"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice



I looked up from my book this morning to see where we were. The subway is crowded again, kids are back to school. In the row across from me, almost everyone was reading–the newspaper, a magazine, a novel, a textbook, their blackberries. Sometimes people ask me if I mind commuting on the subway. I look at them like they are crazy. When else would I have time to read?

There was an engaging piece last week in the Times by Alexis Mainland about reading on the subway. Dig:

The middle-aged woman with the black cardigan around her shoulders had assumed a meticulously calibrated posture: feet shoulder-width apart, arms slightly bent, fists loosely clenched, muscles relaxed yet alert.

She was not preparing for a tae kwon do bout, but performing her personal version of the underground battle engaged in daily by millions of New Yorkers: reading, intently, on a sardine-can D train heading swiftly toward Brooklyn in the evening rush. Without holding on.

“I am a New Yorker,” the woman, Robin Kornhaber, 54, told me as if those five crisp words explained everything. “I can do anything on the subway.”

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1 Yankee Mama   ~  Sep 10, 2009 11:29 am

I had dinner last night with a friend who I grew up with (since we were 2). We both were waxing poetic about how much we love public transportaion, subways, buses. I never carry an ipod as I'm too engaged in the ambient sounds of the city. I do have my reading material in case I want to withdraw, which Nyers feel the need to do from time to time.

Then it occurred to me that he and I were such hard core NYers, still in love with our native land.

Has anyone noticed that on the weekends, the people in the subway cars are a lot louder? It's the sound of tourists/visitors. They have a different notion of public transportation communication volume. Just an observation, not necessarily a judgment (ok, maybe, just a little).

2 Raf   ~  Sep 10, 2009 11:41 am

I never carry an ipod as I’m too engaged in the ambient sounds of the city.

That, and I prefer to have as little distraction as possible. Never know who or what can pop out at you at any given time.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Sep 10, 2009 12:12 pm

[1] Bleah. I can't stand riding the subway anymore. Between the cursing parents and children (coupled with loud, inappropriate conversations about their sex lives or anything littered with racial epithets) and the furtive, yet hardcore staring, I just don't have the patience anymore. My brother sold me his Explorer before leaving for the West Coast and it was the best investment I've made in a while. When I want ambiance, I work on a movie set. I must be weird, but I read every chance I get. Hell, we're reading right now, aren't we? >;)

4 thelarmis   ~  Sep 10, 2009 12:29 pm

i remember those RIF commercials in their entirety and like they were yesterday. i hated reading as a kid and made fun of those commercials. now, i love it. but more in the sense Chyll said - reading online. i read the baseball paper - with the ipod on - but books, not so much. i need to multi-task at all times (must be a drummer thing!) and when i read a book, i can't do anything else. i don't have a lot of time for that. as far as books, cover to cover, i get to maybe one or two a year. but i read a TON online...

i understand the ipod thing about being able to hear your surroundings. i don't live with it on, but it's been really great to have. even if it's listening to it in my car. then again, i'm a professional musician, and i kinda need to have one. it's even become a good teaching tool.

i'm not on the trains much anymore, but still take 'em sometimes when i visit my fam in NY. when i do, it's generally off-peak hours, but i have to have my ipod on, to avoid the senseless drivel i hear. i read the paper there, too - baseball or music.

5 Bobtaco   ~  Sep 10, 2009 1:07 pm

[3] Sounds like it's time to move to LA, Chyll...

6 Chyll Will   ~  Sep 10, 2009 1:25 pm

[5] Read my blog, Taco; I've given it serious consideration >;) (click on my screen name)

7 The Mick536   ~  Sep 10, 2009 2:12 pm

23 million who cannot read. A disgrace. How about the fact that 50% of those who enter college don't finish. And how about the many millions who can read and don't. That is a greater disgrace. The greatest disgrace, however, are the ones who only read what they want to hear and don't think or engage in critical discourse. They are led by those who sat mum through almost all of the President's address last evening.

As for the subway, no greater pleasure than riding the subway and reading the Times, properly folded.

8 Raf   ~  Sep 10, 2009 2:40 pm

As for the subway, no greater pleasure than riding the subway and reading the Times, properly folded.

I disagree; girl-watching is a lot of fun. People watching in general.

9 FreddySez   ~  Sep 10, 2009 2:45 pm

People here in Raleigh/Durham think I'm being morbid or sarcastic when I tell them I miss the subway. But this is exactly why I do -- the reading time.

That lady's "two hands for the book, none for the train" stance brought me back. A tad dangerous? Maybe, but if I tried a morning read down here I'd kill everyone on I-40.

Don't get me started on when I had a commute that combined the subway with a stretch on Metro-North. I gobbled up all of Patrick O'Brian in what felt like a week and a half. Well... at least the weather (and the BBQ) is nice.

10 Dimelo   ~  Sep 10, 2009 8:52 pm

Train gear: iPod, Kindle, and blackberry. I love seeing people, but just cause I "like" to see how rude people are with each other. That's one thing that I find most amazing on the subway, we are all crowded, we are all trying to get somewhere and yet some people love to make it seem as if they are the only one(s) on the subway.

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Sep 10, 2009 9:00 pm

It's been awhile since I rode the subway regularly..can't say I miss it. Loud, shaky trains, brutally hot, lights going off repeatedly...am sure it's improved since I was a kid.

In Tokyo the trains are so packed that you have no space to read. Everyone is listening to headphones and absorbed in their cell-phones..the sardine-packed silence can be creepy, especially at night when the Guinness has flowed...

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver