The 4 Uptown Express

The baby wasn’t crying so much as trying to get our attention. He blinked his solid brown eyes, clenching them into fresh wrinkles, as if to clear his lenses. He looked up at us, the mashed-together subway riders on the uptown 4.

He shifted his binkie, tethered to the handrail of his old-school steel-framed carriage. He looked left, then right, then up at me, seeming to read the back of my paperback book. I flipped it to the cover, as if to show him the title. His mother glanced at me. “Stand back,” her eyes said, “I don’t know you.” I telepathically sent her a message, hoping it would show on my face, “I have two children, I’m not bad.” Her glare increased. I turned away.

The 4 train is crowded no matter the stop. Compare this to the uptown D train, which is half empty by the time it hits mid-town. I can shave ten to fifteen minutes on my commute by taking the 4, but the 4…oh the 4.

As the train doors opened somewhere near Wall Street, the too crowded passengers fell backwards, spilling out onto the platform, falling into each other’s bodies, tangled up. They clambered to their feet, made regretful and apologetic eye contact with each other, and stoically hurried to work. The mother and carriage shifting towards the center of the car, but there wasn’t any more room over there. New passengers pushed their way on to the car, pressing the mother into her carriage.

Three of the seated people immediately stood up offering her a safe place. She refused. She said aloud, to the empty space between the poles, “If these motherfuckers can’t see that I’m pushing a baby then they can all go to hell.”

The seated people cautiously sat back down, hoping the mother would change her mind. An elderly woman, hissed at her, not maliciously, but to get her attention. She was offering up her seat for the mother. The car drew quiet. Then, just as the doors were about to shut, which would allow the train to continue its lurch forward towards the next stop, one last person tried to push on. She held the doors open. The train conductor was firm on the speaker, “Please use all available doors, there is another train directly behind this one…”

The woman holding the doors yelled into the car, “Is there space over there? I see some space…” A current passenger, a matronly woman, now pressed against the handrail and the half-open doors tried to twist to look into her face. She replied, “Can’t you wait for the next train? There’s no room here.”

“I see it.”

“There’s NO room”

“Can’t everyone just step in a little more?”

‘What makes you so important?”

“I see there’s room…”

The conductors voice grew agitated, “…there is a train DIRECTLY behind this one…”

At that point the mother with the baby carriage had enough. Speaking again to the neutral space, the bit of empty location just above our heads and the roof of the train, where the air might be clearer of heat, dust, and body smells…

“I have a baby here! I’m moving back to the Bronx, people know how to live up there. You Brooklyn people are crazy!”

The Postal Convenience Station

The Postal Convenience Station

I was the third of four postal patrons on the makeshift line. We arched away from the tinted glass aluminum framed door, attempting to allow enough personal space for the next potential patron to enter. The auto-teller was wedged at the front corner, along the glass, away from the walk-in-closet-sized room of PO boxes. At the right was the one big package-size-accepting mailbox for all parcels needing to be mailed.

A mu-mu and sandal-clad elderly woman sat on the low, rough pine bench, resting her arms along her black-metal walker, “I’m taking a break,” she said, “there’s AC in here.” Her hands squeezed the brake levers tightly.

At the front of the line a young woman in standard-issue running gear (white trim navy shorts, t-shirt, white sneakers) was balancing a wide corrugated cardboard rectangular box with her arm, hand and shoulder while also pressing her cell phone to her ear. The box could hold five pairs of shoes, if they were placed side by side, but in transit, it seemed, all shifted to the right. She couldn’t manage. The box would slide, the phone would slide; she juggled these items while reading aloud, to the person on the phone, the entire directions on the auto-teller.

“First class? Priority? Do I weight it? (Pause) Yeah, uh huh (Pause), you said this would be easy…”

As she rubbed her right pointer finger along the deep-browed touch screen she thankfully put the box down on the scale.

“It’s 16 pounds (Pause) I don’t know (Pause) do we insure it?”

The person directly behind her on the line turns to me, “I just need to check to see if I have the right postage…” I turn to the elderly woman on the bench, the witness to this and probably other postal transactions, she sighs, fixes her lipstick with the back of her hand, and shuffles her feet.

“You said this would be easy (Pause) so what do I do now? (Pause) Ok, take this label and stick it on the box? But you already wrote the address…”

I look out of the glass door, more postal patron arrive and hurry towards the back. I hear the click-clank of postal boxes open and shut, papers rustle, tearing and tossing. The sun reflects in long strands off the roof of a black sedan as it backs-up into a no-parking space in front of the station. A man from the grocery store, wiping his hands with his green apron, walks up and points at the sign. The driver rolls his window down, squints, shrugs, and rolls it back up. The grocery-man looks in at us, with the hopeful gaze that we’d agree with him. He dramatically drops his arms to his sides, shakes his head at us, and walks back towards the market. He bumps into a customer, raises his arms as if to hug the man, but doesn’t.

The woman with the unbalanced-box continues, “Pay with debit or credit? (Pause) I don’t know. (Pause) This was your idea…”

Still looking outside through the glass, the walk sign becomes a flashing do-not walk sign. A woman grabs two children by their forearms and rushes them along the crosswalk stripes. Two men in suit-pants and ties ignore the cars and walk at a careful gait from this side to that. A taxi honks.

The sign becomes a solid do-not walk sign, cars flash by, halt, and rumble off. The sign once again becomes a walk sign. The wind picks up for a moment and brushes the pedestrian’s clothes away from their bodies and towards the east river.

I hear the tin clicking of the auto-teller printing out a receipt, the unwieldy-box-shipping must be complete. I look up, the woman’s anxiety has increased, “Ok, so now where do I drop off the box?” She looks at me and the elderly lady. Was she talking to us? I wait to see if she’ll ask us again. Clamping the phone to her neck with her shoulder she shifts towards the back of the station.

As I step up to the auto-teller to gain the correct postage for my envelopes I hear the box-shipper gasp, “It’s stuck, the box is stuck in the drop-box, why did you tell me to put it here? You said this was going to be easy.”


– Google/Motorola and the Western Male Myth

– Pimping the now for a Premium Past

– Check-ins are to Graffiti what Pop Songs are to the Blues

– Ungame Creativity

Five Applied Cultural Economics Ideas to Build the US Economy

Five Applied Cultural Economics Ideas to Build the US Economy

1. Foster group-buying of health-care. One of the largest weights on grass-roots/start-up innovation is health insurance. Alleviate this burden and new businesses and opportunities will spark. Similar to the model currently used by The Freelancers Union, allow for groups of friends, coworkers (as in co-working), start-ups, etc. to purchase health insurance, not just on the state level, but national.

2. Green Tech the urban core. Provide agressive tax-incentives and rebates to spur a rebuilding/replacing of blight with new, green technology-based building and infrastructure while also reinforcing the phoenix-type of community growth already taking place.

3. Five-year moratorium on sales tax for locally/nationally produced goods and services of less than $500 in value. Spur the local economies of thousands of neighborhoods, provide a foundational incentive for start-ups of all types to test the waters, and allow for consumers to purchase the goods & services they need while pegging the revenues to locally/national manufacturers and providers.

4. Boost interconnected public transportation options. Spur both state and private investment to connect urban to suburban to rural travel. Increase the paths for commerce, interactivity, and learning. Yes, high-speed rails between urban centers would be cool, but let’s start with connecting smaller hubs to larger hubs to increase the movement of people and ideas without burdening the roadways.

5. Local food. Shift our food-supply emphasis to locally grown, prepared and delivered food. The movement is already underway, let’s amplify it and increase it’s footprint across all communities.

What am I missing? What do you recommend?