The Second Avenue subway line has been something of a mythological concept for so long that its recent realization has left many frankly amazed, especially in an era when bad news seems to be the perpetual order of the day. I haven't seen it yet, but I am genuinely amped to check it out. I spotted something today, meanwhile, that really made me curious about it.
When I lived on East 86th Street between York Avenue and East End in the mid-80's to the mid-90's, a subway at Second Avenue would have been an absolute dream come true. The trek from York Avenue to Lex to hop on the congested 6 train was always a time-consuming hassle. I wouldn't have cared how clean the station was or what it looked like. That would have just been icing on the cake.
Today, however, I learned that the icing on this particular slice of that cake boasts a feature near to my interest. Thanks to a link on Facebook from my comrade Chung Wong, I found out that the newly opened Q station on East 86th and Second Avenue boasts a giant portrait by Chuck Close of the late great Lou Reed. Here's the photo in question.
Now, far be it from me to ever be an insufferable pedantic, but the placement of this homage struck me as odd. I mean, for a start, Lou originally hailed from Brooklyn before moving to Freeport, Long Island. When Lou did reside in Manhattan, I don't believe he ever lived -- much less voluntarily travelled -- anywhere north of Union Square (yes, I realize Lexington Avenue and 125th Street might have been an exception). What, then, does Lou have to do with a subway station in the veritable heart of Yorkville on the Upper East Side?
The answer is probably nothing. Lou's endearingly cheerless mug was invariably placed there semi-arbitrarily via the rationale that he embodies all things NYC.
Then, however, I remembered a palpable Yorkville connection.
I believe it long existed as a widely circulated bootleg before it was included on the deluxe re-release of White Light/White Heat in 2013, but there is a recording of the mighty Velvet Underground -- arguably the quintessential downtown band -- playing in the comparatively whisper-quiet, urban backwater of Yorkville in April of 1967. Performing in the unlikely environs of a gymnasium, the Velvets plowed through a six-song set that included such faves as "Sister Ray' and the afore-alluded "Waiting for the Man." While not exactly a stone's throw from the site of Lou's new shrine-of-sorts, this performance went down on East 71st Street between First and York Avenues.
Maybe the portrait is at least on the downtown side of the station?
Tune In, Turn On & Drop Out, Straphangers....