Sunday, July 13, 2008

Metropolis Notes

  • The Paris Metro system has a helpful monitor in almost every station letting the Metro-rider know when the next two trains will arrive.
  • The Madrid Metro system has a helpful monitor in every station letting the Metro-rider know when the next train will arrive.
  • The Barcelona Metro system has a helpful monitor--which even counts seconds, although this measure is often inaccurate--in every station letting the Metro-rider know when the next train will arrive.
  • Each bus (!) stop in both Seville and Granada has a helpful monitor letting the bus-rider know when the next bus will arrive.
  • Madrid and Barcelona are the only two cities I've seen which have flat, stretch-out-upon benches in their Metro stations. Most cities avoid this so that people don't sleep on these benches. During my three days in each of Madrid and Barcelona I didn't see anyone sleeping on these relatively comfortable Metro benches, but I did see many people sleeping on benches in the parks of Madrid. (But it was during Siesta time, so maybe it is acceptable for businessmen, doctors, etc., to sleep on benches in the park during this part of the day. Siesta still confuses me.)
  • All the parks in Paris have these green metal chairs, which come in two varieties: 1) normal sitting chairs and 2) normal sitting chairs which are slightly reclined. The cool part about these chairs is that they are not bolted to the ground. Pedestrians are allowed to pick up these chairs and move them about. On a warm end-of-June morning in the Jardin du Luxembourg, the park was fairly crowded, but there were plenty of available chairs. New York City has one or two such parks, including the awesome looking and as yet unvisited by me Paley Park.
  • According to P. Geyh:
  • Defined by originator David Belle as “an art to help you pass any obstacle”, the practice of “parkour” or “free running” constitutes both a mode of movement and a new way of interacting with the urban environment. Parkour was created by Belle (partly in collaboration with his childhood friend Sébastien Foucan) in France in the late 1980s. As seen in the following short video “Rush Hour”, a trailer for BBC One featuring Belle, parkour practitioners (known as “traceurs”), leap, spring, and vault from objects in the urban milieu that are intended to limit movement (walls, curbs, railings, fences) or that unintentionally hamper passage (lampposts, street signs, benches) through the space.
  • I don't know if it would be fair to say that Parkour could only have been conceived of in a place like France--and not, for instance, in New York--because of the presence of several hundred unmoored chairs in Paris's parks, but I'm fairly confident that the ability to personalize (to, in a way, overcome) the urban environement didn't hurt Mr. Belle in this regard.


joshua said...

Siesta makes sense in countries where it's too hot to work in the afternoon (or morning, or evening).

David said...

Free internet at last.

In the spirit of parkour, I'd like to add "flânerie" to the mix. This is an activity in which we engaged frequently, especially in Paris whence this term was created [See for more details.]

It is quite enjoyable and I would highly recommend it to one and all. I think I will go flâner around Jerusalem for a bit.