Reading on the New York Subway

Again I am posting about something else I found online, but the internet is just so full of fun stuff. This photography project Underground New York Public Library encompasses 4 of my favorite things:

  • Reading
  • New York subway
  • Photography
  • Reading on the subway

This project is pretty awesome and touches on so many topics, while somehow still managing to be straightforward and simple. At first sight it is a tumblr of various photographs of people reading on the New York subway, with the caption naming the book and author. But go a little deeper and it’s much more than that. It’s street photography and all the questionable ethics that go along with it*, it’s people we see everyday, it’s people learning, it’s getting lost in a good book, it’s connecting with strangers, it’s capturing the various walks of life that make up NY, it’s introducing us to new books and authors, it makes NY feel a little smaller, it brings up the book vs e-reader dilemma, it’s relatable, it’s hopeful (maybe because it seems less people are reading these days, and these images capture all ages, genders, ethnicities reading), it’s “like meditating” (I agree with this, because looking at the photos I’m reminded of how soothing it is to get lost in a book), it’s friendly, it’s inspiring, it’s a calm moment among the chaos of NY, and the photographs themselves are full of talent.

The subway seems like an obvious and perfect choice for this project in New York. I’m sure the same could be done in parks or cafes, but the subway is just so New York. Reading is obviously a big part of the subway for a lot of people, including myself – it’s where I get most of my reading done because it provides time, a familiar atmosphere, is generally pretty quiet, and maybe the movement of the train is soothing. I’ve actually gotten on the wrong train when reading on the platform, and have almost missed my stop because I was so engrossed in a book. I’m sure I’m not the only one..

*I struggle with this and often miss out on photo opportunities due to feeling like an intruder on someone’s life. P, a talented and curious photographer who likes to capture people on the streets, told me he bought a portable printer so that when he took a photo of a stranger he could give them a copy right then and there. I thought this was a great idea, as it breaks down barriers and makes the subject feel special.

M

Extremely idealistic and incredibly optimistic

I’m reading this book right now that M recommended, of which I am sure you have heard about, be it the actual novel or the movie, called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  It’s intelligently written, in the sense that there are many intelligently written and pondered about moments throughout the book.

One of my favorites is a remark that an adult remarks to the boy “… I used to be idealistic” to which the boy inquires what “idealistic” meant to which the woman responds “It means you live by what you think is right.”

Are you idealistic?  Have you given that up … yet?

P

Things that made me smile this past week

Sitting outside with beers, Jenga, and $1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup S’mores with good friends at a beer garden in Philly

Celebrating Mother’s Day with my family

Weekly Zumba class

Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s

Making beer bread for potluck night with my neighbors

This website and this website, make me laugh everyday

Hearing this song for the first time in awhile, which brought back memories of Buenos Aires

Baby elephant at the beach, so cute

And things I’m looking forward to this weekend…

Cheering my friends on in the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Googa Mooga Festival in Prospect Park

More spring weather

M

NYC is:

ruby red slipper glitter sunglasses and wizard-of-oz emerald green eye glitter // surfboards on the subway platform in 40 degree weather // fresh baked float-in-the-air-aroma-goodness granola at the bookstore // black during rush hour // rude // vibrant and colorful // green spaces // cafes and coffee // fashion implosion // the world culturally compartmentalized // love-hate // una vasca morenaoscuracasinegra hablando canstellano // pink polka dot shoes // tourists // mismatched cabinet knobs // ipad photography in a pedicab down avenue of the americas in the afternoon while waiting for a friend // las vidas de la gente // I LOVE YOU YOUR SHOES SMELL on red chuck allstar sidewalls // acceptance // the unseen // trying too hard // a visit with friends // conversation // inspiration // experimentation // on display // a smorgasbord // home // authentic // an old man on the street chuckling while warning he is about to shoot a little green man at you // 24 hours // the stories people tell

Arranged Marriages

I am not one who takes cabs. I far prefer hopping on the subway for a fraction of the cost, and this has been true in each of the 3 cities I have lived in over the past 10 years. Sure, if I’m with a group who wants to take a cab I’ll join, but if I’m solo you will only find me in a cab if I’m either running very very late or coming home by myself late at night. Or the two times in Buenos Aires when a cab substituted as my moving truck.

When I do take a cab, however, I enjoy chatting with the cab driver. If I’m with a group of more than 3, I’ll always hop in the front. I’m interested in hearing other people’s stories and feel awkward sitting quietly while another person drives me around. In New York cabs conversation can be difficult due to the partition, which makes the driver and passenger feel very separated. This didn’t get in the way of my cab driver last Tuesday night.

It was a coming-home-by-myself-late-at-night kind of situation plus a dead phone that made me cough over the money for the Manhattan to Brooklyn door to door service. I knew I wanted a safe ride home but I had no idea I was looking for dating advice.

My cab driver was from Bangladesh, moved here 14 years ago, and brought his wife over a couple of years ago. I dug a little deeper into the relationship, mainly because I was curious how they managed living in different countries while they were married, and I found out they were in an arranged marriage. A few years ago he was ready to get married so his mom, the rest of his immediate family, and relatives researched the female options for him over in his home country, weeding out the bad apples, and came up with this woman who is now his wife. He met her and liked her, went home and told his mom so, and a couple days later they were married.

In America, arranged marriages are completely foreign to us. It’s just not the way we operate when it comes to love. In countries like Bangladesh, the way we find love is completely foreign to them.

“You have it hard here. It’s very difficult to make the decision all by yourself of who you will marry and spend your life with. It’s a lot of pressure on one person. You don’t have the community helping you make sure you meet the right one,” says my cab driver.

Hmm. When you put it that way…

He strongly believes in your siblings, mom, neighbors, etc. playing matchmaker. They check out the potential spouse’s family, where they’re from.. Maybe it’s even someone you grew up with. Each of your matchmakers gives their opinion on your behalf and you have no say until you are finally introduced to the group’s choice.

And the divorce rate is lower in his country than America, he tells me. I ask if it’s illegal or looked down upon, thinking that is the reason. No, it is legal, and some people do it, but rarely. So much thought and research has gone into finding the right person for you that love does come. He values his marriage, telling me that when each party works so hard all day at their job, they should come home to happiness, not fighting.

I had never discussed arranged marriages with someone who was in one himself. The conversation was fascinating to me, shedding a whole new perspective on relationships. As a single woman I certainly pondered this cab ride afterwards. Although we like to think we know ourselves better than anyone else, it does seem like a lot of pressure to choose your mate for life all by yourself.

On the other hand, although we don’t have arranged marriages in the States, do we really make this decision alone? No, I don’t think so. Most of us are lucky enough to have family and friends who we go to for advice. They meet your significant other eventually, and either volunteer their opinion or are asked for it. I don’t think any of my friends have felt “alone” in their search for a mate. I value my friend’s and family’s opinions greatly. However, after hearing about my cab driver’s experience, I think I will value getting my friend’s opinion on guys I date even more. It doesn’t hurt to have a second (or third or fourth or fifth) opinion.

M

Morning Cookies

What’s the first thing you think of on a Saturday morning in Crown Heights upon opening your eyes to curtain-filtered sunrise in host Meghan’s Brooklyn abode but three ingredient peanut butter cookies of course!  So you kick her out of the house and make her run around the block anxiously to the point where she only does 2 miles of a 3.5 mile run “by accident” because she knows there will be warm and chewy cookies waiting for her upon her return.  And voila, after mixing a cup of smooth, creamy peanut butter with a cup of sugar (yes, equal parts) with a single egg and rolling them up into little balls and placing them on a baking sheet and setting them in an oven at 350F for until then smell done, you have yourselves some great little scrumptious morning cookie accompaniments to coffee in NYC.

P