Tag Archives: N Train

The Passive-Aggressive Conductor

We’ve all had him and today on the N, he was especially peevish.  From 34th Street to 14th – five times, and from 14th to Canal – 9 times, we heard: “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not hold car doors open while the train is in the station.”  And then one rendition of “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not block the doors while the train is in the station.”  I guess someone at 34th held a door for the 4,000th time and the conductor just cracked.  Luckily, fourteen or fifteen repetitions was enough, and we continued on to Atlantic in peace.


What’s Next?

Over the holidays, reading Byron in Love confirmed that I shouldn’t pick my own books.  It was highly recommended in a review I can’t find now.  All the ones Google pulls up confirm my assessment that it’s deeply unbalanced, providing way too little of Byron’s literary merits or even the non-sexual components of his relationships to flesh out the catalog of sexual perversity.

Santa, on the other hand, enabled me in my favorite rut, stuffing Edvard Radzinsky’s The Rasputin File in my stocking.  Odd reading on a Belizean beach, but deeply satisfying and it provides an intriguing reinterpretation of Rasputin’s murder.  The only thing I would have added would be more photos and reproductions of contemporary photos and news stories, since the contemporary publicity of Rasputin’s exploits was a significant factor in undermining the Russian people’s faith in their rulers and helped open them to the idea of Communist revolution.

Yesterday, I finished The Collector on the way to work, but everyone on the N Train was on a Blackberry or PSP, so it wasn’t until the ride home I was able to find a new book.  The first person I sat next to was a woman about my age with a huge book spread open on her knees.  I sighed a bit, since the long ones slow down my posting schedule, but a glance at the top of the page showed it to be Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth!  Saved, I turned to The New Yorker (highly recommend last week’s review of a book arguing van Gogh didn’t cut off his own ear) and forgot to look for a new book until I’d switched to the R in Brooklyn, where a scruffy guy had a bright yellow book in hand.  It turned out to be The Watchmen graphic novel, with the bleeding smiley cover obviating the need to see the title.  The Writer happens to own the original printing of the comics in book form (as well as the original comics, but I wouldn’t dream of touching those), so for once, no need to wait on the NYPL.

Love on the Subway

Caught this on the platform at Atlantic/Pacific yesterday:

sugar mama

Apparently Craigslist wasn’t working for her.  I like that she’s the literary type – and it looks like she might have a couple interested fellows.  The notice was gone today, so I hope this wasn’t the only one she had, unless she’s adament that he be headed southward on the evening commute.

New Books

Last night, started reading Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (his first novel) on the way home from work.  I hated it (review coming next week) and about 50 pages in, started looking around for something else to read.  The N train is usually slim pickings, whereas more than half the people on the R usually have a book in hand, but I spotted Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America across the car.  I’ve put a hold on it at the library and, until it arrives, I’ll be sticking to The New Yorker.


Tell me I’m not the only one – you sometimes miss your stop when you’re reading something good, right?

Tonight, I read the first 50 or so pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, then looked up to find myself about 20 blocks past my usual stop.  I read a few more pages on the local platform headed back the right way, then thought about the book the whole way home – it’s striking a chord with me on several levels that I can’t wait to write about.

Of course, it’s not the first time a book has made me miss a stop, though usually it’s from laughing too hard, like the day, on my way to Bleecker Bar to meet a friend for a few rounds of pool, I found myself in Brooklyn – thanks Yarn Harlot! (I think it was Knitting Rules!)

So what’s done it for you?

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Based on the title, I thought this would be a work of fiction, but it’s actually the true story of the development of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892 as well as the story of a serial killer operating in the Chicago area at the same time.

This book weaves together such disparate themes as the jousting among America’s leading architects to design the buildings for the Fair, the invention of the Ferris Wheel, the popularity of bicycling and the movement of young women to cities.  Larson indulges a bit in imagined conversations, particularly involving the serial killer, but overall does an amazing job in giving you the feel of the era.  I think of this book frequently, even though I finished reading it a couple months ago, because of all the factoids, like that Frank Lloyd Wright was a young employee of one of the Fair architects and took advantage of his boss’s distraction to do work on his own (he got fired for that in the end).

The Writer was not a huge fan of me reading the book because I couldn’t help sharing some of the more gruesome parts of the serial killer’s story with him.  I was surprised, given my years of watching Forensic Files and the like, that I had never heard of this man before.  Even though the book could only have been written if he were caught, the suspense of the investigation was intense.

One day, reading the book on the platform and waiting for the N Train, a fellow commuter commented on how much she liked the book, which was fitting since I had selected it on the platform for the R Train in Brooklyn.  The real full circle will come when someone sees me reading a Book Club book and decides to read it.

Is that man holding a sheep?

The Writer turned to me on the 4 Train one day (must have been a weekend) and ask “Is that man holding a sheep?”  I looked around excitedly – it seemed entirely plausible that a fellow rider was cradling a lamb.   Not seeing one, I gave the Writer a quizzical look and he gestured toward a man leaning against the door across the way.  No wool in evidence, but his shorts revealed a leg tattooed with an image of the Virgin Mary and men kneeling at her feet.  That’s where the Writer saw a sheep, but I couldn’t be sure.

One of the greatest things about summer in New York is all the body art on display in the subway.  The rule is never to make eye contact, but I definitely look at my fellow passengers plenty.  They can distract from the book I’ve brought along, especially when I’m trying to puzzle out ornate text.  One of my favorites, recently, was an ohm on a wrist.  Last summer I saw lots of blue swallows on women’s chests and stars on men’s elbows, but now that I’ve moved and switched lines from the C/E to the N/R, I see more religious imagery and family names and fewer “trendy” tatts.

As for me, no ink, partially because I could never commit to an image like that, I’m more drawn to words.  Check out Shelley Jackson’s Skin Project for words as tattoos (I also enjoyed her novel Half Life, about nuclear waste creating a huge increase in conjoined twins and a shadowy separation industry).