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too good to be true

maura @ 11:39 am

While I’m still wishing for an easier way to bring more exercise into my life, I’m also still kind of in love with my subway commute (even if it did give me covid late last year, grrr). It’s been years since I traveled into Manhattan most weekdays, maybe even more than 2 decades? And it’s never not interesting to me to watch everything during the commute.

The best thing about the Brooklyn side of the commute is in the morning when it’s easiest to see the subway zoetrope, a series of lighted paintings visible through the subway walls in a way that makes them seem animated. I’m still so amazed that it even exists, and I can usually get the best viewing spot right in front of the doors. And then we’re out of the tunnel and onto the bridge, my favorite part of the trip. Bicycles and scooters on the northern side of the bridge, walkers on the south; fast ferries full of commuters and slow tugs pushing barges in the river. The Brooklyn Bridge and Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty, and, sometimes, the Staten Island ferry (so orange!) if I’m facing south. The Williamsburg Bridge and the whole of Manhattan if I’m facing north.

There’s lots of new-to-me construction in both boroughs, which is fascinating and also kind of sad. On the Brooklyn side many of the tall buildings used to be parking lots, which is not exactly a loss though it’s worrisome to have so much new construction in the flood zone. Recently there’s been some dredging of the inlet with the stone beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a backhoe on a barge, so neat. The stained glass watertower sculpture is one of my favorite sights — before my commute I’d not realized that it’s lit from inside at night, so pretty, and it’s lovely in the mornings too.

On the Manhattan side I keep an eye out for the Forward Building in the mornings — boo luxury condos, though seeing that big FORWARD is still a good way to start the day. I’m also pretty grumpy about the giant shiny building (which I’m sure is also condos) right by the river on the site of a former Pathmark, though it’s pretty to watch the reflection of the train in the mirrored windows on sunny days. The edge of the FDR Drive (a highway!) is painted lavender all along the Lower East Side. And that one 6 story brick tenement building just before the trains go back into the tunnel, the back of which is painted turquoise, with a wheatpasted poster: white with black letters reading LOVE ME LOVE ME — it’s been there for decades too, how is it still there? — and then the Cardigans are my earworm for a bit.

Definitely there is more graffiti since the pandemic. I really love graffiti and there’s always plenty to look at from the bridge, too, on both sides. It’s interesting to see the same tags repeated in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and noticing some of them in other parts of Manhattan too. Artists will often use the architectural features of buildings in their work, and my favorite is when a smallish block of building is used for one tag, reminds me of the glyphs in Mayan writing. Some graffiti is more interesting to me for the text than the graphics — on the south side of the train in Manhattan someone’s tagged the top of a building with giant all caps letters that read BAKERS YEAST (lol). But my favorite on the south side is one that says KINDBUD with a heart. Is it a weed tag? Or just a wish that we’ll all be kind to each other, bud? Probably the former, but I like my latter interpretation.

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