Monday, September 19, 2005

This is why I love NYC.

One of those perfect NYC moments. On the subway last night, about 9 pm. Not very crowded, but it's Sunday, most people are home preparing for the work week. A usual assortment of passengers - a male couple just returning from the theater, clutching their playbills and a bag from the Hershey store (they could be tourists, but they are traveling away from the major hotel area, so likely just two guys coming in from Brooklyn to see a show and nab some chocolate.) A large chatty woman in an orange shirt the exact shade as her hair, polling nearby passengers on the best way to get to 2nd Avenue. An older man, eyes closed, folded newspaper in his lap. Two young men and two young women, laughing and jostling. It appears they are trying to lock something down - they make suggestions, argue, agree, compliment each other. One throws out a line from a song in a clear strong voice and the others are, "that's it, yeah, that's it." The orange-haired woman calls down from her seat, "You have a beautiful voice. It's a gift from god, be grateful." The foursome smile and laugh. "He's good," one of them teases him. The woman says, "Sing a song for us." And the group begins to toss ideas back and forth and then settles on a song for him to sing. He starts to clap and they jump in, tapping the plastic subway seat, rocking against a window, building the beat. He sings, a high rich voice, a Michael Jackson song, and two of his comrades jump in on the chorus, harmonizing perfectly. The passengers nearby are all transfixed, smiling, tapping their feet. At the end, the singer jumps into the aisle and spins with a flourish and a "tah-dah!" Everyone laughs and claps. He smiles and goes back to his seat, but not before thanking "my brother Tito," (his friend, who doesn't yet get the joke and mumbles, "I'm not Tito"), "my sister LaToya," and then he turns to me, the white girl across the aisle, and says with a small bow, "My wife, Lisa Marie Presley."

"Encore!" calls the orange-haired woman, but we're pulling into West 4th, where most of us, including the "Jacksons," are getting off. And everyone is smiling.

Yes, people sing in the subway all of the time, but for money, not for joy.

It reminded me of a Tracey Ullman skit (from her long ago Fox show that spawned "The Simpsons.") I have it on tape somewhere - Tracey is under a bus shelter, huddled with other passengers as the rain hits the roof of the shelter. She starts humming to the beat of the rain and passengers around her shoot her dirty looks. One even tells her something like, "Lady, that's annoying." But then another passenger starts humming with her. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." And one by one, the others jump in, and of course there is a bluesy black woman with a belting voice and a nerdy-looking white man who bursts into a happy falsetto. Everyone is singing, dancing and jumping over the bench, and the bus pulls up, and they climb on. Tracey, in her raincoat and kerchief, still dances. "Hey, lady, are you coming on the bus?" calls the annoyed guy from earlier. "No," she says, "I think I'll walk today."


Blogger M.R. said...

Awesome New York story. It's moments such as those that I miss the most about my hometown. Thanks.

2:27 AM  
Blogger jane said...

that was such a cool story to share. i felt like i was right there in the subway with all of you!

6:42 PM  

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