Friday, September 03, 2010

25 years ago today continues...

So I recently discussed my entering the Sloane House "dorms", The day that my life had changed. But there is more to the story. I had spent 5 and half days of solid partying at Sloane House over the extended Labor Day weekend of 1985. I would meet and greet most of the students who live on the two and one half floors of that YMCA on 34th street and 9th avenue. I had a few outings courtesy of our RAs in exploring Manhattan and experiencing first hand how long the blocks were between the avenues of the borough, Went comic book shopping with gusto in terrific comic stores. I personally experienced several things I had not experienced in my life that weekend. It was terrific, One big party.

But Tuesday September 3rd, 1985 was the day when classes started, Time to get serious, Time to meet my teachers, Time to knuckle down.

Yeah right.

Funny enough, That first day of class was an experience unique from my first days at Sloane House. Now, Our freshman year was our "foundation" year in which all freshmen would take the same curriculum of standard art classes with some mandatory classes in English and Art history thrown in. That Tuesday my curriculum set up had a painting class with Frank Roth at 9am-3pm and Art History later with Ms. Ann Wooster(?) These classes took place in a rented building that also housed a Planned Parenthood.

I was mailed a sheet of paper with the list of art supplies I needed to get for my classes and I still needed to get two more tubes of oil paints for Roth's class. The good news was that there was an art class next to SVA's main building. The bad news was that the tubes of paint cost 7 bucks each which meant I had little money for food for the rest of the week.

At the store I ran into a girl named Katie and a guy named Shaun. Both were in the same class set up as me, Both lived in Sloane House but I had not met over that weekend. I found it funny that none of the freshmen I HAD met at Sloane House had my foundation classes and weirder still was that the people I met in the art store were the only ones in my class that lived in Sloane House. I soon found out the rest of my class of about 18 people had commuted to class.

About a third commuted from either Jersey and Westchester, The rest were from the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn complete with the New Yawk attitude that comes with it.

I must have came across as a very naive fair skinned boy to these classmates. Now at Sloane House I hung out with a bunch of people from Upstate New York, Downstate New Jersey and the rest of the globe reminiscent of the famous Saul Steinberg cover to the New Yorker. I thought I was streetwise in the week I was at Sloane House. I got schooled otherwise pretty quickly.

For one thing, I was intimidated by many of the women who were in my class, even the ones I had a crush on. they were strong willed, tough, aggressive and loved to fuck with my fragile egg shelled mind. Many of the guys seemed tough to me too, After all a few of them grew up in Brooklyn. Not 21st century boutique Brooklyn but 1980s Brooklyn. I decided to buddy up with two of them. They loved my innocence, My wide eyed eagerness, And the fact I was easily fooled by tall tales.

There was others in the class. A giant woman who reminded me of Big Barda from DC comics, Another one who went by one letter as her name, A Doctor Who fanatic, An effete stuck up snob who constantly had a cigarette in his fingers, The Woman who had a crush on him, A guy who expressed homophobic hatred towards him who would eventually become his boyfriend, A jovial African American guy who marveled at my ignorance of 1980s street lingo, A guy with an impressive zebra like mullet A lovely black woman who I didn't believe was a Led Zeppelin fanatic (That was important to me), Ann Bancroft's niece, Three women I had major crushes on, and Millie (nuff said)

Now, We're gathering around with a circle of easels finding a spot around a platform. Our gruff teacher, Mr. Roth snapped at us that our model was ready and I looked up to a scary sight.

Now, I knew our classes would involve drawing nudes. I wasn't a prude but I was shy. However, I was expecting the model to be more like a struggling young singer from Detroit who didn't shave her arm pits. Skinny, young and hopefully cute. My first model on the other hand involved a middle aged, Overweight, saggy and quite a bit haggy. AND for a loop. And this class was gonna be for SIX hours! That's EIGHT times the length of my art classes back in high school!

oh, my.

I survived that class but came close to not surviving the art history class that followed it. It was a class featuring slide shows of art history taught by a wry but boring woman named Ms. Wooster (?). I had a hard time staying awake in that dark crowded class. Most of the women in our class adored her but I just found her to be too boring to increase my interest in art history.

I was really tired after that first day but of course not too tired to party at Sloane House. That day twenty five years ago I formed a clique that I called my SVA clique which was distinct from my soon to be formed Sloane House clique. I would keep in touch with my Sloane House clique but would lose complete touch with my freshmen SVA clique when the 90s came and would not re-establish touch with almost any of them until facebook came along.

So I ask those who were there, What do you remember from that first day in Frank Roth's class at SVA? And those who weren't what was your day like?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Effin' Metrocard.

I curse the day the day the New York Subway System and the Path train system of New Jersey decided to adopt the Metrocard system.

You see, It was suppose to be a convenient and efficient way to get around the public transportation of NYC. I suppose if you're a daily user and you have established a routine in the card usage, It works out fine. However, For first time users it's a nightmare. Even for those of us who use it occasionally. It is a pain in the ass and hardly "convenient" It's got to be the most inconvenient public transportation payment system on earth. The BART of San Francisco is close but its complication has more to do with how to figure out how much to pay in where you go.

Ahhh, But in the old days, We had a token system in NYC and a cash setup on the PATH line. The token could be purchased at every subway station and used on both buses and trains. You knew exactly how much fare you had merely by taking a quick glance at how many tokens were in your pocket. You knew way before you entered a subway station whether you needed to buy more tokens.

With the Metrocard it's a mystery. You have to get rejected by the turnstiles after swiping five times in order to figure out how much fare you have left on the card. Now, you have to go to a token attendant (if you can find one) to replenish it. You can either put in the exact amount needed to get you through the day but that might involve a little quick math figuring out how much you need to pay into the card minus the amount that is left in the card. Or you can opt to pay a exact dollar amount to move things faster for the attendant because so much of their time is now wasted explaining how the Metrocard system works to neophytes who might not be able to speak clear enough English or Spanish to penetrate the thick walls of the toll booths.

Metrocard's solution to the toll attendants is to set up Metrocard machines in all the stations. Sometimes there is as many as five machines in the station. Most of the time you can't put in the exact amount needed to fill your card. It'll only take money to the nearest dollar. That is, If it'll take a dollar. Some machines only take coins but still will take it to the nearest dollar.

Sometimes you get a machine that takes only one time only round trips. This is okay unless you have only 3 dollars in cash and the fare is $3.50 and you have an old card with 75 cents left in it that the machine won't accept.

Some machines will only take take cash, Some only credit, Whoa behold if you choose the wrong machine.

Now some machines will give you a card to fill in whatever amount you want but WON'T refill the card you already have. So now you're stuck with two cards with some of the fare on it. The turnstiles will NOT let you use two cards each short of fare but combined would get you a train ride.

So, you can conceivably come across 5 machines at a PATH station each with a unique quirk and NOT have a suitable combination to get you a train ride. And yet in your pocket, You have the means to get you that ride.

Yep, I would curse the day that NYC went to the Metrocard system except I don't know what day that was, I was living in Seattle at the time.