Posts tagged ‘subway’


Interesting things

So here are some interesting things that have happened lately!

(I mentioned that whole “suddenly being in the U.S. Virgin Islands” thing already, right?)

I was sick for some number of days starting the Thursday after I got back; that is not all that interesting, though.

The other day, when I was standing on a Manhattan street corner fiddling with my phone, a man with wildish white hair and a beard and clothing perhaps a bit down-at-the-heel strode past me, and said not loudly not softly, “Ah, the matrix has got you”.

More recently, walking up 8th Avenue on the way to work, I put a dollar into the cup that a youngish man had put out, along with some packaged cookies and clothes and a skateboard, and somehow we got to talking.  I spent something like twenty minutes talking to him, and he told me that he was a Swiss Guard and a Mason, had taken a vow of poverty, and paid children to read various holy and spiritual works, and he read to me the part of the Koran (in English) that talks about the birth of Jesus, and he read to me a chapter of some epistle or other of Paul (I vaguely think it was Ephesians chapter 4, but reading it now it doesn’t sound the same; maybe it was a different translation, or just the context), and talked about how semen and (I will use his phrase) pussy juice are the most sacred substances (he got a hole all the way through his foot once, climbing a fence looking for a particular skate venue, and the juice healed it right up), and how everyone needs air, water, wisdom, and Woman (or Man, if you go that way), and when you’re depressed you need air, water, tobacco, and weed, and the whole time he was smiling and clearly having a good time.  I asked him if he’d read any Buddhist scripture, and he said yeah man, they’re my favorite!

While we were sitting there talking, two rather unkempt bearded guys sitting crosslegged on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue, a man came out of the little deli or bodega or whatever that is there, and looked at us, and went back inside, and shortly after came out with three sandwich-sized things wrapped in aluminum foil, and asked us if we’d like some sandwiches.  I said I was okay, but my interlocutor said sure he’d eat one, and he’d give the other two to people who needed them.  Which I can’t help but feel was wonderful all around.

(And then when I got into work 20 minutes late I discovered that I was just about to start an on-call shift, but it wasn’t until noon, nearly three hours away, so that was okay.)

And even more recently, having dropped M off on the G train to go to a class in Brooklyn, and riding back and forth between Grand Central and Times Square on the Shuttle just to see what that felt like, I met this amazing couple of little kids, the boy maybe 11 (maybe; I am terrible at estimating ages) who was rapping for tips when the car was full, and otherwise talking and bouncing around and doing pullups on the subway car bars, and asking me why I wasn’t getting off (“waiting for my daughter to text me back and see if I need to be anywhere”, I said, which I was), and his little sister maybe 9 (maybe), who he said a guy who was painting faces in the next car had rudely shoved aside and he’d better not try that again or he (the brother) would do him violence.

So many people!

And there are lots of metal rods with these plastic clamp-things on the ends on at least one platform in Grand Central, which I think are new (click for extra-giant version):

Clamp thing

I find myself not really approving of the plastic in terms of long-term durability, but that may be an irrational prejudice.

So how’s things?


I am just an ego with feet

I have to tell this heartwarming story because it reflects well on me (and therefore might make up for a bit of oogling of Beyoncé Knowles’ bosom, and of (hitherto) unspoken thoughts of the general form “we should just freaking nuke [annoying region] and have done with it”), and because it makes me smile, and so might make you smile (and thereby make up for some more oogling and imagined nuking).

When you come up from the S into Grand Central, just past the turnstiles, there is this area which is sometimes interesting, where the Puppy Guy hangs out, and there was this guy selling “How To Pick Up Women On The Subway” books the other week, and so on. So when I come up that way, I tend to look around.

(Not that I don’t look around at other times also. Looking around is good.)

Yesterday on the way home the only obvious unusual thing in that area was this older gentleman talking rather loudly into his cellphone, saying “just past the turnstiles, yeah, no I don’t need to go back in, just look to the left and you’ll see me…”, and I thought okay and continued on.

And a few yards along there was this smallish older woman, cute and slightly hunched forward over her own cellphone not particularly looking around, saying “but I am past the turnstiles, yes, but I don’t see you…”.

So I boldly leaned over slightly and gently turned her toward the abovementioned gentleman, and pointed in his direction with an outstretched arm, and she said “oh!” and started moving in that direction, slowed considerably by the streams of people she had to cut across to reach him.

And I couldn’t resist looking back to make sure it was all working right, and she was about halfway to him, and he had looked up, and was saying into his cellphone, “Oh, there you are!”.

So that was nice. :)


Subtleties of the Seventh Avenue Subway

tracksIn the morning, on the way downtown from Times Square, a packed express (the 2 or 3) stops every minute or two, and the doors open and lots of people get out, because they were on their way to Times Square from uptown.

This leaves room for other people to get in, and then it stops at 34th street (Penn Station) and then at 14th Street which is where we are going.

In the afternoon, on the way home going uptown, a packed express also stops every minute or two, but hardly anyone gets off (not many people are going from downtown to 14th street), so it stays packed, and only a few people (who are willing to squeeze more or less forcefully in) can get on.

A somewhat less packed local also stops every minute or two, so we get into that instead, and we stop at 18th and 23rd and 28th, and then at Penn Station, and finally Times Square where we are going.

Which is not bad, the subway is a fun place with a wide variety of interesting people. It is just a thing which I have noticed.


Super Bowl subway iconography

So here’s another funny picture from the Subways of New York.

This is on the inside of a subway car that was entirely decorated in Super Bowl related Pepsi ads (or perhaps Pepsi related Super Bowl ads, who can tell?).

Subway Icons

Now is it just me, or is that a cross and a couple of crescents?

I suppose maybe it’s a piece of a stylized slider on a stylized mixer which is part of a stylized “we are cool like DJs who use mixers” image-set or something. And some abstract bubbles with lighting effects that look like crescents.

Or something.

But it looks like a happy little gathering of religious symbols to me.

Subliminal symbols to draw the favorable attention of Christians and Muslims to the ads for fizzy sugar water and violent war games? Some artist having fun sneaking weird stuff into the campaign art?

‘Tis a puzzlement!


Cold Weather Reporting Center

So somewhere in the labyrinth of the NYC subways, under Grand Central I think, there is this door.


And I passed it the other day when it was so extremely cold outside, and I muttered under my breath “hello, I’d like to report some cold weather!”.

I wonder if they get people knocking on their door and saying that very often…


The silence of the everyones

One odd thing, a very very odd thing really, thinking about it, is how silent the commute into The Big City is.

Not silent-silent, of course; the train makes lots (and lots) of noise, the big commuter train and the subway trains. The loudspeakers also speak loudly about standing clear of the closing doors and all.

But the people…

There is an official Quiet Car on the big commuter train; the first car or the last one, generally, depending on phase of the moon or something. (On the even bigger Amtrak trains, the Quiet Car has signboards suspended from the ceiling, saying “this is the Quiet Car” and all; on the commuter train you’re just supposed to hear the announcement and know which car you are in.)

But really, they needn’t bother.

On every car, everyone is silent. There may be two or four people traveling together, who speak in low whispers. There may be someone talking quietly into a cellphone, but even if they aren’t talking about their recent surgery or divorce or whatever (which I can sort of understand being disturbed by), but just saying “yes” and “aha” and “that’s nice”, they can still be tapped on the shoulder and asked to “keep it down” (I have seen this happen, with my eyes!).

I suppose maybe everyone is either trying to sleep, or being considerate of people who are trying to sleep.

Or they are just being boring. :)

Who does dare to make sounds? It’s kind of an interesting list:

  • People will talk, a little, if there is a reason; they will ask each other to make sure this is the right train when the loudspeaker says something confusing; a nice lady will ask me if I am all right when I make the mistake of sitting down on the subway and therefore crack my head sharply on the overhead handrail when I stand up again, and therefore sit down again quite abruptly; someone will ask me if this train stops at Penn Station, and I will proudly know the answer and tell them it does. But that is all very brief.
  • The subway musicians make sounds of course. Good sounds! Both the licensed ones with their assigned spots and their nice-looking cases put out for tips, and maybe their CDs for sale, and the I-suspect-less-licensed ones who just set up at a random place in the long hallway between Times Square and Port Authority. (I always carry spare dollar bills in a cargo pocket for these.)
  • Some people asking for things are mostly silent also, just sitting with a cup and maybe a sign, hoping for coins (or dollars). They are pretty rare; I suspect they are silent because if they are too noticed they get moved along by Authorities. But sometimes they will talk softly, or slightly jiggle their cups.
  • More mobile people asking for things can break the quiet of the subway to give their stories and rattle their cups; those tend to get dollars, too, even if (like the quite able-bodied guy on the 8th Avenue Local yesterday evening) their stories don’t really sound all that convincing. But I am in the “better a dozen grifters scam a bit than a hungry person get nothing” camp, so there we are. (The other morning on the train platform there was a guy offering resumés and asking if anyone needed a Graphic Designer; unusual!)
  • In between are the occasional musicians on the subway itself; playing the guitar or the sax (both or which I’ve seen recently) or whatever else. Do they also need licenses, I wonder, or are they technically just subway riders who happen to be playing an instrument, or something else?
  • The people giving away (trying to give away) the dueling Free Newspapers (AM New York and something Metro something) are to variable degrees talkative and cheerful or forceful or loud.
  • There are always people shouting about their God; pretty much invariably that Jesus fellow. Sometimes they are reading aloud from their Bible, holding up signs with chapter and verse, and sometimes just expressing themselves, apparently ad lib, about sin and salvation and all.
  • And then there was this rather down-at-the-heel looking fellow with a full beard who was singing (in quite a respectable voice) John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” while walking down that same long underground tunnel yesterday. If I wouldn’t have been completely and insultingly off-key I would have joined in out loud (I did in my head, of course).

I’m told that in more Southern climes public transportation is much talkier, more raucous, full of conversation and argument and shouting. I don’t know if that’s true even on Monday mornings. :)

There was that one time, some holiday night or something maybe?, when I was on a train for some reason and there were some tipsy young women talking and laughing and singing, and there was a not quite as young (but also I suspect slightly inebriated) man who kept yelling at them to shut up, and that was exciting. I think they all eventually got more or less thrown off the train by the conductor(s), for being unwilling to calm down.

More interesting than the stifled stifling silence, anyway…

how the hell can a person
go on to work in the morning
to come home in the evening
and have nothing to say?

Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
To believe in this livin’
is just a hard way to go.


So much…

So very, very much.

All my walking muscles ache in gratifying ways.

I feel like whole sections of my mind are waking up after long, long naps. Or maybe opening up for the first time.

I like the subway more every time I take it. When you see the same thing for the second, third, fourth time, you see more deeply into it. And seeing more deeply into things is good.

The subway, that’s a good segue into some sort of coherence for this posting. :)

NYCMy morning schedule is now: alarm goes off around 0700, I leave the house around 0720, deal with the parking machines around 0736, catch the 0740 very-express, or the 0745 or 0749 also-expresses, from Croton-Harmon to Grand Central, walk to the Shuttle Passage and take the S to Times Square (around 0830), walk (nice long aerobic walk) through the underground passageways from 42nd Street Times Square (1237NQS) to 42nd Street Port Authority (ACE), take the 8th Avenue subway down to 14th Street (the express stops at Penn Station on the way, the local stops at Penn Station and at 23rd Street), go up the stairs into the old Port Authority building, wave my badge at a reader-thing, go up the elevator to the 5th floor, get breakfast, and there I am, at 0900 or a bit before.


And during all of that, so many people, faces, eyes, briefcases, shoes, scarves and dresses, ties, suits, and the subway musicians, steel drums, cellos, saxes, opera singers with tipjars, the tables of patient Jehovah’s Witnesses giving out their little books in eight languages, the loud man declaiming how urgent it is to come to Jesus, five-by-seven shiny paper rectangles left on subway seats about Jesus or an upcoming performance of Shakespeare, the song of rails, trains pushing air down the dark tunnels, the clack of heels, voices chanting over the speakers, “please keep clear of the closing doors”, the paper “Planned Service Changes” sign where someone has supplemented the tiny black type with a big crayon arrow pointing to the left and labeled “TO QUEENS” and someone else has written underneath it “thanks”.

Ehem, I was going to be coherent. But there is so much!

As previously noted I work at Google now.

It is extremely awesome.

The extent to which I can and can’t go into detail about things is interesting in itself. IBM’s big emphasis is on getting confidential information only to those who need it, inside or outside the company. Lots of information isn’t confidential, so everyone, inside and out, is free to have it, and as an internal person if I wanted to get for instance the source code to some random other project’s product, it would have been difficult just to figure out where it was and who to ask for access, let alone actually getting approval.

Google is much more Hard Shell and Creamy Center that way; anything that hasn’t been officially published is to be kept inside, but Googlers can get to an amazing amount of stuff. Just how amazing that amount of stuff is, and what it contains, I’m not sure if I can tell you.

I can reveal that Google has more than seven machines, located in more than three datacenters that are all over the place. I cannot speculate on rumors that we have a major datacenter in the back room of every Starbucks, or that we have a radical new way of cooling datacenters using Fair Trade coffee beans.

swagFor my own part, I can definitely reveal that I’m drinking a lot less coffee than I did a few weeks ago; apparently drinking from firehoses is a good substitute, in terms of staying awake.

I can also reveal that whereas it used to take me forty-five minutes to an hour to get out of the house (or, to be brutally honest, even to get all the way out of bed) on a weekday morning, it now takes twenty at the most.

Also, there really are secret rooms behind bookcases in the library, and a slide (I went down it yesterday; twice). And of course scooters (which I will have to try some day when I am feeling brave and well-balanced).

And additionally, swag! :)

I have switched from my snazzy Fossil messenger bag (a gift from M) which is too nice for daily subway abuse, to the pictured Google backpack, which is tougher, has less sentimental value, has just as many tons of pockets (perhaps a little harder to reach into ad hoc), and distributes the weight of an iPad and macbook and assorted stuffs more symmetrically for the back. I am wearing the pictured Google tee shirt even now :) and the propeller hat is still hanging there on the corner of one of my monitors.

“One of my monitors” hee hee.

I have been like a kid on Christmas all week. Giddiness!

So, summary: work is amazing, Google is awesome, I am energized as I haven’t been in probably years. And finally I have found time to write in my weblog about it!

More posts as the situation develops… :)