Subway Charmer

Contributed by Gian Louis Thompson |

We stepped from the MetroNorth railcar and onto the concrete platform at Grand Central Terminal. People poured from the doors like ants under a magnifying glass. I took a deep breath and welcomed the familiar scent of the underground musk. Walking towards the main concourse, I greeted the lonely newspaper bin. There it sat, squatted with its robust belly and blue skin, begging for the human’s newspaper waste.

The concourse at Grand Central is beautiful. It’s ceiling is painted with an astronomical masterpiece depicting the constellations of the Universe. Upon entering its gates, we are swarmed by the hundreds of travelers taking course to their destinations. Beware, do not impede on the path of the suit. It takes a vigilant eye, but there are ways to identify their presence. Most notable is highly refined mechanical movement and a head that pivots in a program-like pattern. It is unrealistic to think that among such a large population, no one is watching.

We mingled amongst the crowd for a moment and emptied our spent magazines of Jim Bean and Johnny Walker into the waste bin. We were out of ammunition and thirsty so we conversed about where we should go to fill these needs. China Town. But first, me and Mikey went out to 42nd to catch a break. Michael Bottiglieri is the Italian kid: Short, robust, black hair, deep set eyes, and an attitude that would contest a grizzly bear equipped with an aft mounted gatling gun.

Outside, the wind reigned throughout the city’s corridors and a drizzle brought the familiar urban sorrow. The sorrow that I came to love. I pulled my hood over my head and looked to Mike.

“Hey, let me get one of those smokes.” I said.

“Yeah.” Mike waved a smoke off to me.

I took the crumpled cigarette and wedged it between my lips. I found a matchbook in my pocket that was labeled with the restaurant name, “Marcello’s”. I thought about it for a moment but couldn’t figure out where I got it. The first drag of a match-lit cigarette sucks. Akin to inhaling sulfuric gas.

The tender was a fallow field skin, shrewd Indian fellow. He wore sandals, baggy green khackis and a brown button up shirt. I addressed him wielding a couple of dollars.

“Hey, let me get a hot dog.”

“Three dollar,” He put three brown-backed fingers in the air.

“Three dollars? Damn.” I had to retrieve another bill.

Although it wasn’t his fault, he pissed me off. The price for this saw dust filled piece of meat has been steadily rising in New York City. Why? I have no idea. I was hungry though.

“You’re robbing me mate.” I said.

“Ehhh, wut con you du? Very good.” He tried to make it better, but I didn’t care.

“Yeah, whatever. Take it easy.”

I inhaled the specimen, almost devouring a sliver of tinfoil. Mike and I met up with our friends at the underground. We headed to the S, a shuttle subway line from Grand Central to Times Square. A subway ride can either be terrible or decent and rarely great. There is an equation with several variables that include which dope decided to perform his street-act that day and the number of beautiful women on board. We stood on the platform and everyone’s eyes darted into the black bore as a faint moaning became audible. The moan turned to a screech. The metal worm thrust its head into the light, hissing and screaming at those who waited. We boarded the train, ipod-toting misanthropes all over the place, and took our seats.

Now, there are many misconceptions that take place within people’s minds concerning street performers. Many believe that these people are just poor slobs who will surely spend their loot on a bottle of whiskey to get their alcohol fix. Parasites living off the urban animals. In fact, many don’t see the art that is created among these street performers. Like it is all just a ploy to rob people of their money. I could have been considered one of these people.

There was a black man awaiting us on board the shuttle. He addressed us all.

“Ladies and gentlemen, today I am going to play something from my heart.”

He didn’t look poor or old or drunk, the usual types who play these games. He was a tall and healthy young man dressed in traditional gangster apparel, a black tank top and an adequate collection of “bling”.

“Excellent.” I thought. “Another sap trying to rap his way to victory.”

He bent down, opened a black case, and removed a silver flute. Yes, a flute. As the shuttle departed, he began to play. No words were spoken. The musical puppeteer pulled our strings and like a cobra, my head raised to the singing of his flute. When I disembarked, I even felt obliged to toss him a Sacajawaya coin. What was this? The juxtaposition of this code was remarkable. Dollar less, oh well, the city again.

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