, in the rush hour traffic; pretend like I have just come from the Statue of Liberty to look for my Holiday Inn single-room, non smoking.