Tag Archives: New York City

On Board #67

Details. Send ’em. Today’s entry comes from reader KC.

March 27, 2010, 5:55 p.m.
4 Train – Bowling Green to Nevins Street

“You don’t want to move over? I paid my money just like you.”

Heads shift to the center of the car, where this middle-aged woman’s voice is rising. What’s happening? Is there going to be a scene?

“I paid my money just like you.” She repeats, louder. Her dyed hair – black, cropped and curly – contrasts sharply with her fuzzy lime green coat. Her thin eyebrows say she is not pleased.

“No I don’t want to move over,” her too-near neighbor retorts, quieter than the former. She’s reading today’s Metro, and her elbows extend slightly beyond the space allotted by the seats’ contours.  Her middle-aged hair – dull, brown – is also short and curly. Her bushy eyebrows slant inward.

She continues reading. The only movement she makes is to shake her head in disgust while muttering, “Some people are always causing a scene.”

On Board #65

Find everything you wanted to know about the On Board series, here. Send yours here.

August 23, 2009
G Train – 7th Avenue to Nassau Avenue

A case study. What’s his story?

Let’s start with the facts. He’s got his iPod plugged in, a royal blue mini. His primary accessories, iPod aside, are blood (Rose? Beet? Cardinal? Ketchup?) red: his backpack, his DC shoes, and his studio-quality headphones.

He’s clearly a music junkie: a copy of Oliver Sacks’ thick Musicophilia is bookmarked to a page in the middle. He’s into music as human experience, as it makes people move and cry and smile. His hair drops down to his deltoids, giving him a Dave Grohl in Nirvana look, but he plays bass. He wants his music to hypnotically, unconsciously drill itself into your brain.

He sets the book down on his left thigh, and begins tapping in his right knee. A friend comes over to talk, randomly on the same car. Our man seems happy to see him, and tells him he just finished school. His friend is loooking for an apartment. They exchange e-mails, which they had been meaning to do, and one imagines they’ll be playing a gig soon enough.

On Board #64

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August 3, 8:18 a.m.
B Train
– 7th Avenue to Times Square

The crowd in the 7th Avenue stop at 8 a.m. is identical to the crowd at 9:30 a.m. One couple talks happily, neither dressed for an office job. Everyone is occupied by their book or blackberry, or, nothing. One man appears to be holding a printout of every page of this week’s New Yorker, stapled together in the top right corner.

The people may be the same earlier in the morning, but there are certainly more of them. One man in his late 50s with wraparound sunglasses on, perhaps not knowing (or perhaps not caring) how close his ears are to others in the packed train, listens to “Toxic” at an unfortunate decibel level. Next to him a woman zooms in on a picture of herself on her digital camera. Recently, she was trigger-happy in a country of indeterminate Asian origin. Each time the women comes across a picture of herself she zooms in to her face, deciding whether to delete it. A picture in front of a market stays. One in front of a temple disappears forever. Faces of family or friends appear in some of the pictures. She holds a tissue in her hand, and, with no apparent pattern, dabs beneath her eyes. Britney’s fan exits the train graciously early, and is replaced by a woman with her iPod playing at an undetectable volume and a large-print Sudoku printed from a web site offering “BILLIONS OF FREE SUDOKU PUZZLES.”

Across the aisle are three women, one reading today’s AM New York with a headline a sad looking Mets fan offering a heap of tickets on the cheap. The two middle-aged women next to her have matching orange bags: one is paper, from Banana Republic, the other is glossy pleather, from wherever one gets glossy orange pleather bags. Their animated speech, the only conversation at this end of the train, is in Russian, meaning they’ve been on this train since Brighton Beach. The first woman stands and leaves her newspaper, which is quickly snatched up and slipped into an outside pocket of the glossy orange pleather bag.

On Board #63

Details here. Send ’em here.

July 24, 2009 9:59 am
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

A man claps, for five seconds or so. He’s applauding a 28 year old man playing the violin. The artist wears a loose brown t-shirt and green sweats. His brown hair is in desperate need of a trim, or a bandanna, sagging down to his shoulders and fluttering over his face as the music goes allegro and he flays to keep up. He has a backpack leaning against the wall and his blue instrument case open in front of him. He’s made 20 dollars and a few bucks more in change. As the train arrives, a woman drops a dollar in.

On board, there is no music. Only the screech of the wheels and scronk of the brakes entering and exiting stations. The rumble of the car bouncing back and forth from rail to rail provides a staccato rhythm section. A disembodied voice provides the vocals: “This is DeKalb avenue. Transfer to the N and R train.”

On Board #62

Everything you need to know, here. Then send yours here.

March 20, 2010, 5:40 p.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Union Square

From the entrance to the 7th Avenue subway station I can see a sliver of the Manhattan-bound Q – the train I needed to catch 25 minutes ago, when I wasn’t 25 minutes late. Its brakes are screeching but not for long. I sprint through the foyer, pass a laggard on my way to the outside turnstile, swipe cleanly, take the stairs two at a time, and nearly barrel over a nice young woman on my way into a middle car.

I need to work my way to the back of the train, closer to the 14th Street exit at Union Square. In this car, a five year old wraps his legs around the center pole and swings. He’s seven and too young to note the connection. I pop out at Atlantic, scurry to the next car, and pop back in, working my way to the other end. A large woman is blocking the path, on one side with her body, on the other with her stroller. She pays no mind. In the next car, between DeKalb and Canal, two young women have their shopping faces on beneath bagel-sized sunglasses. After Canal, one car closer to the back, a woman sleeps while holding something in a white wool blanket spotted with brown teddy bears and light pink balloons. Presumably the baby is asleep as well.

I step out at Union Square. The staircase I need is right there.

On Board #61

On Board has thus far been strictly text. That wasn’t our intent, being friends of all media. Thus, our thanks to reader KC provides our first foray into visual media. Send your photos, videos, audio, performance pieces – and, yes, text – here.

March 18, 2010, 7:16 p.m.
N Train – Union Square to Atlantic Avenue

And, because “why not,” here’s a fictional tale to go along with it, written by your proprietor:

Where were the ripples coming from? I had seen the East River in various states of tumult, but never with such a smooth, controlled series of waves rolling from Brooklyn to Manhattan, as if the Brooklyn Bridge’s eastern-most tower had collapsed into the water in one mass of limestone.

It had been a long day, a Thursday, four-fifths of the way through a long week. I saw the pink sky bouncing off a flotilla of clouds and pulled out my phone. I needed that picture. But now I had the clouds and the skyline and the bridge, and I couldn’t stop looking at the ripples. They were spread as evenly as the lights on the bridge above. The ripples came from where I was going, but I had no clue where exactly it was they came from.

In the picture they were as still as skyscrapers, immobile, locked in space. They would move later, of course – they were moving now, as I looked at the picture – but, for now, I wanted them to be only of this moment. It’s possible they had been there each time I crossed the bridge. That I’d just never noticed them. It’s possible there was a simple, earthly explanation for the ripples: a passing boat like the one I rode behind as a child, wobbling along on two water skis tied together at the tips. But on this Thursday, with one-fifth of the week to go, an uncooked meal waiting at home, darkness settling, I wanted these ripples to be unique. Of only this moment. And so they were.

On Board #60

On Board rolls on; it needs your help.

March 9, 2010, 8:42 p.m.
B Train – Grand St. to 7th Avenue

The pretty girl with the tuft of bangs sweeping over her left eye is staring at the Budweiser ad, then out the window, then at a woman standing near the door, then at me. Her eyes dart downward. She’s holding her pen stationary, the ink pointed at a 45 degree angle toward her white drawing paper, 18×24, bound in a spiral notebook.

She starts sketching, two parallel lines at first, shading them on either side. They’re getting thicker and forming the base of a structure of sorts: a chair, a table, a thatch hut, a subway seat. An elderly woman sits next to her, none too subtly watching over her shoulder.

The artist is holding a large bottle of FIJI water and a look of concern. She picks up her pen and flips the page halfway through the drawing. There’s another blank page. She has only black ink, otherwise she might draw the lipstick red pea coat she’s wearing, or the plaid jacket on the woman to her right. She has an even bigger pad leaning against her shins, and given the blank page on her lap and forlorn stare on her face, we can only assume that pad is empty as well. The Chinese woman has opened a newspaper. The artist rides over the Manhattan Bridge without putting pen to paper.

She finally leans forward to draw, and the water bottle tilts with her. She grabs it with her empty hand just before it falls. The drawing begins with an oval; two vertical lines; a connecting curve; two more lines angled to the side of the pad, settling into short vertical stumps; a pair of curves intersecting the stumps; two straight lines plunging to the bottom of the page. She moves the pen back to the middle of the image, and starts writing in bold, dark letters: F…I…J…