Date: Sunday, 5 October 2003 01:28 PDT
Subject: Greetings from London
Caption for picture:
1. New York street performer and subway
The New York street performer’s song:
2 October 2003 – Day #12
Now that we’ve been in London for a few days, I thought it would be fun to compare the subway systems of New York and London.
First, both subway systems are very extensive. New York has 468 stations as compare to London’s 275 stations. New York subways extend 233 miles versus London with 253. Finally, New York’s subway carries 1.3 Billion passengers as compared to London’s 1 Billion.
Several of the stations in Manhattan on the red line are under construction. The subway train doesn’t stop at these stations. The colored lighting gave them an eerie feel. It took us all a minute to realize that these stations were lost in the September 11 attack of the World Trade Center.
London’s underground trains date back to 1863 (New York’s only go back to the 1930’s). The local government has tried hard to maintain the original character of it’s oldest stations. Examples of this are Baker Street, Paddington Station and King’s Cross. All three have been restored with some new elements tastefully added. The station at London Bridge makes for an interesting contrast. It has been completely redone with a grand modern style (lots of steel and exposed heating vents). Taking the Jubilee line from the London Bridge station requires two long (100 ft. long and 50 ft. deep) escalator rides down.
One thing that’s in common with both cities’ subway station is the number of performers. In New York I noted six performers including a musician playing jazz on a flute, a gospel singer and a rock guitarist. Performers in New York don’t limit themselves to the stations. Some actually ride in the cars with you.
The acts in London’s subways are similar. On the first day in London, we saw performers playing the clarinet, the sax, an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar. While the officials seem to look the other way in New York, those in London actually encourage the performers in two ways. First, there are posters in many of the stations telling about a new program called Carling Live (Carling is the name of a local beer). On the poster, they suggest a small donation to help the performers support themselves. They have also set up designated places for the acts in high traffic area.
The most amazing act we have seen so far was in New York. The performer was dressed as Michael Jackson. He was of African American man with a small build. He wore the classic Michael Jackson black hat, T-shirt and white gloves. I suggested to Sandy and the kids that we wait for the next performance as he sat down on a simple white wooden folding chair. In the background, the song “Billy Jean” played. After a few minutes, a crowd formed. When the crowd reached a critical mass (about 75 to 100), “Michael” motioned those in front of him to move closer. We were in this group but held our position in the back.
Next, “Mr. Jackson” motioned in the same way to first the group on his right and then the group on his left. The front row was no more than 10 feet away from the performer at this point. The sense of anticipation built has the he leaned forward and picked up a hat that sat in front of his chair. He tossed the coins that were in it up into the air (only about 3 or 4) and returned to the chair. Since the next performance seems a long way away, we decided to leave. As we walked away, the tune changed to “Beat It”. While this performer clearly had an attitude, my bet is that he earned more than the others combined. He certainly understood how to create drama. A few seconds later I heard the sound of coins as they were dropped into a hat.