Current mood: recumbent
Do you know West Indians from West Africans? Do you have Caribbeaners in your town, how about in your sidewalk, in your neighbors, in your schoolchildren banging on the wall that doubles as both one side of your living room and a playground?
Well, I do. I've got trinidadians, jamaicans, guayanians, barbadoseoses, and, my favorite, tobaggons. Not the sleds, not even the bobsled team--folks from Tobago. I pretty much have the flags of these countries, plus cuba, plus the dominican republic, plus puerto rico, memorized, i've seen them hanging as air fresheners from so many parked rearview mirrors.
I love these people. Well, some of them, anyway. Let me tell you about one on the 4 train heading uptown, oh, I don't know, all the way to the Bronx for all I know. I picked it up in Brooklyn at the second stop and the dude was already on. This tall fella, in sunglasses but looking at himself in the reflection of the train doors, where he was stationed, in one of the alcoves formed by them. He's got this long trenchcoat on, but I can shoes trying to look shiny and nice poking out, along with this avocado green velour pantsuit legs.
In his one hand he's got what's either a microphone, a tracheotomy vibration detector that let's Ned from south park speak, or one of this hand held tape recorders that you sometimes see or imagine journalists use to conduct interviews. For all I know the dude's gotta karaoke machine plugged into his mind, cauze he's in his WORLD. He's plugged in, tuned in, and twirling. Dancing a FITful riot, in that teeny space, watching his moves, juiced for Friday night which is on its way.
At first he's slowish grinding and only singing softly. I can hear raspy mumbles, and a few people glance over. So far this is standard subway fare, nothing atypical. Then we hit Manhattan stops, starting with Bowling Green, and something catches fire in this guy--it's like he can feel the city rises up underneath him. And I swear he's freestyling. And it's something about chinese food.
"I take you to the noodle hut, nonstop, you go to the noooooodle hut, doublebam, da nooooodle, nooodle hut--I know martial arts" and here he does a simulated dropkick "I'm the bruce lee baby martial artist noodlehut, noooooodle hut" his voice modulating, hitting highs and lows and herky jerky speedbump stops and starts, the whole time moving his feet and holding his kung fu trenchcoat arms out before him. "I wanna get the soba, I wanna lo mein, I got the hysterical martial artistic moves--I wanna, I wanna, yeah."
The dude is carrying on James Brown's legacy, Island Irie style. The angle I'm at I can see behind his shades, and half the time his eyes are closed. And he's jutting that karaoke tracheo journalist microphone masterblaster up to his mouth periodically, like he's singing what's coming OUT of the thing, TO the thing.
"I got da Karate extra Chinese martial nooooooodle. I wanna," and he's breathing heavy, and the train's getting fuller, we're at about Fulton St. heading to Wall and then Brooklyn Bridge City Hall. But nobody's too attentive.
Then these two white folks get on, a girl and a guy--not together, just simultaneous. The dude's a business looking guy, the girl's dressed shabby, more like me, and whips out some whole foods snack item. She's got a packet of ranch open when she hears--
"I, ohhhhhh" desperate vacuum teeth sucking, "I gotta---oohhhhhh" and then the real coup de grace, the moment of eternity underground, a falsetto: "Hahahahahaha"
The girl's neck swivels, and then back, her eyes are huge: she sees me seeing her just having seen him. The fella does a twirl, almost knocking over a very pleasant looking short hispanic lady who looks a little nervous, and the girl erupts into laughter.
"He's been doing that since I got on, back in Brooklyn."
"I bet. You know, you gotta get off on this shit or you shouldn't live her."
Werd. But what I said was just a nod of solidarity.
"You know, they should do a reality show of the subway."
"It kind of already is." Thinking to myself, I should tell her about this blog. But I don't. She goes back to her carrot sticks and ranch, all organic and pesticide free and eaten underground, and starts bobbing her head like she's in a club with the guy. The business fella smirks and shifts his weight.
By this time we're nearly to union square, and the train is PACKED. People are outright giggling, especially because he's moved on to candy as his leitmotif:
"Lollipop, ooh, ahh, I wanna lick, I wanna lick, I'ma candyman, your lollipop, I lick your lollipop. Ah!" Another parrot squeal.
There's, of all thngs, a middle-aged british couple standing facing me in the car, and they see me and smile politely and say in their accents,
"Whut do you suppose he's talking about there?"
"Oh, I can hardly imagine." Knowing smiles all around.
"Certainly does make the ride go faster."
"Yeah, he hasn't quit since Brooklyn. He doesn't even look tired."
And then we're at 14th St. and I'm nudging my way off, pushing past Brits and girls and agitated Latinas to the great beyond, to the great flesh swale that is Manhattan as it battles with itself in this borderland district that's being swallowed up by money and a downtown as millionaire as midtown.