Best Commute Ever

June 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Posted in MBTA, Muzak, Video | Leave a comment
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A couple of months ago, I was sitting on the side of the train, at the end of the car, in the seats facing the aisle, as opposed to the ends, of the train.

By the Winchester stop, the aisle had gotten pretty packed.  A man stood directly in front of me, with his arm above my head, holding the support rail for balance. 

Because there were so many people surrounding him, he had to squeeze in, forcing his intimate region to be level with, and in close proximity to, my facial region.

And so we rode, from Winchester to Wedgemere to West Medford to North Station, with his balls dangling on my nose.  It was the worst commute ever.

In contrast, seeing this in North Station would probably make for the best commute ever.  I bet Gary would hop right in the midst of it for a graceful, impromtu two-step with a Dunkin’ Donuts barista.  And I would cry and cheer like a schoolgirl.

RELATED: Gary and the Conductress: An Appreciation

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Reflections on Killing from a Cold-Blooded Killer

May 15, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Posted in Evil Tribune, Lowell, Lowell Sun, MBTA | 3 Comments
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Tavaryna Choeun, Lowell Sun, 05.15.09

UPDATE: For local readers, there will be an anti-violence rally thingie in response to this tragedy at Lowell City Hall on Tuesday, May 19 at 5 PM. Additional details are available here, and more pensive reflections than mine can be found here.

This morning while walking along the Suffolk Street canal – my regular route to the train station – I noticed a mound of flowers and candles along the sidewalk across the street, outside of the row of public housing.  I figured someone had died in a car accident or something, as it’s not that uncommon to see such displays with paper-mache crosses or hand-made signs.

Then I noticed a couple trash bins filled with used police tape.  This was not unusual either.  In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything ‘unusual’ while walking along Lowell’s canals.  Their waters and banks are clogged and littered with condoms, shopping carts, televisions, toys, weapons of mass destruction, etc.  I would not be surprised to stumble upon the $850 camera that I left in a New Orleans taxicab five years go.

At the train station, I got my paper and immediately noted something that did strike me as odd – the mere size of the headline font.  Such bold block letters are generally reserved for grave, unexpected, or historic national events.  And occassionally, a local story will also rise to that level.  Sadly, this was the case.

I generally wait until I get on the train to read anything, but the headline read “CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE,” and it showed a photo of the sidewalk that I’d just travelled*, with an inset headshot of Tavaryna Choeun, 17, who the caption said “died yesterday morning at Lahey Clinic in Burlington.”  I walked slowly while I read, careful not to fall down the stairs to the platform, growing sadder and more stunned with each paragraph from Dennis Shaughnnessey’s report.

The bullet that would kill Tavaryna Choeun was intended for someone else, officials said yesterday.

The 17-year-old girl was shot in the head as she sat in the passenger seat of a car in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood late Tuesday night, according to Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone. The shooter was aiming for the driver, he said.

Choeun was left at the side of Suffolk Street, less than a mile from where the shooting took place near the intersection of Cross and Willie Streets. She died early yesterday morning.”

This is some bullshit!  What the fuck is going on???

Suffolk Street photo by Jon Hill, Lowell Sun, 05.15.09

I’m not ignorant to the fact that violent crime is nothing new in Lowell.  On the front page of today’s Local section, a headline reads “Shooting suspect arrested in Billerica.”  This charmer, Dennis King, shot a pregnant woman twice at her home in April.  That was literally footsteps from my front door, right next to Brother’s Pizza.

But this most recent incident is an outrage.  These are children!  And sadly, it’s hardly a surprise, because they’re everywhere, out all night in this city.  You should see them.  From the moment they can walk, they’re out on the streets, many of them barefoot, especially once the weather turns.  And when school lets out?  Good God.  It’s like an ant farm in The Acre.

And so many of these kids are really wonderful.  One of my favorite parts of living here is the neighborhood kids we’ve become friends with.  And I’m terrified for them; if something happened to little Xiomara or Christian or <GASP AND PERISH THE THOUGHT> my dearest Carmasita, my heart would shatter to such a grave extent that I’m not sure I could recover.

This is insane.  The girl’s friends didn’t even call for help!  They left her on the side of the street!  And I’m going to raise Nola Jane around this madness???

I tried not to think about anyof this on the train.  It’s important to go into the workday with a clear, positive frame of mind.  And I did successfully evict Tavaryna from my thoughts for a while, thanks to a chilling and strangely hilarious description of genital mutilation in Iraq from the FANTASTIC “Bowl of Cherries” and the beats pumping into my head from an equally FANTASTIC mix made by Lucy the Blog commenter mdub.

But as I was boarding the EZ-Ride shuttle bus, a girl in the first seat jolted upright with a look of horror and fear at the man across from her.  I was certain that the man must have drawn a gun or, perhaps, whipped out his peter for some morning commute self-pleasure time.  (Hey, we’ve all done it.)

Continue Reading Reflections on Killing from a Cold-Blooded Killer…

Gary and the Conductress: An Appreciation

May 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Lowell, MBTA | 6 Comments
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mbtaA couple of weeks ago, the MBTA distributed a survey to solicit feedback on its performance.  I attempted to complete it, only to be foiled by a convoluted line of questioning that was too challenging for my feeble mind.

For example, here is question 6A:

6a.  How long did it take to get from where this trip started to the first place where you boarded a public transit vehicle on this trip?

I started in Lowell, which was also where I boarded the public transit vehicle.  So it took no time at all, right?  Should it have?  And even if I had boarded in Wilmington, wouldn’t I have also started in Wilmington?  Or would I measure the time from Lowell, where the line starts, to Wilmington?  And if so, am I to assume that the trip left Lowell on time?  How would I know?   

The questions proceeded in this way, bending my mind with their leaps from my present trip to trips I’d taken and then off to theoretical trips that I might one day take.  When I asked a fellow commuter to confirm the cryptic syntax of the survey, she suggested that I might be overthinking the matter.  Though I suspect she was too unnerved by my astounding looks to adequately focus her own thoughts, I will concede the possibility that I may be too dumb or too impatient for the MBTA survey.  But I maintain nonetheless that it could have been more reader friendly.

Because I was incapable of providing my feedback through the conventional channel, I would like to instead use this space to publicly praise two of the MBTA’s finest employees, Gary the Conductor and Female Conductress Whose Name I Don’t Know.

Gary is the conductor who, morning after morning, transports us without incident to North Station.  Like so many of the last Great Americans, he is a man of few words.  And he is super-dapper. 

When he strides down the aisle to check tickets, it evokes images of Cary Grant or Fred Astaire.  He is light on his feet, this Gary, breezing by with a subtle nod to the regulars as he acknowledges their monthly Charlie cards, and effortlessly manipulating his hole puncher to mark tickets for those just passing through.  (I’m always astounded by the number of holes that need to be made on a ticket for one trip.  So many holes, what do they all mean?  It looks like fun, and I sometimes wish that my job required more hole punching.)

One morning, Gary chided me for exiting the train before it had reached a complete stop.  I felt like a shamed little boy.  He did not raise his voice or berate me in front of the other passengers.  He just gave me a stern look and warned me not to do it again.  He was right too because I damn near tore an ACL that day.  The train was crawling into North Station and couldn’t have been exceeding 1 mph.  But Kanye was in my headphones getting me all fired up for the day to come, so I prematurely stepped onto the platform all cool and shit.  I was not cool, dear reader.  I had underestimated the speed at which we were traveling, and my body was ill prepared for the transition to stationary ground.  Had I not jogged that shit out a couple steps, I would have suffered a humiliating and potentially grave face-first digger.

My point is that, if you asked me to show you a Real Man, I would show you Gary the Conductor.  Confidence.  Dignity.  Manners.  Style.  And a 10-pound belt buckle of a locomotive barreling down the tracks.  Gary understands his job and performs it with aplomb.  He was born to wear that conductor hat and never looks distressed or unhappy, though I’ve never seen him smile.  For that, I’m somewhat remorseful because I’d like to see Gary smile.  But perhaps it would in some way compromise his mysterious aura of debonaire charm.  I bet he got a lot of ass in his day.

Then there is Female Conductress Whose Name I Don’t Know.  There have been several occassions in which I almost laerned Contductress’s name.  It’s right on the badge that hangs around her neck, dangling before her ample bosom.  But whenever I get the right angle, the badge flips over, concealing her identity and thwarting my curiosity.

Continue Reading Gary and the Conductress: An Appreciation…

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