May 21, 2009


86th Street

The subway tunnels are the essence of Big City Like No Other. The air carries all kinds of smells, from soft pretzels baking at a stand to the whiff of perfume as a woman walks past to the every-present stench of stale urine. The ground vibrates as a train approaches. The dark tunnels connect us mysteriously to other parts of the city. You can see everyone in the train: parents with small kids, teenagers with their friends, street people, young couples, and well-dressed business people.

Street performers play near entrances, serenading the crowd with music that is often touchingly awful. Sometimes a rat will scurry along the tracks. Breezes rush through the tunnel, cool and musty. As a train approaches, people will come hurrying down the steps, their feet clanking against the steps as they rush to jump on before the doors close. The mood of the tunnel shifts constantly from bored and sleepy to frantic rush. The train takes away the crowd of people on the platform, but always more people come hurtling down the stairs, an endless supply of humans going somewhere and then returning home again.

Even in the subway tunnel

In one tunnel, I found a snake.


patrick said...

During my first trip to Paris (when I should have been preparing for my flight home — which I missed), I was sitting in one of the m├ętro stations watching the people get on and off the trains during the morning rush. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I picked up a scarf a woman dropped and got it to her before the doors closed. I watched a train of elementary school children descend to the quai via one stairwell only to leave quickly through another one, two by two and holding hands. It was a good day.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Huh, these pictures reminded me of the Paris Metro, too. Your shots, and perspective on the subway is very different from the NY Subway you see in pop culture.

jo(e), you make me want to visit Big City Like No Other.

jo(e) said...

Patrick: Ah, Paris is such a great place for people-watching.

Queen of West: You know, I'm so out of touch with pop culture that I don't even know what the stereotypes about the NYC subway are ....

But definitely, you need to visit Big City Like No Other. It comes by its pseudonym honestly.

liz said...

I used to use the 86th St. station all the time. Did you go to Zabars or H&H Bagels?

Magpie said...

I love seeing my city through your eyes.

BrightenedBoy said...

The subway there has more character than the metro in Marble City, which is newer and smaller.

I will say, though, that I prefer our Metro for its user-friendliness; during my Freshman Year of college I got an internship in Marble City and was able to navigate my way through the train system despite being unfamiliar with the area.