For the last several years, the Rails Player-of-the-Year award has gone to the most dramatic actor on the years political stage. For reasons dubiously heroic, and at times heroically dubious, the honorees have included the late John Murtha and Hugo Chávez, and the very much alive Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.
Almost a century ago, in 1915, thousands of immigrant peddlers, forerunners of todays street vendors, marched through Brownsville to air their grievances. Their placards and banners raised their concerns: We Demand Our Right to the City Streets; Shall We Go Out and Steal?; Down with Fines.
Get yourself together, says Ted Hamm, longstanding editor of the Brooklyn Rail. Whats wrong with you? Are you high? Theyre gonna frisk you. Theres gonna be metal detectors. Make sure you dont have anything in your pockets to get us in trouble.
Ones subway stop forms a core part of everyday identity. Those traveling to the final stations on the Brooklyn lines tend to feel both pride and dread.