Thursday, September 3, 2015

Train Preliminary #7 ~ THANKSGIVING

THANKSGIVING, 6:17pm R-train to Bay Ridge


- Plugging along the track, this trusty ole steed, deliver me post-haste.

- Convivializing to my right, a hispanic family of multiple generations. The adults seethe in excited conversation, the baby is silent in the stroller, staring cottony at the elders. No more than 15 on the train. It is cold outside. Thankfully the chilling, demoralizing rain of yesterday is over. Nonetheless, the warm womb of the train is a welcome sensation, this night of communal repose.

- I just rode 4 stops on the L with a Mexican tourist, learning about the holistic healing seminars she'd just completed. I gave her advice about the city and geography. I should've gotten her name or contact or company. She was going to spend Thanksgiving window-shopping in Williamsburg. I could've invited her to the feast my friends were preparing. Even if they had minded, I wouldn't.
But lo that ship has sailed. And that is just what these train encounters are: rogue ships sliding by in pitchest midnight, hoping against hope to scrape off the barnacles on the hull of their neighbor.

- All kinds of phenomena you see on the NYC metro: buskers, breakdancers, beatboxers, comedians, poets, panhandlers, priests, pantomimes, pushers, and pimps, masters of their own strange island, old Jews in caddies and wigs, hipsters in fedoras (short-brimmed, low-crowned, of course), hobos in cargo pants and windbreakers that have bitten into, grafted, and fused with their flesh and the empty cars that precede them, Koreans, Kurds, Kenyans, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Lapps, Malagasy, Montenegrans, Nairobis, Nepalese, Omanis, Patagonians, peasants from Kamchatka, fishermen from Minsk, Svalbardians, Kalallit medicine men- because everyone's a phenomenon, a billboard of herself - mother, father, child, drags, trannies, herms, queers with cat carriers, valises holding valises holding valises, to-go rotisseries suspended in air, brand-new toys, broken toys, hot-air balloons, a waxing gibbous moon, fish with hooks in their lips, Eris in a sundress, wolves with hackles raised, pigs in Ralph Laren, feces on their wrist, squirrels, bandicoots and basset hounds, constellations in their eyes, a beachhouse in their prayers, eternal discord in their gut. The spirit of the subway. The geist of the city. The King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, NY, NY.

- I've seen 3-card monte on the train. I've seen a grown-man at high noon writhe onto the train with his pubes out, and wriggle salaciously like a legless lizard. I've seen a young sleeping tourist wake with a start and projectile vomit across the aisle. I've seen a Thai lunatic in daisy dukes whipping himself and telling monkeys to go back to their country. And the lesbian lover whose shadow he trembled under. I've bled on the train, pissed between the cars, and like anyone who's spent a sufficient number of nights in NYC, I have lost the contents of my belly somewhere along the endless 24-hour Pollacked linoleum floor.

- I appreciate the layout of some older cars, the way the seats come in at right angles. You do not want to get trapped in the crux of the L: No legroom, inaccessible, you really want to make sure you're going to sink in for a while; these aren't one-stop seats. Unless of course, you're like me and enjoy forced discomfort, enjoy the proximity of your knee to some businessman's thigh, love having to slice through someone's inertial slumber to get off at your stop. These seats are alive. You're alive when you sit in them. You're not on a train. You're on this black coach of sorrow, we're all on together, lunging, lurching, facing each other, burping in frills, soaring over divots and ravines, inevitably, inescapably, at break-neck speed, our stomachs pushing up up up into our lungs, our nerves frayed, our wits in a tangle, our knuckles clutching on for dear life, our eyes like shucked oysters in their sockets,
until at last we reach our destination, our coalligned and monstrous destiny, our terminus. And it's not Bay Ridge.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Train Preliminary # 6 - October (?) 2014

6:33pm

- M-Train - headed toward Brooklyn from 14th St. Always the same, slate-sky benches, slate-slate siding, gumball-spectrum vomit throw-pattern on the floor. Other lines switch out cars; the M never does. The M is on the orange line, and this complements its cool slabby interior with a slight squeeze of color.

- Almost all the seats are filled. There are approx. 10 standing. About 50 in all. YOU DON'T ALWAYS THINK ABOUT IT. 50 people on your train right now, sometimes 80 during rush-hour, or 100, and the train has what 10 cars => 12 (?) => more? That means there are nearly 1,000 on each train during peak hours. And how many trains are worming along at any given time? How many burrows per day? Where are all these thousands and tens of thousands and millions of human particles headed every day?
It's always the same, isn't it? THE GREAT AMERICAN CITY.

- The windows of the M-train are large, you can see all of the East River from where you're standing.

- 6 phones are out within my radius. More phones than I remember this morning. Could be there's less to look at on the morning train, less memos to parse, less newsbits to skim, less e-thoughts to archive. Most morning people - and I mean most - check their Weltleben feeds before boarding the train, in the privacy of their nook, over coffee, OJ, toast, NPR, and jam. But throughout the day, the world begins to slip our knots, makes a run for it, goes to pasture, takes to sea, leaves us in the lurch, so when evening comes around, we're clutching clutching clutching to get it all back. Progress.

- AND BESIDES, isn't it more natural to disengage at the end of day?

- Right now there's a little pipsqueak with an adult face, sitting inaptly on the floor, legs wrapped around the center pole, pretty as a posy, for the general amusement of our eyeballs. A Marcel Marceau in the making perhaps. Or a Jeffrey Dahmer. Or just another SHOWTIME kid. I have no doubt but he'll climb that pole someday and make a fantastic pole-dancer.

- Marcy stop: a father with a stoller wheels in, baby recognizes his mom already on the train, Hi mommy, hi baby. I wonder briefly how Papi knew which car Mami was in. But only briefly, and then I exit the train.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nostos + Algos



4:28 p.m. Tues, May 19th, Starbucks Coffee, Clematis Street


- Clematis has changed. Across the street, a Duffy's Sports Grill that wasn't there. A gastropub, a bar, a sushi place, a burger bar, a bar, nothing I remember...The horizon toward the water has all been rouged-up. Like the cheeks of a sad-luck tart named Bourbon Street.

- The Dramaworks theater remains - who knows how - a consortium of gold-fobbed fogies who have found the perfect vessel for their legacy. The Clematis Newstand remains, but they've lost all their books. Now it's infinite rows of Hallmark Cards. Remains is right. Books have gone the way of the dodo.

- A few years ago, the library was relocated and the edifice torn down. I can't fault the city planners who came up with that. We are now afforded a marvelous view of the Flagler Dr. boardwalk. The former library was a giant lummox that deadened Clematis, an enormous hulky obstruction, like a freighter that blocks the view from your minty Mediterranean spa.

- A view of Palm Beach across the Lake is dangerous. You don't want everyone thinking they can be one of the haves.

- An elderly man with thick varicosed legs walkers on by with tennis balls on the soles of his shoes. Just swinging his jowls, happy clam. It's amazing to think how sometimes a man becomes his prop.

- I can't tease out the palm trees. Palm Trees. I think I've always taken them for granted. Some cities don't have palm trees, but now writing the word I've discovered a foreign element in it. Palm Trees. Something that doesn't sound right or seem true. Have I lived with palm trees my entire life? I've felt something else, I think.

- A table to my right: The entire time I've been writing, 2 of the 3 women have not taken off their sunglasses. They're thick in the shadow of an awning. Now the third has just put hers on. What is this?
Happy hour.

- It is nice here in the shade of the Starbucks umbrella. I think of the shade of the banyans just behind the old library, now only in memory. I first read and hated Catcher in the Rye under those trees: Sunfest '99, leisurely, lazily, reaping the idylls of a South Florida childhood. Now instead of trees, a desperate lawn free from shade. There's a repulsive quadrangular edifice where couples with no taste get married. And dull grass.

- I'm looking East to the water from Starbucks. Waiting for the inspiration to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Infraordinary Product Description #1: Chair

It sometimes happens that your gams have had enough, too much ambling has jumbled your brains, your breath is pale, your face is short, and you just haven't the strength to carry on. In such cases of duress, it is customary to fold oneself at the hamstrings, create an approximate L-shape with flank and loin, and abandon one's coccyx, lumbars, and everything else that follows to the inimical pull of gravity. Occasionally (though don't count on it!), one's downward vectorizing glutes are impeded by an equal but opposite force. This impediment is referred to in the vulgate as “chair.” The semi-lapsarian discovery of “chair” is called “sitting.”

There are chairs all around us. There are thousands of chairs lurking in disguise, but don't be fooled: Of course, chaises-longues and their American variant, lawnchairs, are chairs. Settees, sofas, ottomans, and (hold on to your curds) tuffets are all chairs. Backless chairs exist, known as stools. You might come upon a type of chair public: “the parkbench,” or yet again “the churchpew.” Fauteuils & Bergรจres are chairs where theoreticians spend hours. Rockers, Wheelers, and some Walkers are octogenarians' chairs. Thrones are presumably chairs for kings. Lay-z-boys and fold-out beds are chairs where zzz's are caught. (All beds, in fact, are merely chairs untroubled by perpendiculars.) Hammocks are often used as chairs, as well as stairsteps, ski-lifts, street-curbs, kitchen counters, the trunk of your car, the back of your friend, an upturned box, the Dead Sea, and so on and so forth. Anything is a chair, in sum, which is roughly horizontal and halts Sir Gluteus Maximus upon his descent.

The “chair of a board,” however, is not a chair, but rather a metonymic for the man sitting in the chair at the head of the table, which head is also metonymic, referring to the organ with which the man in the chair presides – though often the presiding organ is said to be the antonym of his anterior (don't make me say it) – and besides, rarely do we ever talk about the foot of a table, and unless we are carpenters, never the foot of a chair. (Wheww! I'm in my chair after that one!)

But the chair has hams or gammons of its own, called “legs,” and a “back” often made of the same material, usually sturdy wood, hard plastic, or concrete, and sometimes fitted together by “holes” and “tongues” - or mortise and tenon, jargonistically. Some varieties of chair have what are called “ears,” and these almost invariably have “arms.” No chair (as far as I'm aware) has a “head.” The head is provided by the occupant.

For in all seriosity, a chair is the shadow of a human torso suspended in air. A simulacrum. A homunculus. Our little scaffold. It cups our weary frame in its palms. It is the copula between our subject and the ground's predicate. It grounds us. It's where we can rest, retreat, catch up on the news. Sometimes a chair is all a man or woman needs, though it often passes beneath us unnoticed. For some of us, it is all there is – who buzz from chair to chair to chair like a bumblebee pollinating flowers. Some of us can never stay too long in a chair. Some of us: a chair is all we get.

How many Rigobertos in this country haven't a home, sleep in de-curbed chairs in janitor's closets where they work, their sole possession among the mopbuckets and weedwhackers, their private refuge, the boat-where-they-are-Captain, as they're guided through their past, present, future by constellations of memory, and question their fate, come forty years too late to this godkissed Land O' Plenty?


(That's a rhetorical question)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Train Preliminary #5




N -Train Brooklyn-Bound, 10:25 a.m. / B-38 Ridgewood


- The train is stalled in the station. The doors have re-opened twice. No announcement. No 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologize for the delay.' No 'We will be moving shortly.' No 'Thank you for your patience.' No sign of motion or progress or acceleration or change in wind, humidity, or barometric pressure. Most likely, a last-minute straggler has swooped in, prised the closing doors open (not difficult), and held them ajar for his family circus barreling down the platform. Potentially dangerous, inconvenient for others. But hell, doesn't everybody do it?

- Have you often wondered at the vomit-splatter paint on the floor? Calling forth an antique book with marble end-pages, or a large speckled gumball stolen from your youth. I believe the pattern is meant to disguise actual vomit and filth. To lend to the dirty floors a certain artificial neatness of plan. But it only works with minute filth: small dustbunnies, a solitary piece of gravel, perhaps a sewing needle. Everything else is set in great relief by the ugly pattern. What's worse, we straphangers feel no pride in our bosom, gazing at the floor. Quite the opposite, we feel reckless and prone to ceaseless litter.

- Around 30 people on the train. Mostly Mexican and Asian (nondescript), no doubt headed all the way to Sunset Park or the Brooklyn Chinatown. Far past my destination, the DeKalb stop, where I'll walk to the Fulton Mall and board the B-38.

- On these outerborough trains, there are more advertisements for technical schools and insurance programs, beautification services, or city-sponsored ads combating vice issues: excessive drinking of sodas and alcohols and the like, anti-homeless ads, teen pregnancy ads. Most are expressed with the same garish colors and outmoded typeface of sex catalogues, sometimes with visual testimonies from whatever token minority - always the same caged-up, farcical expression on their face.
Propaganda.
In Manhattan, you have whole cars beseiged by Swatch, whole depots sacked by Svedka or Swarovski, UNIQLO-conquered corridors. Apple-sized craters, villages bombed by Vitamin Water.
In Brooklyn, we're blessed by acne removal technicians and immigration lawyers.


-----


- B38 toward Ridgewood. I get off @ Malcolm X Blvd. one block before Broadway, going E on Lafayette.

- Every everlasting loudspeaker on every NY bus produces muffled static and bestial syllables. They might as well be transmissions from Mars. I can't rely on them to tell me where I am. Nor on the off-chance that there will be others getting off with me. Instead, I must be vigilant, twist my neck, crane my neck, break my neck, play musical seats, plaster my face against the window, everything's speeding in the wrong direction, lookout for busstop signs, subway signs, bodega signs, park signs, any signs that might tell me where in God's bigapple universe I happen to be. Riding the bus is not like riding the train.

- The majority of passengers are like the route: intraborough. That is to say predominately Black and Latino. The NYC bus is for the poor, defeated, deflated, husked, and weary. Those who by necessity work and play and live and convene and sleep and drink and eat and sit and shit and fuck and die all in the same neighborhood. Who are kept there by our city's precious subway monopoly, by avaricious landlords and the beautiful people with pockets, by racial profiling, commercial blight, and all the oppressive elements that just can't seem to stay on their side of the fence.

[ "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these the homeless, tempest tost to me, and I will lose them on the city buses." ]

- More kids just released from school. More elders, more fatties, more handicapable, more grotesques. Some of them must be returning to work after their lunch hour, which they took in the comfort and privacy of their own proximal homes, lucky dogs.

- I've always thought born NYers are some of the most practical people I know. And the most sociopathic. Watching the unsupervised children roll in and out like thrown dice, makes me curious if that's not the way they get there.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Train Preliminary #4

9/20/14
5:49 p.m.

7 train.
Last stop - Flushing -

- There's a baby next to me, and I wonder at the constant, impulsive, automatic crying of the infant. What do you have to cry over? I mean really cry? You have your whole life. So much time to fix the things you don't like. Such a wide open pasture for your vision-grazing. All the materials and momenta of the world ogling intently at your future. "Life," I hear it saying. "I cry over life." I hear that in its cry, and I feel its chthonic pain. But I remain silent.

(a viable topic for future discussion: the behavior of parents on the subway)

- Just now passing over Willet's Point. One of the perfect hidden true-gem corners of NYC. In the shadow of the bastardized MetLife and justborn CitiGroup stadiums - a ramshackle, ill-paved, circuitous avenue of autoshops outside regulation - only one establishment that doesn't fit the theme: a cafe with chickens strutting about indoors. Take a drive one of these days down the avenue and before you know it, you can drive no longer for the impediment of car-hustlers and parts-hawkers coerces you off the road. They'll win you over to buy a collapsed, inflated muffler to replace the one you just lost to the potholes of Willet's point. NY's little Mexican slum drive.

- I remark to myself how civil and quiet Queens trains are, particularly on the way back to Manhattan on a late Sat. afternoon. The J-train is always chaotic, too many whirling devils, too much discourtesy, too much rubbish and negligent mayhem. Queens passengers are more subdued, less of an urge to vaunt themselves or resist others - less self-important. Perhaps this is where I see my next NY manifestation, forever riding this train back to the city of a late Saturday afternoon.

----

- I immediately take it back. I've had to transfer to the Manhattan-bound E (part of the 7 is being repaired - wknd repairs). There are many more people on this train, typical NY straphangers, frantic, strained, stretched beyond civility - dismissive of their environment, lacking perspective or concern for anyone but themselves. The patina and musk of NY filth. All walks of life, though mostly minorities, all ages. A general net of disparate disconcerting sounds. Particularly the sound of the train scraping along the track and the speed of this large subterranean silverfish colloquializing with the walls of its borough. The heavy misshapen wheels raking out on a mangled misshapen track. I wonder what the trains sounded like when the system was first built. Did the trains move so ponderously, momentously? With such overwhelming effort? Probably more so: the materials and techniques for both the cars and stations being what they were, rudimentary. Though perhaps more artisanal than now, and more freshly constructed. (so what accounts for the idyll I just experienced on the 7? Its being above ground? The E's extending further into Manhattan? The neighborhood (Jackson Heights, Woodside, Hunter's Point) serviced by either train?)

- Across the aisle there is a young coffee-colored boy, wearing a superman shirt, grasping one red balloon. He has sad eyes. His loving father has his arm around the tyke. Where did this one red balloon originate? It is the opposite of ostentatious, one of the balloons you find in a bag of 100 for a buck, no longer maximally swollen and taut, but elevated to a higher status because of its one-ness and the sadness of the eyes which peer out over it. They leave.

- On my way out to Flushing, I saw an ad that was hard to stomach. It was an MTA-sponsored ad detailing new remodeling work being done on the tracks. It said 'Because after 80 years, who doesn't need a facelift?" It hurt to see how culturally saturated and sanctioned plastic surgery has become. But then again, the writers of these signs are always so out of touch. It's fascinating to me just how out of touch ads have become. A lot of them are meant to be personable, humorous, topical, but they almost always end up seeming stuffy, musty, wooden. In terms of most transparent and crudest, the seasonal ads are only surpassed by the ones which exploit the discomfort of the commuting experience.

- I have some respect for Manhattan Mini Storage, because they've abandoned all spindoctoring in their advertising campaigns. Most of their plugs are just shameless, blatant political messages or inside jokes without any real concern for public appeal. A rare one of their ads that actually lands: "'In my Father's house there are many rooms.' John 14:2 | Clearly Jesus was not a New Yorker." That has some zing to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TOMORROW'S MY MAN

Tomorrow and me - we're tight. We have an understanding...Just tell him I had to step away for a moment. Something came up of the sudden. It won't take long.

Try and make him comfortable. Give him some water. I'll be back as soon as humanly possible. I didn't forget about him - assure him of that. I didn't forget our agreement. He's my man. We've had some times together. A real history. Invaluable memories. Get him to tell you about some of them.

I won't be a half-hour. Honest: it's a real emergency. He shouldn't worry on my account. If I could be here to receive him, I would. I've got the thing we talked about. But first, I've this little urgency to attend.

If he becomes antsy, would you vouch for me? Let him know I was a good investment. And how grateful I am. I really appreciate his patience with me. Tell him that. If it wasn't absolutely necessary for me to run this little errand, I would be here myself to receive him. But you see, I've been called away on some pressing business. I'm sure he'll understand.

Tell him a joke. Divert him for a while. Until I return. Whatever you do, don't let him leave. I won't be gone for more than an hour. God's honest. Keep him here until I get back. Don't let him leave, and I'll see that you're remunerated.

But by all means, don't let him leave.