The Return of Spring, by Jack Beal (2001) Glass Mosaic at Times Square Train Station

The Return of Spring, Glass Mosaic by Jack Beal at Times Square subway station.

I happened to see this glass mosaic when I came up the stairs from the 1, 2, and 3 train platform, heading towards the N, Q, and R train platform.  I’m surprised I’ve never seen it before, but the place is usually packed with people, so that’s probably why I overlooked it.

Times Square station is surprisingly drab, with a lot of uninspiring colors and unadorned walls.  You’d figure the place would be better decorated, if only to drive more tourism.  The plainness of the station really made the bright colors of this mural stand out.

This is the accompanying plaque, which is located on a central pillar in the middle of the hallway the mosaic is in:

The information plaque for Jack Beal's glass mosaic at Times Square station.

NYC Crazy: “Don’t Sit On My Legs”

It seems like there’s an endless number of crazy people in New York City, and an endless variety of the types of craziness they may be suffering from.  I encountered another one tonight on my way home, on the train this time.

I had to stand for the first leg of the trip, but when we reached the 1st stop, a seat was freed up, so I moved to sit down.  It was one of the benches at the end of the train car, where there are only two seats in the row.  The other seat, the one closer to the front of the train car, was occupied by a small black lady, dressed fairly regularly, gnawing on a lollipop like a crazed beaver trying to gnaw down a tree.  I figured she looked harmless enough so I took the other seat.

I’d barely sat down when the woman said, “Oh you can sit down, but I have big legs so watch that you don’t sit on my legs.”

I wasn’t sure I heard her right, so I asked her if she could repeat herself.

“I have big legs.  You can sit, but you have to be careful that you don’t sit on them.”

I looked at the woman’s legs.  They were shorter than mine and no bigger than any other average sized person.  She was actually a small woman.  So, of course, I realized she’s crazy and I had to defuse her craziness so that she wouldn’t turn into a violent lunatic and make the next few minutes on the train unpleasant.

“Oh, don’t worry.  I won’t sit on your legs.  I’ll just mind my business over here and play a game on my phone.”

I had indeed been planning to play a game on my phone.  I’d downloading something during my break where you try to free a particular block from a puzzle to clear a stage.  I had my phone in my hand already and had opened the game.  I was hoping that this would cause the woman to realize that I didn’t want to bother her, and that I was preoccupied and not ready to talk to her.

Instead, it backfired.

“Oh, games! I like games! What game is that? It’s some new one huh?”

She then proceeded to reach over and start pushing buttons below the screen on my phone.  I thought about getting up and moving away but you never know what might happen, what a crazy person might say, do or have on them that could be potentially lethal to the innocent sane people around them, so I decided the best way to get past the problem was to just humor her.

So, I sat there, trying to explain to her that she had to use the touchscreen to move the pieces.  I didn’t let go of my phone of course, and it was sort of amusing to watch this old woman getting pissed off over a touch screen game where the blocks only move in certain directions.  She couldn’t seem to figure that out.  Horizontal blocks only move horizontally and vertical blocks only go vertically.

“What the fuck? You do this. Move that motherfucker right there over that way.  Get that block out of the way. How the fuck does this thing work? This shit won’t move!”  She was stabbing at my phone with her bony fingers, cursing, getting irritated, and still gnawing on her lollipop.  I saw several sprays of saliva fly from her mouth, thankfully onto the floor, and just as I thought I was going to have to risk her flipping out and accusing me of everything from picking on an old lady to racism to having a magic game that fucked her over, or perhaps swinging at me with her bag, the train pulled into the next station, my station, and I excused myself and got off the train.

As I exited the train I heard the woman say, “You have to be careful with your bags if you’re going to sit down. I have big legs.”

And a woman replied, “Oh, did I hit your legs with my bag? I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s just that I have…” I heard her saying, and then I was too far away to hear.

I think from now on, I’ll just stand.  Or at least not sit next to anyone past the age of 40.  It’s only two stops anyway.

NYC Crazy: “You need to back the fuck up off me, bro.”

Today, on the way home, I got another dose of crazy while using public transit.  While I was standing on the platform, waiting for my train to show up, I saw a coworker, so we started talking about some crazy stuff that had happened during the day.  When the train finally arrived, we snagged some open seats and talked until we got to my stop, Union Square.

This is where things took a turn for the bizarre.  As the train pulled into the station and started to slow, I stood up and crossed to the side where the doors would open.  I gripped the rail with my right hand, the one that runs from the floor to the ceiling at the end of the row of seats, and I held my hat in my left hand.  There was a guy standing in front of me.  He was a black man, and well dressed.  When the train stopped, the doors didn’t open right away.  He looked over his shoulder at me.  Then he shifted a bit and turned half towards me and mumbled something.  I didn’t quite catch it so I just ignored him and put my hat on, so my hands would be free for the climb up the stairs from the platform into the station.

When the doors opened and we started to get off the train he said something to me again, but I still couldn’t hear it over the noise, so I leaned a little closer to him and said, “Pardon?”

“You need to back the fuck up off me, bro.”

Uhhh.  Well, we were walking with the group of people all rushing for the stairs, so I didn’t give it too much mind.  It’s not like a person can expect to have a lot of free space in that situation.

When we turned the corner of the rail and started up the stairs, the guy looked back and when he saw me, he jumped a bit, like he was surprised, and then bolted up the stairs, taking them three at a time.  When he hit the top, he took off at a dead run through the station.

The woman next to me gave me a questioning look.  I shrugged and said, “Crazy fucker.  He thought I was following him or standing too close to him or something.”  She just smiled and shook her head, as if she’d seen it before herself.  I suppose she had.  New York City seems to be half full of crazy people at any given time.

I understand that people have a desire for personal space, and that desire is magnified when living in a congested city, constantly surrounded by people, but this guy’s reaction was unreasonable given the circumstances.  I wonder what exactly set him off this time?  I was dressed in business casual, chatting with another person in business casual, and I didn’t act oddly when I positioned myself to exit the train at a stop, so it’s not realistic for him to have thought I was a potential robber.  It’s also not reasonable to expect to have no one behind you when exiting a train at a station, or when climbing the stairs to the platform.

In any case, this just reinforces the fact that when you’re in New York City you have to stay aware of the people around you.  You never know who might snap, or when, or why.

New York City Express Train Gymnastics and Dancing

A night or two ago I was on the express train, either the 4 or 5 (they run the same track), heading to Union Square, and this guy announced that he was going to give us a performance.  He reached into a plastic bag on the floor and turned on his radio.  Then he did some gymnastics and dancing using the bars in the train that you’re meant to hold onto.  I was a bit worried that he might accidentally kick someone in the head, maybe me since I was sitting so close.  He pulled it off without incident though, and it was definitely entertaining after a long day, so when he asked for a handout afterwards, quite a few people gave him some change.  I gave him a dollar.

I never hand out money to beggars, because it annoys me and there are plenty of social programs to help them get a job, but I don’t mind handing out a little cash to someone that’s working for it, even if it’s just a minute long show on a subway train.

Veteran’s Day Free Food and Somewhat Free Food Adventure

veterans_day_2009

Veterans Day is a day for honoring veterans of the armed forces in the US.  This morning, there was a parade to honor the federal holiday.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it or I’d have been there taking photos.  I guess I’ll have to make sure to go there next year to check it out.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a veteran myself.  I served in the US Army for 8 years, and I’ll take this opportunity to brag about some of my achievements.  I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.  I was part of the initial force that moved into Iraq, right after the Iraqi Republican Guard was bombed on the border.  I was deployed again in 2007 for an Air Defense Artillery operation.  While I was in, I racked up a stack of certificates of appreciation and certificates of achievement, as well as more notable awards like 3 Army Achievement Medals and a Good Conduct Medal.  I also had the opportunity to participate in a German weapons qualification range and scored a Silver.  I missed Gold by 1 round from a 9mm.  There’s plenty more that I did, including community service projects like assisting kindergarten teachers with classes in El Paso, but you get the point.  I did service to the country, and today was a day to celebrate that service, and get some free food!

Quite a few food chains had specials today, offering free or discounted meals to veterans, and I took the opportunity to meet up with a guy I served with in Kuwait at Applebee’s on 50th Street, near Times Square.  It was the first time we’d seen each other since we left Kuwait in early 2008.  We were greeted warmly, treated well, and the food was good.  I had to pay for my drink, but with the dish being free, I couldn’t complain.  It was interesting seeing veterans and active duty members of various branches of the service in the Applebee’s.  Some showed up in uniform, some didn’t, but you could almost always tell who was military or a veteran at a glance.  I guess something of the culture stays with you.

After my friend and I left Applebee’s we decided to avail ourselves of another offer we’d seen posted around the Internet: the free six inch sub from Subway.  So, I pulled out my phone, looked up Subway on Google Maps, and away we went.  We walked into the Subway at 136 W 44th Street and asked about the offer.  We were told that Subway didn’t have any offer like that, and they couldn’t do anything for us.  So, we walked out and we decided we’d try a different location.  First, I looked up Subway again on Google Maps and then decided to call ahead, before we wasted a bunch of time walking all over the city.  I decided to call the 126 West 41st Street location, since it was the next closest, and the woman that answered said she’d never heard of what I was talking about either.  However, she said she would make an exception and honor the deal we told her was posted all over the Internet, but we’d have to buy a drink along with the free sandwiches.  It was better than nothing, so we went ahead and took her up on it.  While we were there, other veterans came through the door asking about the deal.  According to them, they’d tried to avail of the offer earlier at a Subway near Port Authority but had been turned down there as well.

Later, when I got home, I looked up the offer online and saw that it was marked specifically as being at only certain locations, but based on my experience and hearing from those other vets, I get the feeling that none of the Subways in New York City were honoring the Veterans Day deal, except the one where I talked the girl into partially fulfilling it.  Maybe we’d all just had bad luck in which locations we’d walked into though.

I think it’s a shame that any Subway wouldn’t fully honor the agreement as advertised.  It is Veterans Day after all!  One day a year to say thank you to the people who make sure that places like Subway can remain operating in a free country.  One day a year to give out a sandwich to say thanks.  Oh well.  I’ll just remember that for next year.

Overall, it was a great evening, catching up with an old buddy, getting a free meal, and walking around Times Square.  I’m looking forward to doing the same again next year.  Maybe more people I used to serve with will be in the area and we can arrange to meet up!