Thursday, April 15, 2010

Subways Are for Peeing

I have always hated the subways. Whenever I complain about them, someone inevitably says something like “well they get you where you have to go.” True, but I still hate them. When I lived in Manhattan, in Chelsea before it was ruined, I would walk practically everywhere if at all possible to avoid taking the subway but now that I live in Brooklyn its the subways. When I was growing up in Brooklyn we lived not far from the dirty noisy ugly elevated trains or the El as native New Yorkers call them. At one time there were El’s all over Manhattan on 3rd & 6th avenues throwing their darkness along the avenues. Both were torn down in the 50’s, but this could never happen in Brooklyn or the other outer boroughs, as these els are the mode of transportation for thousands of people. As a kid standing on the platform of our Fort Hamilton Parkway el. station I could see the top of The Empire State Building beckoning me, and at 19 I finally left the Brooklyn to live in the city itself. I once had a friend who loved the subway so much that he would ride the thing just for the pleasure of the ride, and even now when he comes back for a visit from the small town in the mid-west where he now lives he’ll spend one day riding the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again. He keeps a small notebook and he jots down his impressions to record on his blog when he gets back home. I’ve never gotten lost on the subway, and I’ve never been mugged although when a teenager, coming back from a night class at The School Of Visual Arts, some black kid accosted me near the token turnstile on 23 street and demanded that I give him some money, when I refused he slapped me across the face, stunning me and the girl I was with. Its so easy to get disgusted with humanity when riding the beast, (that was the nickname in the 70’s of the No. 1 train, because it was so dangerous), but I still use that name to describe the subway in general terms. In the early 1980’s the subways were covered in grit and graffiti, some intellectuals and art people finding them brilliant and colorful. My enjoyment of these moving murals depended on the mood I was in. On the subway there are the litter bugs, who are too lazy to take their McDonald‘s trash with them when they leave the car and I sometimes am so disgusted with them and their trash that I pick it up myself and throw it away when I get off. I shudder to think what their apartments must look like. Then there are the guys who play with themselves without any fear or shame, the stupid teenagers who blast their ipods into their ears, so loud that you can make out the thump thump thump of the songs. Awful music abounds on the train as we natives sometimes refer to the subway. We also have live music at times. The small roving Mariachi bands and the Doo-wop singers that I would gladly give $1.00 to if they just shut the fuck up. The tourists love them. Or how about the women who think the subway is their own private bathrooms, as they slap make-up on their faces, comb out their hair, trim their nails, apply their eye makeup, and balance a hot cup of coffee on their laps. I await the day when one of them pokes out an eye as the subway comes to a screeching halt at the city hall station. Then there are the pigs who sit across from me picking their noses or coughing without covering their mouths. I will move to the other side of the car when one of these creatures sits near or next to me. I make sure to always have something to read and a pair of sunglasses so I can block out the messy masses around me and lots of sanitizing gel. In the 50’s and early 60’s the subways were not air conditioned and the only relief were those slow turning fans that just moved the heat and sweat around. To this day I wonder how we did it. People use to smoke on the subways and in the winter when it was freezing cold to stand out on the exposed platforms people would wait downstairs near the big old pot belly stoves. My uncle, who lived with us, would always have burns on the back of this overcoat from standing to close to the stove while he waited and waited for his train to come. One cold snowy late night as I waited for a train, and I was totally alone on the elevated platform I decided to give myself a quick jerk, dangerous and stupid but I sometimes did stupid and dangerous things back when I was 18. I was wearing just a thin ugly raincoat because my winter coat had been stolen out of a friend’s car. I had left it in the trunk along with other coats because we were going to a frat party and thought the best and safest place to leave them were in his trunk but some thief in the night probably saw us, and when we went to retrieve them we found the trunk open and our coats gone. My mother refused to buy me a new one; she probably had her reasons, most likely no money. “Wear your raincoat, and maybe next time you’ll be more careful.” So I wore this thin ugly thing all winter, and stained it with my baby batter while waiting for the subway that snowy cold night no doubt waiting for the train that would take me to my sister’s house where I sometimes escaped to on late nights to get away from my father’s craziness. Try as I might I could not get the stain off the raincoat, and walked around all winter with this mark from my sexual indiscretion. “What’s that stain on your raincoat?” My mother asked one morning. “Oh I got some glue on it in art class.” “Art class? Since when do you wear your raincoat in art class? “We had no heat that day” I said and I left it and that, and she left it at that. My last indiscretion on the subway was a few years back when I was coming home from Manhattan after an afternoon with my friend Peter. When I got on the subway at Union Sq. I didn’t have to pee, but as we approached Brooklyn the need to drain my lizard became so bad and sudden that I knew if I didn’t get off the train I would pee my pants. So when we pulled into Court Street, I got off. Oh please let there be no one on the platform and unbelievably I was alone. I knew I wouldn’t be alone for long so I quickly walked to the very edge of the platform and let loose of what seemed like a barrel of piss. Oh I felt bad; I had never done such a thing before and offered up an apology to the Court St. Station. “Oh Court Street station please forgive me for what I did today, and I promise I will never dirty your tracks with my urine ever again.”


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