Headed towards the Adam Golfer photo exhibit at the 92nd St. Y last night, I overtrusted the space phone and followed the first result directions to the Tribeca branch, never once thinking that maychance the 92nd street Y might actually be on 92nd Street. Grumbling and fumbling through a bad mood, I trudged up to the Canal Street station to catch the uptown 6, still awash in my stunning lack of street guile in this city.
When I got onto the train platform I was stunned to realize there was a girl sitting next to me, some mix of wintry goth chic, puffing away determinedly on a cigarette. I pulled out my phone to distract myself from this anachronistic habit-spewing, and was surprised to find AT&T had full bars somewhere underground Chinatown. I then twote: “I don’t know what’s weirder: that there’s a girl smoking in the Canal Street station or that I get service down here.”
Then I got onto the 6 train to see this sight and immediately corrected: “nevermind. this is weirder:”
That is, in case it’s unclear, a man lying on the ground of the train (gross, already) cuddling with a live rooster.
When I first entered the train, he was standing, holding the rooster by its legs and letting it flap about, occasionally reaching out to grab his shopping cart as it swung with the train momentum to bash into the adjacent railings. The cart contained a bevy of empty cans (like you do, as a bum in the city, climbing your way 5 cents at a time back to the top), a few random clothes and one Guitar Hero plastic guitar controller. The man was wearing a blue MTA uniform shirt, but was not believed to be, as of press time, any known employee of any New York-area transit organization.
While hardly my ideal transit scenario (i.e.: mostly empty train express to Brooklyn, ample leg room, cute girl making potential missed-connection eyes a few seats over reading Howard Zinn), this was hardly the most annoying encounter on a train. Far worse are the bums who colonize the train with a potent odor; the panhandling high school students; the guy who goes from person to person asking for “nickelsandwichoraquarter? nickelsandwichoraquarter?”; or even the prissy pancake-makeuped Manhattanites with their purse-sized Paris Hilton dogs they treat more as iPhone accessory than actual animal. While Rock-a-Doodle on the six was blocking a train entrance he was hardly causing a scene, and clearly seemed to be reveling in the attention as tourists and locals snapped iPhones and flashed digital cameras. After he lay down on the floor, his only movement was to pull the chicken closer for a series of affectionate kisses or to reposition an empty, crushed Budweiser can under the cart’s rear wheel in failed hopes of stopping it from sliding again and again. And the chicken, for its part, didn’t care to protest too much, hinted that maybe they had a long and winding friendship (but who knows). And we had 95 blocks uptown ahead of us.
And hey! I finally made NY Mag and Gothamist, for non-Martha Stewart, non-Hipster-Grifter-related news! One of these days it may be for actual writing too! You’ll notice how I’m chilling’ trying to read my copy of “As You Like It” (book club holla) in peace. This is partly because I had already taken 25 percent battery life worth of photos and observed several angles.
I was headed to the 96th street station, and the Colonel almost made it, but at the 86th Street the po-po finally stopped the train and evicted him. “Easy way or the hard way, pal,” one of them said. “You can’t be on here with that [pointing to the chicken], with this [pointing to the cart] or in the state you’re in [either an assumed drunkenness or an implied mental instability].” After some back and forth, they all left. “You’re going to secure that bird too, right?” one of the cops asked him, to a mumbled reply.
I had planned to say something to this guy on the way out, even if just a quick “Thanks buddy!” because, truly, I was having a crud day before this encounter reminded me that I live in New York, where everything is possible, and probably is happening at any given time. Plus, so many questions! Where does one even obtain a live chicken in Manhattan? (Chinatown, we presume.) What is the cash rebate value on a Guitar Hero controller? It was only 42 degrees out last night; was it really worth losing one’s pet over in lieu of sleeping on the floor of one of the busiest commuter trains on the east side? At what level of brokestlyes do you betray your dear friend and turn him into trash-can-fire dinner?
In between the book, I began anticipating each new stop to see people’s reactions as they entered the train car in their hurried pace. Some did a double take and then moved towards the ends of the car. Some stopped as if smacked with an invisible force-field and turned instead for a different car. The hardest-core New Yorkers entered, looked down, scoffed, sat down, put their ear buds in and continued about their day.
I’m still too new to my New York experience to write this off as just another commute; though thankfully not new enough to run away from it in awkward trepidation. I made it in time to see a friend’s awesome art show, hit on a girl who’s getting married in three months and win three free games of NBA pinball in Williamsburg. New York City: I defy you to say this is not the greatest city on Earth. It’s where there’s always some avenue that will let you show your stuff, struggling writers, photographers and chicken effers alike.