Saturday, March 31, 2007

Yes, I Rode Mass Transit

New York City is one place where mass transit can work for the average person as a rider. Two main reasons: It’s a complete liability to have a car; you can walk to your destination after you get off the bus or train.

I bought a 7-day unlimited pass for $24. I could ride any train or bus, any time.

Why is it a liability to have a car? Many reasons. It’s very difficult to find parking, and once you do, it’s expensive. There are lots in Manhattan that charge $100/24 hours to park. Even out in Queens, Steve rents out two parking spaces at $150/month. The insurance is outrageous. Your car is going to get beat up.

I rode the Q33 bus from LaGuardia Airport to Roosevelt Station in Jackson Heights, where Steve lives. We weren’t even off the airport grounds when the bus slammed into an airport employee shuttle! The bus lost its mirror. It was great theatre. The bus and shuttle pulled up alongside one another at the next light. Both drivers opened their windows and doors and began shouting and swearing at each other.

Riding the trains never loses its novelty for me. I’m a train nut, so it fascinates me to stand in the station, to crowd on to a train, to look at the ads, and to look out the window at the scenery. Not much to see in the tunnels.

New Yorkers are numb to the experience. When a New Yorker wants to get somewhere quickly and he has a few bucks, he doesn’t take the train. He hails a cab.

Steve in the cab after the Guggenheim. We weren’t in a big hurry, really. We just had a better option, and took it.

Cabs are expensive, fast, and exclusive. They go from A to B without any walking. Trains are cheap, slow, crowded, and generally leave you having to walk to your destination. Despite their expense, there are more cabs operating in NYC than in any other American city.

Some people in Central Indiana are clamoring for the trains. I’m not one of them. At a billion dollars for a single line from Fishers to Indy, we’re still about $10 billion from a system.

New York has 10 million people.
Indy has about 1 million.

New York is densely packed.
Indy is sprawled.

New York is a walking city.
Indy is nothing of the kind. The suburbs are sprawled even more.

You can’t park in NYC unless willing to pay a lot and to risk damage to your car.
You can park at a meter in downtown Indy at almost any time. I do it at least once a week. I use nickels and dimes.

It’s a shame that the NYC system isn’t private. I bet it could be profitable there, if it weren't a government operation. But there is absolutely no way mass transit will be profitable in Central Indiana. It will only be a tax dollar suckhole here. Breaking even would be a fond, wistful dream. IndyGo president Gil Holmes agreed with my reading of the balance sheet and my statement that it is a tremendous financial loser. This is why I asserted to him that mass transit is merely a transfer of wealth from those who do not ride to those who do, and on that basis unjust.

I think it's telling that cabs are seldom used in Indy. The average Hoosier uses a car because it is cheaper and every bit as fast, saying nothing of the sense of independence gained from driving.

At any rate, the trains were fun for me in NYC. Here are some assorted rail pics.

I love the tile in the subway platforms.

One of many images of Grand Central Station.

More Grand Central.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Future of Banking

Tired of bored, disinterested bank tellers? New York is providing the answer.

You see, the banking industry doesn’t like to have to pay bored, disinterested tellers, so most banks look like this.

A Row of 10 ATMs. Steve is leaving his bank in Jackson Heights, in Queens. There is one teller, but the bank would really prefer you didn’t bother her unless you have a real problem or a complex banking issue to discuss. Push the buttons, make your deposit or withdrawl, and scram.

New Yorkers seem to like it. I’m not so sure it would fly here in the Midwest just yet, except in downtown banks. I did like how fast the line moved. The place was packed with customers, and Steve waited less than a minute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More New York

Before taking the train to the Guggenheim, we stopped in a Mexican restaurant in Queens. I wasn’t terribly excited about it since I can get Mexican food in abundance in Indiana. Steve promised a cultural experience. Well! I’m always up for a cultural experience!

We had just ordered sodas (not pop) when a little Oriental woman stood at our table. “DVD? DVD?” She was selling newly minted pirate DVDs. We waved her off.

I asked Steve how common this is. Before he could answer, a second little Oriental woman was standing at our table. “DVD? DVD?” She must have walked right past the competition as she came in. We waved her off, too. I marveled.

Steve told me this is extremely common in Queens. You can get an almost unlimited supply of knock-off goods. I’ll post more on this later.

I asked why the restaurant owners tolerate solicitors. Steve posits they are seen as harmless. I offered that if it happened in Indiana, the owners would toss them out on their ears. He agreed that few other places in the US would tolerate it.

It’s interesting to me that in New York, one of the media centers of the world, pirate DVD media is so readily available. Is the lack of enforcement due to a fear of upsetting the largely immigrant hawkers of this gear? Is it a matter of police priorities, like nailing the murderers and rapists? I could find no answer.
Time For Art!

Since I always seem to skip a visit to a museum or gallery despite the sheer numbers of them in NYC, this time I prioritized a trip to the Guggenheim.

I was in luck- we were able to see a major exhibit on Spanish painting, just days before the close. (It closes today.)

The recognizable building is undergoing a significant restoration and is surrounded by scaffolding. This canvas ad was found below the scaffolds.

I’m always amazed at the sizable crowds. Whenever I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, I found myself sometimes feeling alone with the art. Not here. It was very crowded. You had to stand in line to check your coat.

The display occupied the entire building. While there was a great deal of Picasso’s paintings, there was a fantastic range of artists and scope of time covered. I really enjoyed how the curators placed traditional realistic works alongside cubist or impressionist paintings covering the same subject, side-by-side. It helped me appreciate what the modern artists were doing. Of course, having Steve there to explain helped even more. He has a degree in art history.

He recognized how overwhelmed you can be in seeing so much. I was experiencing a major sensory overload just as he suggested that we should start moving through a little faster, stopping only for more amazing stuff. I was getting to where I was ready to simply leave. Glad he intervened.

People seemed most drawn to Picasso’s work. My favorite was Juan Gris. I found that I really enjoyed the sharpness of his cubist paintings. I was taken by the geometry of them, and especially enjoyed his collages incorporating newsprint.

Having recently read up on the Spanish Civil War and noting the time period in which so many Spanish modern artists were really producing, I couldn’t help but think about how Picasso, Gris, Dali, etc., would have been received by Franco and those forces fighting to restore their vision of Spanish tradition. I failed to observe any narratives on this subject.

The Guggenheim’s interior. You can take pictures of the architecture, thank goodness. Naturally and unfortunately, you cannot photograph the art.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grumble... New Blogger

Another thing that's been eating me up about blogging is Blogger. Yeah, it's a free service, you get what you pay for, and all that. But it worked fine before. Now?

Since changing over, I routinely lose posts. I just put a lot of effort into a post on my trip to the Guggenheim in New York City. The silly form makes me enter letters in a "word verification". I find that if you write directly to the page as I do, and you take some time, Blogger just won't recognize the letters. When that happened in the past, it simply gave you a new set of letters. You entered them, and the post appeared. Now, you get an error message. When you go back, your form is completely blank. All gone. Zapped into the aethers.

I don't have extra 30-minute blocks. So, sod New Blogger.