Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let There Be Drums

I complain about the subways a lot, but some nights you can feel like you're inside a rolling concert hall.

There are mariachi bands, rappers, gospel singers, and nostalgia acts and many of these people are quite talented. And all it costs is the subway fare and whatever you feel like giving a particular performer.

You get the occasional clunker, like the guy I saw at the W.72nd Street C station one night who did such a horrific job with “Unchained Melody” that he should have been hauled off in irons.

A tourist actually took this loser’s picture, though there’s no way you could capture that hideous noise in a photo. And if you could, you’d be clawing your eyes out as soon as you saw it.

One night I heard the sound of no less than five different drummers as I rode uptown and then home to Brooklyn.

First a couple of guys got on board the northbound No. 2 train with large African drums and proceeded to rock the house. I was annoyed at first, since I was tired after a long day at work and I wanted some (relative) quite. But these guys were good.

Outside I crossed paths with a deranged man who was screaming “Never Can Say Goodbye” at that top of his lungs as he fished for change out of parking meters. He wasn’t on the subway, so technically he doesn’t count, but I just felt like sharing this little acoustic nightmare.

He took a break from his change diving to yell out a string of obscenities at persons real or imagined before pouncing back on that poor song that has been done so well by Michael Jackson, Gloria Gaynor and Isaac Hayes.

You can say goodbye, I thought. You can say goodbye right now and no one would ever miss you.

I did my usual the-nuts-always-find-me lament, but then I decided to get off that schtick. Obviously the guy was not right in the head and if this is what he has to do to get attention then you should probably feel sorry for him.

On the way home, I was waiting at Columbus Circle for the D train when two guys on the uptown platform wailed away on some overturned plastic buckets. They were good, too, but I was hungry and a little grumpy (shocking, no?) so I was glad when that train pulled into the station.

Watch the Closing Doors

At 34th Street the doors opened and there was guy sitting on the platform with a full drum set playing to beat the band--if there had been a band to beat. And, once again, he was very talented.

It was strange-- I felt that instead of moving, the train was sitting still and the world was turning for us, displaying different musicians. Of course I hadn’t eaten in a while.

At 36th Street in Brooklyn, I was overjoyed to see the R train sitting across the platform just waiting for me to jump on board. But then the train pulled out of the station and I started cursing like the “Never Can Say Goodbye” guy, only without the singing.

While I waited for another local I caught sight of sign taped just over the third rail. It said “Test Site. Nano Insulators.”

I have no idea what that means, but I suspect it has something to do with large and lethal amounts of electricity. I hear a lot about the third rail of politics, but nothing beats the real thing when it comes to delivering the fatal goods.

And I do like that sign. It sounds like a band: Test Site and the Nano Insulators. They’ve got a wicked drummer.

I caught the N train and crossed my fingers that we’d overtake that loco local and found I was sharing the car with a man who was afflicted with a seriously bad cough.

Now I am fairly kind person. Not a candidate for a sainthood, perhaps, but I do have compassion for my fellow human beings.

However, I am also a Metrocard-carrying hypochondriac so when I’m trapped inside a moving metal box with an ill person I shift from “We’re all God’s Children” to “Every man for himself!” faster than a speeding contagion.

I was ready to pound on the door like a berserk bongo drummer, but fortunately the train pulled into 59th Street and I blasted out onto the platform. Naturally I missed the local and it was only then did I think about that man on the N train.

Perhaps he couldn’t stay home because he feared being fired. Maybe he couldn’t afford to go a doctor; maybe he didn’t have health coverage. I felt pretty ashamed of myself. But shame isn’t productive so I just sent good wishes his way and waited for the local.

There were no musicians on this train—nobody was even humming along with their Ipods. But I felt okay. I had the music in me.


Ron said...

OMG, Rob, you had me laughing my ass off through this ENTIRE post!

"You can say goodbye, I thought. You can say goodbye right now and no one would ever miss you."

Bwhahahahahahahahahahahaha! I HOWLED at that!

Isn't is amazing the wonderfully unusual things you see living a city? And Philly is tame compared to NYC. That's why I love coming into Manhattan every couple of months to get my fill of REAL unusual. We have musicians on the streets here, but not down in our subways. But that's probably because everyone here is afraid to ride the subways. That is, except me.

"I did my usual the-nuts-always-find-me lament, but then I decided to get off that schtick,"

HA! Same with me. If there's a nut on the street....they ALWAYS find me!

Fab post, buddy! Have a wonderful week.

Say hello NYC for me, okay?

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, what's up? Yes, New York is one big freak show with entertainment--more or less--coming at you from all directions. And what is it with these nutcases--how do they find us?!!? Have a great week!

Calamity Jen said...

My commute is usually aboard surface vehicles so I'm not treated to (or subjected to) many musicians on my way to and from work. Yesterday, however, I shared a bus with a man who had obviously neglected to take his medication. He was having a very loud phone call with an imaginary person who was apparently telling him all about the sexual escapades of Mother Theresa, the pope, Mike Tyson and Obama. He became quite upset when the imaginary caller informed him that Mother Theresa was dead.

Rob K said...

I think that was me he was talking to...