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Midnight on the D train

P1000742Christmas came early with a trip to the New York Metropolitan Opera last night. Don Giovanni shagged his way through the female populace before being dragged down to hell by the devil. Stirring stuff.

The building that houses the Met Opera is pretty cool – think old theatre meets the 50’s view of the future. Lots of sweeping staircases and quirky curves going on. The chandeliers also deserve a mention – there’s one in the top left looking like a lit firework. They were made of crystal and looked like the kind of thing you might see on the Jetsons.

The D train runs local after 11pm, which means I don’t have to change trains to get home. The highlight of this particular ride home was a Chinese man who got on a few stops after us. He proceeded to stand smack in the middle of the carriage and do what I have always dreamed of – stay upright without holding on to anything. He was really extremely good. I snuck a couple of looks. Here’s what I noticed (in this order):

  • His fists were balled up.
  • He was staring with intensity at a point in the middle distance.
  • The girl who’d got on the same stop as him was looking at him warily.

“What of it?” I thought to myself. “She’s probably just as amazed as I am; this guy is a PRO at balancing.”

I decided to point this out to DSpin.

“Check this guy out!” I whispered. “He’s not holding on!”

“Do you think it helps that he isn’t wearing any shoes?” asked DSpin.


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Atlantic Av – immersive aural experience

Instructions: switch on your speakers. Click here to start playing the track, then read the rest. (You’re after the audio, not the visual).

It’s Sunday evening, around 9pm. You’re on your way back from a meeting.

The connecting passageways at Atlantic Av are usually pretty busy – think Bank/Monument in rush hour – but for some reason there aren’t that many people around.

There’s a tribal sounding beat coming from somewhere.

It’s getting louder as you’re heading toward the R train platform.

Those might be lyrics, but they’re more kind of creepy sounding jungle screams. It’s getting kind of weird. And definitely quite loud.

You’re getting a bit unsettled. It would probably be better if there were more people around,  but the drumbeat and the echoing screams are bouncing off the tiled walls and reverberating around your skull.

Take a moment to experience the weirdness of it all.


You round the corner and encounter The Source. It’s a scruffy looking middle aged white guy sat on a couple of big drums and sort of screaming into a didgeridoo.

NY transit system has some pretty phenomenal buskers, though this guy easily makes my top three.

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The Quest to the East Village

I got off pretty lightly with Hurricane Katrina (as David Stern, NBA Commissioner dubbed it prior to the Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat game on Tuesday). So when I heard that MTA was running a partial subway service today, I decided to embark upon the Quest to the East Village. Fired off a quick text to let MJ know I was heading to work, put my lukewarm coffee in a thermos and set off.

Subways weren’t running between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but a free shuttle bus service was being provided. Got to Atlantic Av fine, stood in a round-the-block queue for the shuttle. About 20 people away from the front, my phone rings. Al, my boss’s housemate, is outside my apartment in his van. This is the second time Al has made the journey in the last 24 hours. I explain that I’m at Atlantic. A flaming row ensues on the other end of the phone. Eventually I am told to sit tight and they’ll come and get me.

30 minutes later, I get a call. Can I walk up Flatbush against the traffic in the direction of the bridge? All well and good, but the road is two-way and I have no clue which direction is the bridge in. Explain. Told to wait.

15 minutes later Al shouts my name. I get to the van, MJ gives me a grin and offers me a choice of muffin. He saw Young Victoria last night and is full of questions about the British Monarchy. I do my best.

Good thing there are three of us in the van because the NYPD are only allowing vehicles with 3+ people onto the island. We arrive at the apartment and walk up two flights of stairs in complete darkness. Lights are on in the apartment, but the generator is also powering three other flats. We lose power twice; the first time the guys downstairs plug in their heater. The second time Eileen tried making toast.

Needless to say, took the walking option on the way back.

The round trip totalled 3 hours and 25 minutes. Still, this is nowhere near as bad as the odyssey Mme O-E sent me when I moved.

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and the Q train

Three teenage boys got on my carriage at 14 St-Union Sq, switched on the boom box and started busting some moves. Twists and somersaults off the bars, flips down the length of the carriage and some bizarre double-jointed action. They finished and their patter was great. I can only remember the following part:

All: (presenting their baseball caps to the audience) …Obama wants change, we want dollars.

First dancer: (quietly, by self) …and change.


People-watching on the F train

Please forgive the clunkiness of the graphic; I only have MS Paint on this computer. It is, I hope, a useful visual aid to observations that follow.

The F train emptied out a bit at York St, meaning that I got a seat and an opportunity to scrutinise my fellow passengers. The first guy to catch my attention is to my 2 o’clock. He’s beanpole-thin and over 6 foot. He’s grabbed ahold of the two bars that run the length of the carriage and, occasionally, lifts himself up off the floor. He does this just so often that I notice, but not so often as to identify himself as completely  nuts. While I set my peripheral vision the task of watching out for the next pull-up, I look straight ahead. A lady with a studded denim jacket is holding her head as if it might come off.

To her left is seated a chap in his 40s whose hair is tied in an off-white bandana. He has his eyes shut and his feet tap out a rythym that suggests to me he’s listening to rock music. Then, ever so subtly, he raises his right hand and starts doing some kind of tai-chi move. I would have peered more closely, but at this point the beanpole has started another pull-up and my eyes snap back. But this time they focus on a guy who *thinks* he is a Tom Cruise lookalike. He’s got on the reflective Ray Bans and pulls his mouth into a pout. He appears to be eyeing up the midriff of our 6 footer; the exercise has caused his t shirt to untuck.

Chap gets on at Jay St Metrotech and he is small. We’re talking under 5 foot. He stands just far enough away from the fitness nut to avoid direct height comparison. He’s wearing a kippah and has with him an enormous great book – the size, perhaps, of a volume of the Encylopedia Britannica. Leather bound, gilt edges, that kind of thing, and written in Hebrew. So as far as I’m concerned, the guy is reading this backwards and I am entranced.

Naturally I exited the train to my left, avoiding Tom Cruise and his current crush.

*bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify the zeugma used above