Friday, September 25, 2015

Let's Visit the Subway! Post contains neither Pope nor Muppets

seated, after stink eye from NYC travelers
There were numerous causes for anxiety over Labor
Day weekend: flying with a baby, sleeping next to a baby, balancing Javier's theater-work needs, 2 hour breastfeeding cycle, sightseeing and socializing; carting about a car seat, stroller, playpen, etc.; flying with a baby...I raised hesitations frequently enough with Javier that he came close to barking at me; at which point, I quieted down* and eventually relaxed slightly, because let go and let god, right?

*to him
But all worry aside (or because of, if you're anxiously superstitious) the weekend wound up
monkey on his back. slightly excited.
being a graaaaaand week's vacation: spent nourishing time with loved hosts (including night time dining on their Astoria rooftop, tralalala), Fun Home was the most fitting musical adaptation that could have been brought to life from Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, the Public Theater's Odyssey adaptation was spectacular; and the Sparrow's brunch served up rummy egg creams and croissant french toast, while the Baby made eyes at various patrons hunched on barstools.

too young: dazzled by sports bar mega-screen
keeping close watch on suspicious little human with rattle

indifferent to Eyez in Astoria

Long Island City
Long Island City
With so much bloggy fodder, who would suspect a post about a subway station? And who am I? Is it true, that in my middle age (*cringe*) I have suddenly adopted my father's fanatical love of trains (and trolleys. subways are fine; but buses are inferior and good lord noooooo, not those horrid buses masquerading as vintage trolleys for undiscerning tourists). Hardly. I certainly do appreciate the independence afforded by a well developed mass transit system, and being the driving wimp that I am, you won't find me driving in major cities. But the thrill of an engine, the developments over model years, the (/im)precision of timetables? Not so much. But throw in some public art and I'm in. I have been struck by several airport art exhibits in the past and counted myself lucky to have taken part in the University of Michigan Hospital's "Gifts of Art" program a few years ago. Even when the art fails to resonate for me, I appreciate that it was created and funds were freed up to put the works in front of a broad cross section of the population, going about their days. While art installations in public venues are not quite the same thing as the designer's urge to unite an object's beauty and utility, it's not far off. To me, the existence of such programs affirm the psychological boon of encountering art, even if momentarily, casually. Maybe even better if casual? Art without a rarefied gallery air, art as backdrop, which will come to the foreground if given a moment's pause. Even if only one in several hundred passers-by give a few moments of focused attention, it's a worthy program. 

And so it is, with some fabulous subway stops. The MTA Arts for Transit Design Team and American Museum of Natural History finished their collaborative renovation of the 81st and Central Park West stop in 1999. The uptown and downtown stairways and platforms explore animal life, the earth's geology and (less so) the heavens, and are collectively titled "For Want of a Nail," as in:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail
-- Benjamin Franklin

(there are apparently all manner of variations of this, over the centuries. While not speaking to the neglect aspect -- not maintaining the horseshoe -- this also makes me think of the Butterfly effect)

The ornate tile work below is hinted at by these uptown stair parrots
Blurry, but beckoning.
Quail, shadowed by an extinct species. This brilliant "shadowing" was done throughout

Echidna? or more likely kiwi...
 This alligator (crocodile?) was my favorite, with the lower part of its body and tail spelled out with the dun colored floor tiles. I could have spent so much more time with these designs! But we were on a mission to catch the Odyssey in Central Park. So on we marched, with me exclaiming and Javier noting we could return this way (but alas, we were more tired and focused on returning to La Bebe by night's end). More details and images here and here. The downtown stop was devoted to very touchable fossil casts -- quite cool -- but the glass tiles are what I most loved.
Each tile piece is well incorporated with surroundings

star tiles also lovely.
Mundane by comparison, but the curvy letters quite appealing

What an 8! How about that S??


  1. I think the little flightless bird is a kiwi

    1. Aha! thank you. so echidnas are in australia and kiwis in new zealand only? must google more.