White Plains, Level 8, My new favorite place

Despite the fact that I started this blog to talk about all the crazy people I see on the train, I don’t really do it all that often anymore. But that is not to say I still don’t see crazy people. The coat guy is still around in White Plains, sporting his new favorite accessory: a big red cowboy hat. I rode in this morning with a skinny guy that dreams of being a bodybuilder. He had about ten bags, along with a few magazines that had photos of greased up men with muscles so enormous they must be taking steroids. The seat next to him he used as a table, as he buttered his bagel and mixed up his protein shake with the cup of milk he purchased from Starbucks. Bag Lady still rides the shuttle bus, as does the whiny girl that moans in some foreign language on her cell the entire ride. Yesterday I had to sit through the entire shuttle ride listening to her whine – she does not talk, she whines – and she continued to do so in the waiting room of the train station. I couldn’t stand to hear it anymore, so I went exploring.

There aren’t too many places in the White Plains train station I’ve never been. But I figured, why the hell not, I’ll go to the top of the parking garage. Up at the 8th level you can look down at the city of White Plains, listen to the rumble of the diesel engines as they head to Wassaic, and hear the whine of the M7 as it brakes and stops. And besides all the bits of trash (used condoms, eew) it is actually kinda nice up there. And quite peaceful, since I never seem to see anybody up there. Anyways, here are some photos of the view, morning and evening.


You know, the only thing I’m afraid of now is that someone is going to see me up there looking down and think I want to jump. Thats the last thing I need – cops coming after me. With all the stories I hear about photographers getting arrested and such for taking pictures, I really have a fear of the police, and I don’t trust them one bit.

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: White Plains

It isn’t hard to take a guess as to which train station in the Metro-North system is the most used. Although Grand Central receives the most traffic, White Plains is the second most used station – for the Harlem Line and Metro-North as a whole. It is the station to which I head every morning and evening. It is almost a microcosm of commuter culture. Large enough to have a steady stream of unknown faces, but small enough for there to be “regulars” – the folks you see every day. And there certainly are some crazy ones. But there are nice ones too. Falling into that category is Gary Waxman, who operates the news stand in the station. Although he has a few people help him out, Gary is at the new stand almost every day and night, certainly a fixture in the local culture. People from all over converge at this location, whether it be for the trains, or the buses across the street. Westchester’s Bee-Line, CT Transit’s I-Bus, as well as Greyhound all stop there.

White Plains may not be the prettiest station – it has no Arts for Transit pieces, the bathrooms are absolutely horrible, and there are pigeons everywhere – but it feels a little bit like my other home. For those descending south from the upper Harlem Line, it is your first taste of the city, and of the big buildings to come. Alliance Bernstein has a large building that overlooks the station, and is visible from the platform. But as my friend would put it, everything north of here is “the bush”. Gradually turning more rural the further north you go, the land opens up into into large farms and rolling green hillsides, the Harlem Valley (Named for the railroad, of course).

White Plains is an important transportation hub of the Harlem Line. Almost all trains stop at here – every local, and even most expresses make the stop. It is a common place to have to change trains, switching from express to local, though most people don’t have to. Along with North White Plains, the station forms a dividing line between the local trains that service the Bronx and lower Westchester, and the locals that serve upper Westchester and Putnam counties.

Unlike most stations that I take a short visit to, I spend a lot of time at White Plains. Although most times I don’t really feel like taking photos, I do have a lot more than the other stations. And definitely more panoramas. I picked a bunch that I liked best. I must admit that my new favorite vantage point is the upper walkway over the track that leads to the parking garage. Except for the fact that there are security cameras everywhere. I am expecting that one day I’m going to get apprehended by cops for being a photo taking terrorist. In reality I am just a dork that is going to every station on the Harlem Line.








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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Pleasantville

Evidence that my mind has been entirely corrupted by horrible marketers and their abysmal catch-phrases, I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised with Pleasantville station (this is one notch up from saying “Flip Out!” in an advertisement for a flipbook which I unfortunately created yesterday). Seriously though, the little station in the middle of the Harlem Line has character – a lot of which has to do with the Arts for Transit piece there. The station is easily accessible from the attractive green area in the center of the village. Part of the reason it differs from many of the other area stations is the fact that the platform is lower than the neighboring streets. As opposed to walking up a set of stairs to a vestibule above the tracks, the larger than usual vestibule and waiting area sits at street level, and you instead descend a set of stairs to the platform.











Installed in 2002, Pleasantville’s Arts for Transit piece, titled Almost Home, is the newest located on the Harlem Line. The work was a collaboration between Brooklyn-based artist Jane Greengold, and Vietnamese-born and current New York resident Kane Chanh Do. Both artists work in sculpture and installation art. Almost Home consists of twenty-two bronze chairs, sixteen of which are in the upper waiting area, and six on the lower platform level. A book also rests on a ledge in the upper part of the station, a bronze replica of a copy of the Reader’s Digest… though admittedly I would never have had any clue of what it was supposed to be, had I not researched the piece for this post. Apparently Reader’s Digest was originally printed in Pleasantville, and so the book is representative of that historical link.

Although I can’t say I’ve seen all the Arts for Transit pieces on the Harlem Line, Almost Home really is my favorite so far. Not only is it visually attractive, it is functional part of the station. Conceptually, the almost home theme is intriguing to me. As a commuter, besides my own home and work, I spend a good deal of time on the train or at the train station. At times the train station feels like a second home to me. There are times when I think some artist’s statements are complete BS, but in this case I think Do and Greengold describe their piece quite well:

In this suburb of New York City, we have re-created, in bronze, chairs likely to be found in the homes of the commuters who use the station, bringing some of the comforts of home out to meet the riders, making the station almost like home, and reminding riders that they, too, are almost home. Because the chairs look so life-like, so much like wood and upholstery fabric, they create a humorous, trompe l’oeil effect.

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I got slapped today…

I got slapped today at the train station. I don’t know what other way to put it. Let me explain: I have an addiction to Coca-cola. I needed my Coke fix this morning, and so I headed over to Waxman’s News in White Plains after getting off the train. Gary frequently provides me my morning Coke fix. Anyways, a few steps ahead of me was a woman with a cane, and a boot on her injured foot. Gary was being all nice, going to the cooler and grabbing the water that she claimed she couldn’t reach. I figured I’d be nice and wait until she was done and paid, and then I’d go and grab my coke. Except for the fact that she was taking absolutely forever. This woman was indecisive. “Well, how much are those juices over there?” and “What about those ones there?” If you are going to inquire about the price of every item in the store, it would be great if you didn’t block the entrance to the store for everyone else. Just saying.

Ultimately, I got fed up with waiting. I am a fairly small person, and I knew that without a difficulty I could walk right behind the woman. My backpack is really the big thing that would add to my bulk, so I took it off. I prepared to step behind the woman, and all of a sudden, SLAP. She slapped my leg (rather hard too!) and shouted at me, “Watch my foot!” I responded, “Lady, I see your foot,” and I could tell that my voice was speaking in a (much deserved) rude tone. There were a lot of other things I could have said, but I was just like, “f- that” and I got my Coke and got out of there.

Unfortunately the incident made me forget the other thing I wanted to do this morning. I saw Mutt this morning. Mutt is the nickname of (another) one of the crazy-type people that hang out at the station. Yes, I’ve given them all nicknames. Mutt is short for Mutton Chops, though the guy really just has long sideburns, and not true mutton chops. Nonetheless, that was the first name that came to mind in my head, and it stuck. Mutt isn’t too incredibly crazy. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him speak. But he always has this expression on his face, a look of being perpetually lost. He hangs out in the waiting room and just sits. And every time he’s at the station, he has to go and make his “rounds.” You see, Mutt has an OCD habit. He needs to stick his finger in the little door of all the pay-phones to see if there is any change inside. He also checks each of the automated ticket machines. What I wanted to do for amuseument’s sake was to take a dollar bill, and put it in the pay-phone downstairs. It would probably confuse the hell out of him. Though now that I’ve posted that, the amount of people sticking their fingers in pay-phones looking for dollars in White Plains will certainly be on the rise.

And just a note: I’ve been rather slow in processing my photos from last Thursday’s gallery opening at the Transit Museum Annex, but I’ll be posting them later in the day, I swear!

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What happens when you party too hard?

When I got on the train this morning I was a bit tired. Conductor Miguel was collecting tickets and asked me if something was wrong. I told him I was just tired. Jokingly, he told me I shouldn’t have partied so hard last night, and that there of course are always consequences. I wasn’t partying last night, but I am certain that some people were. And I saw the aftermath of it on the platform (oh yes, there was vomit!), and in the waiting room…


It isn’t St. Pat’s anymore… get rid of your beads, your pizza box, and wake up!

Because I am in an amusing mood this morning, I figured I’d post some of my favorite photos of passed out people in the waiting room.

And as a special bonus… here is a picture of a train sleeper and some great ad placement.

If only there was some sort of drink that could possibly wake you up…

Have a great day everyone!

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Enjoying the sun on the platform…

Yesterday was a pretty great day. On the platform in White Plains at around 5:45, the sun was shining. And all the riders that had formerly been hidden in waiting rooms and other dark places, came out to enjoy the sunlight. I was seriously amazed at how many people were out and about. Of course I had to take pictures.

I also passed out a bunch of cards. At times this was really hard for me. I’m not exactly sure what people think I am like based on what I say in this blog, but I can be incredibly shy at times. When you ride on the train you have a routine. I take the same train, and generally sit in the same seat. And you cross paths with other folks that also have routines. When I see these people often, it isn’t too hard to just go up to them and have a chat. But just going up completely cold, to a person I’ve never seen before, and handing them a card. Well it is a little hard. I was deathly afraid someone was going to totally reject me. I will admit I got a lot of funny looks. But there were also people that really enjoyed it. I even encountered the guy who runs the site TrainJotting and gave him a card. This is only the second time that I’ve been recognized by someone because of my blog. Too funny.

As for this morning, it was a little bit chilly, but it is supposed to be another good day. I haven’t seen any St. Patrick’s drunks yet, but I expect to see that tonight. I did, however, see the guy I refer to as Johnny. He was standing in front of the White Plains station and kept asking people walking in and out whether they wanted to see a baby hawk. He kept pointing. “It’s right there, look!” He pointed to the area over the door where the pigeons enjoy roosting. I only saw pigeons, no hawks. I figured he was joking, because after that he said, “There is a leprechaun up there too! And he was this tall,” as he motions to show that the aforementioned leprechaun was about a foot in height. I got Johnny to produce this amateur sketch:

If you happen to see the leprechaun, please let me know.

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Pigeon Trapping in White Plains & Video of Pigeon Riding the Train

Apparently Metro-North has gotten fed up with the pigeon problem in White Plains. Maybe they were embarrassed by the fact that people were videotaping, and blogging about it. Or maybe they were getting a little pissed off that birds that have pea-sized brains were outsmarting them. Either way, last week I noticed something new at the station. Pigeon traps. With all the snow I didn’t really get a chance to post anything about the traps. But I did happen to get into a conversation in the waiting room with a woman about them. Really, the pigeons aren’t harming anything. In fact they are eating the crumbs off the floor, which is more than what some of the cleaning people manage. Their antics are amusing, and Metro-North could probably be spending money worrying about other things, rather than purchasing pigeon traps to put throughout the station. Even if they had the traps on hand, someone had to place them, and that takes time. Time that could have been spent doing other things. Like cleaning the bathrooms? Or going after the annoying people that smoke in the waiting room, or beg for dollars? I’d prefer the pigeons over those.

Now, remember whose blog you are reading. Obviously, I had to put up a sign about this. Someday I may use my talents for the good of man-kind. Today? Not so much.

Here are higher resolution images so you can see all the text:

So far I haven’t seen any pigeons dumb enough to get caught. Traps are located behind the benches in the waiting room, and on top of the ticket machines by the window. Truly the question is, what happens to the pigeons if they are in fact caught? Taking them outside the station and letting them go would do little, they’d probably come right back in. Do they get sent up the river to pigeon prison? Are they gassed by employees in a dark, back room? Your guess is as good as mine. In a few weeks the problem will work itself out anyways, traps or no traps. The weather will be warmer, and the pigeons wont need to be inside. They aren’t dumb. They come inside because of the cold. Hell, I know a lot of crazy people that do that too!

As an unrelated bonus, I figured I would include some amusing video I saw on YouTube, of a pigeon riding public transit. The pigeon’s name is apparently Henry Goodfeathers. Looks like the video was filmed somewhere on the subways of Toronto.

More polite than a lot of human subway passengers

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White Plains: The Game – Dress Up the Crazy Coat Guy!

If you’ve ever been to the White Plains train station a few times, it is highly likely that at some point you’ve encountered the guy that I’ve dubbed “The Crazy Coat Guy”. He’s a fixture of the station, and has been around long before I started commuting through the city of White Plains. He talks to himself, and he’s loud. Depending on the weather, he hangs out in the upstairs and downstairs waiting areas. He has some questionable taste in jewelry, and has been seen wearing big earrings up both sides of his ears. His taste in accessories isn’t much better, as he’s begun a love affair with womens’ purses. He has the craziest haircut, though due to the cold we haven’t seen it for a while. And now, it isn’t all that strange to be wearing a coat due to the temperatures. But come back in July on the hottest day of the year, and you’ll still see him wearing that coat, stalking around the station, and talking to himself.

Without the Coat Guy, I don’t think White Plains would be the same. But seriously, don’t you think he wears some of the craziest stuff? Wouldn’t it be awesome to dress him up yourself, in something more normal? Or something even more crazy? Guess what, now you can! You can dress up the Crazy Coat Guy in this spectacular flash game that I wasted quite a few hours of my life on! Every piece of clothing in the game (with the exception of the iridetheharlemline.com shirt) is something that I’ve actually seen him wear in real life (yes, even that leprechaun hat). So what are you waiting for? Get in there and dress up the Coat Guy! And when you’re done, click the button that says “Go Out” to see him stand on the platform!


A few of my spectacular creations…

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Me and the Pigeons: Dreaming of the Rainbow Over Mount Kisco


I just happened to be looking through my photos on my cell phone, and I came across one that I had forgotten about. It is above. There had been a storm raging that day, but on the ride home it had begun to clear up. I snapped that photo when we were at Mount Kisco station. I was sitting near the door, and the train conductor, Guy, said to me, “come out and look here,” as he was standing on the platform. I ducked out of the train for about two seconds to gaze at it. Then engineer was wondering if he could go, and the conductor in the back, Dave, was like, “Wait, I think they’re looking at the rainbow. Isn’t that nice?” The whole thing took a matter of seconds, and my recollection of the dialogue is probably pretty off, but I smile when I remember that time. And really, I wish it was a nice day with a rainbow outside, instead of the cold and the snow.


I know a lot of people would agree with me. And a few of my avian friends. That would be the pigeons in White Plains. They of course are sick of the cold, and have begun hiding inside the station again. Apparently a recent addition in the past few weeks to the station were spikes added to the inside windows, a former popular spot for the pigeons. Now the pigeons have taken to some other spots, one being the ticket kiosks. I bet the machinery keeps those nice and toasty for the birds. I work for FUJIFILM, and we have photo printing kiosks in places like Walmart and RiteAid. And I’ve heard horror stories from techs that have to go out to service those machines, and have found animals that have made homes inside the machines because of the warmth. I can only imagine, and feel sorry for the poor chap that is going to have to service or clean those ticket machines at some point in the future.


I even have video, hooray!

I was amused though, on the MTA’s new site, they have a list of Frequently Asked Questions. One of which is how they are working to deter pigeons from roosting inside trains and stations. Their answer?

To address the problem of pigeons in our stations, we are testing a new system that drives away pigeons by sending a harmless, low-voltage electric shock through wires installed in areas where they perch.

Yeah, I wonder how that is working out for them… zap.

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White Plains: Welcome to the waiting room…

Around this time of year, the waiting room in White Plains is packed. Nobody wants to wait outside in this cold. And if you like people watching, it is the spot to be. The current “thing” to do is smoke inside. Who wants to smoke outside in the cold? The best way to perform this maneuver is to hide against the wall or window, in an attempt to block anyone from seeing your pipe or cigarette. Nasty smelling chewing tobacco is also popular. Be sure to pull a hood up over yourself and lean over, so nobody can really see what you’re doing.


Nope! Can’t see me! (though we can smell you)

Earlier this morning I saw Johnny walking through the waiting room with a cigarette in hand. Johnny (which is just my nickname for him) is an interesting character. I wouldn’t group him in with some of the other crazies at the station, he seems relatively normal, but he does hang out and smoke with the crazies. And tries to have conversations with them. Which can be interesting, since most of these people are used to only talking to themselves. When not smoking, he also likes to sing. His mind does not retain lyrics well, however, which is where his nickname came about. One amusing morning he kept attempting to sing Johnny B Goode, but after a few words just went back to singing “Go go, Go Johnny go, Go!” over and over again.

Crazy coat guy was hanging about the waiting room yesterday too. With the blue purse. And a questionable looking chain around his neck. Honest to God, I think he stole a hood ornament off of a car, and put it around his neck.

John the dollar man was in the waiting room last night, being questioned by police. And he looked as if he were about to cry. A friend of mine said she actually saw him on a train from Grand Central, walking up the aisle and asking for dollars. It was only a matter of time before somebody complained. Plus White Plains always tends to have a decent size contingent of police officers. And occasionally K-9’s that are probably ready to take a bite out of your leg.

That is about it for crazy stories from the waiting room for today… though I realized that I never mentioned anything about the new year. Honestly I am not much of a fan of holidays. But as the decade came to a close, I thought about some of the “commuting memories” I had of the decade. There were two that stuck out in my mind. Wesley Autrey, the man that saved another man that fell on the subway tracks, and Edwin Gallart, the guy who lost his phone down a Metro-North toilet, and got his arm stuck attempting to retrieve it. Anyone else have any “commuting memories” from the decade? Comment or tweet…

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