Mass Transit – Got the Jimmy Legs

Mass Transit

Jumping someone else's train

proposed train rerouting

I was mildly aware that the MTA was holding the Z train (among others) for ransom, as the do every few months. They said they would kill the Z if we didn't pony up the dough, and they appeared crazy enough to go through with it. Well, I think we did pay up, but they still said they were gonna end the Z anyway. And nobody paid much attention after that.

At least I didn't. Boro prez Marty Markowitz held a funeral for the Z train a long time ago, and I guess I just thought it was a matter of time. I don't usually ride the Z, but the stations before and after mine are served by it. This means during rush hour (assuming I get a job soon) all the people normally riding the Z would get packed into my J train. Of course they'll probably have to run a lot more J trains, so the loss of the Z would be in name only for people who live as close to Manhattan as I do (people further out, especially in Queens would feel the burn of having to stop at every single stop all the way up).

What I didn't know was that the MTA had issued a similar threat against the M train. Marty had a funeral for that train as well (hey Marty, instead of spending all your time and our money having these ridiculous photo-ops, why not try using your office for something practical like finding jobs for your constituents!), but I didn't hear about any of it until yesterday. So sorry if this is old news for everybody else, but it blows my mind.

See, the M train is now on the chopping block. If removed, the V train will be extended all the way to Middle Village, the full range of the M train on this side of Brooklyn (the M's intermittent service to West Brooklyn would be eliminated altogether). Meanwhile, the Z has quietly been released under its own recognizance. Former M train riders in Bushwick and Queens will be able to take one train up through midtown and into Astoria, if they feel like it. J train riders will have a relatively simple connection to get the V at Myrtle-Broadway, although it still might be easier to go to Essex St and switch there.

Either way, this doesn't actually sound like a service reduction for us. Maybe Manhattan V-train riders will be annoyed, but Manhattanites are always annoyed about something. Now of course the MTA probably has something up their sleeve to make this change a bad thing for everybody involved, like running one train an hour or something. Still beats the G train!

Check this out: some history on the J/Z lines, turns out our elevated platform dates back to the steam era (1888).

She's gonna love me in my Chevy van

Lucy makes sure nothing happens to the cat food

You people with cars won't understand this, but sometimes we sit around and discuss all the things we could do if we had one. How we could go to Ikea, to Costco, to the Catskills (I don't know why we bring that up, neither of us knows anything about the Catskills). The idea that we could have something to not only transport us around but also hold heavy items so that we may bring them to our door, well, let's just say we understand the allure.

Eventually these conversation descend into all the reasons we SHOULDN'T ever have a car: the costs, the worries about theft, the moving from one side of the street to the other all the time. So we end feeling pleased we are still reliant on mass transit. But this weekend we were able to tool around and block the box like all those SOBs who act like they don't see me jaywalking on 23rd St.

Empty Cages had put out a request for a washing machine, and a woman offered up her washer and dryer for free. Someone would need to go get them, but nearly every member of the group was working an adoption event scheduled for the same day. They needed a Transporter.

I saw this not only as an opportunity to help out the group but to turn the whole thing to my selfish advantage and take the van out shopping after my chores were done. So I picked up the van at my favorite Uhaul spot in East New York where the receptionist calls everybody "Honey" and your transactions are constantly interrupted by people buying bags of ice (their other business) and people yelling at each other loudly. I got the van and an appliance dolly and started up to the BQE. Before getting on the highway, I stopped off at a friend's house to finally pick up the air conditioner she said I could have months before. Originally I intended to use this AC myself, but somehow I promised it to Empty Cages along the way (maybe it's a cult). With the AC stowed, I was off to Bay Ridge.

I got there way faster than I thought (thank you Robert Moses), located the apartment and found the donators ready for me. The woman's burly son, along with his burly friend, were ready with the washer/dryer. These things were huge, front-loading machines, the washing machine itself weighing almost 250 pounds. With effort we got them into the van with millimeters to spare.

As I headed up to the shelter space, I was already doing the math: 2 Burly Guys + Me = Barely got it into the van, therefore me + [UNKNOWN] = spinal injury. I got up to the space and amassed a few people to help move them. It didn't look good, unfortunately it appears that cat rescue attracts few really muscular people. But lucky for us, some truly tough guys were right down the block.

There's been a big bus on the block for a while now, all painted and graffiti-covered, and big dudes are always around working on it. It's one of those biodiesel conversions, which is better for the environment (even better for it is the fact that it hasn't moved in weeks). We asked a couple of the guys if they would help and they agreed.

We tried to pitch in but they basically did all the work, strapping the machines to the dolly and lugging it up the narrow stairs. Their only remuneration: they wanted to meet the roosters (liberated from cockfighting dens in the Bronx). They said they hear them crowing all the time and had wondered where it came from. The rooster complied loudly.

With the machines dropped off, the job was essentially over. This gave me the perfect excuse to commandeer the van and use it to my own nefarious purposes. I drove home, picked up Jeannie and we drove to the Sunset Park Costco.

I haven't been in a wholesale store in years and Jeannie had never been. It's pretty overwhelming at first. We got memberships and ID card and waded through the enormous crowds with our oversize cart. We knew we wanted cat supplies but we didn't have a list or even a clear idea of what Costco carried. I was convinced they would have 'everything' from kitty litter to furniture, while Jeannie thought it would be far more limited. The truth was somewhere in the middle, an odd collection of stuff with no discernible theme. You could buy 20-packs of bar soap, but they didn't carry Ivory. You could select from a huge variety in brands of laundry detergent but no one brand had the oil-drum size I was searching for. However in some areas they had exactly what we were looking for.

I had been told by Lisacat that Costco carried a decent-quality cat food, and indeed, it is higher quality that it has any need to be. It's all chicken and rice, no wheat and no meat by-products. It's sold in 25-lb. bags, of which we bought 5. They also had cases of canned Friskies which we also picked up. But there wasn't much else in the way of cat supplies, just some Iams and 40-lb. buckets of Scoop Away litter (we bought one even though I find Scoop Away overly perfumey). I still can't figure out why the cat food was so premium when they don't appear to have much interest in cats beyond these few supplies, but I'll take it.

After getting that, everything else was gravy. The place is huge; at first I thought it was merely big until I realized there was a whole other floor to the place. We bought as much stuff as we could justify and by the time we got to the check-out, we both had to push the cart, it was so heavy. We lucked with a short check-out line and got back to the van in plenty of time (and oh yeah, we stopped at the liquor store next door and bought a couple of huge bottles of Jim Beam, just in case we need several gallons of whiskey soon).

We got the stuff home and dumped it off (the cats were very excited to see the cat food so it had to be stowed in the bathroom until we could deal with it). We got the van back before the office closed, so we didn't have to worry about getting up in the morning to return it. I can't believe it all went down without any mishaps, usually these vehicle encounters always result in some injury, however small. But I managed to drive without running into anything/anybody, and near as I can figure the equipment we transported suffered no real damage. Mission Accomplished.

So it was fun having an excuse to drive around and do stuff in a car, but by the end of the day I was happy to return it and walk away. There's just too many things to worry about when you own a car, and I got enough stuff to obsess over these days. But maybe I will sign up for that Zipcar thing, although I'm not sure it's worth it when the Uhaul van is closer and cheaper. And really, is there anything cooler than driving a cargo van that tells everyone how cheap you are?

And I looked and I saw that it was good

One of the first times I took the J train out to the Halsey station, one of the many reasons I felt like I had stepped off the map was the station itself. All the stations prior to it (and after it if you get to Broadway Junction) have decorative colored glass panels adorning the platforms. Halsey had no such thing, favoring beige-painted solid walls, interrupted only by a small section of chain-link fencing at one end (and there's probably some code thing that insists on this). Because of this disparity, Halsey seemed especially forlorn, like the MTA just didn't care enough about our little stop.

Of course, now that I've lived here a couple years, I don't even notice the walls, unless somebody's tagged it. I've seen far more depressing stations than mine (several on the M line in mid-Bushwick are particularly uninspiring), and I would rather the MTA spent its money fixing the inside of the station (where water tends to pool deeply around the Metrocard vending machines when it rains) rather than give us something purely cosmetic.

But since none of that seems to be happening any time soon, I'm happy to see our station upgraded to the level of, say, the Kosciuszko station. The panels looks very lovely, and the other people on the platform seemed to be pleased by it as well. Is it a sign of increased gentrification here? Or did the MTA just have a lot of leftover panels lying around and they needed the storage space (I note that the panels are all different, unlike most other stations). Probably no special agenda here, I'll know gentrification has stuck on Halsey when the Rite Aid actually stocks things properly.

It's a sick world, sick, sick, sick

Two different trains I took this morning were delayed due to sick passengers. I like to think it was the same guy both times. At Marcy Ave, he was all like "Whoa I'm not gonna make it," but when the EMS guys arrived, he was all like, "You know what, I'm fine, I'll be okay." He switched to a 4 train just before I got to City Hall, and just when he seemed about to recover, he felt the icy grip of death upon him, causing my train to jerk to a stop and make the standees all pile into each other.

Aside from sudden cardiac arrest, what other ailments could a person suffer in which they were well enough to get on the damn train in the first place, only to be stricken en transit. The other day there was a guy on the train who was dabbing a rotation of napkins against a large bloody wound on the side of his head (head wounds bleed a lot). If this guy could make it uptown without interrupting train service, what the hell are these other wimps complaining about?

Why is this night different from all other nights?

The J train has turned out to be one of the better lines in the city, but don't tell anybody. I'd rather that stay our little secret. Let the people go on fulling up petition after petition to improve the G train in the hopes that the MTA will ever give a hoot. The fewer people riding the J train, the better. Trains run so on-time they often arrive a minute early, and when was the last time anybody talked about a train running on its intended schedule? The J cleaves close to its official schedules, at least around rush hour when I take it most often. Trains can be crowded in the mornings but it's rarely as packed as the poor 4/5 trains. Part of the reason we moved to Bushwick is from learning what a good train the J is. But recently the J train has besmirched its reputation.

Take the above screen as an example. This has been happening a lot lately: track work means the trains skip stations in one or both directions. It's just a few stations but it's especially cruel this weekend as we will be having people over. It's hard to enough to lure people unfamiliar with our neighborhood to get on the J train in the first place. We live a block and a half from the station and people get lost; how will we pitch this service advisory, which basically means people will have to go down to Broadway Junction and get on a Manhattan-bound J for two stops to get to our house?

It would almost be better if there were NO trains running, as they'd have to run shuttle buses then, which would more or less stop at every station (though they do this a block away on Bushwick Ave for some reason). I'm hoping that they end up dropping the whole thing and run things normally, they've totally done this before. But you won't know until you get to the Myrtle Ave station.

Perhaps this is the MTA's way of stemming the flood of gentrification of the area: just when the post-collegiate crowd was really taking an interest to the neighborhood, they start messing with the trains so that if people don't get off the trains before Myrtle, they end up in East New York! God forbid.

I guess I could also say there was some kind of antisemitic thing going on since it's Passover this weekend, but then I scheduled a party on this same night, so I (as a fallen Red Sea Pedestrian) don't have much room to complain. And yet, I suspect I'll continue to find a way.