The Third Avenue


I was googling for photos of the Third Avenue El when I came across your recent blog post --- and thought I died and went to heaven! In these days of sanitized politics and the car culture, how rare to hear anything about American Communism and the 3rd Ave 'El! So first and foremost, thanks for writing this great piece!

But when I got to the end of the piece, and found out that you write a book review, I really felt I'd arrived at the pearly gates! So yes, please subscribe me, and tell me where to send the $25 check, OK?

Since you love 'els, and Communist history, I have a novel you'll want to see. Set in 1974, a young Marxist from New York City retreats to the hills of Arkansas to figure out what to do with himself after the movement has collapsed. He looks back at his past, raised in Brooklyn by Communist parents, confronts his crippling sense of guilt, and figures out how to go forward in life.

One of his memories is a great scene where a kindly old motorman lets him drive a train on the Myrtle Avenue 'El. In another flashback, he remembers leading 5 postal workers from a stalled train under the East River, by the light of newspaper torches, during the great black-out of 1965.

--- David R. Yale
Bayside NY

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Hi, David:

I forwarded your letter on to the author of the review, Dr. Phage.

He responded, and asked that I forward to you the following letter:

Dear David Yale:

Thanks for your kind comments on our memoir of NYC, or post-NYC, life. We notice that your address is in Bayside, which was a contender for Money magazine's 2005 rating as the Best Place to Retire. If you agree with this accolade, we might be tempted to retire to your community. But, come to think of it, does the LIRR actually make up for the absence of a subway stop?

We assume from your letter that you too attest to the existence, at one time, of the 3rd Avenue El. So few people remember it these days that we have begun to wonder whether it ever existed, or for that matter whether we exist ourselves. Still another reason for contemplating retirement to Bayside.

If you and your novel really exist, we would be happy to look at it. Just send along a copy, to our department of existentialism and NYC transportation.

--- Dr. Phage

And, David, while I have you on the line, I should tell you that your letter also brought back for me memories of the old El I used to ride back when I was twelve. Since my mother thought that I was perfectly responsible, I was allowed to go everywhere on my own, was in love with the subways and the El. [this was in 1946 or so].

What I recall most about the latter was the sheer number of (very worn) wooden steps you had to mount just to get to the rickety platform, but even more alarming, how the trains coming down the line would sway and rock, and you would wonder how they could possibly stay on the tracks so you could board them.

--- Ed
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