Sunday, August 10, 2008

C for Effort - the C Train

And now, the news you've been waiting for!Ok. I admit it fully. I suck. And furthermore I have no idea why I did this to myself. It's fairly excruciating to try to put together a post about a train ride three weeks after the fact. Add in the truths that I took 250 photos on this journey and that it's 2 in the morning, and you get one hell of an interesting combo. But really, it's high time that this blog got blogged. I'm using my photos as a guide, so color along with me as I rebuild the journey that happened oh so long ago now... Ok, so it was just on July 27th. But still.

I was once again joined by my fearless fiance. We decided it would be best to hop on the M60 bus to get into town, which conveniently drags us all the way across 125th Street. From there it's really barely a jump up to 168th: the true start of our C train journey.

Once we reached 168th of course we explored a little. Of all the things we saw, and we did see many things, this may have been my favorite - a cotton candy man floating up Broadway. Jonathan used to live in this neighborhood, so we took a jaunt up to the old apartment. It's an odd mix of real New York edges and Columbia newness. Despite any shows of wealth, though, there was a very visible homeless population.

In fact, the first thing we saw upon getting off of the train at 168th was two (probably) homeless men sleeping on benches. I hope they can get some undisturbed rest. The other disconcerting thing we noticed was that these were by far the shabbiest trains we've ever ridden. They're the same style as some that run on the W and other lines sometimes, but the condition - the speakers don't work, the wheels make ungodly loud noises, the paint is chipping off of the seats like nobody's business, and so on. The C train gets no love. Why is that?

At 110th Street Cathedral Parkway, there's a huge tile mosaic like we see so often. It's interesting, and I'm sure it's meaningful, and I'm sure that one or several artists and artisans poured their hearts and souls into the thing. But the fact is, it's ugly. This is the part I like. Believe me when I tell you it's a small part.

The Installation at 81st Street - the Natural History Museum, don't you know - is called "For Want of a Nail...". I don't get this at all. Now, I know the reference. It's a little anecdote that goes something like this: For want of a nail they lost the shoe; for want of the shoe they lost the horse; for want of the horse they lost the message; for want of the message they lost the battle; for want of the battle they lost the war - all for the want of a horse shoe nail. It's, like, a really complicated way of saying that details matter. How that applies to this installation is what I don't get; it seems to be more of a tribute to evolution and the divergence of animal species, or the beauty and diversity of nature, or something. Whatever though; it's pretty.

Fishes! See, you don't need to go SCUBA diving in the Caribbean; you just need to come to New York City and hang out in subway stations.

I want one of these in my bathroom.

There were two (count them two) buskers in the 81st Street station. One was a fiddler doing Irish jigs - him I found entertaining because I'd just finished reading The Good Fairies of New York, and if you've read that then you know what I'm talking about. He was also engaging the crowd. Somehow I didn't think to pull out my tape recorder at that time. Dumb. And there was this guy, playing that Chinese instrument that they use in all the movies what's name I can't figure out! If you know, please tell me. Anyway, both of them were probably benefiting from the people people that didn't figure out that the B doesn't run on weekends. The C came, the C went, they were all still standing there...

Archaeopteryx! Right up there with Confucius ornis, I tell you. (Have I ever mentioned that I'm a giant fossil dork? Don't even get me started on Canadaspis perfecta...)

The 50th Street Station is interesting. It has this giant full wall etched granite mural by Matt Mullican; quite interesting stuff. Untitled. It seems to trace the development of the human species and then of society, moving from right to left. What's odd about the station is that though it is absolutely cavernous and only serves two trains, its transfers are quite lacking. Basically, if you're on the E and want to transfer to the C going Uptown, well, you can't. You have to go outside, cross 8th avenue, and re-enter (with another metrocard swipe). For a while I wondered if I was just an idiot and couldn't figure it out, but the dry-erase board in the token booth confirmed my suspicions. Seriously, the station is enormous. There's nowhere that there could have been some kind of crossover? Stop by; you'll see what I mean.

Sorry for the wholly inadequate photos of the install; it's hard to photograph. And I was hungry.

As I may have mentioned, Penn Station pains me. Mainly because this is what it used to look like, before they decided to tear it down. I believe 1963 was the year of the evil deed. I am of course not the only person upset by this; apparently when it happened it caused an "international outrage" and actually prompted the city to pay a lot more attention to preserving architectural landmarks. Below is what it looks like now.

Oh, yeah, that's the same. It's definitely not a grotesque piece of crap now or anything. They definitely didn't destroy an architectural marvel only to replace it with the most god awful mall in creation. No, that didn't happen at all. (OK, deep breath. Aaaannnnd focus. And we're back.) That said, there are some amazing installation pieces in the new Penn, mostly created by Andrew Leicester - a man who seems to share my (and the popular) view of what has happened in this space but unlike most had the chance to make a rather visible dent in the problem.

Thanks Mr. Leicester. Of course, with that place there's only so much you can do.

Granted, the new Penn does have this. It's not every day that you get to see a bear in a pink dress, now is it.

Which way to the nearest bank? Cuz this chick in the yellow, she's kinda freaking me out... Oh and in case you're wondering, no I'm not done posting pictures of 14th street. Not at all.

Somewhere around West 4th Street we encountered these hipster buskers. They weren't bad, but boy did they pick the wrong train. I think they were looking for the L.

We've got an eye on you! Or more like a hundred of them, all different. At Chambers, Big Brother (or maybe Big Mosaic) is watching.

He's got the whole world, in his... subway station. Also at chambers street, along with all the eyes watching you, is this enormous globe mosaic - it's kind of awesome, and I wish they'd keep it cleaner. There is, of course, an eye in the center.

An interesting tidbit about the Utica Avenue station. Its mezzanine is rather cavernous, and in the 90's it was refurbished with those pretty mosaics designed by children and the twirly tile designs and all. But the reason it's so big up there is this: it was supposed to be two train stations, not one. The MTA had a project called the Second System that really died before it started because of the Great Depression. But a few of the stations did get a start, mainly the ones that overlapped with existing stations. This to my understanding is one of them; if we could lift away that wall directly ahead, the one with the pretty twirlyness, we would be looking at an abandoned platform - one that never had its tracks built. Does that make anyone else feel like trespassing? Or am I just some kind of hooligan?

We made it! Of course, we'd been there before.

Ahh, the proud opening of a station that these men will doubtless never enter again.

Waiting on the train... Euclid is known for its lavender tiling.

At least one sign believed that the Euclid station is in Queens... It isn't. But maybe it was once.

The neighborhood isn't what I'd call charming, but it has some interesting details. It reminds me of New Orleans a little - would so more if it had more trees.

At the local bodega in City Line? East New York? Cypress Hills? You decide - we met a sweet kitten who was more than willing to receive our attentions. At the same bodega, I lingered too long lamenting the lack of choices of diet beverages while anxious proprietors looked on wondering what the hell we were doing there, and a semi-crazy but fairly young black lady called me baby and asked me how much a particular 40oz cost. All in all, it was a good finish to the day.

**To see all of my C train photos, try going here.


Writer's Round @ Think Coffee said...

holy shit, BRILLIANT. Ab-so-lutely BRillIANT!
I LOVE this project. Can we meet you at the end of the Z line with vegan cake?!

melissa bastian. said...

thank you very much writer's round @ think coffee! assuming there's no sarcasm there. but if that's sarah? which I think it is?? then of course there isn't.