Fluorescent Lights

I have always had a passion for fluorescent lights. Isn't that sick? Who cares?

What can I say? I must have traumatized at an early age. My earliest memory is probably from infancy. I'm lying in what was probably a bassinette, either getting a diaper change, or getting cleaned up after throwing up. I'm not sure. I do know that the dominant colors of the memory are black, white and orange. The orange glow of the bedroom's incandescent lighting was obviously associated with what must've been an unpleasant experience. The white was almost certainly the color of the bassinette and the black must've been the great area beyond the glow of the lamp.

Right off the bat, incandescent lighting has had 2 strikes against it in my ballgame. I became militantly Pro-Fluorescent in my teens. This in time combined with a growing passion for and towards the New York City subway system.

I hated all subway stations still bathed in the sickly dark orange glow of the bare bulb boobies. I attended a high school that I commuted to via the NYC subways daily. This was the early '70's and the transit authority was still in the processs of slowly replacing station lighting along my line. My station, 63rd Drive, already had fluorescents, but several stations I had to pass through did not, including the massively congested Roosevelt Avenue, where I had to transfer to an express.

What joy I felt, an almost unholy, violent stirring deep within my loins when one afternoon, as I exited an express on the way home, I noticed little spikes sticking out of the ceiling at Roosevelt. I quickly deduced what those spikes portended.

Roosevelt Avenue was getting it's fluorescents!

Soon the spikes were emerging from the ceilings of the other stations still held hostage by the murderous incandescents. The roll call of the dim dungeons read like a veritable who's who (or Where's where) of Northwest Queens, NY: Elmhurst Ave; 65th Street, Northern Blvd; 46th Street; Steinway Street, 36th Street; the venerable and hideous Queens Plaza and last AND least, but always my favorite 23rd Street/Ely Avenue.

And I dare anybody to visit Long Island City in Queens and try to find Ely Avenue.

My elation was to be short lived however, and my patience sorely tested. After a full year, the lights still had not been turned on. Each step taken toward the completion of the new lighting was torturously drawn out. It took several months for the main fixtures to be attached to the spikes. Then more months were to pass before the wiring was snaked through the fixtures. More months till the exposed insides of the wired fixtures were sealed and still more months until the fluorescent tubes were finally installed onto the fixtures.

By now I was nearing the end of my 2nd year at high school, and I still couldn't read a newspaper at either of the two transfer points for the express; Roosevelt or Queens Plaza. My alternative was to get up a little earlier and take the local all the way. That had unpleasant repurcussions however. The cavernous station I got off at for school via the local, Lexington & 59th Street, smelled like donuts. Don't get me wrong. At that age I loved donuts. The perfect place to live would've been next door to Duncan Donuts. But when you're exposed to a smell constantly and that smell is all pervasive and all consuming, you tend to get sick of it very quickly. To this day, I can't stand the thought of using that station. I'll bet the smell of those IRT donuts still permeats the place.

I also disliked the local I had to take to Lexington, the "EE" train. Doesn't it sound stupid? The"EE". All the super cool kids in school from the ghetto-blaster neighborhoods got to ride super cool lines, with the best graffiti, like the 4, 5 or 6. I had to take the EE. It sounded like a squeaky voiced woman who just saw a mouse, or a little baby who needed to place a deposit in the potty bank. EE. How I hate those initials to this day! To make things worse, that train line's color was orange. Orange equalled the hated lightbulbs in the dungeon stations. I always preferred the F express. It was so easy to nickname the F..k train. The E (single E) line was also preferable, since it's color scheme at the time was sky blue, symbolic I suppose of fluorescent lights. Even the F's color, mauve, could be construed as representing the warm tinted fluorescents.

Finally the new lights started coming on, first at 23rd and Ely if my memory serves me right. I really don't remember the order in which Roosevelt went "fluorescently on-line". I was too interested in girls, and my lack of success with them, by then. But I did anxiously await everyday to see if the lights were finally lit. In the absense of an acceptable sex life, it was something to look forward to.

It was incredible how different the tiles on the station walls looked after the lighting changed. Before the fluorescents, you'd have thought the walls were dark yellow. Actually, YOU probably wouldn't have given it any thought. Only I would ponder such a matter.

I went through the same wrenching wait for fluorescents when I moved to Brooklyn, along the F train route. All the stations south of Jay Street, were bastions of "Bulbism". Within a couple of years, however, the tell tale spikes began to sprout from the ceilings. But the delays that accompanied this group of lights put the Queens job to shame.

I swear, there is very little, if anything, that the MTA in NY can do well. In fact the only thing they can do well is screw up. They didn't have the new lights on at Bergen Street more than a couple of days, when they shut them off. it's bad enough never knowing whether a station will be redone with new lighting, but it is 5 times as traumatic to see a station with the new lights on, only to have those lights RIPPED away again. It was so cruel. They didn't come back on for months. Every day I'd peer hopefully and longingly out the train window as we approached Bergen. And every day I'd see the same pitiful sight. The lifeless gray unlit fluorescents hanging in shaded limbo, while the hideous old bare bulbs continued to hold court.

Eventually the entire line was relit successfully. Yea TA! It was well into the "80's until the elevated stations were done.

My Fluorescent fixation (fixturation?) extends to mercury vapor streetlights. I have every intention of enlightening you about these entities.

This however, is the subject of another passion and I do not like when one passion intrudes on another's turf. My passions can be very territorial.

Needless to say, I didn't tolerate the existence of my incandescent light fixture in the kitchen of my first apartment, for too long. Soon after moving in, I put up a Circle-line fixture. Damn thing has never hung straight and my kitchen wallpaper is yellow, robbing me of the chance to see the full effects of white light on the walls.

Incandescents have even taken over my dreams, where I wake up and can't turn the lights on.

If only I had the capital to finance movies. I've already planned a series of horror movies based on fluorescent lighting.

  1. "Fluorescent"
  2. "Fluorescent II- The Sequel&quot: The Buzz is Back;
  3. "Fluorescent III. Battle of the Bulbs"
  4. "Fluorescent IV- Terror in the Tubes"
  5. "Fluorescent V- The Glow Goes On"
  6. "Fluorescent VI-Battle of the Ballasts"
  7. "Fluorescent VII. Vapor Vengeance"
  8. "Fluorescent VIII. The Bulbs Strike Back"
  9. "Fluorescent IX. The Final Ballast"
  10. "Fluorescent X. The Gas Chamber"
  11. "Fluorescent XI. Lights Out".