Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Yawk Today: Midnight Train

When I got on the L train at Lorimer, I noticed that the guy sitting next to the door was curled over in a peculiar way. He looked like the usual downwardly mobile Bushwick denizen: plaid jacket, dark jeans, broad belt with large silver buckle. I liked his curly light brown hair and in other circumstances, I might have found him attractive. But his face was rather grey and he definitely did not look well. He looked harmless enough, though, so I sat one seat over from him.

As the train careened through the tunnel towards Bedford station, his equilibrium seemed to get worse. He leaned over so far that I thought his head might end up on my lap. But at the last moment, he straightened himself up with a grunt. I exchanged glances of amusement with the girl across the aisle. After a moment, he began to lean over again. This time, his mouth opened slightly and a thick strand of drool dangled like a white thread and slowly dropped to the floor.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
His bloodshot blue eyes opened for a moment and he mumbled, "I'm okay."
"He's just drunk," the girl on the other side of the train said. 
The guy attempted to stand up and as he did so, he reached toward the seat as if to pick something up. Whatever this invisible item was, it was apparently wrapped around the metal arm rest.
"I think he's a little more than just drunk," I observed to the girl. 
The guy was now leaning against the door of the subway. Everyone was casting furtive glances at him, in that New York kind of way, not sure if we ought to ignore him or do something about him, since he looked like he might keel over or start vomiting or both. Then water started to cascade out of his pants, darkening the denim of his jeans. It was so surreal that it took me a moment to realize that he was urinating. So much urine poured out of him, it created a little lake that promptly began to form finger-like rivulets. Everyone hopped out of the way to avoid the urine that was now spreading throughout the train car. The guy continued to lean on the door, unaware that he had peed on himself.

He finally sat himself down again as I got off the train at Union Square. I wondered if I should find the conductor as I headed toward the stairway for the N, R and Q trains. But the train had already started off.

In the area at the foot of the stairs, a blond tattooed busker was packing up. I recognized him as Morgan O'Kane, a remarkable banjo player whom I've seen performing at a few places in Brooklyn. He was in the middle of a conversation with another busker, one of those black guys that drum on plaster buckets.
"I like this area," O'Kane was saying.
"Yeah," the drummer said, "It's near the ky... the key... what are these things called?"
"Right, kiosk," the drummer nodded, "Sounds Japanese, don't it?"
He offered O'Kane an enormous bag of trail mix.
"You want some? I only eat the peanuts out of these."
"Sure," O'Kane said. 
The offering and the acceptance of the trail mix seemed to seal the deal. O'Kane opened up his banjo case and cleared out the money that was already in it. The two of them sat down to play together in a weird and wild amalgamation of Appalachia and inner city that instantly drew a crowd. I watched until I saw the guys that had congregated on the stairs making tracks. Throwing a dollar in the banjo case, I hurried upstairs to catch the arriving train.

NYC, it's an adventure just getting home. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Yawk Today: A Fight on a Rainy Day

I've been spending much of this week with a friend who just went through a surgical procedure. She lives in Williamsburg and I usually don't mind spending time here, getting out of my usual zone and seeing what's new here. Today, however, I woke up to pouring rain, rather chagrined I was on the Brooklyn side of the river. I had promised to run an errand in the East Village for another friend in Europe. Not the good day for it. The cat curled up contentedly in the corner seemed to have the best idea for what to do on such a wet afternoon. But after fixing us a nice frittata and a strong cup of joe, I decided to go and get the errand over with.

I was okay with this decision during the half mile trek to the L train, but on the half mile trek down Avenue B, I started to grumble about slogging out in the rain. My ancient Persian Lamb coat, usually impervious to weather, was soaking wet by then. I was thinking about poor sheep out grazing in the rain and how they must feel. The fur had absorbed so much rain, it felt five pounds heavier. I could feel the damp down onto my arms.

So after the errand, I decide to catch a cab back. There were no cabs on Avenue B but on Houston, I manage to flag down a nice cabbie. I'm always curious about cabbies and I have a habit of reading their names on that little card in the dividing window. Once, I hailed a guy whose name was Man Fuk Sun. Another time, I was in the chariot of a certain Primitivo de la Cruz. And a friend once regaled me with a story about a cabbie who's name was Asswipe. Trying not to laugh and just to hear it said aloud, he asked that cab driver, "What's your name sir?" The cab driver responded jovially, "As-WEE-peh!"

Well, my cabbie didn't have such a colorful name. But it was a little unusual that he had Schneider for a last name since he's black. I wondered in my mind if Jewish people owned slaves way back when? Or did he come by the name Schneider in another way? Adoption?

Anyway, Schneider and me had a quiet ride, talked a little about the weather. There was a bottleneck when we got off the bridge. Nothing major and it just about $10 to get back to the 'Burg. But then half a block from my destination, a black car with California plates was stopped in the middle of the street. Two Latino guys were in front of the community garden having a serious argument. I couldn't hear what was going on. Schneider and I surmised that perhaps the black car had been swiped by another car? Other cars stalled behind us and started honking.

Then a large white guy with orange hair in an orange hoodie emerges from the drivers seat of the black car.  Oh, wait, so the Latino guy wasn't behind the wheel?

"C'mon, let's go!" Orange says to his friend on the street, who at that moment, tears open his raincoat Superman-style and drops it onto the ground, revealing a tie-dye tee shirt. He raises his fists and challenges the other guy, "You wanna fight?"

There's a push-shove brawl in the rain. Now the cars really are honking. The meter keeps ticking. My cabbie curses. I roll down the window and call out to the orange hair guy, "Can't you just pull the car over to the side so we can get by?" Orange hair guy glances at me but ignores my request, continuing to whine at his friend, "Get in the car!" The chorus of car honking gets louder and louder. I am getting a bit worked up, "Fucking pull over to the side, man!" Finally, Orange gets back in the car and roars off down the street, leaving his buddy still fighting in the rain.

New York, man. Good day to stay in.

Man, that fight cost me an extra $3 on the meter.