Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Electric! The E Train.

Ok. I know what you're thinking. It's been over a month! Where the hell are the subway shenanigans? But rest assured, the project is not abandoned. The E train has been ridden, and I'm here to tell you all about it.

Sadly, the E train was ridden approximately four billion years ago and it's taken me a while to get down to the blog writing. So once again, I will let my photographs be my guide.

I set out with the foolish notion that I'd take the W train down to Cordalant Street, making it just a short few-block jaunt to the World Trade Center terminus of the E where I planned to begin my E-training. Now, you'd think the name of my actual destination station would have tipped me off, but I'm a little dense. Take the W I did, but it rolled right on through Cordalant without stopping. Good thing too, because if it had stopped it would have let passengers out into a construction site. See, that particular station is basically underneath the site of the former twin towers, so it was hit pretty heavily during the collapse. And being not that big a deal as far as commuting traffic is concerned, it's taking them a minute to bring it back up to speed. Rolling through it is weird / cool / spooky. Anyway, I had to go to the next station and walk back up. No biggie, just a few blocks.

Upon arriving finally at my station, the first thing I noticed is that it's littered with the same watchful eye mosaics that we saw on the C train. And this makes sense, actually, since the WTC station connects with the Chambers Street station where we first witnessed said eyeballs.

One thing you should know about the E is that it's pretty much always crowded. If you live here, you already know it. If you don't live here but plan to visit, remember this: take another train if at all possible. Trust me when I say that it'll be better for you and your fellow commuters both. During off hours, it looks like this, and during "peak times" sometimes you can't even squeeze your way on.

Above all, the E is a working man's train. And after a long shift, that working man is f-ing tired.

There's not a lot of art along the E line. It's neglected that way. But there's always the Otterness installations at the 14th and 8th stop. Maybe you're tired of me showing you these creations, but if this little guy doesn't make you happy then your heart is as dead as stone in your cold, black chest. Just sayin'.

At Lexington Avenue/53rd Street, there is art... of a sort. It's colorful, and extensive, and... well, pretty damn ugly. But it's certainly more interesting than your average dingy white station tiling. And the kiddies do seem to like it. This family just killed me.

Also at this station are the super steep crazy tunnel escalators that make me feel like I'm probably definitely going to die. This station is rather close to where I used to work in midtown, and sometimes I'd come here to hop under the river to my studio. Nothing like spending 8 or so hours in a soulless, windowless office and then cruising down one of these babies.

After popping under the East River and making a couple of cursory stops at 23rd/Ely and Queens Plaza (my hood, yo), the E switches very definitely into Express mode. Above, the crush at Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue - a major hub.

I had some unfinished business at the Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike stop, and upon exiting there came upon a pleasant surprise. When I served jury duty in that neck of the woods, I'd always gotten out on the other end of the train and therefore through an entrance/exit unconnected to this one. So I didn't know about the Cloud installation. I'm not sure if this is officially sanctioned MTA art; I think it makes me a little happier if it isn't.

This here is the courthouse where the infamous Sean Bell hearings were held, and incidentally also where I was called to serve jury duty. Well, at least I tried to serve. Ironically enough, I was called about two weeks after I finally quit my job at the law firm. Anyway, I hung out for three days, but they didn't want me. It doesn't matter though; I'm good for six years. Woot. At any rate, my little jaunt out to Kew tipped me off on this bad boy, the real reason for dismounting the E and taking a walk down the turnpike:

Yep, instead of dumping this old redbird car into the Atlantic as they seem to be doing with so many others, they turned it into a mini museum... which is never open, as far as I can tell. But I'm still happy it's there. And as to whether we should be dumping huge chunks of metal off the coast... well, that's another discussion entirely, during which my Environmental Geography claws just may have to come out.

Soon enough I reached the end of the line, Jamaica Center. What with starting in Manhattan and then running express in Queens, it really is a short trip. Upon exiting the platform, one of the first things I saw was this:

My thoughts ran like so: 1) Maybe this isn't such a nice place to live? 2) And there's why I ride the trains during the day.

But then, upon exiting the station, the first thing I saw was this:

And then this:

And then this:

(A historical mansion from colonial days, now run as a museum, in case you're wondering.) So it's hard to tell about a neighborhood. As best as I could discern in the twenty minutes that I spent there, it's a lot of working class people with their families and their kids, who are sometimes plagued by those who have gone hopeless and turned to darker activities. So it goes, I guess. Put enough people in one place and you'll usually find the same kind of underbelly.

I rode on home on the E - it does, after all, roll through Long Island City, just three blocks from my studio, and really what better way to culminate the day? It was still nowhere near rush hour. The train? Well, I couldn't get a seat.


Nirmal Singh said...

Is *that* what the hell those *things* are at the union tnpk stop? i hve family nearby so i use that stop, n have oft wondered what they were. clouds were the last thing in my mind. i was thinking signals or sumthing. n yea about the creep length tunnels....was in there late at night after a movie screener with a friend in astoria. i think theres one on the richmond hills end of brooklyn that tops that sucker....i went up so high i swear i was gonna cry. i started shaking till i got to the platform which wasnt a hell of a lot better. oh well such as we are new yorkers.....

Nirmal Singh said...

*artistic representations of sihnals*