Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"You be in a good mood, all of a sudden you be in a bad mood"

thanks Bubba

Monday, June 15, 2009


Never doubt the MTA's impeccable consistency in its attempts to fuck you over.
Example # 342: The 4th Ave and 9th Street stop in Brooklyn. Nine out of ten (9/10) times, the transfer from the F train to the R train will add an additional fifteen (15) minutes to what could be a six (6) minute commute, due to skilled coordination of trains.
If you've ever had to make this transfer, you are aware that the station is built like an old, decrepit castle with dark, winding, putrid staircases, exits and entrances at the farthest ends of convenience. In short, a true MTA masterpiece of construction. Walking from the F platform down to the R is a good 5 minutes, and that's if you're a young sprite-ish thing. This makes it particularly tantalizing when you get off the F train to hear the R train arriving, and, as you descend deeper into the dank corridors of the MTA, you begin to see people who have just exited the R train. By the time you arrive on the actual R platform, all that remains are the empty benches and red signals, signifying a good ten (10) minute wait is incumbent.
On a one out of ten (1/10) day, a remarkably not shitty day, the entire ride can be a pleasant ten (10) minutes, if that.
But it's dangerous to get on the train those days, for several reasons:

1. Your expectations rest at a higher standard, making you susceptible to severe depression and uncontrollable rage.
2. It means the Pirates have infected the train with rabies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Read this book if you like junkies and trains and not good writing

"The Mole People," by Jennifer Toth

Though not very well-written--in fact, well-written is not a phrase I would ever use in describing Jennifer Toth's book--it is a book worth reading if you're a subway connoisseur and/or an urban myth junkie. Frankly, I am both, which allowed for a quick and pleasant, if somewhat grammatically irksome read. 
Ms Toth plays the role of the anthropologist documenting a rugged, undiscovered, literally underground scene, where she meets many characters who are clearly interesting and attempts to emphasize their fascinating lives, but the overall lack of structure for the book impedes her ability to effectively develop them throughout the work. Characters are generally considered more important in works of fiction, but in this non-fiction piece, it is they who help her tell the untold story of the mole people, and therefore they must be all the more vivid and tangible to the reader.
When reading this book, it becomes difficult to wonder how a young, upper-class white woman (who is not a native New Yorker) was able to delve into the dirty tunnels of New York City and uncover information about a group so insular they remained a legend until Toth's work. Though she details some of the grittiness involved in her investigation, and even narrates a few perilous situations she manages to survive, she is mostly unconvincing in her description of why she, of all people, was able to penetrate the dark recesses of New York City's underground community. Though perhaps it is not a very serious defect in her book, it certainly bothers my native New Yorker sensibilities. 
The greatest flaw of the book--ah, now we come to it. I've put down all my middling complaints, here is the real one--is her inability to coherently organize the book and her experiences to create a comprehensive or compelling story for the people she documents. 
But I'll end on a positive note, because I am not trashing the book, I'm even tentatively recommending it. Ultimately, the greatest attribute of the book is one that she did not design: the subject matter. Who doesn't like reading the sordid details of a junkie's habit? Or learning about the mysterious community that is so hermetic the author only hears about it from other communities? As humans we have a fascination for that which eludes us, and that which is deep, dark and clandestine. A mythical underground community comprised of society's untouchables both literally and figuratively fits that description. Excellent choice on subject matter, Ms Toth. But a recommendation for the future, from a veteran reader: You may be an excellent anthropologist, in terms of accessing an enclosed community and documenting untold stories, and a compassionate reporter for a neglected and rejected group (both self-imposed and otherwise), but you are not a good writer and your next work would be best aided by a collaboration with someone more adept in the organization and writing departments.

FUmta Commuter of the Week:

Monday, June 8, 2009

A snippet of the commuter experience + kittens

1 am on Saturday night. The F train stops at 23rd street - a useless stop like Delancey Street. Then. The train doesn't do anything. This means that everyone with a tendency to become crazy and start ranting or scratching/ singing publicly does this. After 15 minutes of mysterious loitering... nothing happens. Then the conductor kicks everyone off and sends them crying into the streets. 

A few sensible commuters decide to ask for a refund, which would buy a cheap beer in a paper bag on 5/9/2009. The same refund in July would buy a kitten.