#7 train, Court Street Station, before the station’s renovation.
Photo of the day: VANISHING VIEW – As the over zealous, over greedy and over crammed building continues in the neighborhood of Long Island City in Queens, joyful surprise views like this one of the treasured Chrysler building, are rapidly vanishing as the new glass wall of condo towers obliterate the century old Queens view of Manhattan. Next stop, Blandville.
#7 train, 46th Street, Sunnyside
Photo of the day: BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE – It is 15°F (-9.5°C) here in New York City and last night winds were howling as we received 10″ inches (.25 meters) of snow for our first blizzard of 2014. But the commuters aboard the local #7 train at the 46th Street station in Queens were oblivious to the frigid conditions outside as they concentrated on their books and iPhones on their way home.
Photo of the day: WHERE DO YOUR OLD SCHOOL BUSES GO? – Part of my ‘Tijuana Tuesday’ series. Ever wonder what happens to that clunky old yellow school bus that mom walked you to every morning? That old faithful bright yellow box of a bus that you and your buddies (and enemies) took to school five days a week? The classic part of our Americana landscape? The answer is = MEXICO!
On my recent trip to Tijuana, Mexico I was fascinated by their idea of ‘mass transit’. My coming from one of the biggest metropolises on the planet, New York City, I am used to big modern, (now some electric), sleek air conditioned kneeling buses with big scenic windows. Well not in Tijuana. Meet your old school bus! The old General Motors buses are over hauled, painted bright green and viola – ‘mass transito’ .
The destinations are hand painted onto the interior windows. It is one flat fee the equivalent of approximately $0.75¢. There are frequent official benched bus stops, but the buses pick up passengers wherever someone signals them, and, let you off wherever you wish. They are always full. No one seems to converse much on them, they are always quiet, people just sit politely staring out the windows. Their idea of air conditioning is simple – open windows! And if it is really hot . . . the driver drives with the door wide open!! (Better not stand too close to the front!) Some are decorated with paper cut-outs inside, some hang discarded furniture/lamp fringe in the windows. The most charming of all, at night some of them have red Christmas lights inside of them.
It certainly isn’t what we in our big USA cities are used to, but they are content, busy scurrying back and forth from the market and home on your old yellow/their new green buses. Old school buses never die, they just retire in Mexico!
Mondays on Memory Lane: I REMEMBER SUBWAYS WHEN . . . – They had rattan seats – when the rattan came loose, it would pinch you in the ass – all you needed was a nickel and a dime to ride the subway, 15¢ – they gave out paper transfers – porcelain handles that squeaked – the subways were so noisy you had to wait till the next stop so that you could talk – they had vending machines on the platforms: assorted gums like Chicklets for 1¢, Dole orange juice machines with separate spigots for water and juice concentrate – there was still a Miss Subways – there were large paper ads shellacked onto the walls instead of the peel and stick kind today – the stations were dimly lit with simple household light bulbs – we still had token booth attendants – those thick wooden turnstiles – there was a dusty/musty smell in all the stations – garbage was piled high on the tracks – ladies wore white gloves on the subways (this helped keep your fingers from not getting black from reading The New York Times) – all businessmen read their cleverly triple vertically folded NY Times, it was an art – there were wonderful square cardboard ads on the car walls advertising the movies with a show at Radio City Music Hall – when (I Love) Lucy got the loving cub stuck on her head and takes the subway disguised as a beekeeper – there were no musical performers on the trains – that vertical emergency brake pole that was on one end in every car, that would clank as the train rattled – trains shook, rattled and rolled – going from car to car while the trains sped through the tunnels was really dangerous and scary – men gave ladies their seats – porcelain ceiling fans – those teeny tiny tokens! – you could open the windows at your desire – the conductor changing the route signs at the end of every station – you got dressed nicely simply because you were taking the New York City subway, wondering if you might sit next to an actual ‘miss Subways!’ . . .
Radio City movie & show – 1974 subway ad
Waiting for the bus
Photo of the day: WAITING – for the M101 bus on Third Avenue, voted the 2012 “Schleppie of the Year”. The M101 was given the Schleppie Award as the city’s least reliable bus, more than a quarter arrive bunched together or with major gaps. The average wait time of 8 minutes is a non reality. When the bus does arrive, it can move as slowly as 3.9 mph (miles per hour) – that is slower than an amusement park bumper car. I watched this man for ten minutes . . . he gave up and decided to walk instead. I ♥ NY.
Interview of the day: THE FRIENDLIEST MOTORMAN ON THE #7 LINE ~ One of the friendliest motormen on the 7 line! A long time veteran of the rails, married with 2 children. He asked to remain unnamed and just be recognized for his bright smiling …face, so let’s just call him ‘Smith’. To familiarize you with the MTA lingo, the person in the front is the ‘motorman’, the person in the center of the train operating the doors is your conductor. There isn’t actually very much communication between the two. Most of the communication is between the motorman and headquarters.
He clocks 5 trips a day (the maximum allowed by the MTA.) I asked him what was the most memorable trip, Smith replied: “Yikes! They had me ride right into a tornado in April of 2010. My reaction was like that you see in a cartoon, your eyes pop out of your head, you can’t believe what you are seeing and you react just like a Warner Brothers cartoon…and then you pull yourself together and say to yourself ‘Keep the train steady and moving, you can do this’.”…and he did! His annoyances: “The people at headquarters giving us instructions aren’t here, they don’t know what we are facing or many times are up to.” Also the signals, he pointed out if any one of them is out or wrong it can cause the train to come to a halt and even cause damage, we stopped for a moment and he pointed one of them out and said: “Do you realize how old they are?” So what are his joys? His daily joy is approaching the 103rd Street/Corona Plaza stop. Smith said: “There’s a little bodega down there I can see from my booth and there are moms out front with their little kids. The kids see the train come to a halt and see me looking down at them, so I give ’em a big smile and toot the horn to see their eyes light up, it never gets old.”
His best story: Smith a long time ago met a young man along the line. Not very well dressed, struggling with school and finances. Smith gave him a pep talk and encouraged to keep in school and hang in there. He saw him routinely on his way to school, always in shabby clothes. A few years passed and he saw him dress a little better and ride at different times of the day. It turns out he was job hunting. A few more years passed and Smith pulls into a station one early morning and there at the very front of the platform was someone he thought he recognized. But this man was so well dressed. It was the same young man! He had gotten a decent job and was finally making a bit of money. Smith had watched this young man go through his and our daily struggle and watched him become a success. That makes Smith feel good to this day. As for me, I had a big smile, Smith had put a face and a warm smile behind the person we all take for granted daily. If you see him – give Smith a big smile – you’ll get one right back!
New York Transit Museum’s 11th Annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central
My sweet friend from Finland Nana Kautto and I were doing our own little tour of NYC and found this amazing train display. We were instantly turned into little children with our mouths agape and eyes huge with wonderment. This is so awesome! Funny thing is now…NYC has a mountain range with a ski chalet (well…a pass-through mountain is kinda required with a model train set). Grand Central Terminal turns 100 in 2013 and they’re starting the party early with their 11th annual Holiday Train Show! In a brand new layout by Lionel Trains, model Metro-North and New York Central trains depart from a miniature Grand Central on their way North on a 34′ long, two-level “O” gauge layout. Vintage model trains from the Museum’s collection are on display joined by stunning New York Central railroad posters harkening back to the Terminal’s heyday as the nexus of long distance and commuter train travel. Presented by the New York Transit Museum.
New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store Grand Central Terminal, Shuttle Passage, next to Station Master’s Office Monday – Friday 8 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 6 pm Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day FREE ADMISSION Visit or shop online at www.mta.info/museum