Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Subway Ride

It was rush hour on a Monday evening in New York City (NYC) and I was on the R train headed midtown to Prince St. to have dinner with a former student/now good friend at Cafe Habana (Great Cuban restaurant! 17 Prince St., Manhattan). I had been in NYC for a few days and all of my subway rides had been uneventful.

The subway car that I was in was packed and everyone was occupying her/himself or were lost in their own thoughts. At one of the stops, three late teens entered the car. One of the teens was carrying an old school boom box like back in the day and one of the other teens was really skinny. They entered the car pretty loudly and I had a feeling that something was up. Suddenly, the skinny teen made a loud announcement and the teen carrying the boom box turned up the volume and I was instantly transported back to the early to mid 80's. Back to the days of B-boys and B-girls (Break boys and break girls), breakdancing, and suede shell toe Adidas with fat laces. The skinny teen began toprocking (upright dancing, shuffling, and moving) while his two partners were beatboxing and rapping. I was a little surprised by the show because knowing and witnessing how NYC  has transformed itself from a crime ridden city to a relatively safe one, I didn't expect to see breakdancers in subway cars. Initially, I was into the impromptu show as were some of the other passengers and as I was sitting I was thinking to myself, "This is a flavor of NYC," but as the show progressed, it was interesting to watch the faces of the other passengers. Many passengers kept their heads down either not to establish eye contact or to engage the performers. Other passengers either just ignored the scene altogether, stared straight ahead trance-like, or exited the subway car at the next stop and switched cars. I stayed in the same car and the performance progressed or deteriorated (depending upon how one views things) from breakdancing to pole dancing. And the skinny teen quickly went from entertaining to annoying. So, at the next stop, I decided to switch cars, but I got caught in between the doors as they were closing and I had to pry them open in order to get in the new car. Definitely not a smooth move on my part. As I was enjoying the reprieve and silence of my new environment; at the next stop, the three performers entered the car that I was currently in and I was like, "Oh no, not again," and they began their routine. It then occurred to me (call me a little slow) that during rush hour, subway performers go from car to car performing and trying to make money. After my subway ride, my sister Reneta informed me that the more enterprising subway performers perform on express trains where there are fewer stops so that they have truly captive audiences. At the next stop, I switched back to my original car and it was now occupied by a gentleman playing flamenco guitar. At the next stop, the guitar player exited. There was silence for a couple of minutes then a tall gentleman with a deep robust voice began a soliloquy with the following, "I don't like to beg, but I'm homeless, I need money......." It was one performer after another. After the homeless gentleman walked around the car asking for funds, my stop was was next. I exited the car and as I walked to the Prince St. exit, I saw the three teens with whom I began my subway journey entering another car in which to perform and I began smiling and laughing. When I reached the restaurant, I shared with my former student the details of my subway ride, especially the break/poledancers and she said smiling and quite genuinely, "Aren't they entertaining?"

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