The Underground

Been playing more subway roulette the last few days. I’ve had an unlimited subway pass for the last week so I’ve been trying to make use of it. One factor in playing subway roulette is identifying when a train is approaching. Sometimes the wait seems really long and you start to get antsy when a rumble can be heard. This can be deceiving when you are in a hub station, because what seems to be an approaching train is actually coming from above and serving a different line. Often times on entering the station, people begin to scramble because they hear the noise and run for the platform, only to find it’s the train going the opposite direction. Sometimes, it’s worth it, because the way it’s been hot and humid lately, some of the tunnels fill up with heat and become uncomfortable saunas.

Sometimes it’s nicer to wait outside. Myrtle stop, J & M train. Building undergoing renovation.

Sunday night I went to check out another guitar, this time in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn. It was over an hour on the train so not exactly close by, even though it’s the same borough. I’ve recently learned that the city had big plans for their metro system and dug many tunnels all over that were not ultimately used. This was near the time of the Great Depression and ultimately budget shortfalls derailed their plans.

It explains a lot of areas of Brooklyn where there are not convenient trains, or you must take indirect routes to your destination. This also means there are ghost tunnels that have been long ago barricaded, and in some instances, there are even old trains left behind. Up until a few years ago there were sections that you could take tours of, but they aren’t running them currently.

There is the city hall station turnaround that was closed in 1945 because it wasn’t used very much and the train cars changed to a larger size that made the gap for getting on and off the train unsafe. The number 6 train still circles through there but you have to vacate the train before then. Although according to this article it is possible to continue riding. There’s some good pictures of the station as well:

City Hall Station

FDR had his own special line, Track 61 so that he could make a speech at the Waldorf Astoria and then sneak away in his custom train protected with bulletproof glass.

There may be secret entrances that homeless people, or graffiti artists know of, but I don’t have access until I meet some of them. I watched the ’80s horror movie CHUD recently, about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers terrorizing the streets of SoHo late at night. It has lots of dark gritty footage and a few appearances by the cheesy looking monsters. At one point two cops walk into a diner at Spring St and Lafayette next to a triangular park called Petrosino Square. They get about two minutes of screen time before being killed by the CHUD. I thought it was funny because the cops are played by John Goodman and Jay Thomas a.k.a. Eddie LeBec, Carla’s husband from Cheers.

It’s kind of funny to see two actors you recognize and have their characters killed off right away. Even then John Goodman seemed like a star, just the way he walks into the scene you think he could be an important character. Nope. Anyway, I won’t spoil the movie by telling you what CHUD really stands for because you can watch it on Netflix instant watch and see these guys for yourself. Plus you can see the J train at Chambers street station which is an eerie old station not too far from city hall. Yes, that J train, the one that rumbles by my apartment every 12 minutes, which I think seperates me 3 degrees from John Goodman.

Petrosino Square. The diner was on the left.

These shots from Chambers St Station are across the tracks from the platform I was on. The stairs and that side of the platform are not in use. Very creepy, especially when it’s 3am and you’re the only one there like I was.

I also just watched the Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, the original, and while I found it very dated, it provided lots of insight to the subway system. For instance, did you know the conductor pokes his head out the window for three car lengths as they pull away from the platform to make sure nobody is caught in the doors and being dragged? That’s nice.

The most striking thing was that there were land line telephones and typewriters in the movie that would make it seem out of place today, but the subways still had that familiar squeaking of their brakes and the stations looked exactly the same. Oh yeah and Jerry Stiller a.k.a. Frank Costanza plays loudmouth wisecracking transit cop Sgt. Rico Patrone.

I ended up in Bay Ridge after the sun had set, it’s much like a lot of areas of Brooklyn, but a fairly quiet neighborhood with it’s own local bars and restaurants. There are more single family homes than where I live, but still in a very compact, New York style. The guitar ended up being in great shape, with a case, and for only $50 it was definitely worth it. I went to a park next to the Belt Parkway, found an overpass and crossed to a bike path on the waterfront. With a view of Staten Island and the Verrazano bridge, I played my new guitar in the hot night while mosquitoes bit my legs and lightning flashed over Manhattan to the North.

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