Thursday, July 31, 2008
But I'm anchored here in the real word, adult obligations, bla bla bla. I think about leaving, going back "home" to live with my parents or something. But even if I could avail myself of leases, bills, et cetera, my parents live in ruins. They're also not exactly what one would call nurturing. And of course there is Jonathan, without whom I cannot live for even a single day. If pressed, I believe that he would move anywhere for me. I do not want to press him to move to hell.
Over these last months, I have become stunningly aware of my inability to partake in this world. Thinking on the one real position I ever had, I held it for two years and it almost killed me. Granted, it was demanding, but all worthwhile jobs are demanding. What made it unlivable were the things that I made it: what I did to myself in making it personal, in pushing too hard; and what I am incapable of: normal interaction with other human beings, not taking things personally, not becoming obsessed with work. Even after years of therapy I've made limited progress in my capacity for that kind of interaction, that kind of environment.
So here I am, asking people to hire me, all the while knowing that I can't really do it. Knowing I will burst into tears, maybe privately, maybe not, after a difficult phone call. Knowing I will want to (and will maybe actually) call in sick simply because I can't stand the thought of facing the streets full of people, the too crowded subway. Knowing that once again I will fail at truly functioning in this society, in this place that I am not built for.
And of Jonathan, what to think? What to do? How I do take him down with me, I know. Poor soul, would be so much better off if he hadn't gone and fallen in love. I am a disappointment to him, now, now that he knows the truth of me. Before, he had the wrong idea; saw me as someone strong, as someone who was able to be different but still function in the world. Essentially he believed in the illusion that I had built for myself. The one that I believed too, for a while.
I know that my weakness makes him disappointed in himself, that he is not automatically able to fill every absence, salve every wound, solve every problem. As if the train wreck of my life could possibly be repaired by any mortal. But the reality of that doesn't matter to him; all he sees is the inability to make right. Thus by my own failings he too becomes a failure, and he too must shoulder the burden of my incapability. This does not make me fonder of myself.
On days like this, I know I break everything I touch.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
But first, by the way, yes I have done my C train ride. I'm just having a very hectic week, so I haven't gotten to write the post about it. Writing the posts takes a couple of hours really, and that doesn't even count how long it takes to sort through all of my pictures. And about the picture situation: I'm now properly equipped. Well, as properly equipped as I'm going to get without buying a new camera, anyway. I now have two batteries and two memory cards. The old battery, I have no doubt now, is dying. It only held a charge for an hour or two on Sunday's expedition - completely unsatisfactory. As far as memory, I've upgraded from 512 kb to 2mb, so everything should be just fine.
But back to my original intrigue. Have you ever ridden the 6 train to it's southernmost end, the City Hall stop? I did it every week for over two years when I was working as a paralegal - lots of courthouses down there. When you get off at the 'last stop', the train lets you know that its 'next stop' will be on the uptown side of the platform. It then arcs away from you in a manner that leaves a very clear impression in your mind that it's turning a loop.
So let's put this together with some other knowledge, shall we? I'm getting more and more hung up on the whole 'abandoned station' thing, and it didn't take me long to find out that there's one at City Hall. Of course my first thought was, I've been to the City Hall station a hundred times; it's big and ugly and average and annoying. But ho ho, this abandoned station that was being spoken of was something truly grand, a jewel in the crown of the IRT system complete with vaulted ceilings and skylights - definitely not the place that I'd cursed the length of while hauling too many copies of motions and judgments.
Then, one day not so long ago in my researching, I happened to glance a map of where this old beautiful City Hall station was located - just south of Worth and Brooklyn Bridge, making a big loop off the 4, 5, and 6 lines... Now wait just a damn minute! Do you mean to say?!
It took me several days to confirm my suspicion. Right there, under my nose that whole time, was this amazing relic. I could have toured it - granted, only from the inside of a moving 6 train, but still - every Thursday morning, a little treat after dealing with the hellish NYCAL judge and a room full of snide attorneys. But no, I just stood there instead in that ugly ass hot nasty "new" city hall station, wondering why there were always two or three people still on the train as it went around, assuming they were homeless. Of course, they may have been homeless and in the know.
So much time lost! It feels staggering really. I haven't gotten to go do it yet either, since I only just figured it out this week. I can't believe that I've been living in NYC for almost three years and didn't know about this. But there's still time, right? Right? All is not lost. Perhaps if I don't make it onto the D train this weekend, I'll just ride the 6 loop through the historic City Hall a few times and see how much I can see. Front car vs. back car, left side vs. right, exactly how dangerous it looks to try to walk in from the main functioning platforms (just kidding... kind of), that kind of thing. I'll let ya know if it's worth it. Except that I totally already know that it's worth it. More like, I'll let you know how awesome it is.
- Another day, another few dollars I guess. And who can argue with that really?
- No callback from that phone interview. Not yet at least. I'm supposed to be hopeful, aren't I? It seems the decent thing to do would be to call either way... I'll keep hoping till end of day Friday? And then I'll start talking about what assholes they are. But not by name on the internet. Not yet.
- At the studio, and somehow lost as to what needs to be accomplished. Need to figure out how to package the painting that I just sold (yup, to a friend, but still), but somehow all of my packing materials are at home? And so, writing. Or perhaps, "writing", depending.
- Going by big Think tonight; beautiful Sarah of Che La Ke fame is spinning video 'round 8:30, so I'll stop in and absorb some love. And some beer and food and maybe wine, which is all a lot like love, when you think about it.
- Sent in a story to The First Line on Monday. Don't know how long it'll be till I hear; the deadline is Friday, so hopefully within two to three weeks of then. If they say no, then the full version (a bit over 5k words if you can believe it) will go to another journal. And if they say no, then be prepared for me to be pawning off my self published zine version on you in a couple of months.
- Want to go see one of my favorite local bands, alternately calling themselves The Night Time and The New York Times; I know them because they wrote three songs for Jonathan Letham's "You Don't Love Me Yet", for which I attended a reading a while back, and which I just purchased and somehow annoyingly read in three damn days. They're playing Saturday on Bedford - literally on the street, a community type shindig where they block off blocks for block parties essentially... but I'll be working Saturday night, of course, so I don't know if I'll make it, or if they'll play before I have to leave.
- Thinking about trying to do the D train this weekend, but it's extensive so I don't know. I'll have to look into how many stations need stopping at, et cetera, before I decide. And of course the final factor will be how Saturday night goes at work, and whether or not I get any sleep. And let's not forget that I still haven't written the post for the C train trip I made last weekend, or edited my photos. I now have two batteries and two memory cards, so the sky is kinda the limit... takes freaking forever to get through them all, naming and cropping and rotating, oh my. I'm really going to have to start backing that stuff up, because if anything ever happened to my hard drive, I'd lose I don't even know how many hundreds of hours of work and how many hundreds (possibly thousands? probably thousands?) of irreplaceable images... yeah, a small external hard drive may be called for, or something.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I guess I'm stuck in the same predicament that many people my age - the twenty and thirty somethings of today - are now facing. Hey, look at me! I have a college degree! It's kind of like saying, Hey! Look at me! I have two feet! The applicant that didn't meet the qualification would be the much more rare specimen; it will glean you little more than a pat on the head and a "don't call us, we'll call you." Then of course we have the concept of "downsizing" and a major recession to deal with, not to mention the fact that there now approximately one gajillion young, bright, overeducated people out in the big wide world competing for anything and everything that will get the rent paid and provide health insurance.
And before you get started, no this isn't because I live in New York. Yes, there are more people here competing for each job. There are also about forty times more jobs as the next largest city you can name on any given day. Really. Go look at Craigslist if you don't believe me.
So there's this vast sea of well qualified, well educated, well heeled, often attractive young people jumping up and down waving resumes and yelling "pick me!" And then you have me. I am such a textbook case of being my own worst enemy that I'm considering offering myself up as a test subject... for cash, of course. You should have seen me at the headhunter today. I may as well have written "I don't want to be here" across my forehead. Every cell in my body rejected the place, the idea, the fact of enlisting these people to get me a job that I DON'T F*CKING WANT. Yes, oddly enough, spending the afternoon begging people to get me something the very thought of which makes me want to set myself on fire makes me somewhat unhappy.
I want to be able to pay the rent, and keep my studio, and eat and have electricity, and take a class now and then, and buy clothes every once in a while. I don't want to prostitute my soul and my mind for it. But where's my way out? Where is secret option number three? A cabin in the woods and subsistence farming? Living off of credit until I go bankrupt and take Jonathan with me? Suicide? The first one I'd do in a heartbeat if it didn't actually cost copious amounts of money. The next two aren't what I'd call practical or sustainable or desirable or anything good at all.
* * *
12:30am on the day that we like to call "today", Tuesday, July the twenty-ninth of the year two thousand and eight but what in reality was last night, found me crouched on my kitchen floor gobbling tofutti cuties. Do they make it better? No, not really. But inside of their creamy goodness, there is nothing else. There is nothing but sweet and cold. There is just me and the chocolate ice cream and the cookie bits clinging to my thumb and forefinger. Like smoking, it has a centering and focusing effect. It is a happyplace, one that I went to thirteen times last night for lack of better judgment. It would have been fourteen, if Jonathan hadn't intervened. There was of course also the real dinner, and the drinking. I find solace in imbibing, in consumption. In the simplicity and self involvement of it. Of course, when it's all ice cream it makes me sick.
* * *
Later. I've had a nap. I've re-worked my resume now, into something the headhunters want to see. Take out paralegal, emphasize assistant and support to the senior partner, use bullet points, and for the love of god don't make it longer than a page (even if the second page is only references). At least, I think I've made it what they want. I don't really know what they want, or what anyone wants, which is I suppose the essence of the problem. When it comes to so many things, I just don't get it. This is, for instance, why advertising makes no sense to me.
So I guess I'll go on their goddamn interviews. Assuming of course that they manage to get me some. One lady that I talked to today kind of 'got' me right off the bat, mentioned first a place that was "very laid back" and then something at a museum; her I liked. This other dude was all, I have something at a corporate finance place downtown. I really wanted to tell him I'm probably not your girl, but I'll jump off that bridge if and when I come to it and we get to interview scheduling phase.
This afternoon there was also the phone interview with the small web design company that shall not be named - learned that one the hard way, didn't I long time readers? Anyway, I hate phone interviews, and because I got stuck at the agency for so long I ended up having to do it in a Starbucks on 41st Street. I didn't bomb it like the one with GreenCorps - oh god, was that a massacre. But whether or not I did well I have no way of judging. I'll just have to wait until tomorrow and see if I get a call asking me to come in for a real interview. I did what I *hope* is the right thing and sent an extremely brief email tonight, thanking the girl I spoke with for her time today and saying I look forward to hearing from her soon. That's what you're supposed to do, right? I swear I read that in a book somewhere...
My confidence is, to say the least, shaken. It's not being helped at all by the fact that I don't actually want to get a job. I need a job, I have to have a job, I will take a job, but I am full of so much trepidation at the idea of re-entering this world, the one I left because it was killing me. See, I left because it was killing me. And now I'm back, knocking at its cold hard doors, asking to be let inside for a few more licks. Thank you sir, may I have another? I haven't been to the studio since last Tuesday; already the soul and the important things begin to die...
But now for the delivery Thai that's just arrived. Giant vat of soup and gianter plate of curry fried rice with tofu: Here! I! Come!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Perhaps this is all just a fancy way of saying that I'd like to *not* be here right now. I'm tired. I'm grumpy. And damnit, didn't I already quit this effing job? Why yes, I believe I did. Not that I have another one. I have an appointment with a headhunter, which for some reason I'm considering the same thing as having a job offer in waiting. Probably that's very foolish of me. But the thing is, if I hadn't given notice here I wouldn't be able to give any prospective new employer a firm available start date, and that just doesn't work for me.
Tonight I'll print out copies of my resume, decide what to wear, figure out how to eat around tomorrow's hectic "schedule". Today, until I'm done here I'll plod through, counting minutes until 5pm. Humming the worst doo-wop tune ever imagined.
I don't know if they've scheduled any interviews yet, for replacing me. I care for entirely selfish reasons. For example, if they find someone this week, maybe she'll be able to start next Monday instead of the one after - an institutional pardon, as it were. I'd be out three hundred bucks, of course. But somehow even that seems OK. It probably shouldn't.
In large part, I don't want to be here today because I'm exhausted. I don't get a whole lot of down time these days. For example last week: worked Monday to Friday in this here dingy office, then Friday night drank too many mojitos with the K to the M c. Saturday got up at 9am to write, then hit the town for a few hours before working at the coffee shop from 7pm till 1:30 in the morning. Sunday, once I could finally get myself going (by the time I finally got home at 2:30am, had a raging migraine- didn't lead to the best morning) we headed out for the C train - blog forthcoming. Between the late start, the dawdling pace, the copious station visiting, and the dinner afterward, we weren't home till 11pm. Almost 10 hours all told. No, not so much with the sitting around. But then, I never have been.
So tomorrow is the beginning of the next stage of my work life. Surely hopefully theoretically it will lead me to job number four for the year two thousand and eight. I know it's my Saturn return year and all, but jesus. This is getting ridiculous.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It's been four months since I left my old Real Job, the one that left me feeling like I couldn't breathe. I would literally feel the weight of it pressing down on me so heavily and so often that in the morning I couldn't get out of bed, that in the evening I couldn't do anything at all, that at night I'd avoid going to sleep becasue I knew when I woke up I'd have to go there. So I left. And what have I been doing?
Well, a week after I left I started work at the coffee shop. Three days a week and not five, granted. But spending seven hours on your feet, wrapping up the "day" by sweeping and mopping at 1am is a little bit different than sitting in an office from 9 to 5, no matter how challenging that office job may be mentally. After the late night coffee shifts, there has been no springing into action the next morning. There has been slowly and stiffly and painfully dragging myself into something like action by about 1pm the next day. And if that day is a work day, well then I have four hours until I need to head back downtown to do it again.
And then a month or so ago I started the receptionist job, which is really a legal assistant job where I don't get paid enough and always have to answer the phone. It was supposed to be part time, and it was... for the first week, until the afternoon girl quit. Then I started staying, and I just kept on staying. So now I have two jobs and am working six days a week, something like 47 hours. So somehow I'm working (way) more hours but making half the money that I used to.
It's still not the stressful kind of situation that I used to be in; that place was insane and it's only gotten worse since I left. But I've gotten myself into a situation that isn't really better. It would be... if the money was close to the same, or even enough to live on. But it isn't. And it's not about just wanting more. It's about coming up $1200 short every month and no longer having savings to fall back on. That math just doesn't work.
Thus the meeting next week with the headhunter. And I don't know, maybe this is what I should have done from the beginning. Was it worthwhile, spending 4/5 of my last two years of savings in four months? What have I accomplished? I did do a lot of painting, and it is fairly likely that I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't had some days totally off in there. Granted, I'm not exactly doing anything with the paintings right now. But I cling to the idea that it's worthwhile to do them even if I don't manage to show them or sell them. Right?
I don't know. I probably haven't used my time as well as I could have. It's much harder than you'd think. And there was all that time-consuming wedding distraction in there for a while - god only knows how much of my energy that sucked up.
I'm afraid of what I'm plunging into. I'm afraid that I'll get a job and it'll be terrible, and I'll end up staying at it because I need the money. Maybe that's the advantage of going through an agency though; if it's terrible I have someone to call, right? Maybe? And there's always the possibility of it being great. As low stress/responsibility as this, but twice the pay. Hey, it happens.
Oh, what I wouldn't give at this point for an actual career... seems that may fall into the grand category I like to call, "Things For Other People".
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
See, Ugly Betty is filmed at Silvercup Studios. Silvercup is a block from my studio. Well apparently they're filming episodes of that unfortunate teenager's story presently, and also apparently Ms. Lohan is to make an appearance in at least one of them. Now, this may be a common occurrence - hell, she could be in every episode. I wouldn't know, since I've never seen the show and only have the most fleeting notion of who the hell Linzy Lohan is. (I suspect she's one of those blonde things that started out on the Mickey Mouse Club. I remember when those kids were allowed to be brunette, or, god forbid, Italian even.) Anyway, for some reason these two decided that 5pm on a Tuesday would be the absolute perfect time to shoot a scene.
Fine, sure, no problem. Except that the scene apparently involved the entrance to 23 Ely, an extremely busy subway station - E, V, and connection via overly circuitous pathways complete with ugly art beneath that enormous glass monolith, the Citibank building, to Court Square and the G. Now, a normal human would say, hey, at 5pm on a Tuesday, people might be using the subway. But let's face it, we're not dealing with humans or anything like them. We're dealing with teen (?) film stars and their TV execs; apparently to this type of "person" rescheduling to, say, 3pm on Sunday just doesn't cut it.
So there I am, innocently walking from my samosa-and-diet-coke lunch/dinner at the Indian Diner around the corner from my studio after several hours of painting, with the intention of hopping on the V to go to SVA to engage in several more hours of painting. And what should appear before my bewildered eyes, there on 21st street in usually sleepy Long Island City? A dozen trailers, not so uncommon. But also: Throngs of people, many of them with fancy, expensive and professional looking cameras.
What who where? I mean, I'm not completely dense; I know that Silvercup pulls in some bigwigs now and then. But it seemed such an unlikely time, and it was getting thicker as I walked toward the E/V (and thus away from the famed studios). They were full on blocking the sidewalk, too, with those little folding white tent thingys. Crossing the corner of 43rd Ave, something about me (The paint covered jeans? Or the 18" x 18" painting in my hands?) caught the eye of one of the Fancycamera Men, and he stopped me to see what was on my canvass. I took my opportunity - what, pray tell, are the hell you people trying to snap? And then it was revealed to me: the presence of La Lohan, heavily guarded in her own trailer of course.
Another look at my surroundings, which were becoming more chaotic by the foot, revealed directors' chairs - with the 'Ugly Betty' logo splattered all over them. Suddenly, all became clear. When I reached the corner at which I intended to descend into the subway, it was as I had feared starting with the first inkling of famous-people involvement: in essence, no dice. Big lights everywhere, and those crazy white screens to reflect the big lights... and the entrance to the subway, completely blocked.
Fortunately for all involved, they hadn't managed to prevent access entirely - the station could still be gotten at from the other side of the Avenue. From what I could glean, though, that wouldn't have been so if I'd been there a half hour later. And so, by sheer chance, my commute to school was saved - no thanks to the supertwins. Somebody should probably clue those girls in to the intricacies of the NYC subway system; for instance the meaning of "express train" and "rush hour" and why the two of these things put together always equal "enormous numbers of people in various states of disgruntledness". Who knows, maybe they could use the knowledge as background for a character sometime.
That's my story for today. In case you're wondering, yes, I'm still sad. But who really has the energy to be that sad all the time? Not me, certainly.
Monday, July 21, 2008
What to do with each day?
Well, there is working. It doesn't pay enough, but it pays something. I think about quitting, every day I think about quitting. But it's foolishness. More realistic is to do what I did today - apply for other jobs while I'm at the one I have. Does it make me a terrible person? Perhaps. But at this point I act from desperation. I'm down to maybe a month's backup, and this is NYC in a nasty recession. I'll play dirty if I have to.
Outside of job-work, it seems that all I have for certain is my lover and my work. There are worse situations to be in, to be sure. While I'd like to be able to say that there are more numerous dependable factors in my life, there simply aren't. There is one very natural conclusion here: I should spend my time on my lover and my work.
As for my lover, he needs me right now. Due to some tumultuousness at work (and unhelped by my recent depression), he is feeling rather uncertain about his current standings in the world. Giving him extra attention is only prudent. As for my work, it goes without saying. I went almost two weeks without coming to the studio; that just cannot be. For one thing, I may have done in my precious plants for real this time. But the true issue is that I'm whittling away my life savings (more like hacking out chunks out with an ax) to keep this place. To not come here is like setting enormous amounts of cash on fire. And that's actually not something I want to be doing right now.
I'm doing a fairly incredible amount of writing currently; you're not seeing a lot of here because I'm going to try to have it published for real. Strangely, lit mags don't like it when they publish something that you wrote and then discover that it's already all over the intarwebs. Go figure. If it doesn't get accepted, rest assured that you'll be seeing it one way or another - on the blogs, or in individual zines, or both.
In other news, for better or worse, I now have health insurance. Got the card in the mail today. Coming in at a mere $245 a month, no less. I don't think it will cover visits to any of my doctors (because they're all specialists), but at least it will cover prescriptions, which yes, tally much more than the above figure at retail cost. And at least that's significantly below the $515 mark that COBRA was ringing. Ahh, glorious cost of living in this here malfunctioning body. Hopefully soon I'll have a job that actually provides health insurance; then I get to try to figure out how to cancel what I just got. I'm sure that will be a bundle of fun.
So yes. Focus on loving my loves. And, of course, finding a job that pays more and provides benefits. These things are more than enough to occupy my time, my mind. And if any of my "friends" see fit to seek out my company, well then those are the ones who should have it, right? I'm truly convinced now that I'm a bother to everyone else; no more doing the inviting for me. Invited or nothing, so it sure is a good thing that I'm busy.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
They are the family that I slowly built for myself because my actual family really wasn't one, not in any way that I could depend on, not then. And now that I have something supposedly happy and exciting to share with them, they have vaporized. Enormous things are happening in my life; they're uninterested in talking to me about them. Enormous things are happening in their lives; I find out through friends of friends, through myspace. How did this happen?
Yes, friends grow apart. I know this. Of the people I've felt close to in the past 15 years, the lost can be counted tenfold, perhaps more, for each that remains. But these were my people, the ones who have stuck through thick and thin (and believe me, mostly thick) and somehow all at once they're gone.
Or maybe all at once I'm forced to admit it. I was at least in part only fooling myself in thinking that we were still close. With the exception of being taken care of during the flood, over the last few years I've been snubbed easily five times as often as I've been included. But I truly believed that when it came to something big, something important, it would snap back.
Like, say, for an engagement.
Or the death of a parent.
Or the purchase of a house.
All three of these things have happened in the past two months, but I seem to be the only one even remotely interested in sharing.
So I guess it's time. Time to give up my delusions about these relationships. To understand what my role is in these people's lives, regardless of what they mean to me. To stop trying to force a closeness that is no longer wanted.
* * * * * * * * * *
When I first started to think about having a wedding, I was struck with a panic. It mainly revolved around a feeling of being utterly alone. Perhaps I have friends, and I have my sister, but most people are at least a few states away - meaning that there's not a whole lot they'll be able to do as far as helping me put together an event. I would be taking on this huge task by myself. Of course every book I picked up gushed on how the bride couldn't possibly have done it without the help of her amazing network of friends and family - lucky her, I'd think, shortly followed by I'm completely screwed. Well, I was talked down. I was convinced that I'd have plenty of support.
But I'm not so sure any more. We've been engaged for two months, and it feels very much like every other project I've ever tried to involve other people in. There's an initial half-hearted statement of interest, followed by deafening and complete silence. Yes, I know how far away the wedding still is. But is it common to wait two months to tell a friend of 10+ years oh hey, congrats on the engagement, sure I'll be a bridesmaid? At least one of the people I wanted for this role is avoiding me like the plague. I'm beginning to think it was very foolish of me to have ever been taken in by the false sense of security that wishful thinking can bring. I'm pretty sure my initial feeling, that that kind of thing is for other people, was much more on target with reality.
I'm thinking now that if there is any kind of wedding at all, it will be a much smaller affair than even the modest 50 guests we'd been thinking about. Like, 10 maybe. I don't want to spend that kind of money when all it's going to do is guilt people into coming to an event that they don't really care about. The families will come; at this point I really don't know who else. I truly feel like everyone else I know just doesn't want to be bothered. So you know what? I'm not going to bother them. I'm tired of bothering people. I'd rather just be quiet.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
That being the unfortunate case, I thought I'd share a little tidbit that wasn't included in my original B train post. In the interest of keeping the posts (relatively) brief I have to pick and choose what goes in, and it killed me to leave this part out...
See, it turns out that within the 145th Street station, there's a police station. This in and of itself isn't that odd. There are police stations in several to many of the subway stations - I'm having trouble finding a list of any kind, but what we can think of so far are Union Square and Columbus Circle at least, for starters. And these aren't MTA police, understand. These stations are sort of outposts for the New York City PD, doubtless established to prevent the subways from declining to the dangerous state they're so famous for having been in around the 70's and 80's.
What made this visit to the 1-4-5 unique was what was going on at the police station at the time - an arrest, to be precise. We didn't get to see why the three men were arrested. We seemed to be witnessing the tail end of the process, the men being brought who knows where, handcuffed, being led.
One has to wonder what led to the arrest. Perhaps they were involved in a robbery topside, and then tried to flee via subway. Perhaps the robbery was in the subway itself. Or maybe they were just plain old fare beaters who got spotted, with the new stricter fining laws recently in place and station watchdogs more vigilante, and they decided to mouth off or try to run when confronted - unsuccessfully.
Of course, the temptation to ask just what went on is one that must be pushed down, as doing so will most likely gain you an offer to join the offenders for their little trip downtown. Still, I managed to surreptitiously get some photos of the departing group. Without names or faces, our imaginations will have to fill in the stories. Let us hope that, if innocent, they were set free quickly (and apologized to), and if guilty they will meet with a punishment appropriate to the crime.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
After not sleeping for the second night on Monday, I spent Tuesday a weepy whiny mess. It was really pitiful. I'm useless, my life is going nowhere, there's no good answer, same old crap bla bla bla. I shouldn't be too mean to myself; things get hard and my chemistry was all effed up. And anyway, it's not as if I didn't know that it was all pointless.
Today I've regained my senses, in no small part due to the fact that I've had something resembling a night's rest. As of now, the situation looks like this: yes, my current job does not pay me enough to live on. About half, actually. But at least it pays half, so the drain on my savings isn't as dramatic as it would be if I were totally unemployed or even just less employed. It's a job that I give as much or as little to as I feel like in a given day... for the most part, at least. And now that I have a new computer with internet access, things should be a little nicer. The effect of having this job is that my time is stretched - my time, that is, to find the right job.
The right job? What the hell is that? Ah, the eternal question. It's the one that strikes the right balance. The one that both pays me enough to live on plus a smidge, but also doesn't take so much out of me that I leave it each evening feeling dead inside.
How do I find it? Aw christ, I have no idea. Look, I guess. Ask friends. Apply. Spread around my resume. Yesterday I applied for jobs with the Freelancers Union and Meetup.com. Either one would be pretty cool, I think, especially FU since it's a non-profit and all. The location ain't great for me (Brooklyn Heights), but I could use the commute time for subway study, so it'd work out. Here's hoping they even notice my email amongst the 500 I'm sure they've already received from Criagslist.
So, I've got three months, maybe four if I'm careful or get a little something from the parents. I just have to be diligent and not be so dragged down by the application process. It feels so much like being ignored or outright rejected, but I have to get over that. When you put up a post for a job one evening, and come back the next morning to 200 emails in your inbox, you're not gonna open all of them. It's luck of the draw. I can only up my chances by applying more, as grueling as that may be.
I'm just standing on the shore, throwing pebbles into a vast sea. One day a miracle will occur and a mermaid with shimmering gold and green scales will surface, and smile, and toss my pebble back to me. She'll have tied a note to it: "Administrative assistant for a nonprofit graphic design firm, will train in software, 40K plus full benefits. Start Monday?" Or even, "Legal assistant at non-reprehensible lawfirm, 36K plus benefits, start in a month?" Until then, I'll just try to count the concentric circles that radiate as the pebbles break the surface of the water.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I know it's ridiculous to keep my studio, but the thought of giving it up is, in my mind, akin to tearing my soul out of my body and tossing it out the window. Suffice it to say, I'm trying to avoid that. But man, that's one expensive soul. So I'm toying with the idea of sharing. But then someone else would be in there. Their stuff would be in there. And worst of all, they could be in there when I wasn't in there, and they might touch my stuff. I don't do very well with this concept. So I don't know.
I'm contemplating asking my mom for some money. What price handout? Guilt? Superiority? Simply the knowledge that they'd know that my little gamble failed and I had to come running to them? It's not as if it's their own money anyway, not as if they worked for it. But I can't decide if that makes asking for some of it worse or better.
I'm considering printing out some old stories in booklet format and trying to sell them in the subway, two dollars a pop. I know for a fact that I should stop being so lazy with my etsy posts. I have merch laying all over the place that I still don't have up; that's just stupid. I never have followed through will my old plan of going 'round to the bookstores to see if they'll sell my wares, consignment based or otherwise. Why is it that when it comes to the potentially money-making parts of my endeavors, I get wishy-washy? I'll paint all the live long day, but then when it comes to asking someone for a show, I'm jelly. Classic fear of success? Perhaps. Or maybe creation just interests me infinitely more than sales does.
Of course I'm thinking about the old office, about whether they'd take me back. And I'm pretty sure the answer's yes. They have several people leaving in August for law school. All I can think is jesus, talk about admitting defeat. But no, it's so much more than that. I left there because it was eating me alive. I was unbelievably unhappy there for longer than should have been permitted. Going back would be an enormous mistake; it's almost a guarantee.
I'm just miserable. I'm wound up and anxious, and I want to wake Jonathan but it's just wrong to; he needs to sleep and there's nothing he can tell me that's going to make this any different. He's just someone to whine at; I'll only get myself even more worked up doing it and upset him in the process. Not what I'd call productive.
This is just stupid. Why this? Why now? Nothing's different than it was last week. This isn't helping me at all. I'm not broke yet. I've got two more months in me at the very least, if not more. All I'm doing right now is making sure that I'll be sick to my stomach all day tomorrow. But for some reason I can't get myself to stop; it's a well cultivated masochistic streak with an intense momentum once it gets itself going.
At least I get to see my psychotherapist tomorrow. She might not have budgetary answers for me, but she has to listen to me whine: I pay her in cold, hard cash.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Lately I've only been filling a half sheet - don't know what got into them today. Motivated on Monday? Who the hell ever heard of that? Monday's the day we all sit on our asses pretending we're not at office jobs we hate; don't these putzes know this? I'm used to the slew of calls after 3pm on Friday, everyone in the tri-state area remembering, "Damnit! I was supposed to take care of that before the weekend!" and then calling me up like I've done them wrong by not divining their needs beforehand. Maybe this is a next-week-I-go-on-vacation version of that? Who knows.
Of course, today I was computerless - the office version of a quadriplegic at the gym. My poor little PC... in computer years, I'd guess he's around a hundred. Well come last Monday, the first day of our office manager's weeklong absence (of course), he threw in the towel. First I got the fuzzy flickering screen of incomprehensible code. Restart: blackness. Restart: beeping, in threes. We went on like this all last week, me trying to make the computer start every morning, and then sadly retreating to said office manager's desk in the scary scary back part of the office, far from my safe and comfortable isolated hole up front.
This morning I tried it again, with no other box to fall back on, and to my enormous shock it started up! I was a little sad - on Friday my attorney had said they'd buy me a new computer, and that's always exciting. But it would be nice to be back in my hole, able to do my work and not constantly bother people for things I should be able to do myself. Well, I got so far as the desktop... after it had been frozen for twenty minutes, and was not responding to ctrl+alt+del, I restarted: blackness. Again, and: beeping. Again: more beeping. Again: fuzzy flickering screen of incomprehensible code. Well then. Back to square one, aren't we.
* * * * * * * * * *
Questions are boiling over in my mind, getting hotter and hotter, spilling right out onto the stove. Why am I working full time if I'm not making enough to live on? No vacation, no sick days, no health insurance? I know my reasons, my answers. That any other job would take more time, would take more of me. Yes, but it would also provide more comfort, more stability. But at what cost? Look at the cost you're paying now. Look at your savings account, and your calculations. Money isn't everything. No, not until you don't have any. I still have some. So... talk to you in September? That is, IF everything works out like you think it will right now. THAT happens pretty often, doesn't it? Aw, shut up. Who asked you anyway?
Come September-ish, I have a feeling I'll be looking for job number four of the year two thousand and eight.
Man, my taxes this year are gonna be a nightmare.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Ah, the best laid plans... usually aren't that well planned after all, are they? Foolish little me, there I was thinking that I'd just hop that old B train on a leisurely Sunday. But oh no no no says B, it shan't be so. See, the B doesn't run on weekends. Or late nights, for that matter. The extra tricky part was that, before heading out, we weren't sure when the train would stop running. But I said, meh. It's not as if there won't be any trains at all, now is it? Umm... hope not?
Thus, a weeknight journey for we adventurers. I knew that my darling Jonathan would join me if only for safety's sake - since I'd be out till at least 11 or so, in unknown neighborhoods and all. But Friday is his evening to decompress from the week, so I also knew he wouldn't really want to spend that time riding the subway for five or six hours. As such, I attempted to recruit super-awesome former co-worker Kelly M. to be my subway support system for the evening.
She was shockingly receptive to the idea - I don't know how many of my friends are actually that willing to ride the subway with me for hours on end as I obsessively snap photos and talk into a tape recorder like a crazy person. But hey, she's a philosopher, so I guess she could see the merit. Or something. I dunno. I think it's fun, and I was hoping she would too. It seemed like a go... until she found out about the Brazilian Girls show. Oh well, easy come, easy go I guess.
And so, back to my rock, Mr. J.B. He wasn't gonna let me not go, and he sure as hell wasn't gonna let me go alone. So, feeling guilty about stealing his Friday night downtime, I devised this plan: that we would only get out at stops that couldn't be explored via other lines. The vast majority of B stops are also stops on the C, Q, D, V, or F lines - plenty of opportunities to get those shots I think. And except for the V, those lines run on weekends.
Plans thus coerced and truncated, we set off tonight. Since I got off of work at 5 and he not until almost 6, it was practically 7pm before we made it to the 7th Avenue stop at 53rd street where I'd determined it would be most convenient to pick up the old IND 6th Avenue line. A touch of irony there, perhaps? Oh well. As for the 53rd street station, it's not what you'd call exciting. It's where I catch the E sometimes, if I'm heading from the Columbus Circle area to my studio on Long Island City. It's one of those confusing stations where all the uptown trains are on one platform (downstairs) and all the downtown trains are on the other (upstairs), so that both trains on one platform come from the same direction. For me, at least, this always means I don't know which direction the train will come from. Somehow everyone else does, though, so I just look in the direction they're looking and assume that's where the train will be coming from. I suppose there are bigger problems in life, but still, it irks me.
Wanting to hit Sugar Hill before dark (unknown territory, you know, and better pictures) we first headed north. On the way we ran into some breakdancers weary from their long day in the sun. We noticed the kid carrying a five foot roll of linoleum, and at first we thought he was just helping his mom remodel the kitchen. But then we spotted his very similarly dressed cousin and quickly figured it out. If you haven't witnessed many breakdancing troupes, you may not know that one of the gimmicks is that they always, have, well, "the Puerto Rican". He'll be pointed out during the show, as in, "but you don't have to watch out for the _______ guys (whatever the speaker is fills in the blank), you gotta watch out for THE PUERTO RICANS!" as "the Puerto Rican" points to himself proudly and smiles slyly. Sometimes "the Puerto Rican" is a girl, which is always fun. It's just part of the shtick, like the trick where they jump over 8 people. Well, we found him - from one troupe anyway, one that wears red shorts - and damn was he tired. You can't tell in this particular photo, sadly, but his stylish sunglasses sport a motif of the P.R. flag.
Anyway, the express lived up to its name, and despite making local stops along Central Park we were up to 145th street in no time. The neighborhood we were popped into was kind of surprisingly charming. Why surprisingly? I don't know exactly. Probably because I know the area just 20 blocks south so well, and it's quite different and not what I would call charming in any way really. But then, in cities like New York, "just" and "20 blocks" don't really belong in the same sentence. Homogeny is for suburbs.
Sugar Hill does indeed have a gentle rolling hilliness to it. It also has rows of the most beautiful brownstones you ever did see, with that wonderful curved front the architectural name of which I do not know. Sadly, as in its cousin neighborhoods to the south and west, the area reeks of impending (and some ongoing) gentrification. Nevertheless, the streets were running over with children at play, parents shopping for groceries, grandmothers out for an evening stroll in the twilight sun - all people that seemed to have lived in the neighborhood for decades, generations. Within these groups many races were represented, very few of them of European descent. Yes, up there in Sugar Hill me and my man stuck out like sore thumbs. Didn't seem to bother anybody any though; they just went on with their evenings, and we were glad of it.
Back on the train, and due to previously stated plan of swift travel I was relegated to (trying to) take pictures from within its confines. This was of course made much more difficult by the fact that it was still more or less rush hour - a fact which was indeed confirmed by the B still being in operation, actually. Basically, people kept getting in the way of my shots. The upside of this was that I got some good shots of, well, people. It being Friday night, after a long hard week, (because isn't every week a long hard week?) many of those people were quite tired.
We traversed the Manhattan bridge and saw one of the damn waterfalls that everyone's been making so much noise about - and sorry, but it's ugly. It's water falling off of scaffolding, and it cost an obscene amount of money - 15 million bucks obscene, that is. Art is great, I'm all for it, but all for one art project? And an ugly one at that? Supposedly he used scaffolding to mirror the ever-changing face of the city - in other words the constant construction that drives us all crazy. Why would we want to look at more scaffolding? I wonder what 15 mil could do for the NYC public school system. Or to run down parks in, say, Bed Stuy. Nice effort I suppose, but no dice.
I attempted to take pictures from the train... see, I love my camera, and in a lot of ways for many purposes it's an excellent camera. But unfortunately speed of focus, shutter speed, and rapid-fire shooting are not among its strengths. In other words, I got a bunch of blurry blotches. I also kept managing to only get shots of support beams - I'd say about a 20% chance there but more like 90% of my pics. Maybe I should play the lotto tonight - or maybe I'll just get struck by lightning.
Shortly into Brooklyn we reached our first get-off-stop - DeKalb Avenue. My 50¢ MTA Art In Transit guidebook had tipped me off to an installation here. It was kind of hard to find, and kind of odd when we found it. A bit Picassoesque, with its random geometric forms and musical instrument parts. And inexplicably the king (of clubs) and queen (of hearts perhaps) flanking to the left and right (respectively). Whatever floats your boat there, Stephen Johnson. (Apparently there's a much larger installation in another part of the station - I'll find it when I'm riding one of the other three trains that goes there, I suppose. I also suppose we didn't really need to get out there this trip, but oh well.)
Our next stop was the next stop, Atlantic Avenue. This proved to be quite interesting, though not for the reasons we'd hoped. It's actually a massive hub, and I must have been exhausted (or smoking rock) or something when I decided that it was one of the places we needed to step into on this ride. It served a function though - mainly in that it has functioning and unlocked men's and women's bathrooms. Of these facilities, I was in great need. I can't say that it was a pleasant experience, nor one that provided all necessities, if you know what I mean. And there were some interesting, um, remnants crammed into various corners. It was however not nearly as bad as it could have been, considering.
The artwork at the station was disappointing; granted, it's massive, but all it is is these swoops of gray granite throughout the station. It apparently took several collaborators too, I suppose due to its scale. It does add a certain je ne sait quois to the station overall, but I don't know that I'd call it "art", any more than I'd call all the fancy buildings in midtown "art". Of course, some of them I would... but I digress.
Downstairs on the actual B / Q platform there was some old BMT signage - once you're in Brooklyn, you're riding on the old BMT Brighton Beach line. Trying to take a picture of one of these signs, I ended up standing rather close to the platform edge. But not close enough to warrant what happened next.
The Q train entering the station wasn't honking or slowing down, mainly because I wasn't encroaching upon its track space in the least. Jonathan, who's rather nervous about train platform boundaries, wasn't perturbed in the least by my positioning. Despite this an angry young man felt it necessary to shout, "move, you dumb bitch!" at me from about 30 feet down the platform. Some people just have too much hostility in them I guess.
I took the picture from a different angle.
From there it was just a zip straight shot to the end for us. Good thing, too, as my camera battery was flashing red at me due to its perilously low charge. And thankfully, sensibly, this line has only one end (unlike the A train). For a while we were in a channel that was sort of still underground but exposed to sky - it was very cool, I thought - and then ended up fully above ground. All the lines seem to, once you get far enough out. And then, rather quickly again due to the express-ness, we were at Brighton Beach. Pulling into the station, the conductor made it sparklingly clear that that particular train was done for the evening and in fact for the week, it being Friday. That it was, in fact, headed "for storage". Well OK then, I guess we wouldn't be riding that one back into town. We were planning to wander for a minute anyway.
The Manhattan-bound platform has some art, sculpture that's some kind of business people morphing into dolphins type idea. It's kinda cool. I managed to get some pictures - red light still flashing away on my camera's screen, but it showed me a little mercy. Since Jonathan wanted (and deserved, by this point) a cigarette, and since it's silly to go all that way and then not hit the street, we dismounted.
And quickly realized that we've actually been there before. When we went to the Mermaid Parade this year we wandered far, far down the boardwalk and dined in Brighton Beach, at one of the local Russian establishments (Potatoes and pickled mushrooms, anyone? No really, the food was excellent. We're big fans of potatoes and pickled mushrooms. I'm eating pickled mushrooms right now, but they're Polish.). Coming back we were actually cold, so we traveled streets as opposed to the waterfront. I'd suspected this synchronicity whilst perusing the map, but then I'd thought, no, we didn't walk that far did we? But yep, we did.
Brighton Beach is referred to as "Little Russia by the Sea", and they ain't kiddin'. Neither am I, for that matter - it's not just something people say or something I made up; it's on banners that are hung in the street and everything. (Please excuse the blurry picture; this is exactly the moment when my camera finally died so I didn't get a second go at it. It's a frustrating situation; on these trips I take a lot of pictures - I only post a precious few of them here, but for example on this trip I took 160 before the battery went kaput. I really need a backup battery, and if I have that possibly a memory card as well.) The high Russian population concentration, paired with the juxtaposition of the Coney Island neighborhoods, makes this a unique area indeed. Though with its elevated subways and multiculturalism, it actually kind of feels like home - we live in Astoria, after all. Just wait till we get to Ditmars and you'll see what I mean.
We didn't spend long on the ground; I was still hoping to ride the B back into town. Well, we'd missed that boat (train). It was simply too late. B's were pulling in at the Brooklyn bound platform, and then roaming off into the night, never to round around to our side and bring us into Manhattan once again. So it goes. This left us waiting for the Q train.
While we waited, we heard something. And then we smelled something (we were downwind). And then finally we saw something - and that something was fireworks. They were coming from the direction of Coney Island, unsurprisingly, and they were exquisite. We walked to the far back end of the platform for the best view (though slightly obstructed by buildings) and stood there, holding hands, basking in our B train accomplishment and witnessing the pyrotechnic display that we did not get to see last weekend.
Googling it later, this is what I found on the awesome Coney Island Website:
Fireworks on the Beach
Astroland and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park sponsor fireworks at 9:30 every Friday night during the season. Fireworks generally start the last weekend in June and conclude the Friday before Labor Day. For specific questions about the fireworks, please contact Astroland (718-265-2100) or Deno's (718-449-8836) directly.
And so, thus concluded our B train travels. I was disappointed that we didn't get to ride the B back in as well, but so it goes. We fulfilled the goal of riding end to end, and that's what counts. It's weekdays only, and early at that, and like a big dumb dolt I waited until becoming employed full time to start this project. So at this point in some instances I have to take what I can get.
And the B train? For now, the B train sleeps. A rest for you, so that Monday morning you can appear orange-eyed and bushey-tailed for weary commuters on their way to dreaded offices. Sleep tight, little B.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The announcement - where do those come from anyway? I really must find out - told us that, due to 'debris on the tracks', the A train would not be running to either Far Rockaway or to Rockaway Park. Seems that two of Ghidorah's heads had been temporarily truncated - and by what, trash? That for alternate service, riders should take the Ozone Park bound A, and then transfer at Rockaway Boulevard for bus service (the Q 27, I believe, though I could easily be mistaken about that. The buses are a completely other labyrinth.).
And I thought, damn, that's messed up. Because I've been there; I know how far out it is. How after a long day of working in the city, the last thing you want to do is wait on an overcrowded bus which will undoubtedly move at half or a third the speed of the train that you normally take. And what about the people trying to get out of the Rockaways to come in to their night jobs?
And then I thought, soon, or soon enough, I'll have a context for all of these announcements. An interesting concept: subway stop omniscience.
* * * * * * * * * *
And last night? Was a trial. Shades of gray, a concept repeating over and over in my mind. Resolutions? Communications? Maybe, some, a little. At least we were happier by the time we went to sleep. I still had the dreams though, where his is him but not him. Doing and saying terrible things to me, being awfully mean, disappearing, moving out. But fortunately in these dreams the entity that looks like him doesn't act or talk like him. More like some evil twin that I'm afraid will one day surface, but of whom I've never actually seen a trace in waking life.
A better day at work today at least. No want for tears, no dragging of clock. And tomorrow is Friday.
* * * * * * * * * *
A bit of sadness: I lost my would-be partner for tomorrow night's train journey. I'm terribly disappointed, but these things happen, and hopefully she'll join me on another trip. Trouble being mainly that I really shouldn't go alone (distracted girl by herself carrying semi-expensive-looking camera into the nighttime hours on the farthest reaches of the subway... hmmm...).
Which means that I have to drag my man along. Not that he's not interested in the project, just that there's other things he'd rather do with a Friday night. Like sit in front of his computer and ignore the rest of the world so as to recover from his work week. But being the incredibly supportive partner that he is at his core, he won't hear of me postponing, and being protective of me he won't hear of me going alone. So we're going, but only stopping at art stations that can't be hit during other lines - basically Atlantic and DeKalb in Brooklyn. It's a decent compromise, especially for one of the lines that must be done on a weeknight.
* * * * * * * * * *
The freezer at the Key Foods by our house where they keep all my good ice cream (you know - the Tofutti, the Sharon's sorbet, et cetera) is busted... again. So I decided I'd go ahead and finally try the Haagen Daaz Coconut Sorbet - I usually go for the Sharon's because it's really good and has a much lower sugar quantity. Well just FYI, the Haagen Daaz sucks ass compared to the Sharon's. I discerned that it was vegan at the store, but after tasting it I realized that they make it with water and "coconut concentrate" rather than with real coconut and coconut milk. No accounting for taste, I guess.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Later, I am sad. Jonathan is again out of sorts; we will not be spending time together, as I had hoped. My Wednesday meeting is canceled. I think that maybe this will give me more time with him, but then considering how things have been, think otherwise. What is time with someone who isn't there? I try to talk to him; he has no replies. I tell him that sometimes I feel like we shouldn't get married, because of these nights mostly. Again I am met with silence. I spend the evening feeling as if the meaning is being drained from my hectic life, leaving behind only obligations. Sleep comes fitfully, tossing and calling out for an hour or more before the darkness can bring peace.
Today I am sad still. In the morning my stomach will not be calm and I want to cry, to sob. But of course I am at work, the unintended position, so I cannot. Perhaps if I were up front, in my private world - but no, my computer there is broken, so I'm in the back at the secretary's desk. In the middle of it all. Exposed.
I'm cheered momentarily when the hard-nosed blowhard male attorney of the office decides to order chinese food for us. My vegetable and bean curd soup comes without any bean curd, but at least there's food and at least it's free. Afternoon brings only drudgery: request medical records for these 45 clients, oh would you please? Not so bad I suppose; I only had to fill out authorizations for 30 of them.
And then at 5pm I am released, and somehow I don't feel any better at all. Of the list of things that may be upsetting me, "job" is crossed off. I am at my studio now; I have yet to face home, to face him. Any number of things could happen when I get there, from good to bad with an infinite gray scale in between. I sit here, stalling, in fear of the darker end.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Why wouldn't I choose now to start up a new project?
It seems that I'm determined to run myself crazy. Now seemed the right time to start the subway project, what can I say? It's just one of those things, some kind of inertia. I get busy, and a piece of my brain starts thinking like, ok, how can I be as busy as possible all the time? And boy can I give it answers - quick too.
So now I'm sitting here in my studio, stealing a minute between the shrink and my painting-from-photos class. I'm starving - I'm kind of living off of whatever nonperishable food makes its way into my bag each morning. It's mostly granola bars. But never fear, when I get home tonight (9? 9:30? 10?) I'll make up for it by gorging myself on whatever I can find. Probably last night's pizza and a fruit bar. Ahh, nutrition.
When did I become so reckless? And when will it catch up with me? Surely it will, though I'm acting like it won't. I'm nurturing a little seed of hope that I can keep riding this jag of frenetic activity with no side effects. It could happen, right? Sure. Especially if I keep eating poorly and not sleeping enough. Um, yeah...
Time for class! Maybe I'll be bad and cut out early, but when I do that I end up feeling like my money's been wasted. I can only paint for so long in one sitting though, so I'll probably paint until I can't paint no more and then split. The teacher, I dunno - I'm thinking I won't get a whole lot out of him, as amazing an artist as he is. He sort of just rambles, like that uncle everybody has who never shuts up but you humor him because he's nice and every once in a while he says something worthwhile. But who knows. Maybe tonight good ol' George will have some fascinating insights into my work that will have me on the edge of my seat. Anything's possible.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Thanks to Duke Ellington (and songwriter Billy Strayhorn), the A Train may be the subway line best known by non-New-York residents. Originating as the IND Eighth Avenue Line, it began running on September 10th, 1932 with a mere 12 mile trek through Manhattan. It now spans 31, the longest in the system, from 207th street in Inwood (also known as Upstate Manhattan) to three separate ends in Queens: Far Rockaway, Rockaway Park Beach, and Ozone Park.
Of course I'm starting with the longest line. Would I have it any other way? I live nowhere near the A train, and its ends are as distal from me as they can really get while still being technically in the city. As such, I had to hop the A in the middle of the line. Joined by Jonathan, my (life) partner in crime, we caught up with the A at Columbus circle (kindly ignore the ad, which I do not support in any way) and from there jetted express like to the tippy top at 207th. That is, truly, where our story begins.
Inwood is interesting. It feels like New York, that's for sure. But not quite Manhattan, but not some other borough either. It has its own flavor, owing at least in part to that fact that the hills that once covered all of the isle of Manahatta are still prevalent there. And of course there's water to each side of you, and to the north of you, at no great distance. Thus the geography, combined with large basically forested areas, make you feel like yes, you're still in New York all right, but you're sure as hell on the edge of Something Else.
From 207th Street, we walked south to the top of Fort Tryon Park. Within this bastion of leafy green is held The Cloisters, an offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that is dedicated to the medieval period. Little did I know that the thing is practically on top of a damn mountain. I found out pretty quick though. Both the museum and the park are beautiful, and worth the trek, but if you're not good with hills or stairs I would most definitely suggest a southern approach.
From there, we traveled south. We for some reason couldn't find the walking path, so instead took the M4 bus one hop down to 190th street where we re-boarded the A. On the street level was the most beautiful subway sign; I'm sort of dying to know if it lights up at night. Possibly enough to go there at night; we'll see. The entrance to the station is flanked by an overlook and park, a gift of John D. Rockefeller. I heard that guy had some money.
The station, at least at that end, can only be entered by elevator. This struck no small amount of fear into our hearts, based on the other elevators that we've been inside at other such public locations, but our worries were unwarranted. Probably because it is so frequented, it was enormous and clean. We in fact rode down with two MTA sanitation workers.
We resurfaced at 125th street to take a look at the world-famous Apollo theater. We couldn't really talk about Duke Ellington and Harlem without going by the Apollo, now could we? Nope. Of course I've been by it many times. When I first moved here I spent a two month stint at 129th and Lennox - very near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Boulevards. (Oh yeah, I fit right in.) For green trains, I walked east and passed nothing. But for blue trains, I walked west and passed the Apollo.
The theater was in a state of disrepair for quite some time, but it's recently been refurbished. The marquis is really cool these days; it looks old school, except that the letters change about every thirty seconds because it's actually an LED screen. I appreciate the fact that they kept the vintage look, but now no poor guy has to risk his neck at the top of a ladder, desperately digging through a big envelope of plastic letters for yet another "E".
From 125th, the A makes the single longest straight shot in the system - all the way down to 59th street without missing a beat. Express indeed. Having gotten in at Columbus Circle, and due to the fact that I go there once a week, I had no burning desire to get out. Next stop: 42nd street Port Authority. Also known as the bus station. The station is a little bit bizarre, sort of like a giant mall where all the stores left and cheap chain food schleppers took over every slot. But hey, if you're waiting for a bus, your options for crappy food are nearly endless. You can also go bowling at the biggest bowling alley in Manhattan. There are a few interesting installations there; the one closest to the A platform is a tile mosaic by Lisa Dinhofer called "Losing My Marbles". 42nd street is pretty much all I ever need to feel that way, Lisa.
We did not get out at 34th street, Penn Station. I am not yet ready to face what Penn Station is now; I made the mistake of seeing what it was. Before. We'll talk about it later. Some other time.
Ahh, 14th street. At 8th Ave, that is. This station holds one of my favorite art installations ever anywhere. So awesome! So socially pointed! So utterly creepy! Tom Otterness's "Life Undergound" never fails to fascinate. In all of its bronze incarnations, it is stunning. His work has spread to other parts of the city too; we stumbled upon one of his characters perching on the rocks of Roosevelt Island, and most ironically his little comments on capitalism adorn the entrance to a Hilton on 41st street.
At Canal Street we find a different kind of creepy installation entirely - the birds! Crows, to be specific. "A Gathering" by Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz brings a murder of them right into the station: on the I-beams above your head, and some enormous ones on top of the employee booth, but mainly on the fence-like gates that keep payers in and non-payers out of our beloved two-dollar-a-pop pay per ride. When you're just hanging out and you don't know they're there, and then one or two of them catches your eye, now that's some thing special. 'Specially if you see it twitch.
Zoom, swish, and through the business district we go, into the heart of Brooklyn. We passed through Hoyt-Schermerhorn, a fascination station in my mind in that it holds abandoned platforms, and supposedly windows for a long-forgotten department store. Jonathan Letham gave me this obsession, and I'm going to do my best to get him to edify me. But anyway, that station will be explored on another line, most likely the G.
We didn't de-train again until Utica Avenue. Here we found a charming mosaic installation. First it seemed juvenile, and then we remembered why - the artist, Jimmy James Greene, used images actually drawn by children from various community groups to design the piece. Combined with various pieces of iron grillwork it's a nice effect. I hope the kids got to go see the finished product. Way to be, Jimmy James. Also in that station are elaborate covers for what we think are just ventilation shafts. They add to the overall look quite nicely.
It was now time to ride to the end. Trouble is, as I mentioned before, the A goes all Ghidorah on us once it hooks up into Queens and has three ends. Tricky little minx. I knew I had to go to the farthest end, and that meant Far Rockaway. So away we went. To our fairly vast surprise, we emerged above ground somewhere around 88th street to see beaches, graveyards, boats, and all manner of un-New-York-City-like objects along the rest of the way. At the end, we found Far Rockaway, whose inhabitants were maybe not so very thrilled with having us poking around. We didn't stay for long; only long enough to see a group of Sunday School children outside with their teacher, learning a dance to a new song. And to find a manhole cover made in Long Island City. Go far from home and you find... home.
At that point, I didn't know quite what to do. So I decided that really the only fair thing would be to travel to all three ends. So back on the train we hopped, to Broad Channel, where we actually got on a (full length, nearly empty) Shuttle. The A only travels to Rockaway Park during rush hours, which Sunday certainly ain't. From RPB, it was back to Broad Channel on the shuttle to wait for the real A, along with all manner of rabble rousers coming back from a day at the beach. The A then took us back up to Rockaway Boulevard, where we once again swapped sides to head to
Lefferts Boulevard in Ozone Park. And that, my friends, is when we finally reached the end of our journey.
31 miles - possibly and then some, what with our multiple ends and all. Eight hours all told, once we stumbled off the train at West 4th street to grab some real grub at Red Bamboo - we'd been sustaining ourselves all day on some cookies and crackers picked up at a drug store in Harlem.
A long day, a satisfying day, a day on the A.
Next up? Why what else, none other than the IND's B! Tentative date: Sunday the 13th.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
It struck me. An approximated seven million people ride this subway system every day. Yet how many of us truly know it? We use it every day while doing everything in our power to ignore everything about it; a book, an ipod, a free newspaper - anything to place a buffer between us and the real raw world of those tunnels, and of course the sometimes disturbingly crowding number of people around us.
But me, I'm not a person that does things passively. No, I like to take things head on, wrangle them around a little bit. Get at the root. So I thought, maybe I should ride every line. For its entire distance. And because I'm me, why don't I just do it in order, first letters and then numbers?
So yes. This is my subway project. To simply ride it, to experience it. To see what's at the ends, to take the time to look at the art that has been so painstakingly installed in the station. To appreciate the architecture and engineering that was there in the first place. To witness the people that ride with me: infants, grandmothers, teenagers from Jersey, baby daddys, midwestern tourists, Japanese hipsters, spare change hustlers, genuine crazy homeless people; people going to work, people coming home from work (finally), people trying to figure out whether they're supposed to get out at 42nd street or Times Square.
I'll ride the trains, and I'll take pictures, and I'll tape record, and I'll write. With any luck I'll have some friends with me sometimes - a musician to act as busker, a videographer to document. We'll see. Now that I'm working again, this is going to take me a while. Tomorrow I begin.
And where to begin? Why, we begin at the beginning, of course. With the A train.