On Board #3

Details here. Entry No. 3 here:

August 1, 2009

L Train – Union Square to Bedford Ave.

The man’s playing an accordion, amen. 50 years ago, when he was 20, one assumes he would be trolling the streets of Green Point speaking a New York-tinged Polish. Green Point is where the arriving train on his left side is heading as he nods ever so slightly to his own music. He wears tight jeans shorts frayed just above the knee and a white t-shirt below a round head flanked by two upwardly-mobile puffs of white hair. As a man drops a few coins into the metal pail he has attached to a rolling cart, the man simply continues to nod gently on his stool.

Fifteen feet away, sitting at the end of a bench, is a man in a blue dolphin suit, nodding much more emphatically. His bespectacled face is clearly visible through the costume’s mouth, though one imagines he would rather hide. He’s vibrating rapidly, vaguely sexually, holding a sign reading ‘FREE BOUNCY RIDES.’ . A sexual deviant, a prankster, the loser of a bet – all seem likely. Black flip flops expose dirty feet as he waves his left hand rapidly at anyone willing to make eye contact. None take his offer, but one, then two, then five people pull out their digital cameras.

Inside, the only train to Williamsburg – and Green Point, and beyond – is packed. Those with room to read have The Economist held to their face, The New Yorker in their right hand, wrapped around a railing, and The Way The Crow Flies, a novel, on their laps. Little talking ensues, as everyone appears to be alone: no children, no friends, no families, no couples. Two teens do start talking, quiet and indecipherable at first, and then louder and more indecipherable. One stands up (his friend is seated) and starts to dance in a black polo and blacker jeans. Otherwise, there is only the rumble of the crowded train beneath the East River.

At Bedford Avenue, a third of the train departs. There is another accordion player here, an aspiring white Rastaman in woven black cap, tan button down polo, black shorts, black socks, and black shoes. He’s lethargically rapping over his accordion to a tune that, to the untrained ear, could have been written by a Polish man from Green Point.

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