View from the Q train

Almost every day I get to look out the window at the water and the sky and the advancing skyline from the window of the Q or B train as it crosses the Manhattan bridge.  I have heard more than one person say that “The moment I stop noticing this view is the moment I know I should just leave New York,” and when they’ve said this I have fervently nodded my agreement.  But of course I don’t always look up and have a magical transformative moment or even a tranquil reflective moment every day.  What really never gets old, though, is watching the other people on the subway shift around and notice their surroundings for a sec.

Today a guy across the aisle from me took out his cell phone as soon as we came above ground.  This is something people do a lot on the bridge, take out their phones and check their messages or make quick “I’m running late” type calls in that two-minute window.  I have even been known to check my email, which is obviously fucking diseased of me. Anyway, this guy took out his cell phone, which is standard, but then instead of checking his messages he narrated the view to the person on the other end of the line.  He was looking northwards, and facing back towards Brooklyn — so he was on the opposite side of the train that this video was taken from — and describing the pylons of Dumbo and the smokestacks beyond.   Maybe the person he was talking to had never been across the bridge, or had been across the bridge thousands of times but now for some reason could not make the trip herself, and had to do so by proxy.

And I came home wanting to try to do the same thing, to get this view and the feelings it evokes down and make it so that someone who has not experienced them could know what they were like.  Then I found this video on YouTube and decided to just post that instead, the actual thing itself.  Or, well, not the thing itself but something at once closer to and further away from the thing than my description would have taken you.

This is a little like using your phone to look up a forgotten word or address or song lyric rather than waiting for your errant brain to provide it.  We know that some muscle in all of us is getting progressively weaker every time we do this, and we talk all the time about stopping — I do, at least — but of course I don’t stop.  Stopping would feel like taking the stairs 15 floors or churning your own butter.  It’s hard to see what we’re giving up by skipping those things so we’ll skip them just because we can.  That’s the thing about people; we will do everything that we can.

11 comments to View from the Q train

  • Hooo boy that video made me dizzy! I would love to see a progression, though, of that same clip filmed once every past decade. I visited NYC for the first time in a long time a few weeks ago, despite the fact that my father grew up there, and was amazed at how much it had changed since I was a kid. The city seems to always be in a gradual, progressive morph, But what it is turning into, who knows?

  • Chris

    “That’s the thing about people; we will do everything that we can.”

    There are times that you are far, far too profound for a blog, Emily Magazine. It’s the context, stupid.

  • KM

    Emaily (typo, but seems appropriate for the post so I’m leaving it),

    So glad you’re posting regularly here again. You were missed.

  • Tim

    It is still possible to have a transcendent feeling every time your cross the bridge and still manage to act cool and check your email, wouldn’t you agree?

  • “It is still possible to have a transcendent feeling every time your cross the bridge and still manage to act cool and check your email, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Emaily + trainscendent = What a difference an “I” makes.

  • Alex

    I’m far away from New York right now — mostly just geographically far, but getter farther and farther away mentally as well (for better or worse). Thanks for posting this, Emily. It made me feel happy, not sad.

  • Oh, *sigh.* Thanks.

    PS pretty banner!

  • ow a paper cut

    I believe December 31, 2009 will be the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Manhattan Bridge

  • I love that view. My favorite is going in the other direction, when you get the angle just right, looking out at the harbor, you can see the Statue of Liberty come up — and it looks like she’s walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Magical. Thanks for posting this!

  • ow a paper cut

    Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Whitman (before there was the Manhattan Bridge:

  • Aaron


    I love this ride. Another great one is the bike ride in the morning with the view north and below at the boats crisscrossing.

    Sometimes I race the train to the top, then sit and enjoy the quiet.

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