Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Postcards: Traffic

1. Sometimes when a train (not my train, this is always something I see while I'm waiting for a different train, a train that sometimes feels like it's never going to get there) is pulling away from the stop, it squeals along the tracks like the first three notes of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," where the lovers sing, "There's a place..." but we never hear the next note or the next word and then the train, the one that isn't my train, is gone. I swear, one out of every five trains plays these notes, in a squeal, but at the true pitches. I'll catch it on video some day.

2. You can't deny that you live in a dystopian landscape. Giant tubes emerge from manholes, smoking like construction-orange cigarettes. The city in the distance (from Brooklyn, from Queens) is almost always under a haze. On my ride to work this morning, a block sealed off due to a smoking construction site. I walk my bike past the fumes and the fire trucks, wondering what I'm inhaling.

3. New York drivers honk at everything. If you don't move fast enough when the light turns green. If you are a pedestrian, jaywalking up to 100 yards in front of them and in danger of slowing their progress. If you are a biker, weaving too erratically between lanes. It's prophylactic, the aural grease on the wheels of a river that no one wants to clog, but especially not for them.

4. It's heady to look down at the road in some parts of Midtown and realize you have four lanes of frantic traffic managing with no markers at all, with bare black asphalt and the best that fluid dynamics can manage. It's never more apparent than here that we are making this system work by sheer force of will.

4a. One fire truck barrels the wrong way up 2nd Avenue, which is a one-way street pointed at downtown Manhattan. This fire truck is going uptown. Somehow, the traffic parts.

5. The subway is always full of musicians. But today, the bridge I bike first over, then under each morning (making a shape like a backwards 4) has a saxophonist stationed under it, playing for the pedestrians and cyclists who stream up and down and past the bridge. Somehow, he's still there, or there again, when I head home for the day.

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