Friday, November 19, 2010

Lessons in Graphic Design #1

Good morning class. Please finish your Monday New York Times crosswords that you saved to do on the train til Friday so you'd look smart, and lets put your starbucks mocha fucking whatevers away and get to work, shall we. As many of you may know, or maybe none of you actually, I am a classically trained graphic designer, highly skilled in the deadly art of typography. I once horribly shamed a young urban hipster by pointing out that his Vampire Weekend T-Shirt was actually a cheap derivative of the opening title sequence for the clasic 70's TV show BJ and the Bear. Indeed, he was immediately rendered speechless (or possibly annoyed). Take that culturaly derivative youth of America! Now listen up.

When it comes to advertising on the rails, there's really not a whole lot of innovation out there. It's mostly ads for John Grisham novels, Republicans and Democrats with smiling blond families or dogs (now I trust him!), the TV show Sons of Anarchy, stocks and mutual funds, ambulance chasing lawyers, Yonkers Racetrack and The Broadway production of the Addams Family. In other words, its a fairly uninspired visual stew of stock photography and poorly spaced sans serif type. So Im a big fan of the sharpie vandals who enhance the ads in an effort to provide humor and vulgarity into my Groundhogs Day existence. To be clear, I would never condone marking or scratching the trains themselves, but the ads, well, If FOX TV wants me to stare at a drawing of American Dad in a thong for an hour, I dont really see the harm of adding the always classic cock and ball unit. These alterations represent the full spectrum of human creativity, from clever to cloddish. Most are fairly expected, and yet, they still make me laugh, kind of like when my dad farts at the dinner table. You know its coming, but it's still funny. "Time for a Stock Alternative" becomes "Time for a Cock Alternative". It's like scrabble for degenerates! Fun for the whole family! Some of the less creative scribes simply take out their frustrations by writing words like fag, slut, asshole, bitch, whore, mostly across pictures of that guy from the Men's Wharehouse for some reason. You're gonna like the way you look. Slut. Whore. LOL.

So from time to time I'll be posting my favorites as I see them. Today's example is interesting. I might even go so far as to call it mildly retarded. Evidently, the artist, possibly while skipping class to take the train into the East Village to buy a new one hitter, was so inspired by the letter F that he couldn't restrain himself. "Hey, that word starts with an F. You know what other word starts with an F... tee hee. LOL. Slut." I will give high marks for typographic gymnastics in this case. I never would have thought you could fit the letter K into the letter M, but there it is right there. Ultimately I would have been happier if he had found the word Luck or Duck or better yet, Starbucks. Who can ignore a well executed Starfucks? And think of all the FOX news ads that could become FUX or COX. COX NEWS, Fair and Balanced. I'd buy that. Ultimately, I think we can do better people. The trains and platforms are full of opportunities for budding Banksy's, so grab a pen and put your boggle skills to the test. And please remember, it's always better to be clever than to simply write ASSHOLE. Unless its on a Carl Paladino poster. Class dismissed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Today I made a change in my routine, a bold move for a commuter. I moved down the platform and got on to a different car than I usually do. I don't know why I did it! Stop interupting the story! I just did it. Something or someone whispered in my ear..."Not today John. Not this car. Not today". It might have been the woman whose shoes I keep trying to photograph cuz she keeps putting them on the seat, but I can't say for sure. Anyway, the point is I moved and I sat down and all effing hell broke loose. The guy across from me was putting batteries into a rubber rat, which he then hid under a scarf. At the next stop, two women got on, screamed at the rat (and I mean really effing loudly screamed), decorated the seats with Halloween decorations, and began passing out candy, cupcakes and bracelets. Naturally I struck up a conversation.

So, wait, you're dressed as your friend?
Who is she dressed like?
So you're both dressed as her?
Yes, although she doesn't really look like herself today. Twix?
No thanks. Why does your bag say happy birthday?
Well, it's also all three of our birthdays?
So its a Halloween and birthday party?
Well, it's mostly his birthday. Cupcake?
No, really, thank you, that's very kind, but...
Spider bracelet?
Yes, thank you, I think I will.

This went on for what seemed like 7 or 8 hours but was in reality only about 3 minutes. After they hung up the spongebob pumpkin, the candy filled pumpkin and the spooky garland, there wasn't much more to say.  I wished them a Happy Halloween, and told them that if they had room for more guests at Christmas that I was probably going to be in town and I was happy to bring a side dish.

In conclusion, I will say this. Some people fight the commute. They tuck in deep, earbuds and sleepmasks firmly in place, and do their best to block it out, kind of like I do whenever I hear Michael Buble music. Then there are these folks. The Happy Idiots who know that life is short and if you have to sit on a train every day of your effing life, you might as well hang up some spongebob decorations now and then. I'm a little afraid of what might happen if I make my move to this car permanent. I might get sucked into this vortex of happines and mayhem never to be seen again. Commuters, unlike Democrats, don't like change. We like routine. Then again, we also like cupcakes...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Package

So I'm on my usual morning train, not really a peaker in the sense that it gets me into the city around 9:40am, but a peaker in the sense that Metro North charges me the peak fare as if this was a hard core rush hour train, which is an interesting point, because according to Metro North, the rush "hour" or peak travel time in the morning and evening are actually two 4 hour windows where they get to charge a premium fare.The opportunity for sticking it to the average Joe is obvious here. Metro North is a little short on cash and all of sudden my 10:15 am train becomes a peaker. Boom! The down economy at work!

Anyway, Im on my normal train and a regular guy, a guy I've seen many times before, gets on and sits across from me. This is a guy I'll call "The Package", like "The Situation", but in Westchester, not Jersey. I've never called him that before. I just made it up right here as I was typing, but he needs a name, and that name is The Package. And the reason for this is simple. The guy has a really nice package. No joke. I mean I'm not going to wax poetic about it, compare it to a summers day or tell my therapist, but in the straight up, no shit world of commuting, every once in a while stuff just jumps out at you as being exceptional, beyond the pale, better that average, and, well, that's what this is. When you look at the dregs of the commuting world day in and day out, the humps of society drooling on themselves as they catch up on their sleep, or trying to get one more misearable day out of that exhausted Van Heusen shirt, well, a guy in a nice suit and a handsome package stands out. Literally.

So, good for The Package. I mean, we all have a package, but if you'rs is testing the sewing on a fitted Brioni suit, well god bless you. My package barely gets to know my suits. For all I know, my suits think I'm a woman. Who cares if The Package tells his taylor with a wink, "just a little higher on the inseam, Boyo". All the better to see you with Grandma. If I had that package I'd do the same goddamn thing. So the next time I see The Package on the train, I'll take a quick look. Nothing to write home about or get the stink eye from, just a glance in his general direction, to remind myself that there are exceptions in life. People and places and "things" that proudly stick their neck out once in a while to the betterment of us all. And in case you're keeping score, The Package seems like the kind of guy who leans to the right, but The Package's package definately goes to the left.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Well, it's been a long hot lazy summer, and between you and me and the sticky pleather train seats, I wasn't sure the blog was going to survive. Writing a blog, it turns out, is work, and work, it turns out, sucks. So I've really been enjoying NOT writing all summer. Some of the things I have enjoyed are sleeping, playing angry birds, deleting email, and not writing my blog. I've also been making friends on the train, which it turns out is kind of nice. These ARE NOT the kind of friends that you see on the platform and silently beg to sweet jesus that they don't sit with you so you won't have to "make conversation" for 65 grinding minutes. These are really decent, salt of the earth seasoned commuters who are smart and funny and real and they make me...what's the word I'm looking for...? Happy. And we all know the blog has no place in a happy commute. The blog is about misery and disappointment and futility and hopelessness and it is most certainly not about enjoying your friends. A happy blog is a boring blog.

So just when I think I might be done with the blog forever, just when I think I've been saved by my new friends and this new feeling I call happy, I'm jolted back into the harsh flourescent light of reality by two pairs of nasty ass feet up on a seat. Need I repeat? Two feet on a seat! One foot, two foot, three foot, four! Dump those shoes right on the floor! But wait, it's not just feet, it's feet and meat! Four feet and the meat that they bought on the street! How neat! (Actually, it's leftover tappas, but tappas doesn't rhyme with feet). Two prize Westchester hens, fresh off an afternoon of spending their allowances and guzzling chocolate martini's plop their pudgy, calloused, un ped-egged feet onto the precious real estate of a seat on my 6:29 peak train. Like they effing own the place. Like they're home on their sofa rubbing the lint and sweat out from between those toes and there's not a soul around. Except there are plenty of souls on my deadly serious, we-all-effing-work-for-a-living-and-now-it's-going-home-time peak hour train. And we souls shouldn't have to spend 65 minutes trying not to look at your naked effing feet.

And suddenly I'm awake. I'm enraged and alive and energized and bursting at the seams. Im sitting here, staring into a seatful of feet and meat and toes and woes, and I feel the familiar rumblings of a blog coming on, coming on strong like a freight train or a good bm. Because no matter how many friends I may make and no matter how much happiness tries like a strong worm to wriggle its way into my life, the enduring misery and indignities and smells and rudeness and absurdities of my commute will always beat it back down the hole it crawled out of. No happines in the world can win out over three and a half hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, year after year of riding this effing train. And if I have to watch my life slowly tick away into a big empty pit of blackness, minute by minute for the rest of eternity, well I'm damn well going to do my best to drag you down with me.

The blog is back. Long live the blog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Man Boy of Chappaqua

First, I’m not really sure this guy is from Chappaqua, I just wanted to call the post that since the sign over his head says Chappaqua. Second, how cool is my mosaic filter identity disguiser, (used as always on the advice of my lawyer, Billz Just Fertalkin). I personally think its a big improvement over my previous legal safeguard, the eye covering black bar. Feel free to weigh in. So to the point, this guy caught my eye the other day, because, well, frankly because on a peak train full of guys in ill-fitted suits, untied ties, and hopeless gazes, a man dressed like a 3rd grader tends to stand out. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big supporter of riding the train on a weekday as a civilian. In fact, its one of the rare treats in a commuters life. I love taking a Wednesday off and heading in on my regular train undercover, pretending that I’m an aloof hipster or a trust fund a-hole, who only goes into the city when I feels like it, and who dresses more for urban survival than for corporate conformity. It’s like riding your bike through a traffic jam. You’re there, but your not suffering like everyone else. Or more to the point, you’re not suffering like you usually do. But if you’re going to grab a little bit of life on a weekday for yourself, I say go for it. Let your freak flag fly brother. Break out the temporary tats, pop the collar, toss the livestrong for a little hemp laniard, go for the black chucks, off color yankees lid, some sunglasses, an ipod, anything man. This is your moment. Look around you! Youre surrounded by guys wearing clothes they don’t want to wear, lugging 15 pound briefcases they don’t want to lug, guys who have to drink a cup of coffee at 5 in the evening just to have the energy to walk to the train, a train they have to ride every effing day of there lives. You are free man! In fact, you are not just free, you are a symbol of freedom in a wasteland of incarcerated commuters. You are motherfucking Easy Rider man, and if you’re going to ride this train and stand there in front of all of us, you need to be Easy Rider. And Easy Rider didn’t wear flat front khaki shorts, faux denim low tops and a Dennis the Menace shirt, now did he? No sir, he did not.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Summer Sartorialist

THIS ONE GOES OUT to all the ladies in the house. As we all know by now, it’s summertime, and the living is anything but easy. In fact, the living is ungodly effing hot. And as much as it pains me to say this, I’ve been noticing quite a few fashion don’ts on the rails lately, so I thought I would take a moment to offer some advice to my fellow female passengers on the proper way to beat the heat without sticking to your seat...

Rule Number One: Leggings are Not Pants.
Yes, I know they are super convenient and super comfy, but they also tend to ride up, if you know what I mean. So here’s a tip. If you can actually see your ass crack (or any other crack for that matter) when you wear something, that’s a hint that its meant to go UNDER something else, say a simple print dress or eyelet top that hangs below the waist. They’re called leggings for a reason girls. They show off your legs! They’re not called asslings, or cracklings, or buttlings. Lets keep it covered.

Rule Number Two: Toe The Line
I’m seeing lots of sandals out there, to which I say “absolutely!”. Everything from simple flats to gladiators (a little 2008, but they still work!). Go ahead and take advantage of a footloose summer fashion moment. But I’m also noticing a few open toe no-no’s, so here’s a few things to watch out for. First, flip flops are really more of a beach shoe and less of a commuting shoe. You see, when you ride the train, It’s possible that I may have to look at your feet for upwards of an hour, and I don’t really want to look at your 2-year-old, rotting, black-soled, fungus-riddled havaianas, so lets leave those for the weekend, shall we. Also, please pay a little more attention to those toenails! Along with the sandal comes a little grooming responsibility. I understand that a pedicure and a fresh coat of polish isnt always on the to-do list , but if you see lots of yellowish discoloration, thick scaley buildup, black dead areas or bruising, ingrown nails, bunions, corns, or if your toenails are simply falling off because you just ran a triathlon last week, well, these are all signs that you should seek medical attention. These are also all signs that nobody wants to see your effing toes.

Rule Number Three: Skin is Not Really In
When it’s as hot as it’s been lately, we’re all tempted to go with a little less on, am I right girls!? Holla! But just how much skin to show is always a delicate balance between appropriate and, well, truly effing disgusting, so here are a few simple tips to follow: If you’re carrying the absolute largest bag that Coach makes, and you’re still having trouble hiding most of your exposed stomach, it’s time to rethink your ensemble. I know its hot and all, and heaven knows your milkshake will bring all the boys to the yard, but some of us on the train may have eaten a meal in last 7 hours, so lets get that under control. And we all know that showing a hint of a bra is a sexy and acceptable fashion summer DO, but nobody wants to see the the whole thing. I mean, when what we’re seeing is less of a delicate lace moment and more of an amazing feat of structural engineering, then its time to scale back.

AND finally ladies, while we’re on the subject of undergarments, please let’s all remember what you learned the first time you sat on stage in a dress. Say it with me...legs together! Especially when you sit in the communal seats that face other passengers. Just like with the bra, a momentary glimpse of underwear isn’t the worse thing in the world to the average Joe Commuter, but lets not go all Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. If the guy across the seat can tell that you’re still on your winter grooming schedule, or that you shop in the discount underwear department at Kohl’s, well then the magic’s pretty much over, isnt it?

That’s it! Not so hard, right! If you can follow these simple tips for dressing for success on the trains, I think we can all enjoy a happy and healthy summer. And for the fella’s out there, flys up, shirts buttoned, and no scratching inside the pants until you get home please. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chinese Fire Drill

I see this every now and then in the parking lot just before I go up the stairs to the train platform. A car pulls into the drop-off area, which is actually not a drop-off area, it’s a crosswalk, which is kind of the opposite of a drop off area, but whatever, and the passenger and driver each get out. The driver leaves to catch the train and the passenger gets behind the wheel and drives off. I give you, The Chinese Fire Drill (I apologize if this phrase has crossed over into political incorrectness, like Oriental Rugs or Hillbilly Weddings). The Chinese Fire Drill exists, I assume, because there are certain men in the world who do certain manly things better than their wives. They hold the remote better, they grill meat better, they play golf better, they snore better, they bury there emotions better, they make onion dip and pancakes better, they hail cabs better, they put Ikea furniture together better, they add extra holes to their belt loops better. If its manly, they do it better. And driving a car is surely one of the manly arts, and therefore these men, these masters of the manly arts, do it better.

So even though these men are the men that will be getting dropped off at the train every morning to begin their manly day, they are also the men that must, by the laws of all things manly, also drive that same car that will be dropping them off. And you can’t drop yourself off, now can you. Obviously, you need a wingman, a partner. Someone who you trust enough to drive the car after you’ve finished driving it, but not enough to drive it while you’re in it. Honey, can you come here a minute....

So the wife rides along, admiring your driving skills I assume, while no doubt listening to the AM sports talk radio station of your choice (Yet another of the manly arts. Choosing things). You arrive at the drop off area, which is actually a crosswalk, you exit the vehicle, meet your wife somewhere near the back bumper, kiss her goodbye, and then she gets back into the drivers seat and assumes control of the vehicle. This ballet of transference adds another 30 seconds (35 seconds if the kiss is PG-13) to the amount of time the car is blocking the drop off area, which (have I said this?) is actually the crosswalk. And it is this minor intrusion into the rest of humanity’s commute that piques my interest, because now, your manly man bullshit is blocking my crosswalk for 30 seconds. Now you are no longer a manly man. You are a D-bag.

And now that you have my attention, Mr. D-bag, I have to ask the question, just how bad a driver is this woman? More to the point, just how good are you? I mean, is all this really necessary?

Evidence would suggest that its ok for your wife to drive alone, and I assume she possesses sufficient skills to drive the children all day, every day. She’s probably able to balance the checkbook, cook dinner, buy the kids clothes, play tennis, get the dishwasher fixed, frontline the dog, run a small business, send gifts, make travel plans, bare children, know who the teachers are, replace screen windows, operate a table saw, vote, drink, fight in a war (if called upon). But lets be honest. Who are we kidding. When you are a manly man, why leave the driving to anyone but the best? I mean really. If she can’t be trusted with the remote, can you really trust her to drive the most important person on the face of the effing planet to the train station? Not likely.

But here’s the thing. Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? A butterfly flaps its wings in Kansas and Bill O’Reilly is never born, or something like that? Deviate from the path for just an instant and it can change the future? Tomorrow, when you’re about to get into the car to go the train, stop for a second. Deviate from the path and let the missus drive. Just try it. See how it goes. Let her pick the route, make the light, or not make the light, choose a radio station, lead the conversation. Give up control for a minute. Or 10 minutes. See what happens. At the very least, you’ll only be in my crosswalk for 5 seconds, which I can live with. And you never know, your wife just might surprise you. She might even amaze you.

Or she might be the worst effing driver in history.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Casual Friday

I wear a suit almost every day. I don’t mind. It’s just part of the deal. I actually have a bunch of suits because I worked at a men's fashion magazine for 6 years and I used to get a deal on suits, so I figure, what the hell, I got em, why not wear em. Second, a suit is a good weight control monitor. If your jeans start to get tight because you spend your nights eating pretzels and ice cream and Samoas and watching baseball, well, no big deal, you go buy another pair of jeans. I have about 50 pairs of jeans in a variety of waste sizes, from “damn, you look fine today sir” all the way up to “maybe we could use your fat ass to plug up that oil leak in the gulf”. But when your suits start to get tight, that’s serious. I can’t just run out and buy a new suit every time I gain 10 pounds, so I don’t mind the suits because they keep me from going off the deep end. So I wear a suit every day. Every day except Friday, because as old fashioned and lame as it sounds, I believe in casual Fridays. It’s more of a personal rule, because I work in publishing and the publishing world could give a shit about suits and Fridays. In publishing, you show up at 10, work until they turn off the AC in the building, and shaving and socks are optional. I could wear spongebob pajama bottoms (yes, I own those) and wife beaters to work and most people wouldn’t notice. I choose to wear a suit. But not on Fridays.

And as you can see in this picture, I am wearing a suit, and as you can also see from the time stamp of this post, it is Friday. You may also have noticed that I'm sporting my eff-you beard today, which is my silent yet powerful protest against the man. And the reason Im wearing a suit on a Friday, and sporting my eff-you beard is that some upper management yahoo whose pay grade is way above mine decided to schedule a get-to-know-you dinner tonight, on a Friday. A summer Friday. So on a Friday when 99 percent of the people in the office are going to leave around 2:30 in the afternoon, I will be sitting at my desk with my thumb up my ass in a suit waiting to have dinner. It also means that on a day that I usually enjoy riding to work with my feet up ( an admitted dick move) in my khaki pants, black converse chucks and an untucked dress shirt that I’ve already worn 3 times in the past 2 weeks, I instead have to sit up straight in my effing suit and be respectable. But that’s not the best part. You want to know the best part? The best part is we’re having dinner at the train station. So while I’m sitting there in my suit on a steamy effing New York Summer Friday night eating a dinner I really don’t give a shit about, I get to watch everyone else go home for the weekend. Somewhere, someone is laughing about this. Maybe it’s you. Have a good weekend everyone...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mr. Tiny TV Man

Hello Mr. Tiny TV man! I wonder to myself, what do you watch on your tiny TV? What is it that you see on that tiny little screen? Do you watch SNL shorts? Tiny Tots cartoons? Little House on the Prairie? Wee-man? Bugs Life? Gulliver's Travels? Honey I Shrunk the Kids? Could you really enjoy anything so tiny? Can you appreciate the nuance of an expression? The subtle eyebrow lift of a flirtatious leading lady? Nope. You can't see that on that tiny TV. Do you watch hockey? No way dude, do you watch hockey. Tiny puck is way too tiny. I can barely see that puck on my big boy TV. Do you watch a tiny little Yankees games? Do they play small ball? Again I say now way dude. Was it fair or foul? Can't tell. Too tiny. Can you read the scroll at the bottom of the news. I doubt it. I would imagine that the type would be, how shall I say, too tiny. John and Kate plus 8? Nope. Too many tiny kids. Tiny YouTube? Way too tiny. Can you hit the tiny share button on the tiny YouTube video? No you can not sir. Tooooooo tiny. Tiny porn? I doubt it. Too teeny peenie. Way to teeny a peenie to be seenie. Tiny video game? Teeny Wii? Little teeny Wii golf? No no no. Too small a golf ball says I. Too small a ball. Tiny spongebob? Tiny Homer? Tiny Greta Van Susteren? Tiny Simon Cowell? Teeny Charlie Sheeny? I have no idea. Whatever it is that you watch on your teeny tiny TV though, I do know that it must be good, because you've been watching that effing teeny TV for 30 minutes. Time for an iPad dude. Time for an iPad.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April Showers

About 40 feet above the underground train platform, somewhere on Park Avenue I imagine, the lightly falling spring rain is collecting in pools on the street. It mixes there with all the other things that share the streets of Gotham. Things like tubercular loogies and motor oil and dog feces and mop water and cigarette butts and spilled breakfast burritos and the collective lost hopes and dreams of 8 million souls. It cozies up with all the other infectious diseases and bodily fluids until it becomes one with the repulsive gumbo of Manhattan street water, at which point it continues on its journey. It follows the natural flow of the street until it finds a gutter to fall into, where I imagine it spills into a whole new level of decomposing detritus. Dead rats and old tampons and illegally tossed batteries and medical waste and chewed tobacco, and it is here, on this level, that it begins to take on the low light glow of radioactive material. And now, with its new lethal powers, it eats its way through the cracks of the 150 year old infrastructure of the city, past the electrical tunnels and the sewage pipes and the long buried teamster, until it finally squeezes through a microscopic pore in the ceiling of the north end of Grand Central station and lands on my head just before I reach the safety of the platform exit. It hits my head, crawls through my scalp and slowly trickles down the side of my face, just missing my eye and nearly reaching the corner of my mouth before I wipe it off with the defeated look of a guy who gave up caring about this kind of thing many years ago, and I think to myself...shit, I forgot my umbrella.

Fly Guy

Friday had all the makings of a great commute. Beautiful sunny day, left work early so I could ride home and actually look out the window of the train, got the window seat facing an empty seat so I could really spread out and relax, which is exactly what I did. I slouched way down in the seat, spread my legs wide and settled in. This is the kind of ride you actually look forward to. Comfortable, civilized, a gift really. A gift from the train gods. In fact I got so comfortable that I fell asleep for about a half hour, and when I woke up there were two women sitting around me, one in the seat across the aisle and one in the seat on a diagonal across from me. I also noticed that, because I was wearing a nice suit with a delicate italian zipper, evidently when I sat down and spread my legs apart, my zipper unzipped itself, exposing my lovely baby blue Hanes underwear ( I buy them in colorful discount sets from Kohl's. Yeah, I really do) to my new guests , who no doubt thought I was drunk or just really bad at flirting. Turns out the commuting gods were not smiling on me that day. Turns out they were just setting me up, which is par for the course. So today's lesson is an obvious one, and yet it's one I never seem to learn. When things seem like they are going really good for once, that for one brief beautiful shining moment life is actually working out in your favor, don't trust it. Chances are, your barn door's open, the neighbors are peeking in and the gods are laughing their effing asses off.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gum Bomb

Warning: This post contains language that may not be suitable for younger readers, but that hopefully adds just the right amount of emphasis at the appropriate moment.

When my train pulls into Grand Central in the morning, we’re almost always on the same track, track 24, and when I get off the train, I go out the north exit, which is to say the ass end of Grand Central. Most people go out the front end, the wide open end, where you stroll through the main station room with the majestic vaulted ceiling like effing Fred Astair, and you just know you’re going to have a good day. That’s not the way I go. I go out the ass. The part that most people don’t see. The part with leaky ceilings, poor lighting and perennially empty Metro North schedule bins. And when you go out the ass on track 24, you have to stand in a long line with the other ass enders and wait your turn to squeeze through the small little single door exit that faces backwards (a sadistic touch of engineering) at the end of the track platform. Just another one among hundreds of commuting indignities that I’m forced to suffer. I start my day by being shat out the ass of Grand Central.

So every day I stand in the line, waiting to pop out the other side, and almost every day, somebody cuts the line. It’s usually a guy (surprise), and he’s definitely the kind of guy who doesn’t do lines. A non linear guy. A maverick. A renegade. Actually, a douchebag. He slithers along the yellow studded warning strip that lines the edge of the platform until he reaches the front of the line, and just when he gets to the door, he looks at his Blackberry as if he just got the worlds most effing important email, and he pounds through.

Now this is the world I live in and I expect no apologies. It’s the commuter world, warts and all, and I know just as well as the next guy, that it can bring out the worst in people. So I don’t hold it against the cutter. He’s just taking his place in the never-ending circle of hell that is my daily commute. He’s like the guy who goes into prison a garden variety tax cheat and comes out a white supremacist. Ride this train long enough and eventually one day you’ll be a dick. It just wears you down.

Plus he probably has a reason. We all have reasons, right? Im sure his older brother laughed at his penis or his wife holds the remote or his mom didn’t breast feed him or his kids de-friended him or he’s gone as high as he’s going to go among the lemmings of middle managers at his company, and so this is his moment. This all he’s got, man. Which is kind of sad when you think about it. Eff the line! Eff waiting my turn! Today, right now, for just this one glorious moment, I am going to stand up and be a douchebag! I am going to cut to the head of the ass-enders line and get shat out into the world 1 minute and 25 seconds sooner than the rest of you losers!

And that’s cool. I get it. Law of the jungle and all that. You live by the rule of the commute. But you also die by it. And so this morning, when a guy cut in front of me in line, I simply took my gum out of my mouth and dropped it into his open briefcase, right on top of his Wall Street effing Journal. Point set and match motherfucker. See you tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Get Up, Stand Up

First, on the advice of my attorneys, I will be employing the black bar method of disguising the identity of some of the people in my pictures, not really because Im afraid of getting sued, because a train is a public space, and as such, there is no expectation of privacy (i just made that up), but mainly because in this particular case, I showed this picture to a friend of mine and they delightfuly squealed, "Hey, I know that woman". And if my friend knows them, then chances are they live near me and chances are they can hunt me down, so in the interest of safety, mainly my own, I'm bringing out the black bar.

On to it, then.
There are a lot of people who ride the train who simply refuse to sit bitch, that is, refuse to sit in the middle of a three seater between two other riders. I suspect its a whole too touchy too close personal space kind of thing, especially first thing in the morning. Before your day even starts, you just dont want someone all up in your bidness eating breakfast or cranking their music or bumping elbows while they turn the page of their Wall Street Journal (hurry up iPad). Those folks tend to get on the train kind of late, so they dont have as far to ride, and they usually chose to stand, or sit on the floor in the doorway. It's not really that bad. You just lean there and look out the window for a half hour and your there.

So standing or sitting on the floor are the two most common approaches to avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of touching another person. Turns out there is a third one which I didnt know about. Seems you can stand up at your seat, turn backwards facing the other riders, and scowl for 30 minutes, which is what this woman did. I kept wondering if she as looking for a friend, or an enemy, or a conductor, or happiness, or fulfillment, or a reason to keep going on. But she was standing for too long, so it didnt make sense. Maybe she had that shaky leg thing that you get when you cant sleep, or bad circulation like on planes when if you dont walk around every hour you can get a blood clot and die. But she wasn't stretching or moving around at all. Just standing like a statue. A really pissed off statue. So what else could it be? It had to be that she just didnt want to touch the person in the seat next to her. Now in all fairnes, I couldnt see the person in the seat next to her, so its possible that this person was so repugnant that even the idea of sitting next to them was too horrible to imagine, but then why not go stand next to some other person, or even sit next to them? I still don't know why this happened, and I havent seen her since, so I dont know if this was a one time occurrence or whether this was just how she enjoys riding the train. Either way, she's just one more person on one more train ride of a lifetime of train rides that doesn't make any effing sense. It's unnerving spending hours and hours of your life in a place that more often than not doesn't make sense. Where people just do weird random things that can't be explained. Like when people bark like dogs for no reason, or root for the Mets year after year, or go to New Jersey on vacation.

Next time I see her, I'll offer her my seat and see what happens. My guess is she'll accept it gratefully, move over to where I was sitting, and stand there staring into the train car. And I'll have to switch to her seat...and sit bitch.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An Apology

I'd like to apologize to a woman who was riding the Harlem Line 5:59 peaker last night. Here's why...

Chapter 1: Sockit Tumi

I bought a new briefcase yesterday, a sleek black Tumi briefcase, probably made out of recycled six packs and old goodyear radials, which makes it indestructable, which is cool because i dont want to have to drop another $250 on a briefcase for at least 5 more years, or until the effing recession ends, whichever comes first. And this new briefcase is much smaller and narrower than my old briefcase, because I'm such an obsessive compulsive a-hole that I firmly believe every extra ounce of weight and wind resistance I lug around makes me a less efficient commuter. I like to travel light. No coat in winter, no umbrella for rain, no books, no food, no newspapers, no effing extra weight. If i thought it would help to go with a full on Michael Phelps body shave "smoothie", I'd do that, if it meant knocking 20 seconds off my crosstown walk (plus I bet the missus wouldn't mind either. holla!). So now I have a bag with a really nice "profile", as the affected bag people would say, but i still have the same amount of crap to carry as I used to, so its packed tighter than a rush hour F train...

Chapter 2: The Rotten Apple

Last week my 14 year old daughter's Macbook laptop up and died. It didnt even have the ram to muster up a good old fashion screen freeze or spinning effing rainbow wheel. It just wouldn't turn on. I can't really blame it. After three years of sharpie marker tags, nail polished keys, glitter stickers, drops, spills, kicks,and sleepovers, I suspect it just said eff it and shut down for good. Which left it up to me to figure out how to get the three years worth of music, photos, journal entries and video chat screen grabs off of our dearly departed Mac in order to preserve the precious digital memories of my daughters transition from innocent child to hormonal effing devil. So I did what any smart dad would do, I took it into my IT department and asked them to work their magic, which they did...

Chapter 3: Ooooh. That's Gonna Leave a Mark

Time to bring home the laptop, but because I am now a streamlined commuting airfoil, there's no room in my fancy new bag to store it, so I have to carry it, and when I get on the 5:59 peaker heading home, I decide that the best place to store the laptop is on the overhead rack. Are you starting to figure it out now? Thaaats right, as I was getting ready to get off at my stop, I reached up to get the laptop, and that fat little 13" white plastic brick slipped right through the 3" spaced bars of the overhead rack and landed on the head of the sleeping woman in front of me. Suddenly awake and very surprised, she let out an audible gasp, something like "aahhhh! What the..." and she doubled over in pain in her seat. I picked up the laptop, which had slid down behind her, which meant i had to reach down in the vicinity of her ass and grab the thing, which no doubt added a whole new level of humiliation and confusion to an already awkward situation, and then I tried my best to apologize. Round about my 5th or 6th "holy shit, are you OK?" she finally sat upright, and in her lap, much to my horror was an open copy of the book "What to Expect When Your Expecting". That's right, I just dropped a 5 pound plastic cinder block onto the head of a pregnant woman. One express ticket to hell please. Whats that? No, I don't believe I'll need a return ticket. Pretty sure I'll be staying.

So with really nothing else to do but say I was sorry over and over and over, I braced for the inevitable. I mean, I've seen people get into fist fights on trains over phone calls and spilled coffee. What would a pregnant woman with a concussion and an angry mob on her side do? She stopped for a second and took a breath. "It's OK." she said. "Really. I'll be fine. I know it was an accident and I'm sure you didn't mean to do that." and then she touched my hand which was resting on the back of her seat and in a voice that could only belong to an angel she said "Really. Dont worry about it".

So lady, if you're out there somewhere reading this, I just want you to know two things. One is that I am truly truly sorry for what I did and if I ever see you again on the train, I will gladly let you drop the heavy object of your choice on my head as payback. At the very least, leave your email on the blog and I'll send you some flowers or a bottle or something. Oh, and the other thing I wanted to say was you will almost certainly be the world's most awesome mom.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shout Outs and Blogrolls

Remarkably, or I guess not so remarkably, it turns out I'm not the only person who likes to kill time while he commutes by writing a blog...about commuting. I recently got emails from two like minded souls who found my blog and reached out. One of them is Mike, who writes Trainjotting. If you want to know what a real blog looks like, with ads and updates and all sorts of impressive looking stuff, well, take a look at Mike's site. It's what my blog wants to be when it grows up. Plus, I enjoy Mike's slightly dark and Cheever-esque take on life on the rails. It appeals to my glass is half empty sensibility. Finally, Mike told me what a blogroll is (look to your right...) so in my book, he's a standup guy.

The other person is Emily, who has an even more professional looking site called I Ride The Harlem Line. This is what my blog wants to be when it grows up and hires a designer, which it turns out is what Emily is. She's got all sorts of cool things like tags and ads and an illustration of herself. It's a fun upbeat site with a healthy and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor, which also appeals to my sensibilities.

In fact, the other day i was sitting on an early train that i never actually catch, like a 7:15am peaker i think, and a woman got up to get off at the White Plains stop, and she looked at me and said, "aren't you that guy with the blog"? and I said "depends, are you carrying anything that might be used as a weapon?" and she said, "I'm Emily. I write the I ride the harlem line blog". and we shook hands. Fellow commuters. Fellow bloggers. It's nice to be part of a group. A group of slightly unbalanced commuting misfits, but a group none the less. Please show my fellow bloggers some love. Thanks

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gooooooooood Mooooooorning Metro North!


Rise and shine people! It's another glorious day on the rails! I see you've REALLY got your game face on today. Ready to take on the world baby! Ready to GET SUM!

Lets do a quick pre-battle check, shall we? Eyeshades stolen from your last business class flight? Check! Neck roll pillow your wife bought you from the Sharper Image catalog? Check! (watch out for that drool soldier!). Pony tail that tells the world deep down inside you are a free spirited youth ready to fight global warming wherever it rears its ugly ozone depleting head? Check! John Fogerty sideburns. Check!

This is the dawn of a new day soldier, a day when men like us, men like YOU, who have the will and the determination to change the course of history can make their mark. Life is what you make of it, and today you and I are going to grab some effing life and shake it by the neck until that bitch does what WE tell it to do.
You are an army of one.

(and dont forget to switch out your slippers for big boy shoes when you get to the office).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Guiding Light

He's Baaaaaaaaaaaaak.

I know, it's been over a month since I've posted anything. Call it my winter break. Took a horrible vacation, been busy at work, got the winter blues. Whatev. Needed some me time to recharge the battery. So this week, as a way to get back in the swing, I have a story to tell that really isnt about a commute, but it ends in a commute, so hang in there.

The first time it happened I was in a bar. We were celebrating somebody's last day at work and we took about 10 people to a some place in NoHo. Now if you know anything about magazine people (which is what I am) and graphic designers in general (which is what I do) you know that they'll travel considerable distances for free food and drinks, and word gets out fast, so in a very short time the original 10 turned into about 50, all industry types, not all of whom I knew. So when it happened that I was standing at the bar and two women came up to me and said "We just wanted say that we love you and that we think you're really talented", I assumed they were a couple of fellow magazine folk come to pay me a compliment. The "we love you" part seemed a little strong, but not that unusual I guess, and the "youre really talented" thing made perfect sense to my misguided overinflated sense of self importance. Of course women approach me in bars, I thought. I choose typefaces and assign cartoons for a midsized weekly entertainment magazine. In fact, im surprised its taken this long...

"Could we get your autograph?" they asked.
Well hells yes ladies. In fact let me buy you two a drink and tell you all about the time I changed the display sans serif from Bureau Grotesque to a Geometric that really got the design world talking...

"We've been watching your show since high school and you're our favorite"
I'm sorry, what was that last part. What show is that?

"Guiding Light"

Yes. Guiding Light. Turns out, I look a lot like Josh from the daytime drama Guiding Light. More specifically, 13 years ago, when I cut my hair short, had a stubbly goatee and weighed about 25 pounds less than I do right now, I looked like Josh. Today I look like Josh after a 13 year carb bender.

Sorry ladies, Im not your man, but I can tell you some funny stories about how reducing the weight of your paper stock from 32 to 30 pounds can save almost a million dollars a year in shipping costs. Nope. I lost them.

So thats how it started. From this moment on, I would live my life as we all do but with one small difference. I would go to work, raise a family, pay my bills, battle through lifes daily trials, enjoy lifes occaisional victories, and then, about every 6 months, I would get confused for Josh from Guiding Light.

The sightings came less frequently when i changed my hair style, shaved or gained a little (or a lot of) weight, but whenever the stars (and our stubbly goatees) aligned, it would happen.

Aren't you that guy...?
But you look just like...
Really. Not me.
Too bad.
Tell me about it.

So after about 10 years of this, I had an idea. It was time to "monetize" my good fortune, as they say in the online advertising world. I set up a meeting with the casting directors of Guiding Light and made my pitch.

As you can plainly see, I said, I look a lot like the character Josh from your show.
Well, if you lost a few pounds maybe...
So here's what Im thinking fellas. I'd like to come on the show for a week as Josh's long lost evil twin and then write about my week as a soap actor for Esquire magazine (which is where I worked at the time). My character (I was thinking Rex or Stone maybe) could show up on Josh's door, either recently escaped from prison, or a mental institution, or from being on the lam in mexico, and then I'd ask for money, or the car, or prescription drugs, and then I'd threaten the whole family, maybe take a hostage, burn down the hospital (I'd never actually watched the show, but I assumed there was a hospital), if the writers insisted I could have a brief affair, and then, bam, at the end of the week, they shoot me and dump my body into the river, not quite dead though, in case my week went so well that they insisted I come back later for a longer stay. Ratings would soar. My career as a TV actor would be launched and I could quit my day job and live happily ever after.

Can you guarantee us that the story will run? they asked
Well, sir, I can guarantee you this. I can guarantee you that I will show it to the editors at Esquire and that if they really like it and have some extra space that month that they will almost certainly consider running it.

We'll be in touch.
but the ratings...

And that was it. 10 years of being mistaken for a Josh wasted. Nothing to show for it. No cameo. No effing awsome death scene where I hold the fake blood on my shirt and stare at my twin brother in disbelief as i drop into the murky water of the soap opera river. My one shot at stardom gone for good. So I gave up on the dream. I grew my hair long, shaved my goatee for good and moved on with my life.

And then, about 5 years later, I had left work early and was on the 2:48 afternoon off-peaker home (you see, here comes the commuter part), and there he was, literally sitting at the end of the car reading a paper. Josh. Or more accurately, the man who plays Josh, the actor Robert Newman. Turns out he's a commuter, just like me. Here was a man who in a small but not insignificant way had been a part of my life for 15 years and he didn't even know it. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) it's not often that life hands you an opportunity like this and so I decided that I would accept this gift from the daytime TV gods and I sat down in the seat facing him. Surely he would be fascinated by my numerous tales of mistaken identity, my brazen attempts to ride his coat tales onto fame and fortune, and the ultimate acceptance of my simple and lowly station in life.

I leaned, in close and introduced my self.
I explained who I was, how I had spent the last 15 years of my life being confused for him, thinking about him, plotting to infiltrate his show, the whole sordid tale, and even as the words were leaving my mouth I could tell this was a mistake. There was just no way to explain this story to the man who was its focus without sounding like an unstable stalker who had finally, after years of searching, cornered his pray on a northbound metro north train. When I was done talking, he stared at me with those steely blue moneymaker soap opera eyes of his for what felt like a good 10 minutes while he no doubt considered his options, and finally with a look that ultimately had more pity in it than fear, he said, "Nice to meet you", and he went back to reading his paper.