Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Underground Lit: The A, B,Cs (and Ps & Qs) of the Q Train

Currently Carless in Gaza, since our daughter has use of "Dad's" Honda for her senior year upstate, Brooklyn Beat is getting reacquainted with the morning subway commute. I got the 2nd car, (the first time that I, a city lad, had ever owned my own personal car, separate from our family car) a few year's back, when I was working on Staten Island. Even after I made it back to Brooklyn, I was providing limo service for our 3 younger kids to their various schools around the borough. Finally, a little further down the road, to continue to the automotive metaphor, with 2 kids in college and our younger 2 entering high school, I am no longer needed in my morning chauffeur capacity. Now, suddenly carless, I can get up early, take a stroll up to the express stop at Newkirk, hop on the B express (if I'm lucky) or the Q local (if I'm tired and can get a seat), to DeKalb. I usually disdain the local to Court Street and walk up Fulton Street, grabbing a coffee large, skim milk, no sugar, on the way.

Anyway, the point of this pointless recounting, is that the NY Times City Room blog is assessing the current state of the NYC Subway as Reading Room. Is it true that folks read more since they can't use their phones or internet on the trains ?
I answered the survey. Last book read: Travels with Herodotus by R. Kapuschinsky. Last newspaper: One of the throwaways, AM New York or the Metro, don't remember which. Last periodical: New York Magazine fall preview issue. But truthfully, it is more of a glancing review than a heavy read. First, I find, as I'm getting older, and have lost my sea legs, that I need to mind my balance on the train as it (hopefully) rockets along. Next, I find my Ipod provides a similar, underground distraction as reading a newspaper. It is just as easy to listen to "I was made to love her" by Stevie Wonder, or "Mississipi" by Bob Dylan, or even "Basin Street Blues/When It's Sleepy Time Down South" by Louis Prima with Sam Butera's honking sax, as it is to read the paper or a book. I can glance away at the zit or hemorrhoid removal ads, and in this abstract revery, while away my train time. I think a lot of other folks do this as well. No wrestling with books or newspapers, or taking up extra subway lebensraum, shared with my already crowded in fellow riders.

The photo that accompanies the City Room article shows an almost Edenic image of the train, empty, maybe midday, or late at night, with one passenger toting a hefty volume that looks like the Jerusalem Bible, or the portable Oxford English Dictionary, while another has a paperback, trade or mass market, I can't determine. But when Brooklyn Beat is riding, around 7 AM, while it is not quite cattle car time, there are a lot of folks trying to wake up, groaning at Another Day in the Life. I see the occasional newspaper, usually the Daily News or Post, paperback novels in English, Chinese or Russian, and the occasional textbook. Can the Ipod be replacing the casual read for a lot of riders? Plus, the Q and B run outside through lower Brooklyn; intermittent phone and internet service is still somewhat possible.

In the NYC subway, although I haven't been a daily rider in a few years, the goal of most civilized riders is to maintain a modest footprint. But schools are still closed; we'll see what next week brings.

The NY TIMES Subway Reading Survey is here:
\http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/reading-while-riding/

1 comment:

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