Ranting On The Red Line

Overheard On The Subway

I am a regular reader of Jeremiah Moss’ blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.  It keeps me in touch with the New York that I fell head over heals in love with when I first set foot in the Village in September of 1987 and is now quickly being relegated to Netfilx, blogs and the occasional luck to see some bad 1980’s hairdo flick on TV.

As I read about each and every piece of the city falling away, I wonder where all the ghosts are going to go, where the characters now call home and have all the street crazies been banished to Nebraska even if they aren’t from there.  I guess the lack of local color even in my adopted hometown of NYC is all part of the vast homogenization of America.

There will no longer be any small pharmacies or diners or neighborhood bars in this newly branded country.  Here the diner is a Denny’s, the pharmacy is a CVS and the neighborhood bar is an Applebee’s (see Times Square).  Individualism is out and collectivism is in.  It’s truly a time to keep your head down unless you intend to be different just like everyone else.  And here I thought the Borg were the bad guys on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Every now and then, however, if I’ve found if you keep the faith that this is just a phase that to shall pass, the Great Magnet will throw a bone your way.  My bit of soul quenching street re-invigoration came on the Los Angeles subway system’s Red Line early last week.

For the sake of full disclosure to the unbelievers, yes, Los Angeles has public transportation and yes part of said system is a subway.  And a fine subway it is! Although the trains can’t really get you across town or to the Santa Monica beaches Hollywood (and to a lesser extent West Hollywood), downtown, Long Beach and Koreatown are all linked by a clean easy to navigate train system that runs pretty much on time; which of course goes to prove the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is run by some relative of Benito Mussolini.

I boarded the train going towards North Hollywood during rush hour and found a seat easily.  Lucky me, I thought.  Perhaps it’s a sign I should play the lottery.  I soon found, however, why everyone had left the seats near the front door empty: a large homeless woman in green pants, a battered beige coat, her natty hair sticking out from a filthy babushka, was sitting on a large crate screaming at two 14 year old boys in school uniforms.

“The devil has children,” she ranted.  “Evil ones can’t stand ‘em, can’t ride with ‘em.  Fame and fortune don’t phase me so dance for me evil one.”

A Mexican family moved toward the rear of the train.  The father grabbed the hand of his 5-year old daughter as she stared at this woman.

“Faggot, you’re trying to turn me into a lesbian.”  She turned her attention back to the two schoolboys.  “Nasty filth between my legs.  I can’t stand the evil one.  You like that smell.”

The train pulled into the Vermont/Sunset station.  The doors opened, I assume too slowly for the uniformed boys, and they ran out into the small mob of commuters in the station.  The woman stood up and in a rather economic movement, grabbed the crate and ran out after the two boys.  “You like that smell!  Give off my butt!  Nasty!  You know you like me evil one,” she screamed and screamed as she jumped on the escalator until her voice was barely a whisper to those of us left in the subway car.

My fellow straphangers seemed shocked by the woman and her rant.  I smiled and thought fondly back to my days riding the 6 Train on the east side.  She wasn’t exactly Dr. Double Bubble popping into your car on 33rd Street to give show you his latest gimmick and pitch as to why you should give him money but these gray days you have to be grateful for any local color you can get.

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