Ode to the New York Subway

This isn’t in praise of the system, certainly not the cleanliness nor service, but rather a sentimental rumination on the aesthetics of industry and decay. The water stains and hanging wires, the rats chasing garbage, scurrying over carcasses of each other. It’s like art, something true. There’s the silence, the distant footsteps and then vibrations and the approaching train, coming and suddenly there, not yours but the express, flashing past the steel pillars, thick and black. It’s strangely idyllic, a place of calm and respite, the traffic and weather above, the air from the tunnel rising up, the train coming at last out of the dark air and dirt. The conductors wear protective glasses – for the grit and abuse – and might hold the train for the switch from local to express, but then seem to prefer the opposite. It’s just a game. I took the E train on a late-night trip from World Trade Center to Jamaica Center and back again. It was full at times – leaving Manhattan and into Queens – and empty too – coming back from Jamaica at 1:30am. I woke, the train idle in the station, half of the shiny blue slippery benches filled with people not going anywhere. I’ve been kicked – hard and with intent – and stood idle after a brute of a man jumped onto the train, having punched another – hard and with intent – and all of us stood there, quiet, eyes averted, complicit. It’s something deep, the furnace of this city, the noise and quiet, the dark and roar, the rush and the emptiness again.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.