Friday, November 21, 2008

A Cold day in the city and the beginning of the eighties again

I got on the train, wearing headphones for a reason. After spending a wonderful day off at home organizing bits of information, cleaning and thinking about stuff, I headed to the train station - accidentally during rush hour. Rush hour lasts for hours in the morning and hours every night and if you're smart, lucky or both, you end up avoiding it altogether. Avoiding the crush of riding the train with hundreds of people vying for a seat and dozens vying to cop a feel is my main aim these days. I want a work schedule that allows me the luxury of keeping my distance from strangers.

Anyway, I get on the train and a person to my right wants my attention; I persevere and stare at a blank page in my notebook with the headphone plugs in my ear playing no music. He glances over many times with his fingers jittering over the bristles of his hairbrush. He uses his hairbrush to scrub his scalp front to back. I scooch over to the left gently invisibly - I hope.

I finally get up and pretend to not be listening or seeing or perceiving as he follows me and says, "Miss, miss, miss."
It feels like the eighties. It feels like everyone who needs medical attention is on the train trying to get my attention and I'm not a doctor.
The gnome-like woman who smells of fish and dried mud gets on the next train; she drops to her knees and says she is starving. I know her from Harlem; she seems to have a squat on 120th Street where she hangs out with men who also smell of fish and dried mud. They jostle each other as they walk down the street clearing the sidewalk with the trail of funk.
The idea of spending time with one's peers comes to mind; to what extent is this healthy? when does it stagnate the mind to always be with one's own kind? 
"My kind," without a doubt, is the urban nerd or urban intellectual if I care to be high-falutin'
I am happiest when sorting things out - doing the laundry of the mind. It relaxes and excites and all that.
On the third train, a woman got on with apologies and a truly pained haggardness to her that made me wish I could rescue her. She put a drum on the floor and said in a monotone "I'm gonna play somethin' funky."
She slowly struck the drum with what looked like pieces of a broomstick. She gave it about six strikes and got up to get her money. More people responded with a glance than cash and she dragged her drum to the next train car.

It is a miracle that the city is not full of agoraphobics because I felt like a misplaced person.
It felt too cold. The people felt too close. And I couldn't wait to scurry home

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