Friday, June 25, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

We are now into deep summer in New York, although the calendar says summer only started a few days ago. It seems very different to those of us who spend more than a few fleeting minutes below ground each day on the New York City subway system.

The photo below is of an earlier version of the map of this system showing the route that I have been taking daily from my home to my work place, the shop. The Metropolitan Transportation Agency changes the look of these maps, and even the routes and names and existence of the various subway train lines every so often. I like to hold on to older maps. Not one of them is as graphically magical as that of the London Tube. That map is a classic.

I have digressed.
Mostly the NYC subways gets us to our various destinations without incident. Normally incident is a euphemism for ... something bad.
I would like to tell about three sights I saw today on my commute via the subway. I did not have my camera with me. You all will have to summon your visual imagination.
This morning I did my usual transfer between train lines under Times Square. I was walking down a necessary stairwell, when I saw something unusual headed my way. This something was a very large man whose body was entangled within the curves of a highly polished brass tuba. I backed up to the edge of the stairway to allow the man and his tuba to pass by.
He did pass by with his tuba, and I continued my stairway descent to the concrete surface of the subway platforms. I will not describe the high temperature of the atmosphere or the scents or the areas of litter. No, what caught my eye as I walked along that platform to the measured spot that will allow me to enter a train and exit that train car at the perfect spot on 23 Street, was something that was such a contrast to that giant polished tuba and large man.
It was a single, tiny, Chinese child's slipper, embroidered. It lay all by itself on the platform. Some tiny child must have yearned for bare feet in the heat of the subway, and given a tiny but determined kick to free his/her toes. The little slipper was adorable, never to be confused with the left-behinds that constitute the usual litter.
I love the contrast of scale. Huge, tiny, and I continued on to a full day of work.
Many hours later, I reversed my travel route to return home.
As I walked along the 23rd Street subway platform aiming to find the spot on that platform that would guarantee my exit at Times Square being that stop's ideal spot, I was stopped in my tracks.
I saw a young camera crew in the process of filming some sort of film that I guessed might have been part of a fashion promotion. Not too many fellow travelers were on that platform who were, like me, waiting for a train. Those who were were treated, or exposed, to a vision of a young, beautiful, tall Asian model wearing a floral embroidered filmy robe, open that robe to show off some very lacy and very ephemerally minimal lingerie and to walk about 20 metres down the platform.
Well. The camera man and director thanked all of us mere mortal commuters for our allowing the filming to continue without interruption. The model was pretty much naked under that dressing gown. I have never seen such a scene underground before.
Well. I had never before seen a tuba or an abandoned tiny embroidered slipper before either.
Is it not the run up to the full moon above ground?
Best wishes from New York.


  1. It's amazing the stuff one sees on subways. Never a dull moment, eh?

  2. Frances, you draw such an evocative picture. I can just imagine that tiny slipper waiting forlornly on the platform.

  3. I wonder how the man with the tuba coped on a crowded train? From what I remember about your subway is that it is not too deep underground and so seemed a lot more airy than the London tube which is unbearably hot and crowded in the summer.

    It sounds as if your journey was filled with visual delights, I love to see filming in action, a kind of theatre in itself. I wonder what became of that little slipper?

  4. Sounds like quite a day altogether!
    You described the first two so beautifully to me earlier in the day

    the third vision must have been quite something!
    Year ago my brother and his wife stayed at the Chelsea Hotel and there was a most exotic lingerie shoot going on in the stairwells.
    We were transfixed.
    Never a dull moment round here.
    Buster sends his best!

  5. Frances, you have painted for us an interesting journey to and from that subway. I thought it would be lovely for you to perhaps to keep a diary of your travels, but then you have it for ever here as a way of a wonderful blog.

    Last time I saw filming in action was at Marylebone Station in London many years ago in the sixty's with The Beatles. Have to say too I was one of those wild young things who ran to try and catch a glimpse of them.

    What a great treasured find of that beautiful slipper.!


  6. Hello again Frances!
    I would love to have seen all those sights, especially, I think, the tiny embroidered slipper.
    I loved your picture of radishes on your last post - my school gardening club has been growing radishes, amongst other things, and we picked our first harvest on Monday. Fourteen enchanted little faces and small hands holding fat pink radishes! Perfect.

  7. What a perfect post, Frances. I love the surrealism of it all and want to be Snoopy writing 'It was a Dark and Stormy Night.' In the middle of three unlikely events he gives an aside: 'I'll bring all this together in a moment folks.' Could it be that the man with the tuba was the father of the model and that the child's slipper had fallen into the tuba when the model was a little girl and on the top of the empire state building and the man with the tuba was playing below and now with an ooomph the slipper had at last shot out of the tuba to be found again by the model? No?
    Well, you have to give me marks for trying!

  8. I think your post is a perfect example of selective focus. I'm sure you could have written a quite different post of other sights, sounds and smells. Life is indeed what you make it.

  9. Thank you for the trip along the New York reminded me of my time in London. Recently at Carlisle train station a DIY store had taken over and completely refurbished it with sitting rooms and furniture and were busy filming when we were there. It was quite surreal to see a train platform transformed into a sitting room, but no models there.
    Posie x

  10. Only in NY!!!! I think I owudl have yearned to keep the discarded slipper!

  11. You've painted such a perfect picture with your words we didn't need photographs.

  12. Your visual and verbal pictures are always exquisite. I'm afraid I would have had to pick up that tiny slipper to keep it from being trampled, and perhaps look at it daily, imagininig the life of the tiny one that left it behind. I love seeing and reading about your life in NYC. Hopefully I shall return there for another visit some day. :-)

  13. Yes indeed, a full moon, summer perhaps too a little midsummer magic?

  14. I have only just found your blog, but your description of your journey to and from work on the subway was so clear that I could see it all in my mind's eye.
    I LOVE NY it is my favourite city, well after London of course, and I wish I could visit every year, but funds won't stretch to that so I have to make do with every few years. I look forward to visiting it virtually via your blog if you don't mind.

  15. It is some time now since I visited your city, but you have brought back some memories there. The heat, the strange and multitude of different sights and sounds. a wonderful description...O and we saw filming in Times Square itself, I think it was a commercial...and fortunately the cast were all dressed !

  16. Wonderful story, Frances; broad brush and precise detail in the same picture.

    You're an amazing story-teller.

    Thanks for another marvellous tour.

  17. The minutia of everyday life - so different for each of us depending on setting and focus - like a camera!

  18. delightful post.
    keeping one's eyes open can provide all sorts of entertainment. Life underground can be as amusing as life overground. I am glad all three of your sights were pleasant and thought-provoking. I bet you smiled each time.

  19. As always my friend you take us on the most wonderful journeys with your blogs; I have to say that this one was particularly glorious. I read and re-read just for the sheer joy of it. Thank you!

  20. Happy 4 July! Do you know I've just realised that I rudely lapped this post up when you wrote it and I haven't commented! Sorry, I think I just went off delighting in all the haunting and glorious images you conjured up for us. Hope all is well with you. Cx

  21. You have the eye and the way with the words top convey what you see Frances, I so love your blogs.

  22. What evocative snapshots of life on the subway - wouldn't all of them make interesting starting points for paintings? especially the little slipper. Or the starting paragraphs to a series of short stories set on the NY subway...

    So well observed and related Frances.

    Best wishes

  23. Hi Frances, how are you? The BBC weather page says that you've got 100 degrees in NYC today, which I make 115 degrees warmer than our day at the Met! Nothing like that here! How strange that you should have posted about the subway map and the London tube map. Just before I looked at your post I'd been visualizing the tube map so that I can tell Chris how to get to Greenwich for the RNA conference on Saturday. When I was a kid my dad worked for London Underground and so I was able to travel all over London for free. I think I spent more time below ground than above! I see that the Queen was in town this week too. Hope you remembered to curtsy! (Only joking - you may remember my republican sympathies from our conversation over lunch.) Thanks for your kind words on Chris's blog about my picture. That's one that actually sold!
    Best wishes,

  24. How absolutely fascinating Frances! Your paint such lovely word pictures that there was no need for a camera. Quite charming.

  25. Hello Frances,
    It was lovely to catch up on your outings and observations, always delightful.
    I too would have seen the chinese scroll, it made a great photograph and I enjoyed your country trip. Last year I bought a tiny pair of red embroidered cloth shoes just because they were so beautiful, they sit next to the red russian dolls. The same way we buy our fresh fruit and vegetables to eat but also to look at and admire.
    What I read I understand so well, little images that fill our days and stay in our memory. Some make it to a painting or drawing. So
    glad to hear the pencils are out again.

  26. I'd forgotten that nice old NYC map of the subway with all the pretty double stripes..
    Yummy...wish I still had mine.
    That would make a nice shower curtain!

  27. That's way subways are so exciting, you never know what you'll see...particularly the metro.

  28. loving that subway map! It would make perfect patchworking fabric! Thank-you for you very kind comment. t.xx

  29. What a charming blog I found by reading comments on Advanced Style.
    What a nice little story!
    Barbara from Munich/Bavaria

  30. I have been away from Blogland for a while - it was so refreshing to return and spend some time catching up with you. I can remember when you bought your camera and now just look at all your amazing pictures!