The Commuter’s Thrill

A Pictorial Travelogue of 
a Fatigued Hand for Hire

Commuting freezes time the same way traveling can extend it. But while staring at fast-moving surroundings can hold the anticipation of wherever one’s is heading to or not, the destination is not really the point of commuting. It’s just getting there and back in time and still in one piece.
So you update your reading, bite your bagel, finish your coffee. Or most likely, fall asleep. Traveling short distances repeatedly has a numbing effect on the mind. Most never get to the sports section. But whether time’s wasted, or enhanced, commuting may offer you a whole lot of things – except the option to abbreviate it.
It’s a way of cutting through a million life stories happening outside your window, that you can’t or won’t care to attend, either because most last just a few seconds, or are simply not that interesting. Commuting is a lesson on indifference about the world around us.

Yet, a lot of us spend an obscene amount of time committed to it, squeezed into it, unmoved by it, back and forth, day in, day out. Like Sisyphus, we keep pushing that hard rock of a day towards the top of the mountain for as long as it’s required. Until someone else takes over and we’re no longer needed. That’s no joyful occasion either.

Being on a set schedule also breeds an odd wish from deep within that still sleepy mind of yours: that nothing ever happens to it. You’d rather not talk, hate if someone sits close and, knock on wood, dread the possibility a maniac lurks on the loose, or a faulty track lays ahead.

So you default to this limbo where you hold the alertness of a ninja with the moroseness of a deranged monk, ready to spring into (more)
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Downtown Trains

To Rod Stewart, His Trains
& the Holidays in New York

When ‘Maggie Mae’ burst through my mini transistor radio in 1971 its circuits coughed and fried a bit. The dawn of the singer-songwriter era and yet, here’s this punch of a voice drawing blood from the heart of teen lovers. It wasn’t to last but still.
Now Rod Stewart has introduced the world to another hit of his: an epic, 23-year in the making, scale model of a U.S.-like metropolis and its trains. It’s enormous and it’s a beauty. It’s also related to the subject of this letter for some mushy reasons.

See, from 1996 to 2008, New York had a third holiday train show, The Station at Citicorp Center. The Botanical Garden’s twig and plant-made trains and railroads, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s subway and commuter train show are the other two.
It took gall for that little train show that could to challenge such centenarian institutions. A quarter of that time for the most but it did arrive there and it was on its way to becoming a permanent feature of the holidays in NYC. But it wasn’t to be.
Now for the record: Colltales has nothing to do with that or any of the places mentioned here. I don’t know the creators, artists, associates, or anyone connected to that show. This post is all about the raw sentimentality implied above.

PICTURES IN A GASOLINE ALLEY
Then lack of funding allegedly closed down The Station. I couldn’t put up with that kind of bite on my apple. Broke, as usual, I did the only thing an orphan could: I plead for help on the Website of little-known model train enthusiast, Station Master Rod.
I don’t regret it; the former gravedigger assistant has by now an entire team tending to his site and career so it’s hard to imagine that he never read my appeal. Or that they didn’t check to see whether I was legit, or had ties to the Dunham Studio – again, I don’t.
I was just one of the many eight-to-80-year olds going berserk over those Gulliverian scenes. That includes my own little ‘Thomas,’ who now claims not to remember it. It helps to have a taste for miniatures with a huge serving of wonder to appreciate it.

So, ‘Dear Mr. Stewart

Congrats on the completion of your spectacular model city said to be inspired by New York and Chicago. Your passion is shared by millions and I, for one, used to spend hours watching mesmerizing train shows on TV. They all live on the Web now.
I’ve heard that you’ve spent almost a generation composing your tiny city and that you did most of the work by yourself. Impressive and probably quite rewarding in a Zen kind of a way. Now, about that message on your Website: did you get to read it then?
For this is now beyond that particular train show, as great and popular as it still is. No, now this would be a gift, your holiday gift to the kids of the city to where you’ve come visit so often. In the 1980s, you actually walked into the restaurant I used to work at.

Whoever you’d hire to set it up, where or, grasp, whether it’d be a traveling version of your own display, it’d all be of course entirely up to you. It’d be an awesome gesture to be credited only to you; seriously, I’d put it on writing for your legal council.
Wouldn’t that be great? This city glows during the holidays and memories carved in childhood during this time remain cherished throughout life. Along with your songs, a train show could be yet another touch of magic you’ve been providing the world for decades.
New York also welcomes yet another community that now you belong to: that of cancer survivors. With your gift, by this time next year we’d all be in those lines full of happy faces, eager to ride those tracks with their minds while dreaming of day trips to Manhattan.
Come, let’s see the trains Uncle Rod has set up for us. Thanks.’

Skywalkers

Wallenda Over Niagara Falls
& Petit to Cross Grand Central

A city so vertical as this, one would think that many New Yorkers would have the daring habit of walking on wires, high above its noisy streets. And yet, they are few and far between. That may not change even after next week, when Nik Wallenda, a member of royalty if you follow this sort of daring-do stunt, crosses the Niagara Falls, over 400 miles away from Manhattan.
It’s certainly not because skywalking has become an almost relic of the past: many touring circuses and performing acts still routinely feature it. Neither it may be because of some perceived intimidating shadow cast by Philippe Petit, the Frenchman who walked between the Twin Towers in the 1970s. He too may be awing us in the autumn at Grand Central Terminal.
For a megalopolis that grew used to witnessing thousands of skyscrapers rise, built mostly by an elite of Mohawks and their descendants, such a quasi-lost brand of thrilling entertainment is curiously absent of most busker performances throughout the year.
It doesn’t help things the fact that troupes such as the Flying Karamazov Brothers, who visit us often, are mainly comedic acts despite their name, rarely venturing above its members’ heads, and that these days, a circus performer is rarely confined to a single Continue reading