Sometimes, the world is butt ugly. Eleven members of a synagogue dead in Pittsburgh while attending a bris, two African-Americans killed while grocery shopping in a Kroger’s, suspicious packages sent to politicians who disagree with the President.
Even before any of these events took place, I was feeling the oppression of living in New York City which, yeah, can be great but can also be an ugly, coarse place. I was working on a story at Criminal Court, a monolithic monument to all that is wrong with New York. Long security lines, frightened and nervous suspects and jurors unsure what’s in store for them, and burly court officers trying to make the best of a bad situation weighed down by bulletproof vests and a well-earned sardonic outlook on life.
These days, the streets around this gray building–which by the way is connected by skybridge to a jail called The Tombs (get the picture?)–is swimming in construction. I’m not even going to mention the subway system that got me there. Even on its best days, the subway is an ugly parade with peeling paint, moldy, water-streaked walls and commuters right out of a Diane Arbus photo. No one looks very happy.
Having said all this, I’m an optimist by nature so, when I feel overwhelmed by the only city I’ve ever lived in, I know what I need–I need beauty. Sometimes, it’s getting out the city and seeing nature and sometimes, it’s Paris! But last week, I chose to visit the Guggenheim Museum where I’d not been for ages.
Someone on Twitter had posted something about the museum’s current exhibition–wildly designed abstract paintings by Hilma Klint created at the turn of the 20th century. They were so arresting and colorful, so utterly different than my sad surroundings, that I went.
Klint was a Swedish feminist artist who took her art very seriously. She believed there was a world beyond this one and attended seances regularly. She believed in mediums and a lot of her art, she wrote in meticulous journals, was inspired by spiritualism.
Her greatest work “The Paintings for the Temple”–created around 1906–is breathtaking in color and design and way ahead of its time. You can read the above link which will tell you much more about Klint than I could. All I can say is that the exhibition did the trick. It showed me some beauty and art in a world sorely in need of it at the moment.
Klint lived in a different country and time but, standing in front of her art, I felt as though she was speaking to me from the beyond. I connected with her work–inspired by the unseen world and so far out of my day to day realm. If an artist can create works of this magnitude, all is not lost. Believe it.
This is why true New Yorkers know never to park on the right side of a one-way street because all snow plows in this burg plow to the right!
If there’s one thing social media and technology has NOT improved, it’s our coverage of a snowstorm. Why oh why does every storm have to be the ‘storm of the century?’
You can pretty much take it to the bank that, if you live in the Northeast, it’s going to snow at some point during the winter. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not a reason to panic and, generally, it’s kind of a nice break from the rush-rush-rush nature of New York City. I tune in to TV weathermen and weather gals to hear how much snow is expected and that’s about it. Then I turn off my television and look out the window.
Snow in winter is not a big deal except, it seems, if it happens in New York, the media/hysterical capital of the world. If it snows here, it’s a SUPER-HUMUNGOUS big deal!!!
But not really. It snowed yesterday. Today it’s pretty nice outside. Life goes on. Despite media headlines, the city is not paralyzed and has not come to a standstill. If I wanted, I could drive my car all around the five boroughs. I could take a subway into Manhattan and visit museums, Broadway, whatever. Within a five block radius, I can purchase a meal of cuisines from around the world.
Don’t believe the hype. It’s winter…that’s it. Enjoy the photos. It’s nice outside, really!
The MTA has a new boss–Joe Lhota–and the guy has a plan to fix the subways. That’s a good thing.
I’ve been riding the subways my entire life and it’s true–they’ve become more crowded, less civil and full of panhandlers. It’s pretty intense down there and I wouldn’t blame anyone for embracing the handlebars of a Citibike and hanging on with all their might. Of course, as rough as the subways are now, the ride is nothing compared to the late ’70s and early ’80s when they were covered with graffiti and had no air conditioning. Now THAT was rough.
(As an aside, it reminds me of the time then-Mayor Ed Koch, who used to be considered an outrageous politician in the pre-Donald Trump era, suggested he would have wolves guard the train yards to keep out the graffiti taggers. Wolves!! He settled on dogs and razor ribbon but I digress.)
One of Lhota’s ideas is to take out some of the seats and stuff more commuters into each car. As someone who often does not get a seat, I can’t say I’m opposed to this idea. While I’ve been mostly standing, I’ve become a student of how commuters find seats, give up seats and where they sit.
Here are a few observations:
— A woman will never sit next to a man if she has a choice.
— Certain ethnic groups will pretty much kill you for a seat. (I know, I know, it’s not very PC of me but, hey, I’ve been watching you!) The same ethnic groups do not respect the right of commuters to exit the subway car first and rush in like an angry herd of cattle late to the trough.
— No one wants to get up if they have a seat–not for a pregnant woman, an old man or a kids on crutches–but they will, grudgingly. Why do you think so many sitting commuters ride the subways with their eyes closed? They do not want to see anything that might force them to give up their seat.
— The only group guaranteed a seat are children. Now this makes me a little crazy. I can understand rising for babies and toddlers but I do not stand for anyone above the age of five. They can stand and build up that New York toughness.
— I don’t know why but older people do not ride the subways. I often play this game where I look around the subway car and count how many people I think are older than me. I’ve never gotten to five.