11/30/2005

JFK-Arlington/Arlington-JFK

It could be the unseasonable warmth (I'll take it), but I have noticed a bit more eye contact on the T in the last couple of days. Boston (aside from certain neighborhoods certain times of the year, maybe) doesn't seem to be too big on eye contact. Other cities I've lived in have been much more willing (some even eager) to look me in the eye. Boston never has. It is a snooty, shifty, side-long glancing city. And it's a shame, really.

This morning there was a handsome middle aged woman in a burberry scarf holding a coffee to her bossom in a slightly affected way who stared me down over the heads of one section of commuters in a very civilized sort of way for most of the trip from JFK to Park. She was admirably noncommital. I couldn't tell you why she was looking at me all that time, but every time I looked up from my book, she was. It wasn't intrusive, but there was some sort of invitation in it. To what, I don't know. I am tempted to apply Occam's Razor here, but I think I would sound like a typical headstrong male.

Today was also a day of redheads *Sigh*. I don't know what it is about red heads, but they turn my crank. At least some days. Even just their hair. In fact, it is often just their hair. You know how Baudelaire had this thing about hair. “Delight! I want to shake the memories hiding/In this hair, toss it like a kerchief flying/In the air, to fill this night, this dismal room!” That's me with redheads. And it's not just humans, either. I think Hungarian viszlas are gorgeous too. This morning there was a guy about my age with gorgeous tresses. But he was reading a big, fat hardcover, and had this look of perpetual surprise on his face--both eyebrows arched. Whenever I looked over he had that Joan Crawford in the headlights look. He got off at South Station, and when he closed his book, I noticed it was something by Stephen King, which might have explained the look, but then he gets up to go and he still had the look on his face. I watched him leave the car, and the look never left his face. Can he always look like that? It can't be healthy.

There was another very tall, handsome redhead on my way home this afternoon. He was a head taller than me, and I'm six feet. He had an extremely agreeable and sympathetic face. He looked over at me while we were waiting at Park, and when he saw I was staring shamelessly back he did a doubletake, and there ensued several silly exchanges. As with the woman in burberry, I couldn't tell you what it was about, although I have my self-indulgent little theories.

There was also a young woman on that packed train who was standing next to me, and around Andrew Station she leaned over to the Indian man who was sitting in front of me reading an Agatha Christie book and said, "excuse me, sir, I feel like I'm going to faint. Would you mind if I sat down?" He got up immediately, and she took his seat. I think she was being a bit of a drama queen, if you want to know the truth. She didn't look at all like she was about to faint. And if she was about to faint why was her request for his seat so long-winded and elaborate? And why didn't she ask the woman seated right in front of her, or the one next to her? Female treachery? I don't know of any man who has ever done such a thing, and if one did swoon and announce he thought he was about to faint, the most people would do is clear away so he wouldn't bump into them on his way down. Are women really that much more delicate? I thought that notion went out with the Victorians. "Nervous exhaustion," they called it. I don't know, ladies. I was just skeptical. Not that I mind, and I would have done the same as that Indian gentleman, of course. I mean, you can hardly snap, "yeah, right!" or "I'm not fully convinced--prove it!" can you?

One other thing I wanted to mention, in the "from the mouths of babes" department. On the train from Park to Arlington this morning was a fresh-faced young man with a brand spanking new Avery Quadrille Laboratory Notebook. He was gazing upon the first page, which he'd obviously just filled up with whatever pearls of wisdom he could come up with. I could only read the first line from where I sat. He had written: "You've got to start somewhere." Here, here. If it is a diary (or "journal" as they're called now), it is a respectable first line. Mine was "It snowed last night." Tolstoy's was: "It is six days since I entered the clinic. I've had gonorrhea from the source whence it is customarily obtained..." Just a random sampling.

22 minutes in transit this morning. 24 minutes this afternoon.

11/29/2005

JFK-Park/Copley-JFK

I saw Tilda Swinton c. Orlando sitting with Klaus Kinskey c. Aguira, the Wrath of God this morning on the train! You know how Tilda's got those kinda buggy eyes, she kept bugging 'em out on me. I mean, I was transfixed. I'm afraid I was even staring. But who wouldn't be?

You know, as I was leaving Park there was one door open and two or three shut at the exit at the top of the stairs, and there was this great bottleneck because everyone had to go through the door that was open, but the other ones weren't locked. I don't know if it's a metaphor for the life we live, whether we will risk trying to open a closed door when the one next to it is open, or if it's merely biological. We may be hardwired to go for the open door. It's some algorithm that runs in a nanosecond through the brain, calculating the risk of embarrassment if the closed door does happen to be locked or jammed, or we don't know if it opens in or out, or what, or maybe it's a calculation of lost time pushing it open if it's heavy or something.

Speaking of heavy. I have just finished George Steiner's In Bluebeard's Castle: Towards a Redefinition of Culture, where he uses the story of Bluebeard's castle (another excellent, excellent book on the theme is Michel Tournier's Gilles et Jeanne) as a metaphor for a post-culture. The bare bones of the fairytale version has Bluebeard's young newlywed wife snooping around the castle when he's away, and itching with curiosity, going into the chamber he expressly forbade her to ever enter, where she finds the rotting corpses of his umpteen other wives who were all the curious sort, too, obviously.

Of course, it's human nature.

Or is it?

I mean, Steiner is using Bluebeard to talk about science. how we can't not open those doors. In the end, he writes, "We cannot turn back. We cannot choose the dreams of unknowing. We shall, I expect, open the last door in the castle even if it leads, perhaps because it leads, onto realities which are beyond the reach of human comprehension and control."

But when you look at the vast majority of the human race, at least the ones who ride the T, I don't think they'd bother. It's a tiny minority who push the envelope--or the door--open. We've all been places where a line has formed, and we just sort of joined it because we assumed, and then, half an hour later, when it hasn't moved an inch, we ask the person in front of us, is this the line for such and such? and they're like, "hell if I know. I'm here for the free panty-liners," or something.

I have been in situations where there were three doors, all operational, in perfect working order, and it just so happened I was exiting one where there was someone about to enter. They push their way in, and the boyfriend follows, and his two buddies, and their four friends, and then someone else shows up, and is like, "hot damn! A doorman! That's ritzy! I'm gonna use that door!" And then a line forms, and you're basically standing there for twenty minutes holding the door open for this crowd, and then someone's like, "is this the line for free panty-liners?"

So I think it's a kind of axiom of human behavior, that people will head for that open door, even if it's out of their way, if the other doors are closed--not locked, necessarily--just closed.

There was a guy at Park on my way home going up to everybody and asking, in a jarringly official way "excuse me sir/ma'am, do you have a token?" You could see people were confused, because although dressed like a bum, he sounded like a conductor, or something. It was like, should I have a token? Do I need one? Do I have to show you my passport? He went all up and down the platform, and no one had one. Then he got into the same car as me. We rode two or three stops without event. He was at the other end, and suddenly leans over and shouts, "do you have a token?" You should have seen people. They were totally disoriented for a minute. They were like, Oh my God, who's he talking to? Is he talking to me? Is he talking to you? And people were looking down in the same direction he was looking, frantically, like, "someone--whoever he's talking to, please identify yourself and answer him!" Like it mattered who the hell he was talking nonsense to. It was a hoot.

11/28/2005

JFK-Downtown Xing/Arlington-JFK

On my mid-morning journey to Downtown Crossing to go to the gym and then do a little "work," I was privileged to view the latest in G-wear. A great big gangsta-looking fellow got on at Andrew Station. He was in the typical baggy jersey and jeans, but his innovation was striking and garnered admiring looks all around: he left the tags on his ballcap and his tennis shoes! Maybe he was on his way to return them, but I think not.

You know, it's true that fashion goes round and round in circles. Wait long enough whatever it was that was once in style will come back. Looking at this fellow I was reminded of childhood Saturday evenings watching Hee-Haw! with Ma and Pa and my kin. Maybe you remember Minnie Pearl. She paid $1.98 for her straw hat, and left the tag on to prove it. Who'da thought gangsta types would pay such a touching tribute to the old dear? Next time you see one of 'em give 'em a big ol' "howwwwwdeeeeeee!"

Hmm.

So there was also a young woman of Indian descent, it seemed to me, with these very intense laser beam eyes, and she was reading today's Metro. My op-ed about Boston's Christmahanukwanzakah Tree was in it, and when I took the seat across from her, she looked up at me and then down at her Metro and then back up at me. She was reading it. I stuck my nose in a magazine I'd brought along for the trip and tried to concentrate on the mess in Darfur I was reading about. One of my nightmare scenarios is someone recognizing me as that halfwit who writes for that awful paper, and then, I don't know, asking me for my autograph or something. No, actually my nightmare scenario is getting on the train, and looking down to discover I'm naked and everyone is pointing and laughing at me. So anyway, I didn't look back at her.

On my way home in the afternoon (I left "work" at 4:30) the train from Park was disgustingly packed. You know, it's hard enough to be that close to strangers in the morning, but at least in the morning you're sort of fuzzy-headed and in your own shortsighted bubble. By the afternoon commute, your nerves are razor sharp. Peoples' voices are like shards of glass ripping through your frontal lobe. The sight of them is like sewing needles rammed repeatedly into your eyeballs. And the touch, the touch of them--an unspeakable violation--like planets colliding in the nuclear conflagration of the sun.

On the platform at Park Street were two Mexican buskers, playing guitar and singing a Spanish ballad that would make you weep. But after four or five minutes they switched to a very edgy--I would even say aggressive--sort of grunge version of "Feliz Navidad". I think they started playing it when one of the Northbound trains pulled in. They were hoping to get some contributions, maybe, but I thought it needed some work. And you could tell it was a little shout-out to the gringos in the crowd.

There was a twenty-something guy on the little island platform right across from me, listening to his ipod, and twitching and jerking around like a robot. I don't think it was intentional--he wasn't break dancing or anything. And anyway, he was very, very white. One of these redheads with the alabaster skin. He looked like he was having a petit mal seizure.

I saw several people with their ipods when I got on the train. There was a girl reading some "process analysis" and rocking out. She was on a section headed, "how to dump a friend."

I have a friend who has one of those new ultra thin ipods. Wow, is it sleek and sexy. You see one of those, and then you look at those clunky old antiquated models from last year. Well, it might as well have been two thousand years ago. All the sudden the big stupid white ones look pretty naff, don't they?

The afternoon commute took exactly 25 minutes. That's all I'm gonna say about that.

A note on the new format here: People were becoming very fixated and literal-minded about the times I was recording, as if that were the chief point of this blog. It was only an aspect, but I bear the blame for highlighting it too prominently. Some people (mainly the snarkocracy) will focus on the most superficial, easy to grasp bits, and snark snark snark away at you. "You didn't wait that long!" "What are you complaining about?" "Why are you wasting your life?" These are just a few of the FUCs (Frequently Uttered Criticisms) I have been getting from the peanut gallery lately. And when one of them said something to the effect of "you brought it on yourself," I thought, well, I guess he (or she--another of those anonymous snarkoleptics) is right, so I'm sort of integrating the wait into the rest of the narrative.

As for the FUCs:

"You didn't wait that long!"

The relative nature of time has been a commonplace for nearly a century. To say "you didn't wait that long" is like when you punched your little brother in the eye and he wailed like a banshee and you got kind of scared he was gonna tell on you, and said: "that didn't hurt that bad!" I guess it's in the (black) eye of the beholder, innit?

"What are you complaining about?"

The T. We're still struggling to grasp this concept. I think part of the problem here is that I got that free advertising in The Herald. It was a blessing and a curse, to be sure.

"Why are you wasting your life?" or "It's a shitty way to spend your life."

Remember when you were a kid, and you hid under the table, but your legs were sticking out, and you thought because you couldn't see mommy, she couldn't see you? Or sometimes you wondered if other people just ceased to exist when they were not in your presence. Remember? (Hold that thought--I'm gonna come back to it in a minute!)

It takes me about an hour, an hour and a half a week to maintain this blog. It takes me about two seconds to jot down my departure and arrival times when I'm on the train. That leaves me roughly--what?--166.5 hours a week to devote to other things, like, well, life.

When I read those sorts of comments, I think, wow, whoever wrote them must never do much of anything if they think this is my life's work. I mean, this is a pretty meager little blog when it comes right down to it. If you think it takes all my time, I shudder to think what you must (not) be doing with yours.

I am not soooo T-obsessed or this blog would look more like badtransit.com, bless their hearts. I was just pissed off at the T one day, and told this friend I was gonna start a blog. She said "call it T-rage!" and I did. And I made this little logo here I thought was kinda clever, and, like, a week later, got a call from the Herald. I have a couple other blogs (check 'em out--links are on the right under MENNONNOANA--if this one bugs you, you'll HATE the other ones, guaranteed), and aside from writing those, I have time to do all sorts of things. The possibilities are almost endless! Woo-hoo!

The point here being, just because this is all you know of me doesn't mean this is all there is to me. Most psychologically normal adults understand that other people exist in real time and space just like they themselves do. As for the unfortunate few who have not grasped this: please, please, for the love of God, stop writing me.

11/27/2005

need a lift?

I walked to the Shaw's supermarket on the other side of the JFK/UMass T station. I needed some sour cream, you know, and none of the little markets this side of JFK have it. Can you believe it? And ever since I lived in Hungary, I have to have it with everything. I'm not joking, or only just a little. I have it in my soup (no brainer), in lasagna, on spaghetti. Goes great with Italian, Indian, Asian. Whatever. In Hungary people chug it straight, no chaser.

Anyway, the walk there takes me, necessarily, through the T station. That whole area, I'm telling you, if you haven't been there, you gotta see it. It is an engineering and architectural marvel. To me, the most striking feature (and there are so many it is genuinely hard to choose) has got to be the 17.9 mile-long handicap ramp out front. Now, you're totally fucked if you're handicapped and live on the Sydney Street side, like I do, but never mind. The question that always comes to mind when I come or go on the Morrissey Blvd side is, why didn't they just put in a friggin elevator? I mean, seriously, this ramp is off the hook. It's like something from The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.

I always try to give the T-sters the benefit of the doubt (honest), so I was trying to think of why they didn't go the elevator route. I don't think the ramp was any cheaper. It's about as long as the Great Wall of China and can be seen clearly from outer space. I was thinking maybe it had to do with people abusing the lift. Like, not handicap people, but just sods who are too lazy to walk up and down the stairs. But then to think that they're punishing the handicapped for the sins of the able-bodied. That's just plain not nice. They could easily have some kind of card for the handicapped--with a magnetic strip, just like a Charlie card--that you'd have to have to get access to the elevator. That would pretty much solve that problem, wouldn't it?

But it's better not to start thinking about it, because when you do, you realize how sadistic that ramp really is. I can't imagine having to wheel myself up--or down--it. It seems sisyphean on the one hand, and suicidal on the other.

By the way, once you get into the station there is a lift, but, honestly, I don't know who uses it.

11/26/2005

JFK-Downtown Xing/Park-Kendall/Kendall-Downtown Xing/Downtown Xing-JFK

I have no other word for Washington Street this afternoon than "orgy". I prefer the sexual to the spending kind, and frankly have more resources when it comes to the former than the latter, but was nonetheless impressed and even blew a small wad (of cash, that is) at Barnes & Nobles and Brattle Books, myself.

The first leg of my journey took me from JFK to Downtown Crossing in a respectable 16 minutes. I waited eight minutes on the platform at JFK, and although the whistle blew to indicate the next inbound train would be coming on the Braintree side, it actually arrived from Ashmont. Man, they are tricky. But the Braintree train pulled in seconds after the Ashmont train had left, so no biggie. The danger in such cases is that the second train will usually putter along at a slower pace so that the the two aren't too close together down the line, but we made good time, and were never stalled on the tracks.

The train was not crowded. There were plenty of empty seats here and there. At Broadway, I think it was, the Strange Little Man got on. There was just something about him that was slightly off. You know the type. Can't put your finger on it, but there's something. He came in the door nearest the section I was in (at the end of the car) and went up to a seat near the very end between two passengers that had a Herald on it and a duffle bag under it, and, frankly, a very scary man in the seat next to it. He looked uncannily like Brendan Gleeson's "Mad-eye Moody" in the latest Harry Potter movie, and was slightly sprawling, so that there really wasn't much of a free seat next to him at all, when you got right down to it. Nonetheless SLM moved to pick up the Herald, and take the seat, at which point Mad-eye snatched the paper and barked, "get the fuck outta here!" His tone was a strange mix of irritation and familiarity. Like he was not surprised that SLM had moved in on him, like, in fact, he'd expected it, like it happened all the time. They seemed, somehow, to be arch-nemeses from time immemorial.

Well, SLM's reaction was to turn on his heel immediately and with admirable precision, and march off to the extreme other end of the car, as far from Mad-eye as possible, to the last available seat, where he sat strangely erect and snapped open a paper, opening it so wide that his arms were fully extended. I felt sorry for SLM, even though I thought he had probably brought it on himself. But then we all make bad decisions on occasion.

I watched him for a moment and then looked over to my left, and across from Mad-eye there were three--count 'em--three!--seats in a row free at the end of the car. Hmm. I almost felt that Mad-eye was justified, then, in a way, for his outburst. I mean, we have all met our own immortal arch-nemesis in some one or other of his or her many incarnations, in the queue at the supermarket, in the car in front or behind us on the freeway, maybe even on the T. Sometimes you're not in the mood for an epic battle with your immortal enemy, and just want to be left alone. You might tell him to fuck off. I mean, I can understand it.

I met my friend Chuck downtown, and we went to the gym together. Afterwards, we headed to the Kendall for a movie. At my suggestion, we went to see Paradise Now, about two Palestinian suicide bombers, one of whom is played by the beautiful, brooding Kais Nashef. He finds his complement in the radiant Lubna Azabel. The bombers themselves and their families are portrayed with a sympathy some might find shocking, but those who arrange the bombings and recruit the martyrs are further from our sympathies. There is something downright Mephistophelian about Amer Hlehel, who informs the two best friends that they have been chosen as martyrs. He is full of slogans about how those who fear death are already dead. When the more earnest and naive of the two, Khaled, played by Ali Suliman, asks Hlehel, who's all business relating the nuts and bolts plan of attack, what happens after they blow themselves up, he stops short of rolling his eyes and snaps, "two angels will pick you up." "Are you sure?" Khaled asks. "Yes," Hlehel replies curtly. Kais Nashef's Said is more complicated, and has mixed motives for his actions, but I will leave it at that. It's worth seeing, anyway.

After the movie, I said goodbye to Chuck and rode the red line back to Downtown Crossing, making good time again. A three minute wait at Kendall, and 7 minutes to Downtown Crossing, where I wanted to do a little shopping, or thought I did. The problem with a movie as enveloping and emotionally affecting as Paradise Now is that it gets you thinking like its protagonists. I am particularly susceptible to certain types of characters, and Kais Nashef's Said was one that for a couple hours after I saw the movie inhabited me. That's the only way I can say it. I don't know if I should admit it, but Matt Damon's Bourne infected me similarly, so that when I left the cinema after seeing The Bourne Supremacy I felt, in an absurd but palpable way, like I was Bourne. It didn't last very long. I was in rural Indiana at the time, and there wasn't much intrigue to exercise my fleeting Bourneness on. But walking through the crowded shopping district I could feel a tinge of Said in me.

I did a little shopping, but by the time I found the book I was searching for, my misanthropy was on its way to a critical mass. So I'm standing in line, and there is a middle-aged woman sort of in line in front of me but sort of standing off to the side. She had three books and was bent over a display inspecting one. I figured she was in line, too. Then another woman comes up and, because we were both sort of to the side, asked me if I was in line. I said, "I am," and asked the woman in front of me if she was, too. "I am now," she said, imperiously. I was like, whatever. I mean, a simple "yes" or "no," sweetheart. I should have said, "well, the end of the line is back there now, honey."

It was definitely time to head back to the old bat cave. I fought my way through the madding crowd (and crowds are just mobs that have yet to be incited, you know), and was whisked back to JFK almost as quick as Dorothy back to Kansas when she clicked her ruby pumps. Three minutes on the platform, eight in transit. Can't beat it.

11/24/2005

blogging vs. flogging

You almost need a blog to deal with the aggravations of blogging. I get visitors to this site daily, and a couple comments a day, on average, which I don't mind, except the (always anonymous) snarky ones, which, by and large, I don't post. They are usually cries for help anyway.

I got one this morning, for instance, that, with typical wit and sharp insight said, simply, "wow you bitch a lot." Let me let you in on something, Einstein. This is a blog. The name of the blog is "T-rage!" What did you think it was about? There's a minimum--a minimum--of caveat emptor at work here. It's like going in to a Chinese buffet, and saying, "wow you serve a lot of rice here." And? What's your point? If you don't like rice, don't go to the Chinese buffet. Pretty simple.

I mean, people. Come on. If it makes you feel better somehow, or it makes you feel superior to state the obvious. But it's boring. And the passive-aggressivity of the statement (basically bitching to me that I'm bitching) is BORING. This is why (I guarantee) you either don't have a significant other, or your significant other doesn't love you. And you yourself have a gnawing suspicion (correct, as it turns out) that you will never know love.

But back to Blogging 101. Blogs are pretty self-indulgent on the whole. That's their nature. If you don't get that, I can't help you. The early promise of the internet was that it was this great big democratic bonanza, but the internet is not a democracy, it's an idiocracy. Actually, it's an ego-ocracy. Everybody projects their ego out there into the ether and basically like attracts like. It's very primitive and tribal in some ways.

But then it's also essentially a free market, where you're free to choose what's on offer. If it's not to your liking, if it's not your niche, so to speak, you're free to go elsewhere. Lemme ax you this: when you're walking through the mall, do you go into each and every shop or do you window shop a bit, but go into the shops that have the goods you want? I mean, do you first go into Bath and Body Works and tell the clerk, "wow, you got a lot of soap here. I don't need no soap"? The clerk doesn't care. The clerk is there for customers who do need soap. Do you then go across the way to Victoria's Secret, and tell the clerk there, "man, all you got is underwear, what's up with that?" It's assumed you've got the minimal intelligence to figure it out on your own. If you're looking for a lawnmower, you go to Sears, not Victoria's Secret. If you go to Victoria's Secret looking for a lawnmower, and act like the clerk's a moron for not selling them, well, who's the moron? I mean, for real.

While at its best the web's an efficient and effective medium for disseminating information, it's not a place, for the most part, where productive dialogue happens. Just look at any forum or chat session on any imaginable topic. It devolves into silly tangents and name-calling, and worthless, self-serving observations like, "wow you bitch a lot." I mean, there's always someone lurking in a dark corner of the chat room, ready to leap out and tell everybody else how stupid they are. Why bother? I'll tell you why: because you have nothing constructive to add to the dialogue yourself, but you want to feel like you exist. You still want the rest of us to know you're there, alone, in your empty little world.

I think part of the problem is anonymity, which emboldens a certain type of person to say things he or she would not have the strength of character or courage to say in person. These people have nothing better to say, but this is at least a way that they can be noticed, somehow, that they can say, again, "I exist." Which is sad but understandable, though there's a line between critical thought and therapy that they don't see, mainly because they have no critical faculties themselves to speak of. Coming back to the theme of the day, the observation, "wow you bitch a lot" is facile. It adds nothing to the dialogue. It serves no purpose but to assert one's existence, to leave a trace of oneself, like a rabbit turd, on the doormat of my blog.

As for anonymity. I hate to say it, but if you don't have the courage to be associated with what you think and say, however useless and facile, you should probably keep silent. I think the internet would be an infinitely better place. Because nine times out of ten it's the anonymous ones with nothing interesting to say themselves who are sniping and snarking and calling people names.

There's a psychology to it. Here are people who are probably not terribly articulate, but have been relentlessly flattered by a media culture whose modis operandi in the news, talk- and reality shows is, basically, "look how stupid those people are! You're so much smarter, sitting there with your thumb up your ass watching them! You're not that fat! You're not that ugly! You're not that stupid, are you? Are you? OMG QUICK! You better go buy this mouthwash and deoderant!" They sit on their sofa, or in their cubicle at work, or at their computer at home, and passively take it in, and generate nothing but noxious opinions about others. Like little turds: plop plop plop, all through their day.

For them, the internet is superior to TV in that, assured anonymity, you can actually contact the people who are so much stupider than you and tell them how stupid they are! HAW HAW HAW!It's a big step forward in human evolution, I think.

I've said it before, and I'll probably have to say it again. The premise of this site is very, very simple. If you want to bitch about the T, do it. I invite you. I don't sell lawnmowers, or panties, or soap. BUYER BEWARE.

If you tune into "T-rage!" occasionally, you will hear about dirty stations, broken-down escalators, late trains, and rude conductors and commuters. You will (probably) not hear about sunshine and rainbows, how Jesus loves me, the wonders of medical science, and world peace. Those are my other blogs.

And you could start one of your own, since you're so smart, about macrame or some other hobby, or--hey, here's an idea: start a blog about all the good and wonderful things that happened in your day, all the good karma you accumulated, the compliments you handed out (without expecting anything in return), about how much you love everyone and everything, and all your stuffed animals and house plants, and how you never bitch about anything because everything in life is SUPER, but how, wow, everybody else sure bitches a lot. So stupid. And hey, ya ever notice they serve an awful lot of rice at Chinese restaurants? What's that about?

I'm sure you'd get a million hits.

11/23/2005

back in the saddle

Well, it was a rough week and a half with the tonsillitis, but I've pulled through. I didn't leave the house all that much last week, and when I did, I usually had friends fetching me and taxiing me hither and yon. Normally, I wouldn't, being the T-warrior I am, but I was really in no condition to deal with my public.

Yesterday evening I had a thirteen minute trip from Andrews to Downtown Crossing, and a ten minute trip from Downtown Crossing to JFK, both of which were perfectly acceptable in every way (I am big enough to admit it). I'm glad, because I'm still a wee bit wobbly, and I don't have too much energy for raging against the T, or anything else for the matter, at the moment.

One thing I will say about Downtown Crossing. I was meeting a friend there, and we were thinking we would have a coffee. Isn't it sad that on Washington St., this long-ass pedestrian High Street, between Boylston and State, there is not one charming little place to hang out, have a coffee, or whatever. Not one. There's a Wendy's and McDonald's, a food court in the Corner Mall (I think it's called), a Sbarro's, and there is even a Starschmuck's (and the obligatory Shrunkin' Schmo Nuts right across the street--so there!), but Starschmuck's has seating for exactly five patrons. They sit there in the window perched on their stools like drab, depressive birds. We ended up at Border's near the State Street T. But it's not a nice place.

You hear people yammering on about how European Boston is. It's not. Take it from someone who spent a third of his life over there. It's not. Not a judgment, people, just an observation.

Another thing that quietly appalled me. I arrived early to meet my friend, so I went looking for a Citizen's Bank ATM. There is one in the underpass outside Downtown Crossing, but it was not dispensing money. The message on the screen said it was at my service for anything else I might want, but who needs an ATM except to get cash? I mean, do they dispense martinis? Do they do dry cleaning? Provide friendly conversation? Maybe in Spanish.

At street level I was shocked to find, again, that from Downtown Crossing to State Street there was not a single Citizen's ATM. I remember now there's a Citizen's bank in the other direction, on the way to Chinatown, on the Avenue de Lafayette, but still.

Anyway, just a couple things to be slightly irritated about on an off-day.

11/18/2005

Faces

[Faces]

Have I said it before? I am learning to see. Yes, I am beginning. It's still going badly. But I intend to make the most of my time.

For example, it never occurred to me before how many faces there are. There are multitudes of people, but there are so many more faces, because each person has several of them. There are people who wear the same face for years; naturally it wears out, gets dirty, splits at the seams, stretches like gloves worn during a long journey. They are thrifty, uncomplicated people; they never change it, never even have it cleaned. It's good enough, they say, and who can convince them of the contrary? Of course, since they have several faces, you might wonder what they do with the other ones. They keep them in storage. Their children wear them. But sometimes it also happens that their dogs go out wearing them. And why not? A face is a face.

Other people change faces incredibly fast, put on one after another, and wear them out. At first, they think they have an unlimited supply; but when they are barely forty years old they come to their last one. There is, to be sure, something tragic about this. They are not accustomed to taking care of faces; their last one is worn through in a week, has holes in it, is in many places as thin as paper, and then, little by little, the lining shows through, the non-face, and they walk around with that on.

But the woman, the woman: she had completely fallen into herself, forward into her hands. It was on the corner of rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. I began to walk quietly as soon as I saw her. When poor people are thinking, they shouldn't be disturbed. Perhaps their idea will still occur to them.

The street was too empty; its emptiness had gotten bored and pulled my steps out from under my feet and clattered around in them, all over the street, as if they were wooden clogs. The woman sat up, frightened, she pulled out of herself, too quickly, to violently, so that her face was left in her two hands. I could see it lying there: its hollow form. It cost me an indescribable effort to stay with those two hands, not to look at what had been torn out of them. I shuddered to see a face from the inside, but I was much more afraid of that bare flayed head waiting there, faceless.


--Rainer Maria Rilke

11/16/2005

JFK-Arlington/Arlington-JFK

12:24 - arrived at JFK
12:31 - departed JFK
12:41 - arrived at Park
12:46 - departed Park
12:50 - arrived at Arlington

Total commute: 26 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 21 minutes
discrepancy: +5 minutes
Total time in transit: 14 minutes
Total wait: 12 minutes

16:14 - arrived/departed Arlington
16:18 - arrived at Park
16:19 - departed Park
16:29 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 15 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 22 minutes
discrepancy: -7 minutes
Total time in transit: 14 minutes
Total wait: 1 minute

November

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No cars
November
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone

No prayers for November
To linger longer
Stick your spoon in the wall
We’ll slaughter them all

November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November’s cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You’re my firing squad
November

With my hair slicked back
With carrion shellac
With the blood from a pheasant
And the bone from a hare

Tied to the branches
Of a roebuck stag
Left to wave in the timber
Like a buck shot flag

Go away you rainsnout
Go away blow your brains out
November

-- Tom Waits.

I'm still feeling pretty logy. But I have left the flat a couple times in the last couple of days.

Monday, on my way home from Boston Medical Center...

14:12 - arrived at bus #1 stop at Mass Ave & Harrison, heading NW
14:17 - gave up...

...mostly because the route home was so circuitous I'd get there on foot in half the time. I mean, I was thinking of taking the bus up to the Mass Ave subway station, riding into Downtown Xing, and then out to JFK, which is patently ridiculous, considering home was a mere mile and a half down Mass Ave in the opposite direction.

So I crossed that mess on the South Side of BMC and came to the #8 bus stop. During rush hour, according to the posted time table, the frequency is supposedly twenty minutes. Other times of the day it's 45 minutes, which frankly isn't worth the wait. If you can walk to wherever you're going in less time than it takes to wait for a bus, then the raison d'etre of the bus is undermined a bit, isn't it? It becomes a symbol. A sort of metabus. But I was not on metabusiness. And I was not on my way to my metahome.

There was a young man in the lean-to when I got there, and he asked me for the time. I told him, and he asked again, and I told him again. He started to roll a cigarette. I said, "been waiting long?" He said, who me? I said, yeah. He was like, naw, I'm not waiting for the bus. I'm just killing time. Good place for it.

I waited there a good ten minutes, couldn't see hanging out with my new friend for another half an hour, forty minutes, when I could be back home napping, so I headed down Mass Ave on foot. Just as I reached the next bus stop, lo and behold, here comes the bus. And it's packed. It still took about fourteen minutes from there, as the driver drove very slowly, chatting up a coworker he was dropping off at the T police headquarters, which is apparently on the route. And then we went to the South Bay Mall there (I think that's what it's called), and there was a man in a wheelchair who wanted out. He was very grateful and said to the surly driver, "I don't know how you do it every day." The driver mumbled something about a "halfway decent paycheck, and that was about it." But in my admittedly short time with him, it honestly didn't look like that much of a hassle. Seems to me a lot of people have it a lot worse. Jobwise. That's the thing about these guys--they seem to have this martyr complex, but for the life of me, I can't understand why. I mean, in their book, obviously, they're the victims. They're the ones being put upon by us. It's twisted.

Speaking of victims. Yesterday afternoon at JFK there was still a heavy police presence. Saturday night, around eleven, some kid got shot in the face near the Sydney Street entrance (that's the one I use). There was a rash of shootings in Dot that night, as a matter of fact. It's just pathetic. I mean, these kids need a better hobby than going around shooting each other. It doesn't take a lot of imagination or skill to shoot someone in the face, now, does it? But what about making a "god's eye" or paper bag puppets for a puppet show! (A possible theme: "just say NO to shooting someone in the face!") These "rad" crafts and "chillin'" puppet shows could be presented on T platforms all over the subway system! It could be like that inspirational movie about the inner city kids who did the ballroom dancing contest thing. Mad Hot Ballroom. It could be, like, Mad Hot God's Eyes!

Sorry, got a little carried away there. I'm running a low-grade fever, you know.

So yesterday I made a short little cameo appearance at "work" (I do metawork, you see, which unlike metapublic transport, is actually preferable to the real thing). So it was the same old route...

12:18 - arrived at JFK
12:34 - departed JFK
12:43 - arrived at Downtown Xing
12:48 - arrived at Park
12:51 - departed Park
12:54 - arrived at Arlington

Total commute: 36 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 21 minutes
discrepancy: +15 minutes
Total time in transit: 12 minutes
Total wait: 24 minutes

I arrived at JFK (where, as I mentioned, police were still out in force, and some MBTA birdbrain was being interviewed by a television crew) a minute or two after two inbound trains had arrived simultaneously. The Braintree train pulled out immediately, but the Ashmont train simply pulled out the the end of the platform and sat there for umpteen minutes. Since the Ashmont side was lit up, this was not a good sign, as for the timeliness of the next train. One question for me is why, if they're going to be sitting at the station, don't they just sit at the station? Why is it that they pull out and sit on the tracks just beyond the platform? If they sat at the station people could still get on the train. Is there some logic to not allowing this? The other thing that always comes to mind when two trains arrive simultaneously or back to back is, why don't they deal with "schedule readjustments" at the beginning and the end of the line?

But whatever.

I have to admit, I added about five minutes to this trip by inadvertantly getting out at Downtown Crossing, instead of Park, and then just walking to Park via the connector tunnel.

At Arlington, the escalator to the street was out of order. It's one of those very skinny ones that only one person at a time can climb, which is awful.

11/12/2005

T-rage haiku contest!

Waiting on the train? Left your copy of War and Peace at home? Wondering what to do? Write a T-rage haiku! All it takes is three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables! It's as easy as that! Send 'em in and I'll post 'em here, for all the world to see! You could even win a cheap T-rage T!

Here're a few samples in various categories to get your juices flowing:

Political:
Daniel Grabauskas
do you hear the cries of rage
from under your feet?
*
Pastoral:
dark, silent platform
the shush of a winter wind
where's the effing train?
*
Misanthropic:
mean chinese lady
hit me with your bag again
and I will bite you
*
Erotic:
orange line five o'clock
you eyed me over your book
gave me a hard-on

11/11/2005

The T for two, and other questions of underground etiquette

I have not been out today, and have no plans to go out tonight. I may have tonsilitis. I feel like hell.

I was reading Brian McGrory's column in the Globe, about how so few T commuters, particularly the young, but also able-bodied middle-aged people and even T police, will give up their seat for a pregnant woman. This is a topic that is also hotly debated on the pages of the Boston Metro at least two or three times a year, although sometimes the issue is clouded by unrealistic expectations of chivalry on the part of able-bodied women who are not pregnant, but suffer from the Queen of Sheba Syndrome.

Of course it's a shame that in this most urbane and civilized of American cities, this most progressive of urban environments, people are so poorly educated in basic etiquette. But it is certainly not surprising. Boston is a me-first city, full of entitled individuals who can think of all sorts of justifications for being cunts, not least because everyone else seems to be. That young people pay no attention to anyone else is also not surprising in a society that insists there is no one else. It's me-me-me 24-7! It's Me, inc. It's The Me Show, staaaarrrrringgg ME!

You can also see the political modus operandi of the moment at work here: surely someone else will give up his seat to that poor pregnant lady. Boston is a great city for mouthing off about abstract political ideals and doing nothing to put them into action in our daily lives. That's somebody else's department.

But there are also more prosaic explanations. It's embarrassing if you don't jump up right away and offer your seat, and you start to think, well, if I get up now, everyone will know I expected someone else to give it up before I had to. Better not to call attention to my own pettiness by making a big scene. Then, too, there are those who look up sort of gingerly, as if to give the pregnant woman an opportunity to speak up for herself if she really wants their seat, and when she doesn't say anything, feel justified in keeping it for themselves. After all, if she needed to sit down, she woulda said something, right? I mean, she's pregnant, not a deaf-mute, right?

Of course, etiquette simply enshrines behavior that is already intuitively obvious. Etiquette exists to simplify things in society a bit. It's a way to standardize behavior in oft-repeated social situations. Things just function more smoothly when people behave, and etiquette reminds us how to behave, but we really already know. I mean, the core of it is the Golden Rule, idn't it?

Another good example of how unenlightened self-interest interferes with society running smoothly: folks without the sense to stand to the side of the doors when they're on the platform, allowing people off the train before they get on. This just makes good sense, people. Why is it that so few of us do it? An abject, animal fear of missing the train, should the conductor shut the doors before you can get in? Or that selfish, survival instinct that kicks in when you spy a free seat? Ask yourself, would you behave this way around people who knew you? Is it the anonymity of public spaces that gives us license to behave badly?

It can seem like a war of all aginst all in the underground--fierce competition for scarce resources, very Darwinian. But remember, as the New Darwinists point out: reciprocal altruism is also very Darwinian.

And then, too, there's karma.

JFK-Chinatown/Downtown Xing-JFK/super-size it!

07:54 - arrived at JFK
07:58 - departed JFK
08:11 - arrived at Downtown Xing
08:16 - departed Downtown Xing
08:17 - arrived at Chinatown

Total commute: 23 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +15 minutes
Total time in transit: 14 minutes
Total wait: 9 minutes

09:36 - arrived/departed Downtown Xing
09:45 - arrived JFK

Total commute: 9 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +1 minute
Total time in transit: 9 minutes
Total wait: 0 minutes

First of all, the eight-minute estimate for the first trip here, from JFK to Chinatown: utterly, appallingly unrealistic, to say the least. Second, in general, it would be quicker to walk from Downtown Crossing to Chinatown than to transfer from the red to the orange line and take the train. But there's weather to consider, you know?

Thirdly, Has anyone noticed that people's asses are getting bigger and bigger? It's been in the news a lot lately, and even just casual observation will prove it. What is the T going to do about it, is what I want to know. I suggest Mr. Grabauskas take a little junket, and have a look at other subway systems around the globe.

Take the old Russian trains they use in the Budapest Underground: they don't have little individualized seat-things (of course--being of communist-era construction); instead, there are long and quite comfortable-enough padded bench-like things, so that one's space is not prescribed (or proscribed, as is very often the case), and those with wide haunches can peaceably co-exist with those of narrower dimensions. (Disclosure: I do not have a fat arse myself. It's meaty, but the fact is I'm totally height-weight proportionate.) The benches don't call attention to the increasing number of greedy individuals taking up ever more portions of our shrinking public spaces. Which is probably a good thing, as greed causes resentment, and brazen inequalities lead to social unrest. And as winter approaches and people bulk up for the colder months, more commuters will be forced to stand during their commutes, as it will take fewer bulked-up commuters to fill the existing seats. So the problem will only get worse.

There are additional constraints on the T's trains (particularly red and orange line trains), as there are vertical bars every three seats that further hem the seated commuter in. These are felt to be necessary for standing commuters, but there are other solutions, such as straps, which are common enough and have proved themselves effective in other transit systems.

I believe part of the problem is the idea that even in shared spaces we must seize and claim a clearly demarcated space, so that, even if only temporarily, we can still point to that space as "mine". But public transit is possibly the most egoless form of transit there is, making this concession to the ego perfectly farcical. It's insulting in a way, when you think about it. Patronizing, you know?

Now, it may be frustrating for skinny folks, but plus-size commuters are the ones who should be pushing for benches. There is a standard or norm implicit in the current individual seat system, and it is actually probably about a half-cheek to a full-cheek short of the current societal norm. I am speaking here of value-neutral facts, not what is healthy or aesthetically pleasing, mind you. As our population grows wider, will we continue to deny the reality of individual sprawl, to everyone's discomfort? Or will we forge ahead with value-neutral seating which has the additional benefit of encouraging that sense of "ours" instead of "mine" for which the T exists?

* * *

A note: the escalator in the inbound side of the Chinatown station is out of order, and will be through the 26th, according to signage at the site.

* * *

On my way back from the gym I rode a very efficient, nearly deserted train. There was a blatino kid at one end, with his headphones on, bobbing his head up and down to the beat, like they do. Often they are rapping along, striking their poses and so on, looking very... what? Well, first and foremost, very serious. And righteous in their way. But somehow a little desperate, too. This kid was just bobbing his head, though, in that way--kind of up and down and back and forth. At one point I saw him from the corner of my eye, forgetting to bob his head, and resuming when he saw me from the corner of his eye observing him.

I had many, many more occasions to observe these kids when I lived on the Orange Line at Stony Brook, passing through Roxbury Crossing and Jackson Square. The boys dress in baggy clothes, the crotch of their jeans about at their knees. The girls, by contrast, are usually in something skin-tight, flesh spilling out everywhere. It makes you wonder what it means.

You could say it's just what's cool, and attribute it to an evil meme, but I think there's something to the way we dress. Ever since people bid adieu to their hairier Neanderthal cousins and donned animal skins, clothing has had social significance. I mean, the best hunter would probably have the pimpinest furs, wouldn't you think? And his gatherer bitch would be decked out in the blingingest animal teeth, with the biggest bone through her nose. In modern times, even if those who wear a certain style of clothes can't articulate what it means, it speaks to them, and speaks through them to the rest of us. It means something.

Take the modern businessman, whose life of daily drudgery may have the effect of making him feel somehow somewhat emasculated (despite all the talk of Wall Street warriors eating red meat and reading SunTzu). Some urban anthropologists have suggested that the power tie may be a stand-in for the ancient phallocarp, favored by warriors (like the one pictured here) in Papua, New Guinea. The phallocarp is basically a penis sheath, whose size, like the cod-pieces so often mentioned by Rabelais, suggest they are much more than just a fig-leaf. As one of my favorite evolutionary biologists, Jared Diamond, has written:

"Other facts confirm the role of a large penis as a threat or status display toward other men. Recall all the phallic art created by men for men, and the widespread obsession of men with their penis size. Evolution of the human penis was effectively limited by the length of the female vagina: a man's penis would damage a woman if it were significantly larger. However, I can guess what the penis would look like if this practical constraint were removed and if men could design it themselves. It would resemble the penis sheaths (phallocarps) used as male attire in some areas of New Guinea where I do fieldwork. Phallocarps vary in length (up to two feet), diameter (up to 4 inches), shape (curved or straight), color (yellow or red), and decoration (e.g., a tuft of fur at the end). Embarrassed male anthropologists interpret the phallocarp as something used for modesty or concealment, to which my wife had a succinct answer on seeing a phallocarp: 'The most immodest display of modesty I've ever seen!'"

As for the necktie as modern phallocarp: I find it an intriguing hypothesis, and wholly convincing, myself. Give me a big red necktie over a little pink bowtie any day. Size matters.

But back to the baggy jeans and overstuffed jerseys so popular among urban kids--it seems like a kind of body armor to me, personally. It's the boys I'm talking about here. The layers of grossly oversized clothes have the effect of sort of puffing them up, don't they? To me, it fairly screams "low s-o!" But then I like tight tees and hip-huggers, myself, and am a huge fan of flesh, so it could just be sour grapes on my part. I do find the low-rider jeans a bit vexing, at any rate. They seem so utterly impractical. I don't understand them. I don't understand making such a concession as for comfort and convenience, to a style that seems so overtly silly.

Any insight, particularly from the source, would be greatly appreciated.

11/09/2005

JFK-Arlington/Arlington-JFK

07:26 - arrived at JFK
07:29 - departed JFK
07:41 - arrived at Park
07:44 - departed Park
07:47 - arrived at Arlington

Total commute: 21 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 18 minutes
discrepancy: +3 minutes
Total time in transit: 15 minutes
Total wait: 6 minutes

17:04 - arrived/departed Arlington
17:08 - arrived at Park
17:11 - departed Park
17:22 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 18 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 20 minutes
discrepancy: -2 minutes
Total time in transit: 15 minutes
Total wait: 3 minutes

11/08/2005

JFK-Park/Arlington-JFK/JFK-Ruggles RT/coincidence vs destiny/squirrels

07:28 - arrived at JFK
07:30 - departed JFK
07:40 - arrived Park

Total commute: 12 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 9 minutes
discrepancy: +3 minutes
Total time in transit: 10 minutes
Total wait: 2 minutes

13:44 - arrived/departed Arlington
13:47 - arrived at Park
13:49 - departed Park
13:58 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 14 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 19 minutes
discrepancy: -5 minutes
Total time in transit: 12 minutes
Total wait: 2 minutes

17:21 - arrived at JFK
17:27 - departed JFK
17:38 - arrived at Downtown Xing
17:46 - departed Downtown Xing
17:55 - arrived at Ruggles

Total commute: 34 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 24 minutes
discrepancy: +10 minutes
Total time in transit: 20 minutes
Total wait: 14 minutes

18:52 - arrived at Ruggles
18:53 - departed Ruggles
19:00 - arrived at Downtown Xing
19:07 - departed Downtown Xing
19:16 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 24 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 27 minutes
discrepancy: -3 minutes
Total time in transit: 16 minutes
Total wait: 8 minutes

Hmm. Today, for the first time since I've been keeping records of my travels on the T, I'm confronted with a paradox. I mean, what happens when the T actually overestimates total travel time? I can't very well rant and rave about that, now can I? The truth is, there were some freakish aspects of today's journeys. Arriving at Arlington just as a train was pulling in, for one. I also arrived at Downtown Crossing on my way to Ruggles just as an Orange Line train was coming in, and could conceivably have squeezed onto one of the first two cars, but the idea of it was distasteful--it was half-past five and people were in that panic mode, and fight-or-flight pheramones are especially stinky. The first two cars were packed, and by the time I got to the third (not by running, mind you--as I've mentioned before, I don't chase after buses and trains), it was too late. My appointment was for six, so I had plenty of time. On my way back, at Ruggles, the inbound train came a minute after I arrived to the platform, which is also a freak incident. I can't tell you how many hours of my life I have wasted in Ruggles station. True to form, these things come in threes.

There was another freak occurance that sometimes happens on public transit. On my ride to Ruggles I sat across from a young chap with his nose buried in a book (John Moore's Heroics for Beginners, I later spied). He didn't look up from it once that I noticed. I studied him casually, though not with any sort of heightened interest. Not really my type. Skinny kid, hair dyed dirty blond but black at the roots, in baggy jeans with pockets and zippers in odd places, and an oversized sweatshirt. Anyway, on my way back from Ruggles I get on the train, take a seat, look up, and there he is again, just like before. I was slightly more interested this time, just contemplating the odds. He looked up this time, too (twice in fact) and our eyes met with casual disinterest. There was something very hobbitty about him. His eyes were a little wideset, almond-shaped, and at curious angles in respect to each other. It gave him a slightly feral sort of look, but in a pleasing way, I thought. I also noted his bushy mutton chops for the first time--which added to his hobbitty look and seemed a little incongruous, given that he appeared to be about ten years old, otherwise.

That gave me something to contemplate on the way home, since I couldn't very well rage against the T today. I got to thinking, like I said, about the odds of us being on the same train, in the same car, sitting right across from one another like that. It was a lovely coincidence, but essentially meaningless, I think. Not all coincidences are meaningful. Or are they? It's kind of the I ♥ Huckabees thing. I don't remember what they ended up deciding in the movie, but it seemed like it was one or the other--all or nothing.

The funny thing about that movie: I went to see it when it came out, at Loews on the Common there. I went during the day one day, by myself, and before the movie started I went to the john, and in the john I met my friend Robert, who had also come to see it, by himself. So we went and saw it together, and then had a drink afterwards and talked about how funny it was we'd run into each other like that to see a movie like that, that was all about that sort of thing. That seemed somehow significant to me. But this thing with the hobit didn't really. But just because it didn't feel significant, doesn't mean it's not, somehow, I don't suppose. But usually things that are somehow significant feel significant somehow, don't they?

I got off at Park again today and walked to work through the Common. Boy, the squirrels are out in force, aren't they? There seemed to be about 5-10 per square meter in the Common. No joke. They were three and four thick in spots. They were nearly as numerous as beggars on Boylston. I didn't see many in the Garden, but when I crossed over to Commonwealth Ave., there was not a single squirrel in sight. It must have to do with the types of trees they've got growing along there.

11/07/2005

JFK-Park/Chinatown-MassAve/BackBay-JFK

11:16 - arrived at JFK
11:20 - departed JFK
11:30 - arrived at Park

Total commute: 14 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 9 minutes
discrepancy: +5 minutes
Total time in transit: 10 minutes
Total wait: 4 minutes

17:19 - arrived at Chinatown
17:20 - departed Chinatown
17:26 - arrived at Mass. Ave.

Total commute: 7 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 6 minutes
discrepancy: +1 minute
Total time in transit: 6 minutes
Total wait: 1 minute

21:19 - arrived at Back Bay
21:25 - departed Back Bay
21:29 - arrived at Downton Xing
21:34 - departed Downtown Xing
21:42 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 23 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 19 minutes
discrepancy: +4 minutes
Total time in transit: 12 minutes
Total wait: 11 minutes

I must say, none of these times is outrageous. I have rarely, if ever, hopped right on a train at Chinatown (and, to be fair, if I had not stopped into a convenience store after the gym for a packet of gum, I would've ended up waiting longer for the train)--even my wait later on at Back Bay was not interminable, as I assure you it can be that time of day. I had had a few beers with a buddy at a place on Copley Square and he offered to drop me home, but I said I had a duty to take the T, and so I did. When the weather's nice, I routinely walk down Boylston, through the Garden and the Common, to Downtown Xing, and had he not parked in the garage there at Back Bay station, I might have forgone the Orange Line altogether, too. But all in all, it was pretty painless, as I said. The T, in their trip time estimates, were only a grand total of ten minutes off for the day. Hmm.

11/04/2005

JFK to Park/Downtown Xing to JFK/big issues

08:59 - arrived at JFK
09:03 - departed JFK
09:12 - arrived at Park Street

Total commute: 13 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 9 minutes
discrepancy: +4 minutes
Total time in transit: 9 minutes
Total wait: 4 minutes

15:26 - arrived at Downtown Xing
15:33 - departed Downtown Xing
15:44 - arrived JFK

Total commute: 18 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +10 minutes
Total time in transit: 11 minutes
Total wait: 7 minutes

Just got in after a very subdued ride home and checked my "comments" to see if I'd gotten any grief. People, let's get one thing straight. This blog is for commenting on the T, not commenting on commenting on the T. For all you silly pomo mofos, that would be the "meta T-rage" blog. And if it's out there somewhere, I've got nothing to do with it, and it's got nothing to do with me.

Another thing: those of you who would "kill for a 40 minute commute," and can't believe I'd complain about it, because you have to drive to work and it's an hour and a half both ways and blabadee-blah. Zip it. No one here is the least bit interested. This is not your blog. Your blog is the "fantasy T envy" blog. The grass is always greener on the other side, idn't it? Get your desperate little job in the city, start using the T, and then see if you give a rat's ass what people who drive to work every day think. Until then, go complain to whoever it is that gives a rat's ass about your commute, cuz it ain't me, babe.

Long and short of it: if you think I'm a boob for wasting my time here, move along. Don't waste any more of my time telling me how much of my time you think I'm wasting. Comments like "there are much bigger issuse [sic] than the fact you had to wait 10 minutes for a train to worry abouat [sic]" don't deserve the time it takes to read them, much less to respond, but just this once I'll bite: aren't there much bigger issues than pointing out to me that there are much bigger issues? Hmm?

But speaking of big issues, I had some extra time this morning, before a class, so I got off the T at Park Street instead of riding it to Arlington. The weather's been nothing short of phenomenal, a perfect morning for a leisurely stroll across the Common, and through the Public Garden. I'm glad I had the time, because there was something to see: a group called the American Friends Service Committee had set up an emotional and thought-provoking exhibition called "Eyes Wide Open," consisting of a pair of boots for each of the 2,037 U.S. soldiers killed so far in Iraq. They were arranged in rows, reminiscent of a Cemetary, by State, and each pair had a name-tag. Some, like the one in the second picture here, had photos of the soldier and his or her family, or letters, flowers, or flags. A sad tribute in protest of an unnecessary war.

The Big Time

Yesterday I got a call from The Herald about an article in today's paper about blogs dedicated to raging against the T. You can see it here. Aside from having my picture taken on the JFK/UMass platform for the article, I didn't use the T at all yesterday.

I have to say, the Herald photographer, David Goldman, is a handsome fellow. He asked me to bring my laptop along, though I don't actually use it on the T. I have a little brown Moleskine notebook I use to scribble my notes in. People look at you funny when you whip it out and scribble something, but what the hell. I think it could be they think you're writing something about them. Rest assured, usually it's not the case. Unless you are wearing flip-flops in November, are having an animated conversation with yourself, or are behaving like a barnyard animal. Then you might be immortalized in my Moleskine.

When Mr. Goldman was photographing me, he asked me to look "irritated," but I see from the picture in the paper that it came across more as constipated. Oh, well. It is irritating to be constipated, so I guess I wasn't too far off the mark.

I enjoyed having my picture taken, I must say, although I'm not used to having my clothes on for it.

11/02/2005

Share your despair

I have to say, I've been taking it easy the last couple weeks, working from home more, and my travels on the T have, as you can see from the last several entries, been pretty limited. I have not suffered all that much, if you want to know the truth. Many of you have suffered, and continue to suffer more. I've gotten several emails from friends who have tales of woe that would curl your toe nails, let me tell you.

So, again, I welcome you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to share your despair. If you've been left high and dry by the MBTA, tell us about it. Use the "comments" link at the bottom of the post here, and leave your rant, horror story, or helpful hints for coping. Your fears, your hopes. That's what we're here for.

And if you've got a route that's particularly hellish, let me know. I'll check the mutha out myself.

11/01/2005

JFK to Downtown Xing and back/Frida & Diego

08:59 - arrived at JFK
09:10 - departed JFK
09:19 - arrived Downtown Xing

Total commute: 20 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +12 minutes
Total time in transit: 9 minutes
Total wait: 11 minutes

11:00 - arrived at Downtown Xing
11:05 - departed Downtown Xing
11:13 - arrived at JFK

Total commute: 13 minutes
MBTA estimated total trip time: 8 minutes
discrepancy: +5 minutes
Total time in transit: 8 minutes
Total wait: 5 minutes

Is it possible that when the MBTA estimates trip time they don't factor in the wait? Is this some kind of denial thing on their part? I mean, if I'm planning my little trip, and want to be somewhere on time, wouldn't I need wait time factored in? Isn't that part of the total trip time? It could be that I missed an asterisk somewhere, and some fine print reading "total trip time does not include the wait." But, hmm, it doesn't seem so.


During my wait at JFK I watched two pigeons mating in the rafters. You could tell they were an old married couple, used to the routine. They necked a little, and then they sort of went off and cleaned themselves, and then they came back and necked some more, which reminded me of Frida Kahlo's philosophy: have sex, wash, repeat. But pigeons apparently mate for life. And, according to a most informative website dedicated to the vile little creatures, the necking is actually called "billing," though there are no invoices involved. I also discovered that pigeons breed all year round--just like us!--and can raise four or five broods annually. Whoever is responsible for the website may be a fellow T commuter, because he certainly has a lot of time on his hands. "The fact is," he writes, "pigeons are special. They are special because there is such variety in the way they look. Blue Jays all look very much alike, and so do robins and cardinals. But find a flock of pigeons and you will see white ones and gray ones. You will see pigeons with blue-gray feathers and pigeons with red feathers. You will see solid-colored pigeons and speckled pigeons. Look long enough and you will be able to tell them apart, give them names, and get to know their habits." Yikes. Hopefully the train will come before it gets to that.


By the way, I think Frida wanted to be monogamous, too, just like pigeons are, but that damned Diego!

Another thing I noticed, when I could tear myself away from the avian festival erotique, was flip-flops. In November. People. Enough with the friggin flip-flops. There's apparently a whole student population out there that either doesn't know how or is too lazy to tie its shoes. That's what velcro's for. I don't want to see your gnarly, blackened and frost-bitten toes come December!

On my way back from the gym (it's near the Chinatown T but I just jog there from Downtown Crossing), I was walking through the tunnel that connects the red and orange lines, and there was a mephistophelian-looking busker. Oddly, we were the only two in the tunnel at the time, and he arched an eyebrow at me as I passed, and sang, "you better call Jesus up and tell 'im whatcha want!" I grinned. Jesus and I are like this, and I happen to know he hates it when people call him up to tell him what they want. He's like, "here, this is Santa's number--call him, for chrissake!" I smiled politely and hustled on down the tunnel, but he started calling after me--singing at the top of his lungs now--"YOU BETTER CALL HIM UP! YOU BETTER TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT!" He already knows what I want, you evil busker! I need some new luggage and a scratching post for Walter. We've been emailing back and forth about it for months. I even sent him the Petco link. And anyway, if it's that urgent, He'll get in touch with me himself. None of this Joan of Arcadia "what if God were one of us" malarkey. He's got me on speed-dial, Buska Man.

I didn't have to wait long for the train, but when it came it smelled like somebody'd upchucked some Fruity Pebbles or something in it. But it's so unseasonably warm, everything smells funny.