One of my weekly rituals is my Tuesday night basketball game in Manhattan. I live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, so to get to the game in the Lower East Side, I switch at Atlantic Avenue to either the B or the Q. The B takes me to Grand Street, where I walk to the game; or the Q takes me to Canal, where I switch to the M to Essex. But that’s neither here nor there. (Sorry, bad pun.)
Usually, during the B/Q leg, my head’s buried in a book or my iPod, but the other day, in the section of tunnel right before the train emerged from the Dekalb station into the open air of the Manhattan Bridge, I was idly glancing out the window… and I saw the coolest thing! Flickering by against a background of bright white was what I took to be a complex graffiti mural, something like you used to see in abandoned stations but rarely see in the subways any more. But as I watched the images unfold I realized this was much more than a long string of graffiti. The images moved, morphed, danced, and, at the end, took off in a rocketship! Here’s what it looked like:
(Don’t you love the running commentary?) I did a little Googling and quickly discovered this is a newly restored piece of urban art by Bill Brand called "Masstransiscope". It’s actually a zoetrope — individual paintings (in this case, 228 of them) separated by slits and "animated" by the moving train. Really ingenious — and a technique only over 100 years old, ya big dunce! (It also turns out the art was painted in an abandoned station, "Myrtle Avenue," no longer serviced by the MTA…)
So next time you’re on the Manhattan-bound B or Q, leaving the Dekalb station, keep looking out the right side of the train: you’re in a free Big Apple cartoon treat.