Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Missing the Trains

As I said yesterday, I had a very mild experience of Sandy, and it would be stupid of me to pretend otherwise.  Sure, some trees came down nearby, and there was some minor structural building damage, but photographing any of this seemed rather piddling given the real problems (roaring tides, fires & long-term loss of power) that many people in the city have been dealing with, and trekking off to snap pictures of misfortune seems cheap. I have, though, been obsessively following news stories about the storm, and I do feel especially dislocated by the loss of the subway system - both in a literal sense (I take the train to work) and in the ineffable way that New York just feels wrong without the trains.  It's like a whole layer of the city is missing, and it makes travelling around the place so much more mundane. I love to walk, I like the bus for when I'm in a part of town I don't know, and I love the subterranean thrill of a train car.  Subway journeys take me right back to first being here, when every inch of a car was covered in graffiti, and the A train seemed to hurtle along the west side way faster than it ever does today.  They make me remember how happy I was to become a small part of the city, and realize that, though I seem to complain a lot, I still can't believe my good fortune to have been here for twenty-eight years.  The trains may be cleaner and conductor's voice grown fainter, and the dreary repetitive commercials & recorded announcements may be quite quite soulless, but the small random dramas of the underground world still draw me in.  Rides still have the dark, otherworldly logic of dreams.
Please come back soon.

"Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards."

                                                               from The Man-Moth, by Elizabeth Bishop

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