rainy days, crowded subways

It’s fun to run around and splash in the rain. It’s refreshing to have a slight drizzle on a hot summer day. It’s calming to hear the pitter-patter of rain on your window while snuggling up with a good book. But it is super, super annoying to have the skies open up as you’re leaving for work and need to get to the subway to get home. Especially when it wasn’t forecast to rain until a few hours later, leaving many people (such as me) caught in pouring rain without an umbrella.

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I could’ve joined one of the many groups I saw that were huddled under awnings trying to wait out the worst of it, but who knows how long I’d have to wait? So I braved the short trip to the subway station, because I could not wait to change into pajamas. And then I had to wait for what seemed like forever for the train to come on a crowded, humid subway platform. And then I got shoved into a subway car and was pressed up against way too many slightly damp/sweaty people.

Because in New York, rain means puddles galore, wet and slippery streets, lots of slightly damp strangers, and super crowded subways. And considering it’s the middle of summer (hot and humid), it’s the city (so the rain was probably toxic), and subway platforms have basically no airflow, it was kinda gross. So … that was a fun ride home.

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november’s end

Wow this month has been crazy. Crazy busy, crazy stressful. But the good news? I have a work visa! Woot! Well, not really … but after many trials and tribulations I have finally received the employment license, which will allow me to get the work visa. Still quite a long way to go before everything gets finalized. Next step: Hong Kong! More paperwork! And more cash to shill out! (Ugh, I have a headache already.)

Below is a picture I took on the subway, er … “metro,” on my daily commute. For no special reason. It’s just so clean!

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Thanksgiving was good fun and I’ve basically gotten over my cold, but the weather’s steadily advancing towards full-on winter, my apartment is cold even with my heater on, and I really miss American food. Like, I really want Domino’s. And I would kill for apple cobbler. Sigh. Moving on, work is good! I like the people I work with, I like the day-to-day, and I really think Shanghai’s good for me. So, to the powers that be that finally granted that employment visa: Thanks! It only took you FOREVER and a day.

As hectic as November was, I have a feeling December’s gonna be pretty crazy as well. Wish me luck! And stay warm out there!

christmas season? begin!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Well, not really. But some decorations have started to go up! Christmas isn’t really celebrated in China because there’s not much of a history of Christianity in China. Most people don’t adhere to any religion due to the impact of communism, and though some people follow Buddhist philosophies, organized religions aren’t well accepted in the culture. But I LOVE Christmas.

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And every evening when I walk out of the subway, I get greeted by a tree! And reindeer! Aw, how nice. It’s a little gaudy and it looks out of place in the basement of a mall, next to a supermarket, at a subway exit. Eh. But it’s Christmas! Well, I guess Thanksgiving has to come first, but that’s an American-only deal so there’s no sign of turkeys anywhere. Sigh … Happy Turkey Day!

au revoir manhattan!

For the past two years I have lived in Manhattan. I was in the city, in “New York, New York.” I’m no longer there, and though the rent is much cheaper out in the boroughs, it’s still a bit bittersweet. Upper West Side, Harlem, West Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Chelsea … I’ll miss you. But I’ll be seeing you soon. Well, probably not Harlem. I won’t go back there – long story.

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I like this picture, taken at the Broadway Station in Queens, because of its overwhelming horizontality. I rarely used to venture outside of Manhattan and rarely ventured above 125th so it still freaks me out when the subway is above ground (because that completely goes against the “sub-” prefix). I just about got the Manhattan subway map memorized, but now I’m having to learn new stops and door opening sides, new train and bus routes, new street name equivalents and numbering quirks, et cetera. Seriously, Queens is a whole new ballgame.

la divina commedia di washington dc

Back in undergrad my focus was more on 16th- and 17-th century English literature, but I took a class on Dante Alighieri as a comparative literature component for my English degree, and I loved it. Divina Commedia (the Divine Comedy) is fantastic. Utterly astounding in the richness of the symbolism, the depth, the allusions, et cetera. And it has many similarities (religious content, narrative structure, epic poetry) with Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is probably my all-time favorite ‘book’ … so yeah, I like it.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to find a way to get through the many photos I have from my visit to DC, so I’m going to use Dante as a guide. Inferno, Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise), meet Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.

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Inferno = Washington Metro. I ride the New York Subway quite often ($2.50 per swipe … ouch!) and though when I first moved to the city I found its jarring movements very annoying and was a bit disgusted at its lack of refinement, I can’t imagine New York without it. In comparison to the NYC Subway, the Washington Metro is a downright young’un. So sleek and modern and brutalist … and so I’M STUCK IN A CONCRETE TUNNEL. Exposed concrete, fairly dim lighting. Beautiful, but in a foreboding menacing sublime sort of way. Every time I took the escalator down and down and down I felt like I was slowly approaching doom. But coming back up feels like cheating death.

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Purgatorio = United States Capitol. Its design was actually the result of a design competition, followed by committees, resdesigns, and all the craziness that goes on with turning an idea into architecture. It’s a bit odd, don’t you think? Can the Capitol still be conceived of and judged as architecture? Of course it is structure, but the Capitol has so much weight as an icon and symbol of the legislative branch, the government, and the nation that it is no longer ‘mere’ architecture. With so much bureaucracy going on in that building, who the heck really knows what’s going on? All those stairs, do they lead up or down? Is progress being made and lessons learned or is it a place for walking in circles?

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Paradiso = Peace Monument. Hanging out in front of the United States Capitol is the Peace Monument by Franklin Simmons, erected in 1877. The figure of Grief leans against the figure of History, commemorating naval deaths during the Civil War. While the white marble is clean and ‘peaceful’, the arrangement of the figures hovering high above, touching the Heavens, looking down with frozen sadness at all the tourists scurrying by, is actually more haunting. Perhaps that understanding of human turmoil and remembrance of our own frailty and faults is as much as we can hope for.

If you’re further interested in the Divine Comedy, my professor for the Dante class, Guy Raffa, created this website related to the Divine Comedy which is worth checking out. It’s ostensibly a study guide, but the images are pretty nifty.

quality time underground

For all that I complain about the subway, I like it and I don’t think I could do without it. It’s actually quite calming to sit down on the subway (if you’re lucky enough to get a seat) and just zone out and sway and get jerked around and get lulled by the rattling and screeching. When I first moved to New York from Shanghai I felt nauseous riding the subway because of its violent shifts and loud, constant noise. But now I find it oddly soothing and comforting.

But … today I spent WAY too much time underground. I also did a heck of a lot of walking across Manhattan. I crossed the park twice, walked around it once, took the 1 train (3 times), 2, N, B, 6, and S. Oh, and the N/Q/R stopped running after 10, so I had to make a detour. And due to a ‘police investigation’ (code for: suicide/death by train), the 2/3 was ‘delayed’ (code for: we have no idea when the next train is going to come) so I had to make another detour.

The picture below is from back when the weather was still nice and cheery in September. It’s MUCH warmer than it was last week, but definitely pretty dreary out there. There’s been this harsh frigid wind that almost knocked me down while I was crossing the street this morning and it’s definitely unpleasant to walk around in. But hey, it’s nice and warm underground.

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new york kind of adventure

Galleries in New York are basically free art museums. Sometimes they have super cool exhibitions. Sometimes these super cool exhibitions are really, really popular. I went down to the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea last weekend because I wanted to see the exhibition by Doug Wheeler, the one they dub the “Infinity Room”. It looked pretty nifty and last Saturday was its last day, so I left my apartment at 10 AM …

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And I had a New York kind of adventure. Well, a lot of waiting actually. I spent a total of three and a half hours waiting in the line outside. About halfway in that line, I popped into the David Zwirner Gallery (a different part of it) which had an exhibition by Adel Abdessemed called “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” and uh … it was kind of weird. The above piece is called “Décour” and is from that exhibition. It was a series of four representations of Jesus on the cross made out of razor wire. Weird.

There was a nice camaraderie in the line outside and I passed some time chatting with a guy near me who was from Milwaukee. A different guy made a coffee run for those of us who requested stuff and a third guy offered people granola bars. It was actually kind of fun.

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Anyway, after those three and a half hours on the line outside, I had to wait another hour in an interior space before entering Doug Wheeler’s exhibition. It was spiffy. Wow. So cool. It’s one of those things that you really had to experience because it was all about perspective. The walls were a continuous curve and the way it was lit, there were few shadows and it was really hard to tell depth, so it felt like you were in this white void. And … the lights cycled every 32 minutes from bright ‘day’ to a darkish ‘night’. I think I lucked out because I was in there as it transitioned from the bright to dark and it was freaky cool. It really played with your sense of perception. SO COOL.

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Then, after all of that I stopped by the Chelsea Market for a really late lunch (it was almost 4 PM by that point) and then took the subway from 14th Street. And that’s where I got to see some of the statues from Tom Otterness’s “Life Underground,” which is a whole bunch of little bronze figures playing all over the station. They make me smile every time! It was an incredibly long, but incredibly awesome day. I definitely need to make it a priority to do more things like this! Oh, and happy March!

another creeper

Yeah I know I posted earlier today, but this one will be short. I don’t have class tomorrow and this is the next-to-last week of Expo, so I figured I’d have a go at it. Lots of pictures and stories to share, but that’s for another post. This is just going to be a quick story about a creeper. I just can’t seem to get away from them. I left Expo around 10 PM, so it was already dark. Spent five hours there and my feet are killing me. Anyway, I left from a different gate than the one I came in at, so I asked one of the guards where the subway station was. I’ll do this in dialogue format.

Me: (in Chinese) Where’s the subway station?
Guard 1: (looks at me, then to a fellow guard) English.
Guard 2: (walks over, in English) Yes?
Me: (in English) Where’s the nearest metro?
Guard 2: Huh?
Me: Where is subway station?
Guard 2: (gives me directions)
Me: Great, thanks. (and then I smile … because I’m nice)
Guard 2: (as I’m turning away from him) Do you want to kiss me?
Me: Um … no. (and then I run across the street)

I don’t know why the first guard beckoned over the second one in the first place. Later on I asked a different guard for directions again because I wasn’t sure if I was going in the right direction and he understood me fine and answered back in Chinese. No problem there. It was really weird too because they were all in uniform so when that guard asked me if I wanted to kiss him … just too creepy. I’ve always held people in uniform in higher esteem, but China’s a different animal.

one week down

One week of vacation almost done. And not much to show for it, unfortunately. Tomorrow’s going to be a fairly busy day though, so I should have more to post this weekend. Below is a sign from a subway (metro) station. I find it weird to call it the metro, because CapMetro in Austin is for the bus system. But anyway … this sign made me crack up because in Shanghai, this really is a necessary sign. Disgusting, eh?

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