Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The city grinds to a halt today as the transit union strikes and I pause to consider that crazy carnival ride, the subway. I realize this morning that the rattletrap has become so usual to us that we now miss our stops not because we don't know what we are doing, but because we fall asleep on the lurching train.

When my family walked that tightrope from Salt Lake City to New York City one and a half years ago, I truly felt that I had run us all away and joined the circus, forcing my nice Utah family to become carneys. I am responsible for this raucous life of rattling trains, shouting people, and a tiny, shaking co-op in a former tenement built over the 'F' train line. On spinning plates, I have balanced these guilts and responsibilities: two kids who had gone only to an essentially Mormon private school thus far and a husband who had no reason to live in New York other than a glancing regard for the skyscraper. My own reasons are unwieldy and flighty.
We just came to New York for the summer and never went home.

So our building wakes up today and I smell the neighbors cooking bacon, hear greetings in the hallway, hear the Puerto Rican supers fighting in spanish in the courtyard as they sort the garbage. It's not so unlike a circus train with the cars stacked vertically here. I find that the close, rattly living that I deeply questioned in the murky wee hours of our New York existence has become something like home. The clomp, clomp, clomp upstairs? Home. The jazz guitar I feel from below in my feet and up my legs as I stand at the easel? Home. The ten month-old who screeches for my kids every time he passes by our door on the way to his? Home.

At 3:00 a.m. this morning, Dan and I both awoke with nothing in particular on our minds, just a disconcerting wakefulness. Turning on the TV, we found that at 3:00 a.m., the transit strike had been called. Our building is still now like I've never felt it, its bricks not needing to realign themselves every 7-10 minutes. The measured, regular vibration of the 'F' train was something that, when we first heard it in our skeletons, seemed like a deal-breaker when we moved our timid Utah troupe into our apartment. "How will we sleep with that?" we wondered and pulled out the legal papers to reassess our commitment.

And now I suppose we listen for the train without knowing it, even in our sleep.
I guess we now may almost be New Yorkers.


Anonymous matt said...

i woke up this morning and heard about the strike. the first thing i thought of was how it would affect you and yours. i bet it'll be pretty cool to live without the transit system for a few (days, weeks?), almost like a snow day or something. i suspect anything more than a few days will get old, though.

maybe it's time to throw some studs in the tires on your bad-ass cruiser that dan bought you a few months back. slap a banana seat on the sucker, have the kids saddle up, and freeze your collective buns off as you pedal around the city.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

my bike never strikes.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous BIG Mike said...

It's a shame that your line of work negates the automatic "day off" that many people are forced to take due to a lack of alternative transportation.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Gillian said...

If you ever write a book, I want to read it. Or a newspaper column.

Art and the City, by Lori Bradshaw.

I love your writing. And I am beginning to love your version of New York. Thanks!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Writermama said...

I live on the same subway line and miss, as well, the comforting rumble of the train under my feet. Is is nice, isn't it? Zoe's friend's babysitter said that the silence--the absence of transit in Queens--woke him, too, in the wee hours of the morning. Strange. After another day of unmitigated walking, I'm starting to feel like Laura Ingalls.

1:05 PM  
Blogger newbrooklyner said...

matt, your vision of the family-bike is not far off from what I've seen at our school: tandem-bike for mom and dad (in business attire) with the second-grader's alley-cat attachment pulling the toddler's Burley . Awesome. It looks Seuessian.
My cruiser is too heavy for anymore passengers, though.

fatty, your bike may never strike, but it does get struck.

big mike, it's suprising how few people took the day off. Dan's laptop is in his office in Manhattan so he took the day off, but at some point, we'll have to cross the Bridge and fetch stuff. I'm out of some essential paint that is over there, over the bridge. Day off coming up.

gillian, thanks. Bloggin is as far as it goes for me. I think I'd need to have more sexcapades for a column or book. Or perhaps a boss who wears Prada and whom I stab in the back with my tell-all. Hmmmm.

Writerma, it just feels plain dead. I really feel like my building's soul took a hike.
I hope y'all are doing ok over there on the other side of the river. Tell Pa hello and that we'll see him in Spring when MTA/TWU hostilities finally thaw.

1:19 PM  

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