*This is the last piece I’ll post of my writing on New York. Back into blog silence for a while. Until next time, happy surfing.
The subway fascinates me. I like how everyone moves in unison without meaning to, in response to the bumps of the car they’re riding. We all get jolted and jerked about in precisely the same manner. We couldn’t perform it better if we’d rehearsed for weeks.
Standing inside the speeding cars, it’s like I’m surfing a long, metal wave. I have to anticipate the movements before they arrive: forward from a sharp brake, or backward from a quick acceleration; side to side; even up and down if it gets really wild. I’ve noticed it’s much easier to keep my balance if I wiggle my hips and bounce from my knees. Keeping still, I’m almost sure to wipeout. No matter how well I surf, though, even if I wiggle, wiping out seems inevitable.
It struck me the other day that the subway system isn’t unlike my mind. There are tons of train lines running this way and that all over the city. These are my thoughts, or different ways of being: joy, paranoia, faith, fear, love, rage. Each train takes me somewhere else. Each train rides differently. I’ve learned which trains get rough at which sections of track, those spots where I’m almost sure to wipe out no matter what. Some trains are slow and gentle. Some are fast, even violent. This one stops at the platform infrequently, and that one comes every five minutes. I’ve learned which trains to avoid altogether, and I’ve learned how to surf the treacherous ones successfully – no wipeouts, that is. It’s a matter of knowing what’s coming when, of executing a timely, prescriptive response. It’s a matter of planting my feet and just dancing through the bumpy ride. And if I can’t keep my balance, it’s a matter of surrendering to the fall. Of letting go. And then, of catching myself and trying again.
I love this metaphor.
Maybe I’m a train line myself. The A train, for Andrew. The A is the 8th Avenue Express. I just looked it up. It runs from the Bronx all the way down the western length of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, out to Queens, and then down to Far Rockaway – the beach and the ocean. Looking at the MTA’s website, I see that the A train crosses almost every other train at some point, some of them several times over: the 1, 2, 3; the J, M, Z; the C and the E; the 4 and the 5; the S shuttle and the airport shuttle; the L; the 7; the B; the D; the F; and the N, Q, R. It even hits the G at one point. Damn. I like the A train.
Everyday, I’m traveling all over the city of New York, intersecting countless other trains filled with countless other humans. As I see them, they’re all rushing to go do whatever it is they do, however it is they do it – the living of their lives and the dying of their deaths. I see them for just a few moments, or sometimes a single snapshot instant, and then they’re gone from me, and I’ll never see them again, and I continue onward, all the way to Far Rockaway and then back up to the Bronx, and then back again, rolling and rolling, surfing and surfing, forever and ever amen.