Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You'll never believe this.

I myself am kind of in shock. That this kind of secret is being kept from us is simply ludicrous. Perhaps it's not a secret at all; perhaps it's common knowledge and no one cares. But I really find that hard to believe. I cannot count the number of times that I was just a few feet, a few moments from this monumental discovery with nary a clue...

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.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The sadness of hyper-extension.

No, I don't mean the knees-bending-backward kind. What I mean is this: instead of a nice thick layer of peanut butter on two slices of texas toast, my energies are more like a bit of melted butter that I'm trying to spread on every single crumpet in the Russian Tea Room. In a nutshell, I took on too much in July and it's come back to bite me in the ass. Between complete exhaustion and the fact that the C train's decided to go completely wonky this weekend, it has become evident that I'll not be riding a train this week.

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.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bastian Brings Boyfriend, Braves Brownstones and Brighton: The B Train

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 the confines of the train. 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, Bet 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 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're not 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. 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 very interesting 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. 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.

Awesome right? And to think, this is supposed to be Astroland's last season if Thor Industries has its way. Check out the website to know what the hell I'm talking about.

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, little B, 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.

**To see all the photographs I took on this ride, click here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Announcement.

Tonight, waiting on the W train at 23rd street, I heard one of those announcements over the crackly overhead speakers - the kind that seems that it must be going to every station because it has nothing to do with the one you're sitting in. This indictment happened to pertain to the A train, an entity with which I am now peculiarly familiar.

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.

Monday, July 7, 2008

If you must begin, begin at the beginning: The A Train.

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.

**See the full set of photographs from this ride here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

You're doing what now?

Ever since I moved to New York City, I've had this sort of aching wonder. Sure I know what the 5 train is all about at 14th street, but what about at the end of the line in the Bronx? And where the hell does the L train end up? The Z train, now there's a train of mystery. I've seen it once or twice, ridden it never. I have a vague notion of its goings on in Brooklyn, but what about how it runs through Queens?

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 stations. 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.