Thanks to the inimitable Kashif Ali, those of you that follow my blog shall henceforth be known as the Disciples. I like it. It's narcissistic, but that's how I roll. I would also like to take this time to note that my spell checker is telling me that "Kashif" is not a word. Blogger.com, you are a fucking racist.
Now that we have that silly nonsense out of the way, I've noticed something upon my return to New York City that I think merits some discussion, or at least my critical, pointed observation (yay, narcissism!).
For most of my teenage-into-adult life, I have been a huge fan of riding the subway. Any line, any part of the city, any time of night. I have had some of the craziest experiences and seen things that will someday scare the bejeezus out of my grandchildren.
I have seen a drugged-out Mexican stripped like a car in three stops. Two guys got everything - his watch, wallet, shoes, coat, shirt, necklaces, earrings . . . the works. It was the middle of winter, and they left this guy his jeans and socks, full stop, end of list. I have seen a foot-long sewer rat run headlong into the foot of a three-hundred pound man, who screamed like a child and punted the rat in question like a football. In short, the subway experience in general is pure, unadulterated entertainment, if you aren't a total pussy.
If you ride long enough, you'll see mariachis in full uniform playing "Te Amo". You'll see jugglers, homeless guys with inventive signs, world-class violinists, fistfights, people of every stripe, color, and creed, all just trying to have some fun or get home safe. I've had some of the best conversations of my life with people I rode the subway with, never to see again. I think there was something romantic and cool about that. Yes. I said "was".
My entire romantic subway lifestyle has been utterly destroyed by one insidious, ubiquitous invention. You know it . . . the goddamn cellphone.
Droid, Blackberry, Android, Nextel . . . . I'm looking at you, you bastards.
Since I have moved back to the City That Never Shuts Up, it went ahead and shut up on me. I get on a subway, on any line, at any time of day or night, and it's the same scene. You still have the same crazy, awesome melting pot of interesting people going about their lives, except now they have their cute little black earbuds in, and they are all playing Brick Breaker, listening to Nickelback, and watching vampire porn . . . or as you probably call it, True Blood.
It is a downright eerie scene. Where there once was vibrancy, life, noise . . . the pure, unadulterated cacophony that made New York so awesome to the people that lived there and understood it and so terrifying to pretty much the rest of the world . . . there is now the creepy, church-like silence of a population tuned out to the world around them, all going for the high score or listening to the latest Lil' Wayne jailhouse freestyle. I am riding with the Subway Dead. The Zombies of the A Train. Dawn of the Droid.
I want to grab people by the collar and shake them, make them talk to me. I want to hear the mariachis, or someone's crazy story about the time they got mugged by a midget on PCP, or a homeless man tell me that he needs money so he can take karate lessons to get revenge on the ninjas that killed his family.
Instead, I pop in my headphones, fire up my iPod, and listen to Lil' Wayne. My hypocrisy knows no bounds.