Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whine review

2010 is not shaping up to be a good year for the subway. Its bouquet reeks of snow, mud, monsoon, and drippy rivers through Atlantic Avenue, with notes redolent of stronger, more audacious, and just plain more eau de rat.

It is difficult to sell this year’s vintage. Service cuts threaten on all sides. Small children may have their free rides taken away. Jay-Z might have been just Jay if he grew up by Marcy Avenue today; my friend who lives in Battery Park City could never venture uptown again. As for my own d(r)ear line of choice, it regularly makes me late, has six service changes on the weekend—all of the least convenient nature—and sometimes just fails to show at all.

But the main problem with this year’s vintage is the bubbles that permeate the delicate liquid, increasing throughout the subway's fermentation process. That’s right, ladies and gents, the passengers! It is unclear whether your reviewer has just become more curmudgeonly in her old age, or whether this year’s crop has actually come up lacking. But in the past several weeks, the subway’s denizens have not been up to par.

Rather than a crisp, clean bouquet, these characters have some more, shall we say, McSweenian aspects. Their enormous backpacks shove your diminutive correspondent in the face as she gamely struggles to stand upright. Their stentorian voices loudly, passive-aggressively incite each other to ever-increasing rage at the inconvenience of your correspondent’s bag, wedged in between them. Or perhaps they do not even notice your wee columnist at all, and keep walking determinedly over her feet, tempting her to kick them and/or bust out some of those moves she learned in self-defense class in 8th grade. She is a bit rusty but is sure she could figure something out.

Even if a train is less densely populated, that is no excuse to return to the consistently high quality riding experience of the oh-so-beautiful days of yore. Your correspondent finds that even these trains are filled with unexpected bursts of flavor, such as an extremely waifish preppy-looking character determined to position her slight frame such that she blocks all possible seating options on both sides of her on the otherwise empty bench. With an adorable look of concentration, she peruses her absorbing tome, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Oh, the readers! In those much-mourned days of yore, your correspondent would find kindred spirits. O for wistful young ladies reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Or those mustachioed plaid-shirt bedecked sensitive readers of Murakami novels. Even the child, lips pursed in concentration, reading her way through Harry Potter on who knows what rereading. One day your correspondent even saw someone reading the same book on the same day she was; mystical auras ignited in the air outside the L train.

These shabby late days, you’re lucky if you encounter anyone reading a book at all, even if it’s Why Men Love Bitches. (Do they? Guys?) You may even be lucky if you see one of those suddenly-prevalent Kindle readers, scrolling blankly away beneath an ad for Kindle covers. What’s a snob to do?

In summary, this year’s MTA merlot is rarely worth its price of $2.25 a glass. But you probably have no choice but to drink it in.

Disclaimer: Your reviewer seems, over the course of this calendar year, to have become smaller (don’t ask her how this is possible), more claustrophobic, and angrier. In short (ha, ha), she is becoming a more concentrated version of herself. All the better to concentrate on addressing these important concerns!

Disclaimer #2: Your reviewer also humbly submits that you try Calvin Trillin’s
Feeding a Yen, which covers wine-satirical grounds far more hilariously than she could hope to do.


  1. "What’s a snob to do?"

    Confession time: I've actually wanted to read Infinite Jest for awhile. Perhaps I will have to do so on the subway, while listening to some loud Rachmaninoff!

    Also, I'm sure you've seen this a zillion times already, but: It's a goddam franchise now.

  2. You need this:

    Also, I might have bought Infinite Jest last week. Haven't started reading it, though.

  3. I too intend to read Infinite Jest.

    And I can't get the youtube link now, but I will check it out later.

    Also, at least the MTA does not suffer from this woe:

  4. (Though at least they don't have pictures from Tolstoy...)

  5. heh, apparently we're both interested in the Moscow subway system.