Category Archives: Subway

The Tupac Refrain

Every so often (read: every day), I board the subway and disturb an elderly woman sitting next to me with my music du jour. Usually she shoots me a dirty look or two, but sometimes she gets up and moves across the car– an overt signal of disgust. And my reaction is characteristically the same: to lower my volume an interval or two, and then proceed on my merry way.

But yesterday something magically different happened. This elderly woman turned to me and said, “I remember the day he was shot. Tragic bout of gun violence.” It took me a moment to realize this senior citizen had identified the song on my iPod as Tupac’s “California Love,” and that in making such an identification she was able to offer a larger social commentary.

Confused as to how a 65+ bubbie-like figure knew gangster rap, I asked, “You know Tupac?” To which she replied, “Not personally, but I knew Biggie’s mom. She used to live a few doors down from me. And I remember the Tupac-Biggie feud very well.”

I pressed her further. “It’s one thing to know the artists or the artists’ moms. But it’s another to know their music.” To which she replied, “Honey, they don’t make rap like they used to.” I was sold. Here was my new best friend, who conveniently lived in Brooklyn (my future home).

We chatted for the remainder of the subway ride about gun control laws in this country, and the failure of 6 Democrats to vote with 90% of the population on stricter background checks. “I dare them to walk through the Marcy Projects and then say we need to maintain lax gun laws,” she howled.

I nodded and then cited my favorite Tupac song of all, Unconditional Love: “How many caskets can we witness before we see it’s hard to live?” Then together we sang, “And I ain’t worried bout a damn thang with unconditional love.”

All of which is to say I’m pleased to inform you I may never have to turn down the volume on my iPod again. Win!

Lesson from a former District Attorney’s Office employee

Rule number one in appropriate criminal etiquette:  Defendants exclusively attack people they know. Only certifiable psychopaths attack complete strangers. Therefore, when– as a member of law enforcement– you begin an investigation, you assume all friends and family members of the victim to be suspects first.

December 3rd, 12:30 PM– A 58 year old man is forcibly pushed in front of an oncoming Q train and immediately dies from the collision. I proceed to text my roommate to inform her of the crime, as she and I pass through the station of the alleged murder twice a day Monday-Friday.

She immediately panics. A killer is on the loose, and he is lurking within a 10 block radius of our two offices of employment. I, however, retain my signature desensitized New York cool. Which is to say, I return to rule number one of appropriate criminal etiquette. There was clearly an altercation between two people familiar enough with one another that one person’s rage propelled him to commit a state crime. Such brutality rarely springs from a chance encounter.

I then call my mother and ask, “Do you think I’ve offended any family member or friend?” Confused, she asks why. I explain the 49th St murder, and then state, “But I should be in the clear because these things tend to happen between people who know each other. So if I haven’t angered, frustrated,or offended anyone too greatly, my life is mine to live.”

My mother quickly affirms that as far as she is aware, I am not on anyone’s hit list. I take solace in her affirmation and hang up. But just to be safe, I board a different train to work today. After all, he may not be my killer, but somebody’s killer is on the loose, and I’m not about to spend 20 minutes squished between him and a subway poll.

NOTE: A suspect was apprehended around 3 PM this afternoon. I have returned to my old commuting routine.

You’ve offended my sensibilities, and other tales of subway vengeance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Monday morning rush hour riders do not like to engage in any verbal activity. However, they are willing to take any of the necessary physical steps to secure their coveted spots in overly crowded departing trains. I am no exception to the rule.

And I particularly do not like participating in conversation with an individual whose every word offends me. Case in point: This past Monday, while Aldie and I waited for the A train, a woman paused beside us and asked, rather innocently, when I was due. Now I know I’m not the world’s skinniest minnie, but seriously, do I look seven months pregnant?

Livid, I responded, “Any minute now.” Then the train arrived, and the conversation ceased entirely… until the next morning. While waiting for the very same A train, Aldie and I noticed the woman on the platform. Aldie determined to break his vow of silence in order to address her verbal misstep.

“Excuse, miss, but my babysitter isn’t pregnant. And she’s certainly not ready for the responsibilities that accompany motherhood. Do you know how expensive children are?” Then to illustrate that I, indeed, was without child, he unbuttoned my coat and highlighted my pseudo-flat stomach. “See, no baby. And no flab. My point is simple: You’ve offended my sensibilities, and hers. And you should apologize.”

The woman, rather shocked, responded, “My, you have a large vocabulary.” To which Aldie said, “And?” “And I am sorry for mistaking your babysitter for your pregnant mother.” I gave Aldie a look of approval, and he accepted her verbal articulation of remorse. Then I bought Aldie a croissant and told him that if he ever wanted to adopt a 20something obsessive compulsive coffee drinker, he should give me a call. Immediately. He smiled, and my ovaries whirled.

When your biggest fan is a five year old boy.

For those who wonder how I occupy my time when I’m not condemning criminal defendants to eternal damnation, I will now clarify: babysitting. Yes, from newborns to tweens, I cater to them all. But like any parent, I have my favorites.

Aldie, a five year old going on thirty, is first on my list. Aside from his intelligence (remember the IVF conversation?), Aldie has an uncanny way of making a very gray Wednesday infinitely better. He is living proof that age ain’t nothing but a number.

This morning, for example, I awoke to the sound of my phone crashing to the ground. Strike one. Then, in a mad dash for an early morning subway, I was the victim of some very aggressive train doors, which left me black and blue. Strike two. And when I finally emerged from the train, somewhat scathed, I discovered my umbrella had gone to heaven or hell or wherever inanimate objects go when they cease to be of human use. Strike three. Simply stated, I was in my dark and twisty place by the time I rung Aldie’s door bell.

But then he answered and we departed for his school uptown. We had a good forty minutes on the A and B trains to discuss life, liberty, and my inability to achieve happiness. And being the wise beyond his years sort of boy that he is, Aldie succeeded in temporarily assuaging all my doubts.

To begin, he noticed I was chewing gum. Wondering why I felt compelled to chew at such an ungodly early hour of the day, he questioned me. I responded that my stomach was a bottomless pit, but that frankly– given my ever expanding hips– I simply could not afford to consume calories at all hours of the day. In other words, I was using gum as a calorie free food replacement because I’m, well, not the tiniest of individuals.

Without batting an eyelash, Aldie replied, “You’re not fat at all. In fact, you are beautiful. I like your shape.” He then proceeded to rub my belly, an odd but somewhat uplifting action. Aldie concluded this brief conversation by offering a piece of his chocolate croissant. What a mensch.

But Aldie, being the perceptive one that he is, realized I was still considerably upset. When he inquired as to why, I replied that I was feeling like a B student these days. He was confused and said he was certain I got straight As in school. I explained that it was a metaphor; that I felt I was not the success story I had hoped to be at 22. Instead of climbing mountains, I was just sitting at the foot of them– partially out of fear of the climb, but largely because I doubted my abilities to climb the aforementioned mountains.

His response: “Yaffa, you’re being crazy. You juggle being my babysitter, putting bad guys in prison, and writing your heart out. And on top of it all, you’re a genuinely nice person. I kind of want to me the boy version of you when I grow up.” Somewhat flabbergasted, I stared in disbelief. When had my source of strength become a five year old child?

While his language was simple, his sentiment was spot on. I needed to stop being my biggest critic and just live in the moment– enjoy the here and now– and most importantly stop comparing myself to my friends, who quite frankly were traversing entirely different mountains than I was. I needed to learn to love me for me, an idea Aldie informed me would be the only means to find “someone special.”

“How can you expect someone to like you if you don’t like yourself?” And that, in a nutshell, is why I want to adopt a five year old named Aldie.

Wise beyond his years (and mine)

I knew the minute I met Alden that we would be best friends. I mean, what’s not to love about a blue-eyed, curly-haired blonde five year old boy with a heart of gold? And did I mention his wicked intelligence?

As a bit of an intellectual snob myself, I adore his defining characteristic: being wise beyond his years. Consequently, on our conversations uptown we often discuss subjects most twenty five year olds wouldn’t dare broach. For example, yesterday, while recounting my weekend of roommate birthday-related celebrations, Alden stopped and asked, “Have you ever considered in vitro fertilization?”

A bit shocked at his perfect pronunciation of a scientific term that I still struggle to say, I exclaimed, “Um, what?” Maintaining his usual calm, he explained that while I had celebrated my favorite financier’s birthday, he had celebrated his sperm donor’s birthday.

You see Alden is a textbook example of a petri dish baby. He doesn’t have a father and likely never will, but he grasps– at five– that storks don’t just drop children off at unsuspecting adults’ doors. There is a scientific mechanism driving the creation of babies, and he has an intimate insider understanding of this process.

He also is like a dog with a bone, and when I stared in complete silence, he repeated his question. “Yaffa, don’t feel bad if you never get married. My mommy didn’t, and she still had me. And you know what, that donor, he fathered another petri dish baby– a little girl– and she’s like a sister to me.”

“Well, Alden, she is technically your half sister; you share half the same DNA.”

“You mean deoxyribonucleic acid, don’t you?”

I responded that now he was just showing off, and well, he had already more than proven his intelligence. But I also knew he was searching for an answer, and so I told him that I would consider IVF if and when I found myself the proud owner of two furry filenes named Jack and Jill. However, in the interim I was still clinging onto the hope of finding a husband and doing it all natural.

It was at that moment that I realized I was discussing my non-existent sex life with a five year old boy, who though wise beyond his years, probably didn’t need to know about my future romantic liaisons. He apparently shared this sentiment and ended our conversation by stating, “Can we go to Starbucks now?” Seriously, best friend for life.

What to do when your Longchamp starts chirping.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the National Audubon Society. Having been raised amidst concrete, any remnant of nature– grass, tree, or bird– is not the least bit of interest to me. However, while I can, in theory, appreciate the role greenery plays in perpetuating a self-sustaining eco-system, the purpose of birds completely perplexes me.

Granted, my experiences in both New York and Oxford have involved the worst member of the Audubon family– the pigeon. While in Oxford, one tripped me and then proceeded to eat the remnants of a granola bar from my coat pocket. And while I did not necessarily need the 140 carbohydrate-laden calories, I objected to its behavior on principle. I subsequently set out to drown it, and only partially succeeded.

On my return to America, though, I thought I was past my homicidal bird days. I was wrong. Yesterday, while waiting for the 1 train, a sparrow decided to take up residence in my Longchamp bag. Despite the fact that my bag was almost entirely closed, it managed to wiggle its way into the contents of my Kate Spade wallet and leave its imprint on my French New Wave readings.

It was not until I boarded the train that I realized the chirping emanating from my handbag was not a consequence of an iPod on loud. And somewhere in between 18th and 110th Streets, I was forced to contend with the little maniacal bugger.

Now I’d like to believe there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, silence a sparrow. And being a resourceful Wellesley woman, who has developed formidable critical thinking skills, I ran through the many options in front of me.

A. I could scream bloody murder and hope that the attractive Columbia grad student absorbed in electromagnetic theory would come to my rescue. In this scenario, he would woo the sparrow out of my bag and free him into the deep dark underground subway tunnels.

However, a boy who prefers abstract physics to human interaction didn’t quite seem like the Don Juan type. And even if he was, I suspected he might have more in common with the bird than with a fellow human being.

B. Perhaps I could unzip my bag, grab the sparrow by its beak, and throw it halfway across the subway car. That would likely result in a few terrified children and cries of “terrorist,” as I unleashed my beast on the New York City underground. And frankly, while I am on the hunt for a job, the last thing I need is a criminal record.

C. Or, I could attempt to lure the beast from my bag using my weapon of choice– caffeine. If this bird was attracted to me, he had to be a Starbucks lover. Coffee is my signature scent, and those who loathe it generally loathe me as well.

Now in this particular case the benefit outweighed the cost: If I underwent the aforementioned mission, a  few subway riders would give me some perplexing looks but quickly return to their personal conversations. Yes, there are perks to living in a city where the absurd is socially acceptable.

So with a half-filled Starbucks grande skinny vanilla latte in one hand and an open Longchamp bag in the other, I began waving the cup wildly in the vicinity of the sparrow– who from the looks of it– was thoroughly engrossed in the cinematic analysis of Agnes Varda’s 1962 films.

Intrigued by contents of my coffee cup, the sparrow glanced up and slowly but surely followed the familiar scent from the interior of my bag to the external reality that was the subway car.

Once I had lured him out of the bag, the subway doors abruptly opened. As if in a semi-comatose state, the sparrow fell out of the car and onto the tracks. I watched him hobble a few steps before suddenly becoming aware of an oncoming subway vehicle. He fluttered away, but not without losing a feather or two.

The moral, readers, is simple: Caffeine cures all. It treats hangovers, exhaustion, and bird-induced trauma. However, Joe– as I came to call the sparrow– and I did have a moment of unity because of said coffee cup. I therefore ndedicate my new favorite song to the sparrow that got away:

Pants-less in the City

As a strict Orthodox Jew, I might argue that I am always without pants. Rather than highlight the division between my legs and arouse the anger of the One Above, I have taken a vow to the skirt gods that be. Hence, when I awoke this morning to a New York news alert about a day without pants, I assumed some progressive Brooklyn rabbis were behind the initiative.

Imagine a city in which every Jewish girl chose skirts over pants. Moses would be happy. However, a quick peek into the news alert and I realized this was not of the religious variety. In fact, when the organizers of this event  stated “no pants,” they implied all garments worn below the waist with the exception of underwear.

The event to which I am referring is the “No Pants Subway Ride,” the 10th annual pants-less event to be held of its kind. Over 3000 participants, choosing to bear their legs and potentially cellulite-ridden thighs, ride aboard subway lines running through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens– eventually descending upon Union Square in a massive pants-less extravaganza. The humor, of course, lies in the fact the event is held in January, the most frigid month in the City.

Most New Yorkers are well-equipped to handle individuals dressed in unusual garb, and perhaps even lack of garb. For goodness sake, Times Square is marked by the Naked Cowboy. This event, however, is not an isolated individual with a propensity for tighty-whiteys or guitars. Thousands of New Yorkers sacrifice warmth for an afternoon of caffeine-free shenanigans.

Needless to say I am heartbroken. While the tiny rabbi residing within me would forbid me from participating, I would love to bear witness to the Union Square reunion. Wellesley and every other Puritan-run New England town in which I am in proxy do not host such events; they violate the laws of 1692 (yes, the same year in which burning witches at the stake was the accepted norm). Therefore I must be content with a video of a pants-less event gone by:

Now I know why Frank Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

New York, I once told you that you were perfect and should never change. I feel that despite my unconditional love for you, I can now clarify areas of improvement. No city is infallible, and if the subway sign below is any form of evidence, you might have to focus on one  particular task– improving underground transportation:

However, do not fret, oh City that Never Sleeps. You can always take pride in your excellent coffee bars, serving the most energizing espresso shots in North America, as well as your famous cafes, featured quite prominently in romantic comedies starring Tom Hanks from the mid-1990s.