A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 35: Danger on the Rails

July 31st · 1 Comment

In the kaleidoscope of New York experiences, none are giving me a consistent thrill like a $2 ride on the subway. The good civics of mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have made the streets of Manhattan quite scrubbed and civil. Walk underground, though, and there’s a whiff of anarchy.

A hot wind blows up from the dark as you walk down the stairs. Mysterious creaking sounds emerge from the tunnels. Even in the stations decked in shiny new tile, wires dangle above the tracks and paint peels from the ceiling, and the floor is studded with hundreds of black coins where gum has been trod upon until it merged with the concrete.

At the 28th Street station, the walls are pocked with blows. One here, and here – look at that one way up there! I can only speculate what caused the violence. What leaves a mark like that – a crowbar? When did that happen? Could that person still be here? In that dark tunnel, maybe?

Two points of light illuminate the tracks. The train comes banging in, and the doors open and greet me with a whoosh of cold, conditioned air. Strangers everywhere, people I have never seen and will never see again. The doors close and the cars accelerate and the air is filled with an electric hum, and then the clack-clack! Clack-clack! Clack-clack! of metal banging against metal. The sound reminds me of a roller-coaster ride at Great America called The Demon.

But this isn’t a roller-coaster ride, it’s public transportation, the place where New Yorkers of every class and station get together and ride, everybody or anybody at all, Bernie Goetz or a mad jihadist or a gangbanger, and I am in a dark tunnel, strange blue lights flashing past, and until I emerge into the light again, anything could happen.

Tags: Sights & Scenes · Urban Survival · Why I Love This Town

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 steve // Aug 4, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Fantastic description in the second paragraph. Love the gum visual.

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