Subterranean Fear and Wonder

The New York City subway system is awesome.

Awesome (adjective), causing feelings of fear and wonder – Merriam Webster Online.

I love the New York subway. Sure, it can be noisy and crowded and dirty. Subway cleaning crews are as rare as baby pigeons and they seem to keep missing cesspools like this one:

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On the other hand, sometimes on the platforms there are musicians – damn good ones! – who improve your day with their music, whether or not you toss them any money. And the stations have a grimy beauty, thanks to many generations of tile art:

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When I tell you I’m a writer, I also admit to being a voyeur and a snoop. The subway is a great place to eavesdrop and observe (although it never takes long for input overload to occur). I look at all the people around me – well, one doesn’t look directly, one glances and senses – and I try to figure out who they are, what they care about, what their lives are like. Trains go by, more people framed in the windows, like sideways-advancing filmstrips.

2014-10-07 08.55.30As a novice rider, I took great pride in decoding the station and route map, negotiating the turns and turnstiles and signs — in actually getting where I intended to go. Now that I’ve had some practice, most of my trips are successful, and on brave days I try tricky transfers. Nonetheless, each visit to New York brings at least one time when my target station flashes past, the train doesn’t stop and I realize, oops, I’m on an express train. I get out my subway map app to determine how far out of my way the train is taking me. On the map, white dots show stations where express trains stop.

I have always appreciated the subway, but my current interest falls between preoccupation and obsession. This began on the day I glanced out a train window and saw another train that was at eye level, until suddenly it descended. Or my train ascended. Or both. How many levels are there down here below ground? I wondered, and I still don’t know the answer. When I went to the Transit Museum (yes, I went to the Transit Museum), I asked the bookstore guy if they had any 3D models of the system. He thought that was a cool idea for a future product and passed it along to his boss. In other words, nope, no 3D model.

Use of public infrastructure requires trust and perhaps ignorance. The transit museum exhibits confirmed the engineering brilliance of the system – and showed me the decrepit-looking control box that ran the system until way too recently. When I step into electrical gadgetry that shoots me around underground, I don’t want steampunk involved, thanks.

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At the Transit Museum I learned that New York’s millions of buildings and people are suspended above antique cavities that were tunneled long ago, through stone and under water, by methods crude and jury-rigged. Well, I guess if it were going to collapse it would have happened by now.

NYCtilted2010

 

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Achievement.)

An Intriguing Lack of Illumination

Illumination. I love that word. It feels good to say it. Illumination.

This is a post about limited illumination. You might also say it is a post about dim light. In fact, I almost did opt for the latter phrase, because as I writer I find that fewer syllables are usually better. But dim light just doesn’t sound as good.

I don’t remember where I took this photo, nor what it portrays. It failed to capture whatever I had intended to capture. The light was so poor that what was there worked overtime, streaking and bending, struggling to be seen – and in the process, creating a mystery image, full of intrigue. I don’t know what it is but I like it:

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(The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Refraction.)

Jewels of the Sea

Don’t tell my daughter about these photos. Every time I go to my favorite beach in Santa Barbara, I take pictures. She thinks I should stop. She’s right, I do have uncountably vast numbers of photos of the same half mile stretch. But nothing is static there, not even the eroding sea wall I’ve shot a bizillion times.  On this trip, I discovered a piece of kelp tangled on the wall:
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Things got interesting when I moved to the other side of the wall. Sunlight shining through and around the sea vegetable converted it to a fairy tale:

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Now I saw a cascade of jewels, or maybe a despondent princess, silhouetted in the window of a castle tower.

I know a scientist who makes music on the side. He has a single CD that he keeps reissuing with new and revised songs. I’ve teased him about this but I’m doing a version of the same thing, aren’t I? A single beach, reissues of new and revised views.

My daughter is wise, but I will continue to defy her. Sure I’ve got lots of images with this sea wall – but with every visit it’s a new wall. Certainly, there’s never been a princess there before!

Anyway, it’s not like I’m wasting film. Which makes me uncomfortable, realizing that younger readers may not know what film is.

 

(The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Refraction.)

Was There Something They Failed to Tell Me?

The first time I saw a sign like this, I jumped to an easy conclusion. Typo – need to add an s, guys!

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Then I saw a second, similar sign, and my outsider complex kicked in. Had my English teachers withheld a critical piece of information?

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Or does one local signmaker get a lot of work, despite gaps in grammar education? Anybody else seen signs like this?

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Signs.)

A Sign It Didn’t Go Well

By the time I got to the beach, the flowers had already started to shed petals into the sea. I don’t know what went down before I arrived, but a lovely bouquet in the surf can’t be a good sign.

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Too bold on the first date?

Thanks for the birthday flowers, shame my birthday was last week?

Flowers can’t buy forgiveness, you @#$%^?

Graduation celebration run amuck?

Miss Runner-Up?

Or… ?

What do you think happened?

 

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Signs.)