February 5, 2010

The F Train is Full of Mystery

Last year I decided each month should be marked by a project.
January Project:Shine light on the mysteries of the F train.

January 4: Saw a guy with a pinky ring and remembered a friend of mine who said she had a boyfriend who wore a pinky ring and did "pinky ring kinds of things". I never knew what that meant exactly, but I wondered if this guy would know what she was talking about.

January 5: Do women with with extremely dense, extremely curly hair use their hair as pillow on the road?

January 6: I've seen many of people in this car before. How long does one live in New York before every day is an encounter with the vaguely familiar?

January 7: The subway car is quiet, but the loudness of people's thoughts is deafening. Wonder if any people here saw Wings of Desire and are thinking the same thing?

January 8: Guy in a nice suit. Drunk. 10am.

January 11: Where does one find blue jeans decorated with AK47 silhouettes? And bullet holes! They have manufactured bullet holes.

January 12: Guy with mismatched socks. Actually not much of a mystery because the guy is me. **Bonus mystery: Why is it that one always sees people reading Marquez novels in pairs?

January 13: French people telling knock knock jokes.

January 14: On the ride home in a mostly empty subway car a girl who is about 20 sat down next to a guy who is about 20. They want to talk. Maybe when I exit

January 15: Fellow with a new Zune.

January 18: Saw a guy who reminded me of a kid I knew in kindergarten named Roderick Ross. Wondered if this guy might be Roderick grown up? I didn't ask.

January 19: A girl in a yellow coat is crying quietly.

January 20: How does a person smell like fish and peppermint at the same time?

January 21: Woman with a violin case decorated with stickers for The Cramps.

January 22: Man wearing 2 scarves.

January 25: A lady is eating black licorice on purpose.

January 26: Black coats all around then a woman in a red coat enters. Everyone turns.

January 27: Girl literally whistling Dixie.

January 28.: Fellow with mullet. Of you mulletman I ask: Where does one go to acquire such a stunning mullet cut these days?

January 29: A woman drew X's, O's, and hearts all over her hand and up part of her arm.She looks tired — not the hand drawing type. Maybe she didn't draw them. Maybe it was one of her kids. She looks too young for kids. Looks like she's going to work.

April 3, 2009

Overheard less than an hour after landing in San Francisco

Girl 1: My friend dated a guy who renamed himself Paradox.

Girl 2: That’s pretty bad, but maybe it was his worst flaw, maybe Paradox was paradoxically a pretty cool guy.

Girl 3: A guy I know from college renamed himself Email. I hung out with him at my college reunion.

Girl 2: Did you laugh at him?

Girl 3: Well I wouldn’t have recommended it but it was the 90’s and seemed kinda cool at the time. Now everyone knows him as Email. If your name is Email everyone is going to remember you. I think he likes that.

October 30, 2008

Abe Lincoln in Person


Overheard at Gray's Papaya yesterday afternoon and transcribed practically verbatim:

"I keep having these dreams about Abraham Lincoln. He's sitting on the couch in his top hat and everything and we are talking about my problems with Susan. He keeps telling me not to worry, "Mary was worse, you know." And then after he gives me some real wisdom on the female mind, I start thinking about everything going on in the world, and I think, 'Holy shit why don't I ask Abe what to do'. And it's like he's reading my mind... he turns to me and says, "Don't worry we've been through worse." And then he hugs me and I think, 'Abe Lincoln hugged me. He smells like Old Spice.' I ask him who he supports in the election, and he smiles and says, "Believe it or not you're the first person who's asked me that this year; of course I support Barack. These so called Republicans remind me of Copperheads." And then he laughed sort of sad a deep ha ha ha laugh and I woke up. This dream had me so jacked up I couldn't sleep. I just kept beta-ing it over and over. I literally couldn't sleep. I saw him. I smelled him, he felt real. His jacket was scratchy. His hat had a worn rim. It was the middle of the night and I was pumped up and freaking out so I Wikipediaed the Gettysburg Address and recorded a version of it to a beat and then, get this, I REMIXED IT. I remixed the freakin' Gettysburg Address. This is either the greatest thing I've ever done or a total fucking disaster. I can't tell yet."

July 12, 2008

Overheard in the Elevator at 195 Chystie

Girl on phone: Why? So you can go home and read Vonnegut and be depressed?

Girl on phone: (Long Pause from 9th floor to 4th floor)

Girl on phone: Oh. My. God. Martin you are not being artistic you are being antisocial and gloomy. LIKE ALWAYS.

Girl on phone: You stay home with Kilgore Trout. I'm going to a party. I'm eating ice cream. I'm going to join the human race. Goodbye Martin.

July 1, 2008

Overheard on Bowery and Stanton

Guy: I think it's over there.

Girl: I think it's over there.

Guy: Do you really want to go?

Girl: Not really.

Guy: Let's go back to the hotel.

Girl: Lets.

Guy: Where are you going?

Girl: To the subway.

Guy: The subway is over there.

Girl: No it's over there.

Guy: I'm sure it's over there.

Girl: Well I'm sure it's over there...

March 23, 2007

Two little old ladies recounting their dreams

@ the diner on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn

lady in yellow hat: I was flying.

lady in blue hat: I’ve had that dream.

lady in yelllow hat: I went to Jersey.

lady in blue hat: I always go to into city. I shop.

lady in yellow hat: You shop in your dreams?

lady in blue hat: I always shop.

lady in yellow hat: I just fly. Nude... Totally, gloriously, nude.

lady in blue hat: Me too! Well...except for my shoes, I always fly in my best shoes... and a hat. I never go out without a hat.

lady in yellow hat: You always were the better dressed than me.

lady in blue: But you turned the boys heads.

lady in yellow hat: Maybe next time you should leave the hat at home.

March 11, 2007

Overheard on Court Street

(couple downstairs in the travel section of Book Court)

man: You have to tell him.

woman: If I tell him you have to tell her.

man: Of course, I wouldn't ask you if I....

woman: So.

man: Let's do it. We'll both just do it.

woman: Let's do it tonight. Screw it, I'll do it tonight. I don't care.

man: Tonight?

woman: Tonight.

man: Tonight. Not tonight, next week maybe. It's too soon.

woman: I'm sick of this.

January 10, 2007


On Henry and Pacific
man in a pork pie hat:: There are goombas and there are goombas, and this guy is a goomba. He's a steal your car, hit you with a tire iron, acid in the face kind of goomba .

young greasy haired guy: Stop. He's practically retarted. I see him putting out milk to the stray cats and meowing. [Meows] That guy?

man in a pork pie hat:: You're so smart. What do you think happened to Michael's thumbs?
. . . .

On Dean Street
kid: Why can't we keep the Christmas tree all year?

mom: Because we have to leave them out for the poor people.

kid: Nobody wants a used tree.

mom: See you don't understand what it is to be poor. If you were really poor, even a used tree would seem nice.

. . . . .
on State Street
4 or 5 year old boy (to himself): fruit rolls are not candy. No. No. No.

. . . . .
on 23rd Street
street vendor selling toy cars: One for five dollars, Two for six.
customer: How much for three?
street vendor: Nine dollars.
customer: But that doesn't make any sense.
street vendor: Looks like you'll have to buy 4 for ten.

August 5, 2006

Back in Brooklyn

Two girls in bathing suits on a stoop on Hoyt street:

Girl #1: "It’s runny makeup hot."
Girl #2: "It’s riot hot."
Girl #1: "Dead granny hot."
Girl #2: "Did you see Gore’s movie? This is the rest of our lives."
Girl #1: "That’s depressing. Let’s go inside and eat ice cream.
. . .
Nobody notices when it is 102 in Houston. Houston is an air conditioned city. You walk from air conditioned car to air conditioned office to air conditioned mall. Many people in Houston never actually taste summer. New Yorkers are walkers by design. We crowd into airless subway stations. We climb stairwells. Noisy window units try but fail to cool our steamy apartments. Rich or poor there is no other option. We sweat. So when the heat breaks as it did tonight and the temperature drops and the wind picks up, the mood of the entire city lightens if just for a moment. People on the street exiting movie theaters stretch out their arms to feel the breeze. It feels good.

December 24, 2005


We attended dress rehearsal for opera Wozzeck today at the Met. Wozzeck is a study in atonality, relentlessly depressing and usually staged with spare almost empty sets. Opera buffs love the complex expressionist music. My friends who love opera often cite this one as a favorite. I am not a sophisticate. I'll admit to sleeping through the second act. Hard for me to appreciate... After the performance I couldn't wait to leave, but I was in the minority. I overheard a delighted fan, a large man with a thick German-tinged English accent, "So dark. So tragic. The gloom, palpable. The production was a triumph.[Deep satisfied sigh] But... perhaps, wrong for the season, Wozzeck should only be performed in February."

September 28, 2005

Diner on Smith Street

Conversation in the booth behind me from a few minutes ago:

Guy Number 1: But you have to understand I love her. I LOVE HER. I am straight up serious. L. O. V. E. Man. Its hurts. It hurts like I'm on fire or something.

Guy Number 2: I understand already, you're crazy about her.

Guy Number 1: Crazy? You see you just don't get it. It's LOVE. I think about her in the morning , at work all day long man, at night. Right now. Just being here is making me bug out. It's deep man. I understand songs now man...it's like every song is about me. It's like the whole world is opened up and raw. Love, man. It's ridiculous. Ridiculous. Look at me. I want to see her tonight. I want to write her name all over my body that's how I feel (he had the name Isabelle written all over his arm in blue ink in large cursive). It's deep man. Real real deep.

Guy Number 2: But she doesn't even like you.

Guy Number 1: Yeah man. That's the whole point. What am I supposed to do? Love is crazy. What am I supposed to do?

[Then stifled tears, then real tears. Then silence for the next 15 minutes as they ate their sandwiches, paid the bill, and walked out into the night.]

November 8, 2004

Tom Wolfe's Hair

Ellis, the Uzbek, cut my hair again this morning. Apropos of nothing he asked, "Could you get me Mr. Tom Wolfe's phone number?"

"The writer?" I replied.

"Yes. The writer. I cut his hair for 30 years. Then he stops visiting. For three years nothing. Nothing! I thought he was my friend. I want to call and see if something is wrong."

Mr. Wolfe, if you are out there, stop by. Ellis misses hanging out.

October 13, 2004

The World

Overheard diner conversation between an older Russian man with a pinkie ring & a bad suit and a young Latina with an overly fluffy sweater & big Japanese looking shoes.

girl: It's only money.

man: Money. Why do we always talk about this? Six thousand.

girl: We won't have to talk about it if you write the check.

Silence for a minute or two

man: I write check and we don't talk about these things.

girl: Write it now.

man: Six thousand.

girl: Seven thousand five hundred.

Silence. She slurps her drink.

man (quietly): ok

He pulls a check from his wallet and makes it out. The girl inspects it. Folds it carefully and puts it in a wallet in her purse.

girl: Let's go.

They leave holding hands.


I saw the last of my film festival movies tonight - The World, by Jia Zhangke. Jenn was movied out so I went alone. She missed out. Thumbs up on this one. If you love Beijing, this film is for you. Set in a huge amusement park featuring "architecture of the world" including a large scale Eiffel Tower, World Trade Center and pyramids it follows a love affair between two young immigrant workers. Zhangke has a light touch he tells a lyrical sad story but always with good humor. It's one of the first films I've seen set in modern Beijing that shows the city the way I experienced it. I enjoyed the slow poetic rhythms of the film and feel it will stick with me for some time. The afterglow of the picture made the late night subway home feel moody and cinematic. The Donald Byrd and Screamin' Jay Hawkins on the iPod only increased the mood.

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