On to Brooklyn

21 January, 2011

After a fund-raising party on the Lower East Side, I tromped down the stairs of the Delancy St subway station just as an F train was pulling out of the station. That’s been my luck these days.

A group of girls – most of them a little heavy but wearing skin tight jeans regardless, all wearing too much make-up – approached me. The seeming leader of the pack called to me from down the platform. “Excuse me,” she said. “How can we get to Brooklyn, Bay Ridge?” She named it as though it was roll-call, or she was reading an entry in the phonebook.

“I’m not sure which train goes there, actually,” I replied, as there’s a good-sized blindspot in my mental map of Brooklyn between Kensington and Coney Island.

“But could you tell us,” another girl insisted, “like, how to just get to Brooklyn?”

I began to tell them that they were on a Brooklyn-bound platform, and that they had just gotten off a Brooklyn-bound train, when the first girl interrupted, addressing her mate. “No, there’s, like, two different Brooklyns.”

“Actually,” I said, unable to hide a smirk. “There are a lot of different Brooklyns.”

Blank stares from the Lost Girls.

Silence.

“I think there’s a map over there,” I offered. They were walking away, issuing half-assed “Thanks” over their shoulders before my sentence had even left my lips.

Three minutes later, they joined me again on the platform, en route, hopefully, to Brooklyn-comma-Bay Ridge.

God-speed, girls. Good luck.

x

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For a few years now, when romance manages to find its way to me through the muck and mire of my maligned stars, it always seems to happen in the late fall (with very few exceptions). Romance, of course, is a pretty broad term, and could be further expanded to denote “any happening which results in me having a story about a guy.” But we’ll go with it, and perhaps consider revising the use of the word “guy” there…

November 2010 has fallen right in line with the past few years, bringing with it something that could turn out to be a relationfling and/or relationthing and is certainly a much-needed distraction. But the planets must be aligning in amorous trajectories; take a look at the romantic opportunities that have come my way!

Exhibit #1:  “A Very Nice Man Of Love”

Yesterday, I received this email in my junk mail folder. How dare you, Spam Filter, censor this message and endeavor to deprive me of “true love Matter’s A Lot.”??

How Are you today? And How About your Health? I Hope you Are fine
Well, My Name Is Miss Lizy Weah, I am looking for A Very Nice Man Of Love,
Caring, Honest, Matured, Understanding, And Of Good Character, then
After Going to your Profile on google. I Pick Interest In you, So I Will Like
you to Write Me On My E-mail Address ( lizyweah@hotmail.com )
for Me to tell you More About My Self, And As Well Give you My Pictures
Because Am really Looking for A Serious Relationship With you.Remember
that Age,Distance,Color,language,or Religion Doesn’t Matter,but true
love Matter’s A Lot .My Address Is ( lizyweah@hotmail.com ).
Thanks
Yours New Friend
Lizy.

Oh, my. Where to start? The grammar alone has provided a few hours’ worth of entertainment for a geek like me, as capitalization issues haven’t seen this much action since e.e. cummings unknowingly created beat-twee (a new coinage by yours truly. I think it could have some staying power… thoughts?). Then, of course, there’s the content itself: the random and blatant plea for love. She Pick Interest In me, based on the falsity that public profiles as such even exist on Google. What strikes me is the fact that unlike so many other messages that wind up in the junk mail folder, Lizy here hasn’t bothered to ask for money (not outright, anyway), nor is she pushing illegal pharmaceutical knock-offs. She just wants A Serious Relationship With me. There’s a commercial on the air lately that says that 1 in 5 relationships these days begin online. Perhaps if Lizy is flexible enough (and it seems she just might be) to include “gender” to her list of things that Don’t Matter, she can become more than just Mines New Friend. (Internet protocol might dictate that I should have deleted her email address from my copying-and-pasting of her message, but, let’s face it, spam is spam and love is cruel that way.)

Exhibit #2: But what percentage of relationships start on the subway?

After a laaaaaaaaate night last night with some new old friends who seemingly have bionic livers, I boarded the subway this morning rather bleary-eyed for my weekly head-shrinking session. The fastest way to the Upper West Side office is to hop 3 different trains (fastest, of course, only if they come in rapid succession, which maybe happens half the time). Having begun on the F local, I took the A express and transferred again to the C local for the last 3 stops of the journey. I took an end seat on the old hard plastic gray bench of the C train, next to a portly black woman, probably around 40 years old, very neatly dressed in a black wool coat and a scarf that had something sparkly on it. Being hungover and significantly sleep-deprived, I noted this, but needed to concentrate my attention on my iPhone sudoku game, in which I was embarrassing myself by needing an extra 4 minutes from my usual time to complete the puzzle. Ubiquitous little white earbuds fed soothing indie pop into my head and also functioned as anti-social attention-blockers.

“Excuse me,” the woman with the sparkly scarf said.

I turned to look at her, and considered removing my MTA-issued scowl the way some people might remove a hat upon walking inside. (I think I decided against it.) Still, I made eye contact as a response to her request for attention.

“Would you like to exchange phone numbers?” she quietly and rather politely inquired.

Confused, I immediately gave her the benefit of the doubt that the music I was listening to had obstructed what she had really said. I tried to run through a few alternates of what she could have spoken, but all I could come up with was “Maybe she said, ‘Do  you want to exchange phones?’ because she sees mine and it clearly has a fun sudoku game on it.” But I wanted to exchange phones even less than I wanted to exchange phone numbers.

So I shook my head “no.”

She gave a slight nod, then said “OK.”

She turned her gaze to straight ahead, and I returned to the game I was losing to myself.

Was she, like Lizy, simply looking for Love wherever she might find it? Could she have had any other motivation in asking for my phone number? Is it that she simply wanted a new friend to play sudoku with? Is there a vacancy for puffy-eyed, scowl-wearing brunettes in her life that she’s trying to fill? Does my very aura seem so interesting and attractive that she simply needed to see me again? Was she conducting a social experiment, and I’m going to read about my response in “New York” Magazine next month? Did she like the way I smelled? (Thank you, cloak of body spray, for obscuring last night’s debauchery.) Should I have exchanged numbers just because that was the most random thing that might happen to me for a while? (Last time I embraced something because it was entirely random, I wound up on a nationally syndicated TV talkshow. No, irony of that happening to this blogger is not lost.) Should I have agreed to it because now I’ll never know what she really wanted with me? I hope I didn’t just throw away the winning lottery ticket.

Exhibit #3: A low-key 1st-and-a-half date in which, thankfully, no declarations of love were made.

I wonder if I should tell this new-guy-of-note that he is facing major competition for my affection, but the fact that he at least belongs to the gender that I am attracted to is situating as the forerunner of this race. Last night, we sat through a ridiculously bad-but-free movie that was filled with unnecessary nudity and sex scenes – plenty awkward for a 1st-and-a-half date, as you can’t help but wonder if you’ll ever know that kind of intimacy with the fellow sitting next to you, and what it might be like. Still, it was nice that we thought the same snarky and cynical thoughts about the action on screen, freely commenting on them to each other, and whispering “Me too!” throughout the film. Sarcasm is often the best riposte to sexiness.

To protect against second-rate piracy of the second-rate film, the people who organized the screening held everyone’s cell phone for the movie, which was rather totalitarian and useless, seeing as how lame the movie was (there’s nothing one could get from the two-hour movie that they couldn’t have gotten from watching the two-minute trailer). But the cell phone requisition made meeting up with my date in the crowded theater a bit of a to-do, as I sent no less than four text messages instructing him on how to find me, then revising that plan, then revising the revision, then changing the plan altogether. That was before I realized I could hand over my cell phone, get seats and then just wait for him in the lobby – we ultimately met up without a hitch.

The highlight of the movie-going experience was when someone in the audience shouted “Get her a doctor!” We thought that she had somehow managed to get really into the movie, and was shouting to the apathetic characters on screen – but it quickly became apparent that there was someone in the audience who required urgent medical attention. A theater full of would-be do-gooder New Yorkers, myself and my date included, jumped to their feet and reached into their purses and pockets… but since everyone’s cell phone had been confiscated, no one was able to call for help.

Cell phones: They’re not just for sub-par film piracy anymore.

They’re for receiving email love propositions, exchanging phone numbers with random women on the subway, and, yes, legitimate and necessary communication – such as making calls to 911.  Cell phones now seem as integral to my love life as the falling leaves and imminent winter.

x

It’d be hypocritical for me to say that look down on all subway eating.  I’ve been known to enjoy a granola bar or banana in transit every now and then (wrappers and peels, of course, come with me until I find a trash can).

But the recent offenses that I’ve witnessed lately are entirely inexcusable.

Exhibit A:   A curvaceous woman eating – nay – sucking on BBQ chicken wings.  With dipping sauce.  Her D-cup boobs dangled out of a one-piece jumpsuit halter-top meant for Bs at the very most.  The smell was overwhelmingly nauseating.  There is one place for the smell of BBQ wings, and that is at a bar.  A mile underground on a closed subway car is absolutely inappropriate.  And the slurping suckle as she ingested every last ounce of flesh and sauce from the bone is not a sound that will soon be forgotten, most tragically.

Exhibit B:  Subway cars are subway cars.  Nail salons are nail salons.  Just as you would never enter a manicurist’s hoping it would take you to Coney Island, similarly, you should never enter a subway with the intent of trimming your nails.  This is the most heinous of subway offenses, the one punishable, if you ask me, by public flogging at least.  I’ve found that the East Broadway crowd on the F train is the most common perpetrator, if you know what I mean (lest this blog be considered ethnically insensitive).  Nails on a chalk-board is as tranquil as waves on a beach compared to the blood-curdling CLIP CLIP CLIP of these deranged riders.  At least twice, I’ve had to move myself to the other end of a subway car, or switch cars altogether, to avoid losing my lunch due to the horrendous noise.

Exhibit C:  The loud and foul-mouthed butch who sat next to me on the subway yesterday, sucking the sunflower seeds dry before spit-spit-spitting them out – ptooey! ptooey! – onto the floor of the subway car.  If she were a big fat Israeli man, and we were in Tel Aviv, I would have less of a case, since I would obviously be the only person not sucking and spitting sunflower seeds.  But we were on the A train, and her sunflower discards were coming awfully close to my sandaled feet.  And – again – the noise, the horrible noise!  Sucking through her teeth when she wasn’t busy cursing the fact that she would have to walk to her destination if she chose to smoke a cigarette.  She put an unlit cigarette into her mouth before the train pulled into the station; but that didn’t stop her from pulling those godforsaken sunflower seeds out of her hoodie pocket and popping them in, then popping them out.   I got home and needed to shower.

If I were Dante,  chicken-wing slut would share a cirlce of hell with the a-holes that endlessly clip their nails on the subway.  In this level of hell, the nail-clippers would all have chicken claws, no opposable thumbs to operate a nail-trimming device, and the walking Hooters would be trapped in an over-sized t-shirt, forced to munch on nail-clippings, with nary a pot of dipping sauce in sight.  All of this would take place under a shower of sunflower seed shells, being eternally spat out by the sunflower seed bandit, who would be drowning in a pool of BBQ dipping sauce and cigarette smoke.

If only…

“F” stands for …

25 March, 2009

Brooklyn’s beloved old F Train means a lot of things to a lot of people.   For several years, while I was living at the 15th Street/Prospect Park stop, near Bartel Pritchard Square (which is really a circle), “F” stood for “FUCKING F TRAIN!!!” commonly overheard – and grumbled – as I would walk home 6 blocks and 2 avenues whenever the train felt like running local, which was fairly often.

My subsequent move to Carroll Gardens and, I believe, a ramped up effort on the part of the Metropoloitan Transit Authority, led me to have a kinder opinion of the dear old F train, which, like a friend you’ve known too long to fight with, holds a sentimental and almost-warm place in my heart.

Imagine the overwhelming mess of feelings, then, when, last night, a brand-spankin’ shiny new F train came rolling in to the Carroll Street station, it’s red LCD “F” shining like a beacon into the age of modernity.  The yellow fluorescent lights of yesterday’s F train was replaced by the white/blue glow of technology, complimented by a multicolored LCD map of where we are going and how long it will take us to get there.  Our derrières took in the smooth gray plastic seats.  The lack of screeching wheels was nearly deafening. Sensory overload.  New F train, I thought.  I feel like I do not know you at all.

Today, though, I can’t shake the old adage of If it ain’t broke… out of my head, despite all of my angry head-shaking.  The timing of the MTA this morning to vote for an absolutely obscene fare-hike, arriving as early as June 1, couldn’t be more insulting.

Like a pusher to a new junkie, a bully to a weakling, a boss to an underling:

“You liked that new train, didn’t you,” the MTA barks to F train riders.  “It made you feel comfortable, informed, safe and secure, didn’t it?”

“Well…” we hesitantly mutter, huddled masses in nervous unison.

“You were riding the train of the future; who wouldn’t like that?”

“I didn’t really mind the old -“

“HUSH!” the MTA growls.  “The future comes at a PRICE.  You must PAY for the LUXURY of an LCD display.  Those doors don’t close by themselves, you know.”

“BUT THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE OLD F TRAIN!” we courageously shout.  “Sure the colors were outmoded and the ride was noisy.  But what of scratched, graffitied windows?  The yellow and orange seats held our tushes securely in place everytime the train pitched forward or back, the yellowed, dirtied lights brought a strange comfort once you got used to them.  The garbled conductor’s announcements provided challenges and required keen observation skills.  AND WE LOVED IT FOR WHAT IT WAS!  Your new trains and your fare-hike won’t get rid of the raspy-voiced electric guitarist who only appears on the days you have a headache, nor will it make the journey up from the center of the earth at 63rd & Lexington any more bearable.”

“I DEMAND $2.50 JUST FOR THE MENTION OF MY BEAUTIFUL LEXINGTON AVENUE STATION!” is all the MTA can reply.

“IF WE HAD ENOUGH MONEY TO STOMACH YOUR FARE-HIKES, MTA, WE WOULD TAKE AN F’ING CAB!!!” the angry horde hurls back.

‘F’ may now stand for new-Fangled and Fancy, but MTA means only one thing:

Making Transportation an Abomination*.

Spring is coming; I got a bicycle and two good legs.  Boycotts don’t get sweeter than the feel of wind through your helmet and a strong body ready to kick ass.

* = other “one things” that MTA could stand for include  Making Transit unAffordable.  Messing up Trains At any cost.  Any other acronym ideas?  Please comment!

What was so wrong with the old F trains?
What was so wrong with the old F trains?

vs.

The New F Train Glides Into the Station - my camera phone tries to keep up.
The New F Train Glides Into the Station – my camera phone tries to keep up.