One thing I miss about living in a large city, aside from the easy access to world class entertainment and any type of ethnic restaurant I fancy, is the ease with which one can get around without a car. Cars are expensive, maintaining them is expensive, gas is expensive. But in the big city, if you don't feel like fighting the traffic, you can wait for a bus, one goes by every 15 minutes. And, if the bus isn't your thing, because it sure isn't mine, you can avoid the cold, or heat, and head underground to the subway.
This piece, which I called Train Station, reminds me of my time in Montreal. It is, of course, part of my City Life series. It makes me think of my short sprint across the street to the Papineau metro station to hop on the Green Line to go wherever. Some days, the trip had a distinct purpose, shopping, business. Other days, it was just an exercise in exploration. And when I say exercise, I mean exercise, first, all those stairs.... then, of course, as is the rule rather than the exception when riding the underground in any big city, more often than not, the train pulls up just as you're setting your first foot on the stairs. Ever see a big man sprint down 100 steps and leap ballet style into the slowly closing doors of a subway car? It's likely quite a sight and one you'd have seen many times had you been around me in Montreal.
As an artist, and as a student of human nature, one of the most fascinating things about the subway station for me are the people. I enjoy people watching, and the station is a great place to observe. Of course, you observe discreetly, avoid eye contact, you know the drill. You see all these people, they're waiting for the same train you are. Some, you know, sort of, because you see them every day, others you don't, but you know their story by looking at them. There's the young guy with the beat up brown leather satchel bag and man bun wearing skinny red jeans and a suit jacket, he's a student, young, optimistic, eagerly waiting to take his place in this big world. There are the middle aged, balding men in cheap suits, phones at their ear, speaking loudly on the platform, shouting orders, their dreams of corporate mastery having long since been dashed. They're left with mundane middle management call centre jobs and the illusion of importance they try to create. We're onto them, but we just look away, no need to kick a man when he's down. You can always spot these cats, they're the ones who take the time to look all around as tey shout their orders, making sure everyone is witnessing their authority. There are the women, well dressed, waiting silently, eyes straight ahead until they board, then they pull out a book, they're heading to any manner of jobs, and they just want to get there unbothered, they've endured enough foolishness on this train. There's the guy with no legs and a hat and a sign, asking for donations because the pension just doesn't cut it, and the guitar playing bearded guy, smelling vaguely of coffee and maybe alcohol, who does such a mean version of Stairway to Heaven, you can't help but throw a toonie in. Finally, there are the young people, full of lively chatter, roughhousing a bit, they embark and always choose to stand they're a bit loud, the boys' pants seem to be in a perpetual state of falling down and they're very animated as they tell their tales to the girls, who giggle loudly. It's a wonderful study into the human condition and all before you get to your destination.