Thursday, June 16, 2011
The New York City Subway: Still Grimy
Ah, New York City. The Big Apple, home to everyone from everywhere who's trying to chase their dream. It's a well known fact, bemoaned by us native NYers to the point of exhaustion to anyone who does or doesn't want to listen, that our home town ain't what it used to be. Johnny and Jilly Hipsterpants have taken over the outer boroughs to the point that the person whining about gentrification is starting to sound like those gay marriage opponents: It's a fact of life that you just have to accept at some point, even if you find it personally offensive. The invasion began a long, long time ago when most of us were still in jean shorts and Catapults. By now, a whole generation has grown up knowing Brooklyn (and other parts of the city) as artist and yuppie havens. As I've mentioned before, this has it's pros and cons (safety vs character basically) but for all those lovers of all things old and crappy, New York still has one remnant of the dangerous old days:
The NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY
Sure, it's not as dangerous as the 70s or 80s when you were as likely to get knifed in the gut as you are unlikely to get a seat on the 6 train during rush hour today, but every day for us commuting straphangers is another race against the clock to escape death or at the very least, a homeless person shitting themselves. Even if Times Square now looks like something Michael Eisner would hallucinate after a Salvia binge, the subway station is still a hot, muggy, grimy cesspool of diseased homeless people and pissed off commuters just like it's always been. And by muggy I mean there are a lot of people down there who want to mug you. There might be less graffiti down there, and there aren't as many marauding gangs looking for thrill kills or initiation beat downs, but everyone who's lived here for at least a year or two has a story about a close encounter with a naked crack fiend or screaming lunatic racist (who is probably also naked). Every girl that I know has numerous stories of homeless dudes (or even pervs who have homes) jerking off in front of them. If that is not an incentive to stay in Wisconsin and enjoy the lower cost of living, I don't know what is. And then there's the rats. This video may or may not be staged, but it combines the two key elements of subway travel in New York: sleeping homeless people and giant brown rats. That might as well be the MTA's slogan.
All this might make it sound like I hate the New York city subway system (and I do) but one aspect of the subways that's kind of cool is it might be the last real example of the New York City "melting pot". While most neighborhoods in and around the city are either homogeneously ethnic or are that common mix of new school out of town hip folks and original residents who are either left behind or refuse to go anywhere, the average subway station crams hundreds of different people together like sardines spanning every race, tax bracket, shape, size and color. A Benetton ad of people who hate their lives and each other, avoiding eye contact and trying to read Junot Diaz or Sistah Souljah (depending on their race) with a 300 pound Guatemalan's elbow lodged in their stomach and praying to Allah or Christ that there aren't "station delays" and that the guy in the bike shorts in his bare feet during a snow storm is just harmless crazy and not "stab you in the brain" crazy . Sinatra couldn't have said it better.