March 25, 2015 Copies of my new book, “Prayer Beads on the Train” – along with “A Marshmallow on the Bus” – can be purchased at Q.E.D. Astoria. I will be teaching two more Family History Writing Workshops and will be available to sign your copies. Please join the class too! April 5 (Easter Sunday) and April 19, 11:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m. Here’s the information. On Thursday, April 9, I will be reading from “Prayer Beads on the Train” with We Heart NYC Writers Night sponsored by Inspired Word at the Parkside Lounge. Here’s the information. There is also an open mic at this event, but there are limited spots, so you should sign up in advance. “A Marshmallow on the Bus” is also available at Word Up Community Bookstore on Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights and the NY Transit Museum Museum Store. And finally, I have been invited back to the Platform Series at the NY Transit Museum. And yes, that’s me on the bus! Stay tuned for date and time info!
Welcome to “Prayer Beads on the Train!”
I am very excited to announce the publication of my second collection of stories written on the MTA – the New York Transportation Authority, also known as the bus and the subway.
And I will be a featured writer on the monthly We Heart NYC Writers night at The Parkside Lounge in Manhattan on April 9, 2015. If you come by, I can sign your copy of the book!
Look at it this way, now you’ve got something fun to read on your morning commute.
Most subway stations in New York have a similar palette. White tiles, grey cement floors, the yellow edge of the platform, and all those shiny silver trains. Many stations have mosaics dating from the first few years of the 20th century and some have nice new ones – dating from the 1990s, like the 81st Street Station on the B and C lines or the 66th Street Lincoln Center station on the 1 line. But this station, the Rockefeller Center station where the B, D, F, and M lines stop, has something wonderful that not only adds to the color palette but gives a glimpse of the station’s past where you might least expect it.
This staircase, unlike so many staircases in the New York subway system, is made of wood. It has been painted over and over again in what I think is about four different colors, the last of which is a high gloss black. But underneath, as the paint wears away, there is a rust color, a vibrant yellow, and a flat uninteresting tan. And each color is visible as the color on top of it wears off.
This metal stair rail runs alongside the wooden one and this time of year, it will chill you to use it. I’d like to say the wood one warms to the touch but it doesn’t and in both cases, you will find your hands colder at the bottom of the stairs here than they were at the top, assuming you use the stair rails like I do.
Someone took the time to carve a few letters here, a name there, and at the bottom of this staircase, where the paint is completely gone and only the varnished wood remains, you’ll see the name “Ken.”
But I love the palette; that multicolored, Jackson Pollock, paint splash of colors from what is probably 80 years’ worth of paint. It covers the wear inflicted on that railing every day by tens of thousands of cold hands in the winter, sweaty hands in the summer. We have worn our way down to the rust-colored paint here, down to the yellow paint there, to the tan over there, and finally, to the original varnish. The last person who varnished that staircase could have been the artist who installed it when the station opened, coinciding with the construction of Rockefeller Center in 1930.
There’s a metal railing that runs next to it – probably just to meet some City code. It would surprise me if this wooden stair rail were removed any time soon though, because it is just as solid as the new metal railing. It could use a fresh coat of paint – which I normally would applaud. But not here. When the painters come in to cover this railing again, probably with a coat of that high gloss black, I will miss the colors and the small view into Rock Center’s past.
One of the things that I tend to notice when I am walking around the city is the random pieces of food that are left alone on the street after the person carrying or eating them has left. I read years ago about a guy who thought it was completely bizarre that you could see a whole cucumber waiting at an intersection or a tomato sitting near the curb, but you do. It’s not as infrequent an occurrence as you might think.
Today, it was doughnuts. Not your usual glazed or jelly filled doughnut but the giant buns that my son used to call “Sleepy Buns.” He misunderstood the word cinnamon and thought, since he was usually sleepy when he was given one, that sleepy was what we all were calling them. They tend to be large, they are glazed, and they weigh in at about twice and a half the weight of any normal round doughnut with a hole. They are dense and they present a serious alternative to a healthy diet. Oh yes, and they are usually wonderful.
I was walking to the train just now and saw one of these buns lying in the middle of the street. Normally, I would remember that cucumber guy, scoff at the loss of a perfectly good bun, and keep walking, but as I kept walking, I saw another one, only this time, it was merely a shard of a sleepy bun. Walk a few steps more and there is another shard, and another. Together, they made up the better part of two buns.
So, what happened?
Somebody was starting to get self-conscious carrying an 800 calorie snack and decided to leave it for someone else? OK, that could happen, but how did the shards come to be there?
Somebody picked a fight and heaved the 800 calorie wonder at his or her assailant who reciprocated with the shards?
Or maybe somebody who started the altercation did so because the sleepy bun owner didn’t want to share? He or she, although I feel certain this was a guy event, had broken the first bun into pieces and the bun recipient tossed them at the owner of the second bun because getting a shard was a slight?
What will be interesting to see tomorrow, as I walk the same route back, will be to see if either the bun or the supplemental shards are still there. My bet is some happy rat will have carried it all off to his or her, and in this case I am leaning toward her, family waiting for dinner behind a wall someplace.
Sad bun owner, belligerent shard tosser, yet happy rat. At the end of the day, it’s just another story in the Naked City and I’ve got 8 million of them.