Tag Archives: New York Subway

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.

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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.”

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On Board #22

Inspired? Find out why here, then put your inspiration in an e-mail, to meanderingstalk@gmail.com

August 23, 2009, 3:56 a.m.
N Train – Union Square to Union St.

A group of Hispanic 30-year-olds have dominated this late-night car. Five girls and one guy. My end of the car is empty, indeed. Other than one man whose reflection appears in the car window – he’s asleep, then yawns, then adjusts, then sleeps – no one is here.

The group sits staggered, one girl now alone on one side, abandoned by her friend who goes over to sit next to the lone male – a stocky 180 pounder with his hair pulled back into a orange-banded pony tail. She rubs his head, waking him up. They talk for a bit, then she wraps her arms around his torso. She does more wrapping, this time with her stiletto boot around his right leg, tucks her head into his shoulder, and places her hand as close to his crotch as one can in public without being arrested.

A man enters the car at one end wearing a black shirt with red lettering. He passes through without a word, opens the door on the other end, and proceeds to the next car.

The woman backs away from the crotch and says something to her friend across the way. She pulls out her camera.

“What do you want me to do?” the lone woman looks to her right for a prop, then up to the ceiling bar. “Grab on and swing?”

The crotch-attacker snaps a picture and hands it across.

“Oh no…oh….oh…it’s so awful.”

The swinger returns the favor, snapping a picture of the man and woman, and crotch. She hands it back across.

“That was not cute.”

On Board #21

We introduce a variant on the On Board theme today: the profile, in which the writer makes up shit about a person. Take someone on the subway and give them a life. Any life. Happy dreaming.

Sept. 6, 2:22 p.m.
Q Train – Times Square to 7th Avenue

The Armenian

The Armenian

In a train with 14 people (it’s a weekend, and who needs an express on the weekends), I’m sitting directly across from an elderly man of indistinct ethnic origin. He appears as likely to be Hispanic, Arab, Turkish, and Italian. The brown rosary beads cascading from ring to middle to index fingers, and finally to thumb, suggest the first or last in that list.

We’ll go with Armenian.

His skin has is dirt worn from days working a Halaal stand on 45th and 7th. His eyes, one (the left) opening slightly wider than the other, display a tired curiosity. He’s seen a lot, during his youth in Yerevan, on the trip to Chicago with his parents, his dad’s mangled right foot from the slaughterhouse, and then anything and everything he’s seen in New York for the past 30 years.

His salt and pepper mustache is well groomed and his limited supply of hair is gelled back to cover his hair like lines on a parking lot. Despite all this – maybe it’s his nose – he maintains a regal look. He’s proud. Of his children, one of whom works with him at the cart, the other, his daughter, about to graduate from CUNY. Starting a family may have been the most tiring part of his life. It still doesn’t quite feel normal to be wearing black sneakers with a giant Nike swoosh, the one’s his son wears, and his grandson just bought. Maybe one day – he hasn’t been back to Armenia – it will.

On Board #7

Explanation.

August 13, 6:51 p.m.

N Train – Times Square to Pacific St.

“I think I’m 6’2″ now,” says a young man who is, at best 6’0″. He’s standing against the center pole in the car, shoulder length hair hiding his face. “Stop standing on your tippie toes,” he tells the girl standing up against his front side. Even while cheating, her eyes barely top his rib cage.

“How tall are you,” he asks a friend standing nearby (“I dunno, 5’10”, 5’11″”). He walks over and they stand back to back.

“So…how much taller am I?” he asks the girl. “Anyway, I’ll probably end up 6’3 or something.”