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.

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