RETROSPECTIVE OF TWO YEARS RIDING THE NYC SUBWAY

January 16, 2017

My second novel, Pushing Water, will be hitting the market any day now!

It’s been a long time coming. There for a while I didn’t think it would ever get finished.

But one thing about writing is that if you keep at it, I mean earnestly write your heart out, eventually it gets completed.

This has been a particularly difficult couple of years with some major ups and downs. But I kept writing.

Now, with the publishing day so close, it feels like I can take a breather, appreciate my life.
subwayWhat’s interesting when I look back on the last couple of years is that the New York Subway system has been part of these ups and downs. Reliable or unreliable, the subway trains eventually took me to where I was going. I frequently wandered the city, my mind totally absorbed in working out an aspect of the plot, or trying to figure out how to deepen a character, while I traveled uptown, downtown, visited the zoo, stopped at museums, or ate a hotdog from a street vender just outside a subway station.
cleaning-the-subwayI never knew what I would experience when descending the stairs at a subway station to go on one of my daydream journeys. Once I encountered a subway clean team. My eyes stung from the fumes of the strong chemicals. I did my best to sidestep the sudsy puddles, while I listened to the workers sing songs and joke with each other.penn-station-at-34th-stOn the days when I felt my least creative, the subway platforms looked as if they were the loneliest places in the city.flower-stall-in-subway-stationThere is a powerful sense of resilience in subway stations. Not only can the traveler depend on a train eventually arriving; there are loyal musicians who return again and again to the same spot on a subway platform. For several years I’ve seen this gentleman playing the steel drum at the 34th St. station. His music reverberating through the tunnel always lightened my mood.a-couple-playing-the-bucketsI have often watched people beat out a raw rhythm on nothing but plastic buckets. This woman beating away with her drum sticks was just as talented as the man. They both worked up a mighty sweat as they took turns trying to outdo each other. For months I saw them regularly at the West 59th Street station. Then they were gone. Perhaps one day I’ll write them into one of my novels. drummersThe subway cars often become the stage for impromptu entertainment. One day when I was headed downtown, these men hauled conga drums into the subway car. Their music sounded as good as any professional that I’d ever heard. Jolly and quick, these guys provided a delightful interlude to an otherwise drab ride.digerydoOne very hot August afternoon, I was totally mesmerized by this didgeridoo musician. That particular day the subway station felt like a sauna. Everyone looked on edge and more bedraggled than usual. Ugh, I felt as though I was melting!

Then I heard primitive music coming from deeper inside the subway station. This musician, decked out in a safari getup, looked as though he had just arrived in town from down under. He was blowing into his instrument while sweat poured off his forehead and dripped from the back of his neck. A small pool of perspiration puddled at his feet, but his performance remained lively. For an instant, I could have believed we had all been transported to the dry desolate planes of Australia. I dropped a dollar bill in his kitbag. He looked up, a sweaty scowl on his face, and kept blowing on his didgeridoo.violineOnce when I descended the stairs into a subway station, I thought I heard angels singing. Then I recognized the sweet melody of a Mendelssohn concerto. This ethereal music came from a lone violinist somewhere on the station platform at 14th Street. If humans could levitate, oh, with the sound of that beautiful music echoing through those underground tunnels, that day I could have believe it was possibledancing-on-the-platformThen there were times in the subway station that were filled with smiles and giggles. Children unselfconsciously dance when they encounter a subway musician. This mother and daughter had a great time while they waited for their subway train to arrive. A few other people joined in the dance for a brief minute before scurrying into an arriving subway car.subway-entertainmentThen there are those unexpected acrobats who jump into the train like marauding pirates, taking the travelers totally by surprise with their amazing gymnastics. What fun they are to watch.a-munchkin-and-her-monsterThe subway station was a perfect mode of transportation for this jolly couple on their way to a Halloween party. They were having a great time posing for people taking photos of them on iPhones and of course, me with my trusty Nikon. I never knew what incident, what quirky character I might encounter in a subway station. I looked at the faces of my traveling companions wondering which person would lighten my writing dilemmas with a gesture, an overheard conversation, or who might open me to new possibilities with the characters in my novel.dancing-dollsThe 59th Street station is a regular hangout for this guy at Christmas. He plays and sings Christmas carols while the battery operated dolls lined up in front of him, dance and wiggle to the music. I’ve seen him in this same location on the hot, miserable days of the summer, when the temperature inside the train station is ten degrees hotter than it is outside on the street. He is always well dressed in his suit coat, playing his guitar. His dolls, dressed in summer attire, some wearing hula skirts, gyrate to the music.musicianAll NYC Westside subway trains pass through Penn Station. It is a big, noisy and very busy station. Not only can a commuter make connections with subway trains but this location also accommodates a railroad system that sends trains east out to Long Island and west to New Jersey and beyond. Many musicians spread themselves throughout the multilevel building. I’ve seen old blues singer perform in a wheelchair on the main floor. Tucked here and there I’ve heard gospel ensembles, folk singers, women singing show tunes. I’ve heard just about every form of musical entertainment in this building. It’s as though this train station is transformed into a performance hall.meniniate-choir-in-subwayThe 42nd Street subway station is also a good location to catch some interesting entertainment. One afternoon I listened to a Mennonite ensemble perform. The area is extremely busy and the group sang as composed as if they were standing before a congregation on a Sunday morning.trumpeterSubway tunnels have great acoustics and any trumpet player will tell you that the echo of their instrument gives any tune a bit of extra depth. This musician was certainly entertaining and with his suit and tie it appeared he might have been between a brunch and dinner gig.girl-and-dollThe entertainment on a subway ride is not limited to musicians and acrobats. This little girl, dressed in the same outfit as her doll, was having a great time traveling on the ‘L’ Train coming out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.boy-with-red-sneakers-on-subway I’ll never forget the subway ride with Devon two years ago. We were on our way to see his new sister, the new little jewel that had just joined our family. It’s interesting how many memories are tied in with the New York subway.subway-ridersTwo years ago, while I was still plotting Pushing Water, our granddaughter was born. She, like her older brother, Devon, has also become a subway rider. Bundled up in a heavy winter coat, she no, travels back and forth with her mom.

I’ll take the subway today, perhaps ending up at a museum or maybe just travel to a neighborhood to take some photos and to watch people from a coffee shop window. I’ve begun working on another novel. I look at the faces of the fellow travelers on the subway, picking and choosing what facial expressions, what hand gestures, what personality type would best slip into this new piece of writing.

 

 

 

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26 Responses to RETROSPECTIVE OF TWO YEARS RIDING THE NYC SUBWAY

  1. Sharon Johnson on January 16, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for sharing, as always interesting read!

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 10:29 am

      Hi Sharon, Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Jeri Fink on January 16, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Beautiful. Your photo essay captures the essence of the subway – I can hear the music, see the beat, sense the life underground. Wonderful.

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Hi Jeri, I am so glad you enjoyed the blog post. New Yorkers are very lucky to have this subway system. It might be a bit of a problem from time to time, but it sure works for most folks. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Dac Crossley on January 16, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Love it!

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks Dac, Yeah, this is pretty exciting!

  4. Lavonne Driver on January 16, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I always enjoy you Blogs, they make me feel as though I am there!!! Love the Pictures also!!!

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Lonnie, I am so glad you enjoy my blogs. I have a great time writing them. I love that I can take you along on these virtual trips. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. Michelle Schmitt on January 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I was just thinking about you today and all of a sudden here’s this wonderful blog. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the subway and all of the sites that could be seen. I think you truly captured the essence of New York and the diversity that is encountered every day. What a wonderful place to live. You are so lucky. And good luck on your new book.

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Michelle, It’s always a pleasure to bring people to NYC, even if it’s a virtual visit. I am so glad you enjoyed this blog post. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a lovely response. And thanks for the good wishes for my new book.

  6. Susan on January 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    What a trip.

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Susan, Thanks for your to the point comment!! You will have to visit some day. I know you’ve been here before but another visit would be wonderful. Take care and thanks again for leaving a comment!

  7. Gloria Getman on January 16, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I’ve never been to NYC, and probably never will visit there, so your pictures were like a mini-visit for me. Thank you.

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      HI Gloria, So nice to hear from you and that you enjoyed the virtual trip to the NYC subway system!! Thanks you for your lovely comment!

  8. Susan Bernhardt on January 16, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Wonderful post! So many interesting people in the subways. Cute grandson! I like how people seem to accept anything that goes on in NYC. At least that’s how I felt when visiting.

    My best friend held her son’s wedding reception in her country backyard. It was gorgeous. For part of the entertainment they had a didgeridoo musician. Quite interesting.

    • Pushing Time on January 16, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Susan, It’s always grand to hear from you. I am always intrigued with did didgeridoo sound. So inventive. Glad you like the post and had fun on the virtual subway visit. Yes, New Yorkers are pretty tolerant and accepting of what goes on in our city. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a great comment!

  9. Susan Sermoneta on January 16, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    So many wonderful, peopled subway pictures – as much as I ride the subway (which is much) you’ve caught some scenes I’ve never seen. When the trains are really slow or the A becomes an F and the C an A until 10:59 etc. I do get frustrated, but I find it hard to stay mad at the subway for long.

    • Pushing Time on January 17, 2017 at 7:09 am

      Hi Susan, Spoken like a true New Yorker!! So glad you enjoyed the scenes and because I know you are a constant rider of the subway, it means a lot that you appreciate the photos that I’ve been able to collect. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a very cool comment!

  10. Chloe Cumbow on January 17, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Fanbtastic look.
    I particularly like the shot of The steel drum player with the pregnant woman whose bag reads Believe!

    • Pushing Time on January 17, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Hi Cloe, Yes, I am partial to that scene with the pregnant woman, too. Thanks so much for visiting this blog and leaving a thoughtful comment.

  11. robin lettieri on January 17, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I enjoyed the descriptions of the subway riders and entertainers but most especially the photos of my nieces and nephew robin

    • Pushing Time on January 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Hi Robin, So glad to hear from you and that you had an enjoyable virtual subway visit. But, well, yeah, aren’t those kids the best. Archiving grandkids is one of my major pass times!! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a lovely comment!!

  12. Joyce Willis on January 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    What wonderful and special photos! So familiar, yet so original. Love this post.

    • Pushing Time on January 19, 2017 at 6:27 am

      Hi Joyce, I’m so glad you enjoyed this virtual subway ride. I know you are a major participant of this travel system and that you’ve seen your share of interesting trips, so it means a lot for you to make a comment such as yours about this post. Thank you for stopping by and traveling along with me.

  13. Eric Parker on February 15, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Hi Marge
    Finally getting to this wonderful post on your travels on the subway LOVE LOVE LOVE IT – thanks

    • Pushing Time on February 15, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Hi Eric, So great to hear from you. I know how much you like NYC and I’m sure that you have some fantastic subway photos, too! Glad you liked this blog post and thanks for stopping by and leaving a super comment!!

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