Tag Archives: Mass Transit

On Board #31

Sept. 28, 9:35 a.m.
Northeast Regional, Amtrak, Washington D.C. to New York City

Cindy, I just had to call to tell you something. Have you been to Canal Street? In New York City? I’m going up there, and I’m looking for a Burberry purse, and I thought if I didn’t call you you’d be upset because…have you been back in the secret rooms? Well I was just talking to my girlfriend Sally, and she was telling me about them, and she was saying all these stores have these secret purses in the back, in these secret rooms, and in the secret rooms they have the better quality ones, or something. I thought you’d want to know? Well yeah, they’re probably illegal. Is ther anything you want me to look for, for you? A belt? [To Sally: Do they have belts in the secret rooms, or just purses?]. OK, I’ll look for the belt. Yeah, it sounds too good to be true. Mark will probably be mad, but whatever. Sally? She was up with her two brothers and sisters and she actually had addresses, and she’d walk down the streets stopping at the places she knew were good. They have like these storefront business offices, like a dentist office. I had never heard of it. But the police only want the big dogs, they’re not gonna waste time with these small time dealers.

More details, here. Submit yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com

On Board #30

We made it to 30. Keep your submissions coming: meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

Sept. 21, 8:16 p.m.
2 Train – 96th St. to Bergen St.

Kareem – A Drama In One Act


SUSAN boards the train at 96th Street. She spots an open row and sits next to DONALD, leaving an open seat between them. A 19-year old Asian, about 5’4″, she’s dressed like she’s off  to catch a bus home to suburban New Jersey. DONALD is black and overweight with unkempt dreadlocks. His loose white oxford, the bottom three buttons unhooked, makes him look even bigger. He has several items scattered on the bench – a stack of newspapers, a bag of bamboo shoots, and a once-black backpack – putting a buffer between him and SUSAN.

DONALD turns to SUSAN.

Have you ever heard of Kareem Abdul Jabaar?


Have you heard of Bruce lee?


Well, Kareem Abudl-Jabaar taught Bruce Lee everything he knows.

DONALD pauses. SUSAN looks down and away.

You don’t believe me? Ask your people. They did a movie. You ever seen Enter the Dragon?


You ever seen a Bruce Lee movie?


No you haven’t, everybody says they have, but they haven’t.

Yes I have.

No you haven’t.

When I was a kid.

Ohhh when you was a kid. Well, go see this movie, it’s called Enter the Dragon. You’ll see a tall black guy. That’s Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

They sit in silence for over a minute as the train rumbles on. SUSAN desperately tries to avoid eye contact, wishing she had a book to stare blankly into. The train pulls into Times Square, DONALD collects his things, and departs. SUSAN waits, looks up to where DONALD was, then quickly sneaks out of the car at the same station.

On Board #29

Sept. 21, 3:53 a.m.
Q Train – Herald Square to 7th Avenue

A 50-year old man in an unbuttoned blue work shirt and floppy cap has what may be the very first copy of the Monday New York Times, mildly warm of the press. It’s folded in both hands, resting on top of his lap and beneath a red black and silver mountain bike with a brown leather seat. It’s scratched and dirty, but appears in working order. He nods in and out, and, thankfully, back in, just in time to exit the train at Canal St.

Details here. Send yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #28

Sept. 14, 11:23 p.m.
4 Train – Grand Central to Atlantic Avenue

The subway is not for the easily shamed, and thankfully for those bored on this late night ride, it does not appear the young white man at the end of the car has any: He’s twisted a white t-shirt around the center pole of the train like a French braid, and – headphones plugged in – is dancing and lip-syncing.

His sports allegiances are mixed, with an all-black Red Sox cap, a black and gold Jordan t-shirt, and black Iversons. If one wants to go there, and I suppose we will, his white tee is perfectly placed as an inappropriate fifth appendage.

He has several dance moves. The thrust is his favorite. While going in and out, his body also vibrates.There is also the splayed fingers, gun-shaped, jostling up and down and pointing in directions unknown. When not thrusting – and sometimes while thrusting – he bobs his head side to side. He rotates around the pole and loses his braid, retying it quickly, but without the braid. The song appears to be at the bridge, and he’s calmed into a slow slide, back an forth.

As the train gets ready to depart Atlantic Avenue he stands in the door, looking out, the white tee bundled in his hand, still thrusting, still lip syncing, not stopping even when the door, his curtain, closes. He’s got other audiences to entertain.

Details here. Send yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #27

Sept. 4, 8:10 p.m.
167 Bus – Port Authority to Haworth, NJ

The most awe-inspiring view of Manhattan is not from the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Promenade, or the George Washington Bridge. It’s on a bus to New Jersey, after sunset, exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and curving toward Weehawken. It’s a sight whose description wouldn’t do it justice, so that’s all I will say.

The windows on a bus provide this view, distinguish it from the underground subway, and help alleviate an otherwise painfully boring ride. Unlike a subway, you can only see, at best, 6 or 8 people from your seat. On an off peak bus, like the one I’m on now, there’s far fewer.

In this case, there’s only one, an older woman, about 58 years old. She’s got a large black purse in the seat next to her, which is fine because the 60-person bus has just under two dozen passengers. She’s reading what at first appears to be a newspaper but turns out to be a circular for a grocery store. She has a black ballpoint pen and is circling items beneath the garish light above.

But, again, you can see outside. An armory. A group of men eating at the corner table of a Burger King. A corner store with it’s door open. A middle school. Two people investigating the menu outside of a Chinese restaurant, then entering. A barely-lit church. A full 7/11 parking lot. A Walgreens offering a gallon of milk for 2.79.

The woman puts a navy blue blazer on over her drywall-colored top (with, it must be noted, a rather plunging neckline) and pulls another circular from her purse. She has two bags, both black, one sitting on the floor.

She yawns.

I request my stop, the sign telling me to walk alertly. Innumerable homes with no lights on. A cul de sac.  A baseball field. When I exit she’s the only one left on the bus: in a bus of 25, half the rows unfilled, we had sat in the same row throughout the ride. There’s only one stop left. I know where she’s going, and, if she cares, she knows where I am.

Send your On Board submissions to meanderingstalk@gmail.com

On Board #26

Sept. 16, 9:48 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

Few human beings do blank stares quite like toddlers, and this particular toddler’s got a particularly blank one beneath his curly brown hair. He barely responds when Mom hands him a toy school bus, instinctively lifting his left hand to grab it but not moving his gaze. In his right hand he lazily holds a sippy cup at just enough of an angle so that there isn’t a pool of milk on the floor.

His mother is young and well heeled, her hair in shades of Jackie O and her pale blue trench and silver watch distinctly Fifth Avenue.

His head now rolls from side to side, though there’s no more look of comprehension in his eyes. He does have two moments of excitement, one as he stretches beneath the straps of his stroller to glimpse at a man loudly selling Rubik’s Cubes out of a cardboard box, and later, several stops into the ride, when he realizes he’s on a train of sorts and cries out, almost inaudibly, “choo choo.”

Submit your On Board stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #25

Sept. 13, 11:04 a.m.
2 Train – Bergen St. to Fulton St.

A gym bag and bagel with cream cheese – an incongruous combo if ever there was, though their owner, a young man seems to have enjoyed a few more bagels than sweaty trainig session. But with a piece of coffee cake sitting in one’s own bag, who’s to judge?

Certainly not the three young women who look like they’ve never seen a meal they couldn’t satisfy with a Nutri-Grain bar. All three are pretty, as is the red head’s mother, who has taken on a classic matronly look but her toes – painted the same magenta as another woman’s Dunkin Donuts cup – suggest a different past. They look primed for a shopping trip, and one wonders if the black rolling bag is for someone’s trip home or to accomodate a few dresses and shoes. A conversation:

He tells stories like an old man.

He’s kind of boring.

He just bought a house.

I don’t know how old he is.

I can’t remember how they met.

And he’s short.

It’s amazing what happens when you fall in love.

Details here. Send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #24

July 22, 10:04 a.m.
B train – 7th Avenue to 42nd Street

A young girl, probably 6, is bored. She holds the bar next to her seat in two places, her hands six inches apart. She looks up often at the people standing in the car, before returning her head to rest on her right hand, which she’s curled around the handle bar. Her father, a large man in an orange t-shirt, jeans shorts, and generic sneakers, leans over and says something. She laughs. Next to him is a woman who might be related, also Hispanic, about the same age as the man.

“Are we almost there?” the girl asks. She has begun attempting to climb the pole.

They are visiting from Florida. His father is in the hospital, has been there or a while, but does not know his son is here, in New York. The man and his daughter are going to a museum – the Met? Natural History? – and then will surprise his father at the hospital. The woman appears to be a relative, but not a wife. She spends most of the ride reading from what looks like my Intro to Theology book from high school, and was unaware that the father was sick.

Everyone around them is silent. An older Chinese couple, a large man with his iPod plugged in and his eyes closed, and a 65-year old white man whose look of nothingness suggests he’s worked all his life and is unsure what to do now. Down the car a black man in a dark grey suit holds his face with his right hand posed like a brace flying buttress. The cathedral, his head, seems to be staring at nothing in particular, thinking hard about something very serious. Across from him, an Indian man, tall and hulking, has passed out on his laptop bag.

The man is telling his daughter about the train. About why it might be stuck at the moment (a car ahead), about why we can’t see the streets (we’re underground), and about whether we’re there yet (we’re halfway). They have tickets to Yankee Stadium, expensive ones, for tonight’s game. They’ll go after the museum and the hospital. Grandpa won’t be able to come.

The woman gets off the train at West 4th, saying goodbye to both of them. Finally the girl gets her unspoken wish, moving to the seat by the window that the woman had occupied. She cups her hands like she’s staring through a toy store window, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever is outside – inside the tunnel.

Send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #23

On Board rolls on. If inspiration strikes, send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

Sept. 11, 9:45 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to 42nd Street

“This seems like a nice place. Where are we?” he asks.

“We’re right by the park. Over here is Flatbush and it’s completely different,” she responds, pointing on a credit card sized map.

She’s in a black knee length dress. He has a tiny head peaking beneath a plush winter jacket, vaguely resembling that alien from Men in Black with the tiny head.

He speaks clean English with a Russian accent: “I’m just thinking about where I’m going to get breakfast.”

“Oh I should have fed you more. You did say yogurt and eggs.”

On Board #20

You can inform yourself of what’s going on – and how to participate – at this link.

And in honor of the New York Times jackin’ my game, here’s a story about books.

Sept. 2, 9:42 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

Lots of books open today. A middle-aged women reads a paperback with a plug on the back proclaiming “Small Farms Can Pay Big!” There’s a paperback of “Eat to Love,” complete with charts and bar graphs. An unidentified royal blue hardback with no descriptive jacket. A blue hardbound Torah in the hand of an Orthodox Jew – mid-ride he trades it out for a miniature book in brown leather, also in Hebrew. He’s reading aloud, under his breath.

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is in paperback – devoured by a young women who appears on her way to a job at a literary agency. A young man in a lime green button down appears in his way to a tech job while reading “Predictably Irrational.” Ditto for the similarly aged man with the lime green backpack (his shirt is more blueberry) reading “Why E=MC2?” Both are hardcover.

One woman, 30 years old, just started a George R. R. Martin novella. She’s standing, and in the seat next to hear a youmg Asian woman is writing in a GMAT mathematics prep book. An older Latina woman two seats down cradles her book so that only the words “…Small Place” are visible in the title. There’s a guidebook to an indeterminate Asian city written in Chinese. A woman smiles a spontaneous smile as she turns a page of The Corrections (in paperback). A man who must be 6’6″ is halfway through Infinite Jest. A 20-year old from West Africa reads something in French.

And finally, there’s a trade paperback by Dorothy L. (it stands for Leigh) Sayers. The title is unclear, but the reader, a woman in her fifties, is just a dozen pages from finishing what must be her 541st book. At Times Square, she places her bookmark on the last chapter, which she just reached, slides her book into a black and tan purse, and exits until her next ride.